Highschool Lighting


Hello there,

It is the intention of this message to informally question the forum about high school lighting experiences.

In the next few weeks I will be putting together a workshop for high school students interested in lighting. I am curious to know what any high school students out there would like to know, as well as what any seasoned professionals and college students wished they knew in high school.

The basics of the workshop so far are color and direction. It is my intention to give a lab style session focusing on the use of color media as well as direction of lighting for overall coverage and effects.

As a young educator it is my goal to provide students with the opportunities I was without. Thank you for your time and comments.


It might be a good idea to discuss washes and how to blend lights together. Also maybe covering the basics of the instrument (how to clean it, care for it, replace the bulb and how to handle) and this may be a bit complex but balance of warms and cools and balance of back and sidelighting?
Just my personal opinion, but I firmly believe that a person needs to know how the tools work before they use them to design. I would much rather see a young lighting technician know how to hang an instrument, take one apart, put it back together, operate it(i.e. focus) and such before they know anything about color/angle. Maybe you might begin with going over the equipment, and then teaching how to use it effectively!


CB Mods
Premium Member
I agree with the previous statements and would add, start with the fixture types, overview of each, touching on interesting differences. Have diagrams of each showing the path of the light, kids always seem to enjoy the fact that everything at the gate is "upside-down" compare it to the way the human eye percieves things, they'll never forget it. Play into the use of the fixture becaus of the hard edges, demonstrate the photometrics of the differing field angles and ask them which would be best for what purpose.
Demonstrate the focus features of a fresnel, how the pebbling on the back of lens creates a soft edge. I always like to compare and contrast the differences between additive and subtractive mixing as well. I almost always use the RGB three fixture method to demonstrate white light, then contrast that with RGB paint to make grey, explain the differences.

Anyway just a couple of ideas. I used to tech summer arts camp where I had kids from 6th grade up to high school seniors. Oddly enough I always felt the younger kids got into the theory and photometrics more than the older ones and the olderones got more into the operation and setup.


Active Member
Being a high school student myself i think that students should know how to take the fixture apart, hang it and focus it. I have been doing lighting in various scenarios for over 4 years and i am just starting to get into design. Most of what i have learned about stage lighting i was taught by myself from experience until recently where i got involved in my schools theatre which has several full time professionals working there. I think the knowledge about the fixtures is more important that knowledge about design, to begin with.


Thanks for all the good input at this point. To clairfy one of the other presenters is giving a workshop on the care and feeding of your lights, in which he will discuss photometrics and the right lights to use and where to use them.

The reason I am giving a workshop in design is, back in the day when I was a highschool student I could fix any light in the space, but it wasn't until I was well into college that I started to work with color. In highschool we used white light for washes or Bastad Amber (yuck). My intention is to open some highschool students eyes to the subtle 'No Color" gels and show them how to better light a show than just straight on FOH lighting.

The students who are attending don't go to arts schools and may be in situations where they are teaching themselves. Hopefully the workshop will give them some ideas and they'll experiment a little more.

Again, thanks for the good input please keep responding.


Senior Team
Senior Team
Fight Leukemia
I just spent an hour tonight with a High School tech who has a very good grasp on the use of instruments but it completely oblivious of color theory. We talked about color mixing, emotional effects of color, blending warms and cools, etc... I think you are on the right track. There are a lot of schools out there that just throw the lights up with no gel or they pick some really heavily saturated colors that make no sense at all. A basic color mixing/color theory workshop sounds like a real need out there.
At the high school I help at, before major shows and at the beginning of the year, we do a similar afternoon teaching session to all the new kids and the older ones comment and add anecdotes for laughes.

