Your Stage Lighting

Advice Needed…

This On Stage Lighting Interactive (a chance to shout your mouth off) is about progressing in life, stage lighting and getting that job or placement. Give us your advice on expanding your horizons.

Your Stage Lighting Interactive

On Stage Lighting recently heard from two different people in similar situations. One, a sixteen year old stage lighting beginner, was looking for ideas to help her get into the business. The second was an experienced lighting technician who had recently started out as a freelancer and was trying to get more work. Particularly from a broader range of sources.

They both had the same problem – getting “in” from “outside. A teenager who wants to scale the castle walls of stage lighting and a professional freelancer trying to get work from companies who don’t know him from Adam (one of the first production lighting assistants in history, BTW).

Personal bit:
I am going to keep most of my thoughts to myself until some comments come in.
My own personal opinions are coloured by my experiences – whose aren’t? I have nearly always managed to quietly push my way through life , with some support from others. I’ve also had plenty of people tell me they’ve “tried everything” to get a certain result (job, work placement, whatever) but then don’t actually have much of a list.

So, what about you?

This isn’t a stage lighting specific conundrum, it happens to everyone in their personal and professional lives. Readers of OSL are here because they want to learn but that doesn’t meant that you don’t have something to teach. How did you get the part time work in your local venue or even your first job in IT? You have experience on this and so must have ideas to share with these two friends of On Stage Lighting – and the rest of us too.

You can be as specific or as philosophical as you like. Here are a few questions to get you thinking but don’t let them confine your thoughts.

How did you “get your break” doing what you do at the moment?

How do you persuade people that you are worth trying out?

If it’s “Who you know” rather than “What you know”, what to do when you don’t “know” anybody?

PS – The On Stage Lighting Interactives are great for us to all get to know each other a bit better. It seems a bit daunting, typing stuff into that comments box and I really appreciate those that take the time. Don’t worry about being the first!! If the comments keep on coming, I am hoping to run some “Comment of the Month” competitions with real stage lighting goodies to give away.

  1. Peanut

    Firstly, I think it safe to say that, just before Adam, God was the first ever LD, in the most literal sense of the term! (or should that be, ‘Lighting Creator’?!)

    Secondly and more on-topic, I think there are a few ‘supplemental’ factors to getting ahead in the event lighting (and live events in general) business. I say supplemental because obviously you have to be able, competent and all the rest of it, but knowledge only gets you so far.

    I myself am a relative newbie to the scene. I got a job in a music venue by attending a gig and getting talking to a guy behind front of house who just happened to be the tech manager for the venue. I told him I was interested in learning sound and other live event stuff, he told me he needed someone to cover gigs etc, and that I could start on Monday. Easiest and best job I’ve ever got, and therein lies the first supplemental factor –


    You might look for a job for years and not find anything, and similarly you might have a job miraculously find you. But if you’re actively searching then it’s only going to go in your favour.

    Secondly, once you’ve got your foot in the door, so to speak, another good supplemental skill to learn is knowing who to ‘make friends with’, so to speak. I got to know several promoters and event co-ordinators quite quickly through the various events we’d host, and if you get on with them and they know you’re good at your job, they often call on you to do other bits and bobs for them at external shows. Again it’s a lot to do with luck, but if people know that you’re good and know that you’re always up for work, things can start to have a ‘knock on’ effect. You’ll work for someone, and make friends with someone else, and they’ll book you for an event where you’ll make friends with someone else, and so on…IF you’re lucky!

    And if you’re really serious about getting ahead, always bring your A game. This might sound like common sense, but I’ve seen a lot of technical staff, including sound, lighting and other types, do the bare minimum to get the job done. You’ll especially find this in smaller music venues and rock club dives where poor souls have to listen to crap bands every night of the week. I can totally see how that would be a tempting environment for a lackluster performance. But nobody’s going to remember the guy who won’t go the extra mile.

    When we get less famous bands in from places like America or Europe, they don’t always tour with an LD, so I have to do lights for them. If you can give them a decent performance right off the bat, it’s only going to go in your favour. If I haven’t heard of a band, I usually have a listen to their Myspace or what have you and get an idea of their styles etc beforehand. That way, if you can give some unknown band the lighting display of a paid tour LD, people might notice. If that band then goes on to make something of themselves and you’ve made friends with their promoter or whoever, they just might remember you.

    Waffle waffle waffle it’s so late….

  2. Jimmy

    I think peanut summarised it well,
    Networking and making connections + experience.

    Im currantly looking at rigging, i know the pay can be poor and the hours are hard but i here its worth it for the connections.

  3. Christiaan Visser

    Peanut has a point,

    It all has to do with luck and character.

    You don’t have to do shows like the Olympics in China to get ‘into business’. Offcourse, you have to got some luck to begin at a good lighting company, but it al begins with you as a person. If you want to learn, listen and work, than you’ve got the basic in you to become a great lighting technician.

    From own experience, I’ve started working in this world at a local drive in show for over 5 years back. Even with the fact that it was a little company, I’ve learned so much in such a short time. And from that point off I went up the ladder with short steps, so that I could adjust myself to the level of the gigs. Now 5 years later, I’m doing festivals, events, tours and concerts.. A month ago I did a part of the ‘Percy Sledge tour’. That was one of the things, I wouldn’t even think about 5 years ago!

    You don’t have to study in class for this sort of jobs, you have to get experience and knowledge of how it all works. And that’s something you learn much more in the reality on gigs and festivals, than in a classroom. And if i’m wrong, is the subject ‘solving technical problems’ also in schoolbooks? I don’t think so..

    So, from my point of view; It’s all about your charater and motivation. And luck only speeds that proces!

  4. John Howard

    Hi Rob,

    I’ve been wondering around your website for the past hour, and lets be honest, its all gibberish to me.

    I am head of my school lighting and sound department and I am currently upgrading the lighting equipment. I have decided to use DMX and chosen lighting equipment that, as far as I know, supports it.

    The actual lights are the Chauvet Rain 56 and Rain 64 – all 9 of them.
    The controller I have picked is the Chauvet Stage Designer 50.

    What I don’t understand is that, the controller states it can run 48 channels. But each light needs 6.

    What does “6 channels” mean?
    Does the controller work in the sense that each slider is a light?

    Please could you just revise, what you probably consider to be, the basics!

    Many thanks,

    John Howard

  5. Rob Sayer

    Hi John, the Chauvet can control 48 DMX channels, if the fixtures use 6 channels each, the maximum number of fixtures can you control totally independently is 8. Assuming you have no other dimmers etc.

    However, you could set up all your fixtures so that they use the SAME set of channels (1-6 for example) and control them in unison – but they’ll each always be doing the same thing as the the rest. Or you could split them half and half (channels 1-6, channels 7-12) which would use 12 channels or any combination that suits your needs.

    A channel of control would be one for Red, one channel for Green on each fixture.

  6. John Howard

    Thanks Rob.

    When you talk about “Dimmers”, what do you mean exactly?

    What is normally done when you you can’t run all lights on their own channels? What would you do if you were in the same situation?

    “A channel of control would be one for Red, one channel for Green on each fixture.” – what do you mean by that?

    Many thanks!


  7. Rob Sayer

    Hi John, while a lot of information is here on the site, perhaps you would prefer a simple explanation of terms such as that over at the Blue Room Wiki, for instance Desk Channel .

    I would suggest it is vital you understand these basics before choosing equipment for upgrade, many of the things you want to know are covered online (at the Blue Room an others) and in stage lighting books.

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