A followspot is a pointer. It's purpose is to direct the attention of the audience's eye. While that may seem incredibly simple, it is incredibly important. When we want the audience to look at a specific performer, we point to them. In controlling the contrast ratio on stage, it is very common to want the main performer of the moment be brighter than anything or anyone else. Followspots generally have a good amount of intensity behind them and can help achieve this.
Read on to learn more important things to consider about using followspots...
1 - What sort of style are you creating with this follow spot. Is it an old vaudeville type light where the circle is directly behind the performer and the movement of the followspots circle of light is as obvious as could be? Is the unit at an angle where the circle of light is buried on the floor and there fore allowing you to increase the intensity on the performer but you don't really see the rest of the light. These decisions of style are equally decided upon by the choice of the designer and also the position of where the follow spot is located. The lower and flatter the angle of the unit the more Vaudvillian it will be. A little history here, A Chorus Lines original production was in a space that allowed for an angle of light for the followspot position to bury the circle on the floor. The lighting in A Chorus Line is incredibly important and is often referred to as another character in the play. When the production moved to Broadway, they had to install a position to mimic that degree angle to keep the integrity of the show.
2 - When designing a show, it is very important to figure out is this a one followspot show, or is it a two unit show and so on. There will be moments when two people have to be equally addressed visually and they may separate from each other making it necessary to have more than one fixture.
3 - Sidelight and backlight spots are also wonderful additions if you can afford the units, the man power and have the positions for it. Sidelight benefits the visual picture so much that it is obvious as to how having sidelight follows can only enhance a show.
4 - When choosing the right unit for your space, generally the largest consideration is throw distance. You want to be able to have the right size circle of light choices at a given throw distance with enough "punch" of intensity to give you what you want. This is the very reason we categorize the units with throw distance in mind.
5 - Skilled operators really make a difference when it comes to the success of the operation of a follow spot. Hitting your mark, making the shot, making the pickup are all terms for the light coming up when it should and where it should.
6 - Some common terminology...