Do you ever wonder how lighting effects are controlled during the filming of a movie or production of a play? Lighting technicians are the people behind the scenes directing the lighting that helps set the mood and atmosphere for viewers and audience members. Also called gaffers, lighting technicians are well-versed in operating, fixing and maintaining the equipment that can create a sunny scene during a cloudy day or a black and white film in a brightly lit studio.
Lighting technicians set up the lights and special lighting effects used in theatre, film and television production sets. They work closely with the floor manager and director to determine the type of lighting that works best on stage based on the camera shots and scenes in a film or play. In addition to taking down and repairing lighting systems, lighting technicians also coordinate, program and control the computer systems used to manipulate lighting effects.
Education and training for lighting technicians depends on the industry they wish to enter. Some positions only require a high school diploma and one to two years of hands-on experience. In contrast, production lighting technicians typically have a Bachelor's or Associates degree from a technical program, community college or university. Fields of study that align with a lighting technician career include production lighting and lighting design. Lighting technician students work in their school's theatre department or intern with theatre companies to gain experience while attending college.
Lighting technicians need to be highly proficient with electrical systems, light fixtures, control devices, stage equipment, cables, extension lugs and other lighting tools that are used to control the effects during filming and production. Moreover, lighting technicians must be detail-oriented, precise, creative, visionary and work well in groups. They must also be able to quickly adapt in high-paced environments and keep abreast of the latest technologies in the industry.
Lighting technicians work in television stations, cable companies, theatre and dance companies, movie studios, hotels and convention centres. They are also employed as freelance contractors, seasonal workers or temporary employees by theatres and the motion picture industry.
Supervisory roles such as lighting director and designer are available to lighting technicians that acquire experience in large organisations or advanced education through certification and workshops. Lighting technicians can also progress to positions that focus on the operation, repair or installation of electronic equipment.
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