What we cover:
Tools-crescent wrench, altman wrench, pliers, wire strippers, wire cutters screwdrivers and how to use each

Lights--fresnel, ellipsodial-source4 and old lekos and 1 KLs, pars and cyc strips--how each works, what the light looks like, how to hang on vertical and horizontal bars, which bolts need to be tight and which need to be tighter, safety cables

lamps--do and don'ts, how to change and how to make sure you are using the correct one

Cable--how to change a plug, what to look for if a plug might be bad or near bad

working in the catwalks buddy system for newbies on the same light, older ones buddy system multiple lights


I am sure many high school kids would be VERY greatful for ANY pro advice whatsoever, I know I would, because in my expirence, its been, OK you kids work in the theater so you must know everything, so do this, this and this! It seems many adults who don't understand the theatrical process look at kids like my and my buddies and say "they work in the theater so they must know everything about safety, and electric, and deisign theory, when in reality I know I have a lot to learn.


CB Mods
Premium Member
........ when in reality I know I have a lot to learn.

Remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery:twisted:

Best suggestion I have for you, read read read. lok through as many old posts here as possible and post follow up questions, even if those posts are 4 years old. If you have a question I consider it my responsibility as a member of this community, to do what I can to answer it.


Active Member
I, too, am I high schooler, but if I were teaching a tech class, I would do the following:
Like others have said, introduce the students to the lighting instruments.
After that, I would show the students the light board because, before you go and focus the fixture, the students need to know how to get it the fixture to "turn on." Depending on the board, show them the grand master, the submasters, the blackout button, and if it has a keypad, how to bring up a light, and how to program cues.
After they have mastered the board, I would re-introduce the lights and then show them how to hang/focus them. If you are working in a theater (or theater like space) have a couple of students be on the board, bringing up the lights, and a few others on the catwalk (if you have one) or wherever your lights are hung, focusing the fixtures. Than switch the kids, so the ones on the board go to the fixtures, and the ones on the fixtures go to the board. Also, make sure that when focusing, the students are creating a wash of the stage, and not allowing any dark spots to appear.
I would then begin teaching them about color. Show them a warm and cool color, and how the stage looks with each (maybe you can alternate fixtures, {ie: 1,3,5,7,9, etc. get the warm and 2,4,6,8,10, etc. get the cool} so that you can switch between the two looks) I would then start gelling other lights, to show them different color gels, and what two colors mixed together looks like. After that, then start working with additional lights (for instance cyc lights). If you are using cyc lights, you should teach them how mixing colors work, and how with only having 3-4 colors, you can get many more.
Then, I would teach them about specials, what their purpose is, and why they are used. If you want to go into even more detail, you can focus the lights, and create different scenes, making sure that they remember that if they focus a light for a specific scene, they can't move it for the next.
Lastly, I would program cues, but make sure that the students are really the ones doing the design, and programming, but you are just focusing. This can be their "test" to see if they learned everything they should have in the class.
These are just some suggestions, and hopefully you'll be able to use them. The most important thing though is to make sure YOU'RE STUDENTS HAVE FUN. They won't learn anything, unless you make it fun for them.
Hope this helps


Active Member
i took a design class at my college just this fall actually. one thing to keep in mind is that no one needs real knowledge of the lights to understand color theory. this is one thing that i learned this fall. i took my college's electricians' class a year ago now, but there were kids who had never touched a light in my design class, and they did just as fine as those of us who are the "oxen" of the department. our professor looked at a few of us who were rolling our eyes at who walked into the class room and told us flat out that most designers start out learning theory first and hardly get to touch anything for their first few years.

in my opinion however this is a tragedy. i feel that designers that are taught like that are the ones that end up being the "brief case designers", the ones that don't do a single ounce of work. i will never be that designer, i will always get down and dirty with my crew.

given all this, teach them about angle and color theory, ask them questions about how certain looks would make them feel, use real examples (have a set of lights hung and use them to show shadowing, and texture), and let the students play around a bit with the board on their own (have them make looks and such). and at the end tell them that just because they know this now it doesn't make them any better or "more special" than anyone else that works in theatrical lighting. tell them that doing the hard physical work is definitely never going to be "below" them. and tell then that all this new knowledge means is that they now have a responsibility to learn more about it it and teach it to others as well.

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