Essential things to know when starting out in lighting

ACTSTech

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2019
Location
USA
1. Gaff tape is like the force...it has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
2. Actors, no matter how well trained or how well their marks are spiked, will never hit their mark. Adjust to them, it makes life that much easier.
3. Never assume that anything is ever disconnected, even when you yourself threw the disconnect, especially in older buildings.
4. Gloves may be hard to work in if doing fine details, but fiberglass splinters, broken glass shards, and sharp metal edges make your fingers hurt when you get them. And you will get them. Invest in good gloves.
5. Learn to tie good knots, especially around the handle of the 5 gallon bucket which you will learn to take up with you when you’re on scaffolding or a grid that isn’t easy to climb up and down. A good knot holds when you lower the bucket to beg someone to put in what you forgot to bring up or didn’t suspect you would need when you climbed up. Invest in good rope for this.
 
Last edited:

MRW Lights

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2017
Location
NYC
One of my very first mentors in lighting and great friends once gave me this advice when I asked for her number 1.... "Don't show up to work with holes in your jeans" It seems funny in a workplace where jeans are common and appropriate and given the line of work where holes are common, for her it's a sign of respect for yourself and your work. Dress for respect and it will be given where it's deserved.

Also all the other stuff listed above...
 

derekleffew

Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Location
Las Vegas, NV, USA

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
One of my very first mentors in lighting and great friends once gave me this advice when I asked for her number 1.... "Don't show up to work with holes in your jeans" It seems funny in a workplace where jeans are common and appropriate and given the line of work where holes are common, for her it's a sign of respect for yourself and your work. Dress for respect and it will be given where it's deserved.

Also all the other stuff listed above...
@MRW Lights Unseen holes in your pockets count / matter too if / WHEN you casually slip an un-tethered tool in and it falls through a hole when you're 40' up in a personnel lift OR when your tethered tool captures your glases, cigarette lighter, favorite comb, whatever causing it escape from your pockets and prove gravity's still working.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
@derekleffew and @JonCarter Herb Pilbrow, Richard Pilbrow, Herb Philbrick, whod''a thunk: "I Led Three Lives" (from the 40's / 50's)
Herbert Philbrick was a young professional and pacifist in 1939 Boston. He joined an anti-war group and quickly found himself caught up in the secret world of underground communist activity.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

egilson1

Well-Known Member
Senior Team
CB Mods
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2009
Location
Boston, MA
Not lighting specific but my first lessons to any new person:

Please and thank you are requirements
Stop means EVERYONE stops. It’s not whoa, hey, or any other noise. Stop means Stop.
If you hear “run away”, RUN AWAY.

And finally, “the show must go on, Safely”. EVERYBODY gets to go home at the end of the day.
 
Joined
Jul 26, 2017
Location
Wrentham, MA, USA
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!
In no particular order:

Know the operational and maintenance upkeep differences of different lighting instruments (both type and manufacturer - i. e. Strand vs. ETC vs Altman; ellipsoidal vs PAR vs fresnel, etc).
Always ask questions and never assume you have learned everything you may need to know.
Both hands-on practice and reading the operations and maintenance manuals are essential.
No matter how many times you assemble it, the basket lift and straddler will take double the time you plan on to get it operational.
Safety First, Artistry Second
Communicate effectively with all team members.
Be as detailed as you can when soliciting troubleshooting advice.
Always call your actions and respond to action calls during work calls ("First Electric Flying In! Thank You First Electric")
No task is too menial when running a theatre and prepping for a production or performance.
Controlbooth.com is your friend...
 

Ancient Engineer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2017
Location
Sandusky, Ohio
Discuss with them essential skills to get and keep getting gigs:

1. Be punctual. You owe it to yourself to get the reputation of always being a smidge early to the gig. Always. People will notice, especially the ones that decide who is going and who is not. You might be surprised what you can learn in the ten minutes before the call. I have heard dozens of times: "Hey you were here early, remember that gravy job we discussed, why don't you just take care of it." It garners trust that punctuality...

2. Be honest. When I worked in Hollywood, those people had no idea what to do with a person that was always honest. Note: not brutally honest, but good honest. The kind of honest that is not afraid to clearly explain the parts of a production that you do not find as good as could be (only when asked!) and to always have other solutions to the problems you point out. Remember: You are never allowed to be critical if you do not have a positive idea about your criticism. Also develop skills to soften the blow when you are about to dissect somebody's love-child of a show. Like, "Are you sure you want me to elaborate on ideas to improve this?"

