Learn Stage Lighting – The Best Way?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007 - Learn Stage Lighting - by:

If you want to learn stage lighting, there are many different ways do it. Learning lighting theory, technical equipment and lighting design can be hard enough but with a vast amount of technical terms and jargon too, stage lighting can seem pretty hard to get into. On Stage Lighting takes a look at some of the options available to help you learn stage lighting, all of which we have done too!

Learning Stage Lighting From Books

Reading books on stage lighting (including informationon the internet) , whether about lighting design or equipment and practices, can really help you to understand the subject. Books on technical theatre, as well as lighting , can consolidate information that you have picked up as well as provide easy references to stage lighting terms and the structure of putting on an event or show. Although you cannot learn an entire subject like stage lighting just by reading a book or two, books are still a great way for beginners in lighting to “mug up” on jargon while considering some of the more theoretical and scientific aspects.

You might be interested in reading Books On Stage Lighting – 5 Of The Best for further information.

Lighting Rig shadows
Thanks to O2ma for this great picture!

Stage Lighting Courses

There are many short stage lighting courses and workshops available to help you learn the practical skills such as rigging and cabling stage lights. These lighting courses often take place in a theatre or venue and are open to anyone who wishes to take part for on or two days, usually for a small fee. When starting to learn stage lighting, it can be helpful to meet others at your own level of experience and get the opportunity to use some equipment that may not be available to you. Short stage lighting courses and workshops often use lighting industry professionals as tutors and it can be great to be able to ask them questions while trying your hand at learning new lighting skills.

Update:// As well as lecturing, I also offer short courses on stage lighting to clubs and individuals.  Click for more details.

Stage Lighting in Further/Higher Education

During the last 10 years there has been a steady growth in University courses for the performing arts and the live event industry. While many of these cater for a broad range of topics, many more courses are available to aspiring theatre technicians, lighting designers and other technical specialists. Drama schools, which used to be the only place to run recognised courses to learn stage lighting, have also changed to keep pace with the expanding market.
Such courses enable you to grow your existing knowledge of stage lighting and give you the chance to make mistakes and take on more responsibility in you chosen field. They also often have ties with the event industry that lead to good work experience placements and job offers.

Note: I am currently Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University on such a course, a popular BA (Hons) in Theatre Production and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Work Experience and Volunteering

In recent years, work experience has become a tricky subject for many stage lighting businesses. The increased demand for places, plus a greater awareness their legal responsibilities, mean that some lighting companies are less willing/able to take on young people who wish to learn stage lighting. That should not stop you from trying to get a work experience placement with a good lighting or theatre company as there is no substitute for practical experience with professional lighting engineers.

Developing your stage lighting skills by volunteering can range from helping at your local church, university productions or even going along to your local theatre company and helping out – for free. When your stage lighting experience is limited, volunteering can be a great way to get to work in a professional environment and learning from the experts. When you have a good level of skill, a professional company should start to pay you. Volunteering not only helps you to learn stage lighting, it also gives you some good experience for your CV.

Learning from the Professionals

There is plenty to be gained from building relationships with people that know what they are doing when it comes to stage lighting.  Learning from others that have done it.  Ideally, you should also learn from people who have spent 20+ years in professional stage lighting design and programming AND have a professional teaching qualification and significant mentoring experience.  Luckily, we have that covered here at On Stage Lighting.  Check out http://learn.onstagelighting.co.uk to find out more.

Real Lighting Experience

Because stage lighting is an essentially practical subject (rigging, focussing and operating) there is absolutely no substitute for practical experience. Learning stage lighting is easier when you are doing it, preferably with other people who really know their stuff. Everyone who gets into stage lighting has to start somewhere, and most lighting professionals can remember exactly who helped them learn and develop their skills in those early days. This means that they are usually willing to help you by passing on wisdom and practical skills and accept your mistakes. Everyone who has ever learned stage lighting skills did so because they found it an engaging and interesting subject.

If you want to learn stage lighting, get a book, get a gig, get around. Simple as that. And make sure your check out our Learn Stage Lighting Category!

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Rob is a Lighting Designer and Moving Light Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production at Bath Spa University in the UK. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and runs workshops in stage lighting practice.

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