Theatre Terms

image of question markHere you'll find over 1000 definitions of theatrical terms, from Aside, Beam Angle, and Camlock, to Upstaging, VU Meter, and Wagon.  Fully searchable, our glossary is helpful for technical staff, directors, actors, producers, or anyone wanting to better understand the inner workings of theatre.

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Term Definition Link
COLOR CHANGER 1) Scroller, where a long string of up to 16 colors is passed horizontally in front of a lamp. Remotely controlled by the lighting desk. 2) Wheel : Electrically or manually operated disc which is fitted to the front of a lamp with several apertures holding different color filters which can be selected to enable color changes. Can also be selected to run continuously. 3) Semaphore, where framed colors are electrically lowered into place in front of the lamp. Remotely controllable. Can perform additive color mixing by lowering two colors into position at the same time. 4) Magazine : Manual semaphore-type device used on the front of a followspot.
COLOR FILTER A sheet of plastic usually composed of a colored resin sandwiched between two clear pieces. The colored filter absorbs all the colors of light except the color of the filter itself, which it allows through. For this reason, denser colors get very hot, and can burn out very quickly. At one time, filters were made from gelatin, from which came the still-used name "gel."
COLOR MIXING Combining the effects of two or more lighting gels. 1) Additive : Focusing two differently colored beams of light onto the same area (e.g. cyc floods). Combining colors in this way adds the colors together, eventually arriving at white. The three primary colors additively mix to form white, as do the complementary colors. 2) Subtractive : Placing two different gels in front of the same lamp. Subtractive mixing is used to obtain a color effect that is not available from stock or from manufacturers. Because the ranges of color are so wide, the need for subtractive mixing is reducing. Combining colors in this way reduces the light towards blackness. The three primary colors mix subtractively to form black (or to block all the light).
COMPLEMENTARY COLORS Pairs of colors which, when additively mixed, combine to produce white light. Examples are red + cyan, green + magenta, and yellow + blue.
COOL COLOR Generally, a color that is in the blue/green/purple range, as opposed to a warm (yellow/orange/red).
PRIMARY COLORS The primary additive colors of light are red, green and blue, and the subtractive colors are cyan, magenta and yellow.
WARM COLOR Generally, a color that is in the yellow/orange/red range, as opposed to a cool (blue/green/purple) or neutral.
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