3. Work hard on the Million Dollar Hug. The Million Dollar Hug is a term I swiped from a great book about movie making. What it is is that one little thing that makes you zany, you go ahead and do, because you know the producer/LD/DP/actor/grip wants it and while it may give you twitchy eye at first it will garner you a flexable hand later. Sometimes the producer/LD/DP/actor/grip will come to you later and say: "sooo, can you think of anything that might make this bit better?" and then you have the chance to say: "Well, can you give me ten minutes to try something, and if you dislike it we'll go back to what we have now?" They will almost always say yes, then you de-twitch your eye and fix the poor thing, make the tah-dah pose, and most of the time the producer/LD/DP/actor/grip will go "wow, that is great, thanks!". Then you 10000% let them take credit for it without audibly squealing. This industry is hard on people for a reason... But you can bet your paycheck they will come to you sooner and sooner for "advisement". It doesn't take long for other people to figure out where the good ideas are truly coming from.

4. Do not fear the "No". Declining to take a gig early in ones career can be a setback. With seasoning though, careful declining gets easier and more frequent. No, I will not do that porn movie, thanks. The "No" says that you have reasonable standards and that you are not a doormat/slave/whipping (boy/girl/they)/idiot. No, I don't think I am going to climb out of the basket onto the grid without my harness, thanks. No, I am sorry but I don't have a (insert name of tool here) that you can "borrow" for the run, I only have my own. No, I am sorry I am not allowed to plug in that light, I am the cinematographer and I do not know its condition, I can call the electrician over though. No, I don't think it is wise to fill the stage with damp sand, but I might be able to locate its loading plot to see what we can do instead.


All of the physical skills listed in the above posts are fantastic.
Also: Know everyone else's job and then shut up about it. (This is akin to actors knowing the whole script) This gives you the chance to spread creative love and do things like ask the rigger: "Hey, (rigger name) do you think it would be too difficult to...", and then let them show their skills/knowledge/creativity. I have had more food and drink sent my way because I let the unsung hero start the song just once...
Never, ever, give a suggestion unless asked or if what you are seeing is actually a developing hazard.


I do, and have done #1 and #2 for the entirety of my career and it got me/kept me in gigs.

Your mileage may vary.



Perhaps the most important words of all:
The true professional is the person that does what needs to be done regardless of how they feel about it.
 
Last edited:
  • Love
Reactions: RonHebbard

dalebobvideo

Member
Joined
May 2, 2011
Location
Germantown, Tennessee
Foot lights taken to the extreme are reminiscent of flashlights under our chins while telling tales of ghosties, goulies 'n goblins around a Halloween campfire. Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
In the world of moving pictures, they're especially useful to cast shadows on a subject's face. If the victim is particularly nervous with vilolently shaking hands, the effect is enhanced. Most fixtures used in this application are manufactured in Australia, thus the name fromunda.
 

Ancient Engineer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2017
Location
Sandusky, Ohio
In the world of moving pictures, they're especially useful to cast shadows on a subject's face. If the victim is particularly nervous with vilolently shaking hands, the effect is enhanced. Most fixtures used in this application are manufactured in Australia, thus the name fromunda.
Now I am singing: "I cast the shadow from down undah.."
 

Quentin (Cue)

Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2015
Location
New York
Oh hey, wow! Seems I got a lot of responses that for some reason CB didn't notify me via email about.

Thank you to each and every one of you thus far who took the time to share your advice!! All of it is truly helpful, and I appreciate it!
 

Jim20

Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2018
Location
USA
I have taught several high school students about lighting as well. They all have 1 thing in common. They want to program the light board. The most important lesson I was able to teach them is that a real lighting designer knows what they want the lights to look like. Anyone can program a light board these days. The real bread and butter is seeing the lighting in your mind. Once you can see it, it is just a matter of finding a way to build it - positining the lights, setting their colors, wiring them up to your control system, then programming them are all just tools for creating that plan that is in your mind.

The second part is learning the tools. We do it together so that they learn what is possible (and see the safe ways to do things). Most don't even know they are allowed to move the lights, so they limit their thinking right out of the gate.

They are all scared at first about moving lights or breaking anything. And they are very overwhelmed with how much work it is. I teach them by building the whole show from the ground up with them. When they see the high energy in the teacher and see that they are not scared to work so quickly on such a large task, their work ethic changes quickly and they become part of the project. We come up with a plan. Then we tear apart the whole system. Most of the lights come down, we replace broken lamps, clean up some dust, fix any other broken parts. Then we hang every light in the position that is most useful for the show including the color gels. We wire them all up. We then aim them one by one. The whole time we do this, we talk about why we are doing what we are doing. Only after all that do we even touch the board.

