Over the years, we’ve published a number of blog posts that show off the realistic water effect created by our X24 Effects Projector (like this one – or this one). This post, however, offers a DIY approach to creating a ripple effect using BlackWrap and a gobo rotator – but not in the way you would think!
Rob Sayer is a Senior Lecturer in Theatre Production at Bath Spa University and editor of the popular On Stage Lighting Blog that provides information about the technology, practices and education in the world of stage, theatre and event lighting. He shared with us an ingenious water ripple effect that his students created for a Bath Spa Live production of the opera Suor Angelica.
At one point in the opera, Sister Angelica receives news of her young son’s death, motivating the mood of the piece to darken and become more intense. At this point, the focus of the lighting highlights the well on stage that *spoiler alert* Angelica will eventually use to draw water from to make her suicide poison. The effect called for a flickering water reflection rising up from inside the well that would churn throughout the scene and uplight Angelica at the crucial moment.
With no budget left to buy or rent equipment, Rob and his student lighting designer Sally Wattiaux needed to come up with an affordable solution that would also fit inside the small well set piece. Hollie Marshall, the production’s chief electrician, ended up creating the BlackWrap Ripple Effect™ using various materials found inside the lighting workshop – namely, a Rosco gobo rotator and a roll of BlackWrap.
The effect consisted of a tube of BlackWrap, with multiple slices cut out of it, which was flanged at one end so it could be installed inside a gobo rotator. They found that trapping the flange of the tube in the rotator with an actual gobo provided additional friction and better rotation. On a lark, Hollie ended up using a dramatic comedy/tragedy mask gobo, but any gobo will do. The rotator was zip tied to one side of a timber H-plate that they usually used for shin busters. A spare gobo holder was mounted on the opposite side to stabilize the loose end of the horizontal BlackWrap tube.
Sally found that the effect created with only one source was too static. This led Hollie to install two Par 16 Birdies, gelled in different colors, below the rotating tube. The two beams shining upward through the slices in the BlackWrap created the perfect “reflected light” effect for the moment. To complete the effect, Hollie used additional BlackWrap to make mini barn doors for the birdies, which controlled the light spill.
Set at slow speed, the rotator and the etched BlackWrap provided the desired, smooth effect for the emotional scene in Suor Angelica. The lighting effect, Sayer notes, would also work at faster speeds to create fire reflections on the rear of a grate, or other magical dancing light effects often needed on stage.
Lighting designer Sally Wattiaux bathes in the glory of the BlackWrap Ripple Effect
The DIY solution Rob Sayer shared with us not only gave the production the effect it needed, but it also gave his students at Bath Spa University wonderful insight into how professionals often have to resort to their imagination and what they have on-hand to solve stage lighting problems.
With over 25 years’ experience in stage lighting, Rob Sayer has developed a large catalog of stage lighting effects and techniques. Be sure to visit www.onstagelighting.co.uk for more stage lighting related articles that share Rob’s advice and professional stage lighting practices.