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How to become a Lighting Technician

lighting technician careers

What does a Lighting Technician do?

Lighting technicians are responsible for the lighting effects seen in live events such as theatre, music concerts and corporate events, and in film and TV work. They are responsible for all of a production’s electrical systems and effects, ranging from providing basic stage lighting and spotlighting for a play or conference, to complex strobe, searchlight, and special effects lighting for outdoor concerts.

Technicians interpret the ideas of lighting designers, directors and stage managers to plan and install suitable lighting for the production’s needs, overcoming any practical or technical problems. They operate the lighting equipment, some of which is computer-controlled. They also ensure that power is available for all technical equipment used in productions, such as amplifiers and sound effects.

Typical duties include:

  • helping to assemble lighting equipment
  • taking instructions and cues from the stage manager (theatre) or floor manager (TV)
  • dismantling the equipment after use
  • ensuring all light sources are functioning properly.
With more experience, lighting technicians can be responsible for:
  • rigging and operating the lighting for a show
  • programming lighting consoles
  • loading automated colour change systems
  • planning where to run cables and place lights at an outdoor film location
  • co-ordinating the equipment and technical crew on a shoot.
The Skillset website has more detailed information about specific job roles within film and TV lighting – see Further Information.

What's the working environment like working as a Lighting Technician?

Hours of work must meet the demands of a shooting schedule or performance, and are likely to include evening and weekend work. During the day, equipment is installed and used in rehearsals. Evening shows may finish late at night, and technicians may work into the early hours of the morning to dismantle and pack up the equipment.

Touring productions and road shows travel the whole of the country and possibly overseas. Tours may last for months with long journeys between each venue. Film and television work can be just as demanding, and technicians may travel widely depending on the location of the shoot.

Working environments vary enormously ranging from theatre and studio work where conditions can be very hot, and sometimes involves working at heights, to working outside on location in all weather conditions, to organising the pyrotechnics (firework displays) at a rock concert.

You would normally be provided with protective clothing for pyrotechnic work.

What does it take to become a Lighting Technician?

To be a lighting technician you should:

  • have a good knowledge of electrical systems, lighting effects and electronics
  • have creative flair
  • have an interest in the entertainment industry
  • be able to work quickly and as part of a team
  • have good communicative skills
  • have good practical skills
  • understand the importance of health and safety procedures
  • be physically fit and feel comfortable working at heights.

Lighting Technician Career Opportunities

After a period of work as a casual or assistant electrician, in film/TV you could expect promotion to electrician, senior electrician (best boy) and eventually chief electrician (gaffer). Those with significant experience (and possibly further training in camera work) could become a lighting director or director of photography. In theatre, it is possible to progress to becoming a technical stage manager or lighting designer.

Lighting for special events, road shows, concerts and even TV and theatre is increasingly being taken over by specialist companies who employ freelance electricians on a contract basis.

Events, conferences and live shows is a growth area for work. As with all job roles in film and television production, freelance work is the norm and competition can be intense.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Lighting Technician that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0808 100 8094 for Scotland

Prospect House
80-110 New Oxford Street

National Council for Drama Training
1-7 Woburn Walk
Tel: 020 7387 3650

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Association of British Theatre Technicians
55 Farringdon Road
Tel: 020 7242 9200

Professional Lighting and Sound Association
38 St Leonards Road
East Sussex
BN21 3UT
Tel: 01323 410335

Production Services Association
PO Box 2709
Tel:01225 332668

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU)
373-377 Clapham Road

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