Essential things to know when starting out in lighting

Quentin (Cue)

Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2015
Location
New York
Hey friends!

So I've taken on a couple of high school interns for our community theater and I'm training them in the world of lighting. I was curious about what some you think is essential that every theater lighting electrician, designer, crew member should know, no matter how obvious. I.E. Hanging and focusing a unit. Just list out what comes to mind! Thank you all in advance!
 

NateTheRiddler

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2018
Location
Arizona, US
  1. Never personify this phrase: “The only difference between an intern and a lantern is that one is brighter than the other.” Jokes aside, my internships consisted of me acting high and mighty and smart while knowing absolutely nothing. It’s a good caution to give learning techs.
  2. W = AV
  3. Ask questions
  4. Safeties first, finish yoking and focusing AFTER
  5. Never underestimate the value of gloves when handling hot lights
  6. Don’t shake a hot lamp
  7. Safety clip tools to your belt that you carry at height; falling tools can kill
  8. “Where does the 2,500lb scissor lift drive? Anywhere it wants, so get out of its way.”
  9. The eSet dictionary is your friend
  10. Opportunity is always disguised as hard work
  11. There’s no shame in carrying reference tools and quick ref sheets if you’re learning
  12. Did you check the grand master?
  13. Is there a high impedance air gap?
  14. Signal flow matters
  15. Never skip leg day
  16. Push box, pull rope, push button, get banana; sit on phone playing Angry Birds, get no bananas.
  17. Risk =/= reward
Sorry for the long post, but these are all things I seriously screwed up when I started.... hope it helps!
 

Quentin (Cue)

Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2015
Location
New York
  1. Never personify this phrase: “The only difference between an intern and a lantern is that one is brighter than the other.” Jokes aside, my internships consisted of me acting high and mighty and smart while knowing absolutely nothing. It’s a good caution to give learning techs.
  2. W = AV
  3. Ask questions
  4. Safeties first, finish yoking and focusing AFTER
  5. Never underestimate the value of gloves when handling hot lights
  6. Don’t shake a hot lamp
  7. Safety clip tools to your belt that you carry at height; falling tools can kill
  8. “Where does the 2,500lb scissor lift drive? Anywhere it wants, so get out of its way.”
  9. The eSet dictionary is your friend
  10. Opportunity is always disguised as hard work
  11. There’s no shame in carrying reference tools and quick ref sheets if you’re learning
  12. Did you check the grand master?
  13. Is there a high impedance air gap?
  14. Signal flow matters
  15. Never skip leg day
  16. Push box, pull rope, push button, get banana; sit on phone playing Angry Birds, get no bananas.
  17. Risk =/= reward
Sorry for the long post, but these are all things I seriously screwed up when I started.... hope it helps!
This list is quite helpful! I actually printed it up and taped it up to my door because there are some amusing tips in here that made me laugh! Thanks so much!
 

Quentin (Cue)

Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2015
Location
New York
For crew:
How to coil a cable
How to tie knots
For Lx Tech:
How to change a lamp
How to not set themselves on fire, how to not start a fire in the theatre
How to know how many fixtures can run on a circuit
How to make the board talk to the lights
For Designers:
How to know the difference between making the lights look good and making the show look good
Ooooo, thanks! I especially like that tip for the designers!
 

JonCarter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Location
Meridian, Idaho, US
Jean Rosenthal said the object of lighting is to "Make the actor look jewel-like." Now, to get there:

If your interns are really interested in learning lighting, have them READ. Start with, say, Louis Hartmann, (big jump in time) Stanley McCandless, Joel Rubin, Jean Rosenthal, Herb Pilbrow, Lee Watson, Sam Selden. (There are lots of others.) And a good work on practical electric wiring, along with the applicable math. And the current NEC, paying particular attention to art. 520. Then work with as many designers/chief electricians as possible and watch what and how they do things. And ASK WHY they do them.
 

cbrandt

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Location
Michigan
Pins to power, pins to control!

Know your cable, know how much amperage it can handle. Yes, in a perfect world, everything should be 12 awg, but we don't live in that world. More often than not now, we're daisy chaining fixtures together, and that load can add up very quickly. The amount of amperage your cable can handle is not the same as the amount of amperage your fixture can handle daisy chained through it, read the manual.

Learn the basics of rigging. Lighting is heavy, lighting moves. Understand what that means for your riggers and linesets.
 

JonCarter

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2011
Location
Meridian, Idaho, US
Design wise (I'm barley amateur btw) I'd suggest reading for a good foundation but nothing beats actually experimenting with the real thing. Given them time, and encourage, to play and try new things.
Yeah, but read and learn what has been done, what has worked and what hasn't worked. Don't spend (waste) your time and effort re-inventing the wheel.
 

NateTheRiddler

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2018
Location
Arizona, US
Yeah, but read and learn what has been done, what has worked and what hasn't worked. Don't spend (waste) your time and effort re-inventing the wheel.
Absolutely this ^^^^^^^^^^^^^. Good habits are hard to beat, and bad habits are hard to break. Knowing industry standards, accepted practices, best practices, all make for better technical work. Also, I was once wisely told that "you must know the rules in order to break them."
 
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