5 Keys for Lighting Concerts

Image courtesy of Goedde Productions LLC and Abby Matthews.


Lighting a concert is both an art and a science. It's about creating a visually stunning experience while ensuring that the audience remains focused on the performers.

 Here are five essential keys to mastering the craft of concert lighting.

1. Design with Your Performers in Mind

First, remember that the audience is there to see the performers, not just a light show.

Make sure that your performers are the focal point by saving aerial effects for specific moments. Also, don't shy away from using follow spots. They require practice to use effectively, but they ensure that the performers are always in the spotlight, literally.

20231208-Goosemas073-Goosemas in Space | Courtesy of Goedde Productions LLC and Abby Matthews

Image courtesy of Goedde Productions LLC and Abby Matthews.

It’s also worth remembering that truss is relatively inexpensive compared to the impact it can have on your show. By spreading out your fixtures, you can create a more dynamic and engaging visual experience.

Similarly, using fewer fixtures at any given time during the normal looks can make your impactful moments stand out more. When the audience's eyes adjust to lower levels of light, even a slight increase can create a dramatic effect. Reserve the full power of your lighting rig for those peak moments to maximize their impact. 

Spreading out your lights and using fewer fixtures are just two examples of how simplicity can often lead to better designs. Even if you have an unlimited budget and plenty of truck space, creative thinking and a focus on your performers can set your design apart.



Image courtesy of SRae Productions and Steve Jennings.

2. Learn from Your Peers

One of the best parts of working in the entertainment industry is the chance to work with experienced professionals and foster a sense of community. Be sure to pay attention to veteran designers and understand what makes their designs successful.

Notice how they keep performers lit and how they communicate design elements and technical specifications to other team members.

Transiberian Orchestra-Bryan Hartley  Jason McEachem

Image courtesy of Bryan Hartley and Jason McEachem.

Beyond valuing industry veterans, you should also never underestimate your collaborators who are just starting out — that goes for crew members, production assistants, and even opening acts.

Who’s to say where these young artists will be in 10 or 15 years? By offering yourself up as a kind, knowledgeable, and open-minded collaborator, you can build relationships that can lead to other exciting jobs down the line.



Image courtesy of:

Production design by Jesse Lee Stout and Sooner Rae

Photography courtesy of Todd Moffses

And lastly, take some time to talk with your vendors and support services about load in-load out efficiency. You should be cognizant of how your design impacts the efforts and efficiencies of everyone involved.

3. Be Ready to Adapt

Being quick on your feet is another essential part of concert lighting. If you’re the lighting designer on a tour, for example, you’ll need to be able to tweak your designs to accommodate different venues.

Performing previsualizations (previz) before each show is a great way to account for any new venues or setlists and ensure your design is firing on all cylinders. Arrive prepared for the first load-in, ensuring the rig goes up trouble-free, and you can start building cues immediately.

If you’re working with bands that jam and improvise, like Phish, Dead & Co., or Goose (pictured below), you’ll also need to be flexible with your lights. We recommend practicing your busking skills to accommodate performance variations or last-minute setlist changes.

20231209-Goosemas048-Goosemas in Space | Courtesy of Goedde Productions LLC and Abby Matthews

Image courtesy of Goedde Productions LLC and Abby Matthews.

4. Always Consider Your Budget and Logistics 

In our blog post “Managing Cost, Schedule, & Space with Vectorworks Spotlight,” industry veteran Steve Lemon spoke on the importance of reducing friction on a tour or production.

Such "friction" can be caused by anything that gets in the way of a good show. However, for Lemon, the focus should be on three primary areas: cost, schedule, and space.

The monetary budget is, of course, the most pressing concern. Even as a lighting designer, it’s your responsibility to make sure the tour stays within budget.  

Proper care and tracking of your equipment and fixtures, for example, can help eliminate the mistakes of gear and materials being left behind at a previous venue.


Vectorworks Spotlight features like Equipment Lists data visualization, and record formats are great ways to manage time and resources.

Then, there's the management of time and resources. This includes travel logistics, managing work hours and equipment timetables, and ensuring that set-up and tear-down are handled safely and efficiently.

Finally, there’s the matter of reducing friction when it comes to space. We already mentioned being able to adapt your designs to different venues, but it’s also important to consider things like truck space as well.

 If friction is reduced, your tour or show's cost, schedule, and space planning can work together better than ever before.

5. Choose the Right Design Tool

Last but not least, it’s important to choose the design tool that will help you harness your creative ideas, manage all your logistics, and communicate your entire project.

Vectorworks Spotlight includes robust documentation capabilities, as well as extensive 3D modeling tools.These tools better accommodate free-form modeling techniques such as curves, angles, and soft surfaces that can be used for design exploration, as well as the creation of accurate and detailed models and drawings. Spotlight can also be used to create stylized and/or photorealistic renderings. And because this is all done with the same model in the same application, Spotlight makes the design process more efficient, giving you time to focus on refining your ideas.

Spotlight isn’t the only tool to help you design without limits. Vectorworks offers a suite of entertainment solutions that provide you with the tools you need to put on any kind of production. Vectorworks’ entertainment productions include:

Spotlight to create and produce shows and live events of any size and style.


Braceworks to gauge the performance of suspended rigging systems for live events.


ConnectCAD to design and plan the installation of A/V and other integrated systems.


Vision to previsualize, program, or cue your show on the console of your choice.


Lighting for Music Royalty

Want to see Vectorworks in action? Check out how Nick Whitehouse of Illuminate Entertainment uses the software to light shows for the likes of Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Beyoncé, and Britney Spears.

Whitehouse comes from humble beginnings, starting at small venues to now lighting massive arenas like Madison Square Garden. “I'm there to interpret what artists want,” he said. “It's their show." Understanding a client's needs is the trickiest part of his work, so Whitehouse strives to match his lighting to an artist's unique style. 

Click the button below to learn more about Whitehouse’s lighting design process:



Topics: Entertainment


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