Once they have gone through all that, they fully appriciate what it takes to make an amazing show. And they truly own what they built. They also become armed with the experience of all of the aspects of lighting so they know how to fix things that go wrong later. Almost without fail, the next year, they come in with their own new ideas, their adjustable wrench, and are ready to tear it all down again and start fresh without hesitation. Several of the kids I taught have chosen to go into stage lighting professionaly after they graduated.

Also when moving that much stuff and high school kids are involved, something will break. That is perfectly ok. High school is the time to learn. Help them fix it and they gain a true life skill. - It is ok to make mistakes as long as you are willing to fix them. We blew out some speakers one year. The kids took them apart and reconed them! They haven't blown them since :)

Good luck!
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I have taught several high school students about lighting as well. They all have 1 thing in common. They want to program the light board. The most important lesson I was able to teach them is that a real lighting designer knows what they want the lights to look like. Anyone can program a light board these days. The real bread and butter is seeing the lighting in your mind. Once you can see it, it is just a matter of finding a way to build it - positining the lights, setting their colors, wiring them up to your control system, then programming them are all just tools for creating that plan that is in your mind.

The second part is learning the tools. We do it together so that they learn what is possible (and see the safe ways to do things). Most don't even know they are allowed to move the lights, so they limit their thinking right out of the gate.

They are all scared at first about moving lights or breaking anything. And they are very overwhelmed with how much work it is. I teach them by building the whole show from the ground up with them. When they see the high energy in the teacher and see that they are not scared to work so quickly on such a large task, their work ethic changes quickly and they become part of the project. We come up with a plan. Then we tear apart the whole system. Most of the lights come down, we replace broken lamps, clean up some dust, fix any other broken parts. Then we hang every light in the position that is most useful for the show including the color gels. We wire them all up. We then aim them one by one. The whole time we do this, we talk about why we are doing what we are doing. Only after all that do we even touch the board.

Once they have gone through all that, they fully appriciate what it takes to make an amazing show. And they truly own what they built. They also become armed with the experience of all of the aspects of lighting so they know how to fix things that go wrong later. Almost without fail, the next year, they come in with their own new ideas, their adjustable wrench, and are ready to tear it all down again and start fresh without hesitation. Several of the kids I taught have chosen to go into stage lighting professionaly after they graduated.

Also when moving that much stuff and high school kids are involved, something will break. That is perfectly ok. High school is the time to learn. Help them fix it and they gain a true life skill. - It is ok to make mistakes as long as you are willing to fix them. We blew out some speakers one year. The kids took them apart and reconed them! They haven't blown them since :)

Good luck!
Did they purchase factory authorized reconing kits? Compression drivers or lower frequency cones??
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

Jim20

Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2018
Location
USA
They were compression drivers and yes, we got the real parts for them. Fakes would just fall apart. We also replaced crossovers one time. The joys of buying used equipment on a small school budget. I actually think it was a better experience for them to learn the basics on the older technology. The newer digital stuff will make more sense if you understand the analog history it is based on. When we got those particular speakers, they were pretty beat and had a rough touring life. But they had expensive drivers in them. One kid took them out to the shop class, took them apart, fixed up the cabinets, and repainted them.
 

DELO72

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2007
Location
New Hampshire
Safety Chain is the first thing attached and the last thing you remove. Same for Ground wire- First wire you connect is always the Green/Ground. Then the neutral, THEN the hot(s). Disconnect them in reverse order- Hot(s), then neutral/White, then Green/Ground as the last one. You always want the Safety elements in place until the end so they can do their job.

Always try to have someone foot your ladder.
Never stand on the top rung of the ladder.
Never leave tools on the ladder.
ALWAYS have a lanyard on your tools when you are overhead.

Use a better phrase than "Heads" when something is falling. "MOVE!" or "RUN!" works great. "heads" reminds us of "Heads up" from Soccer or sports when we were young and what will happen is someone will look up, and take the falling object in the face. Which is NOT what you want to have happen. "MOVE!" tells them exactly what you want them to do, which is get the hell out of the way of whatever is falling. Likewise- if they hear "crap! or "F--k!", that also usually means something is falling on them (and the person was too startled to properly voice the concern) and to move out of the way.

ALWAYS check to make sure something is unplugged before trying to change the lamp. Never assume it's off and thus safe.
 
  • Love
Reactions: RonHebbard

Users who are viewing this thread