Mixing CMY To Create Swedish Summer Night Skies For A Little Night Music

Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama is known to attract and challenge some of the greatest minds in the entertainment industry. It should come as no surprise that their recent production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music was as inventive as it was entertaining. Lighting Designer Jessica Winward, a graduating MFA candidate, took a unique approach to the show by opting to use CMY color mixing rather than RGB to light the cyc. Continue reading to learn more about Winward’s lighting design and why CMY was crucial in executing her vision.

LD Jessica Winward using CMY color mixing to re-create a magenta-colored Swedish summer nighttime sky on the cyc during Act Two of A Little Night Music at Carnegie Mellon University.Act Two featured Swedish summer skies that were created with CMY color mixing.

Having previously designed A Little Night Music in her undergraduate years, Winward knew she needed a fresh perspective this time around. This inspired her to move away from the traditional deep, saturated blues and purples often featured in the show. Instead, she used her lighting design to pay homage to summers in Sweden, the setting of the musical. In summer, the Swedish sun never fully sets and the sky remains a canvas of pastels all night long.

LD Jessica Winward created an evolving Swedish nighttime summer sky that shifted colors by blending  CMY Rosco gels on the cyc for Carnegie Mellon’s A Little Night Music.Winward’s sky was ever-changing – an effect made possible by establishing a base color wash, then adding an iridescent glass gobo on an animation wheel to achieve an evolving, sun-streaked sky.

Winward worked with the CMU design team to create an aesthetic dichotomy between the two acts, and the result was so effective that photos from each act seem to be from two different productions entirely. This stark contrast was intentional and meant to parallel the emotional journeys of the characters as they evolve and grow under the smiling night sky.

A comparison of Act One and Act Two of A Little Night Music at Carnegie Mellon that shows darker hue on the left and the pastel hues Jessica Winward created with CMY color mixing on the right.Act One (L) featured darker hues in the lighting and set design that contributed to a sense of stifling congestion for the characters. In Act Two (R), the characters visit the Swedish countryside where the open staging and pastel sky colors reflect the significant character development in the second act.

Winward has a strong background in 2D art, specifically painting, and a keen understanding of color theory. She relied on these skills to create her Swedish sky with CMY color mixing to create a watercolor effect on the cyc that favored softer pastel colors. Knowing she wouldn’t need the vibrant reds or blues of traditional RGB mixing, she used Rosco #R4390 CalColor 90 Cyan, #R4790 CalColor 90 Magenta, and #R4590 CalColor 90 Yellow color filters in the top row of lights that were illuminating the upstage scrim.

By blending Rosco CalColor Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow color filters on the cyc. Lighting Designer Jessica Winward was able to create watercolor-like skies for A Little Night Music at Carnegie Mellon.Winward’s sky began with a blue base that she created by blending together the cyan and magenta hues. From there, she adjusted her CMY levels to create other sky colors for her lighting design.

To create the stunning blue base of her sky, Winward brought the cyan cells to nearly full and then began dialing in magenta to achieve the blue tones she desired. Building on this base layer, she started mixing in yellow and magenta hues to create a gorgeous, never-setting-sun effect on the scrim. As the plot progressed, so did the color of the sky. With Winward’s expert color mixing, the lighting design simulated the ebbs and flows of a summer sunset during a weekend in the Swedish countryside.

Lighting Designer Jessica Winward was even able to create a dark purple nighttime sky on the cyc using CMY color mixing for a production of A Little Night Music at CMU.Even as the show nears its end, the sky never completely goes dark. Winward paints the base of her sky with darker hues but continues to layer in lighter colors and sun streaks until the scrim finally flies out.

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in May 2024, Jessica Winward will be moving to Philadelphia to pursue her career in lighting design. If you’d like to see more of her design work, you can follow @jessicawinward.lightingdesign on Instagram or visit her website: jessicawinwardlightingdesign.com.

Photo Credits: Carey Sheffield, Louis Stein, and dsrphoto

A Little Night Music at Carnegie Mellon University
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: Hugh Wheeler
Director: Ethan Heard
Scenic Designer: Paul Molina
Costume Designer: Evan Riley
Lighting Designer: Jessica Winward

Caroline Connell May 02, 2024 Questions?

About Caroline Connell

Marketing Coordinator: Prior to joining Rosco in 2022, Caroline worked as a musical theater performer, director, and educator for over 10 years. Her strong background and diverse skill set within Live Entertainment make her a valuable resource at Rosco for industry professionals around the world.