Electrical lighting technicians (ELT), or simply lighting tech, are involved with rigging stage and location sets and controlling artificial, electric lights for art and entertainment venues (theatre or live music venues) or in video, television, or film production.
In a theater production, lighting technicians work under the lighting designer and master electrician. In video, television, and film productions, lighting technicians work under the direction of the gaffer or chief lighting technician who takes their direction from the cinematographer. In live music, lighting technicians work under the lighting director. All heads of department report to the production manager.
Lighting technicians are responsible for the movement and set up of various pieces of lighting equipment for separation of light and shadow or contrast, depth of field or visual effects. Lighting Technicians may also lay electrical cables, wire fixtures, install color effects or image patterns, focus the lights, and assist in creating effects or programming sequences.
A lighting technician's work concerns safety of rigging and working with objects which can be very heavy and get very hot.
Some local unions such as the International Alliance of Television Stage Employees (IATSE) Hollywood chapter local #728, have been qualifying members by certification and recognition through the Entertainment Stage Technologies Association (ESTA) with their Entertainment Technicians Certification Program (ETCP). Basic skill sets are now standardized, and sets and stage are safer through this program.
Officially called the electrical lighting technician (ELT), or the rigging electrical lighting technician (RELT), the technician is also known as set lighting technician, lamp operator, electrician, electric, spark or juicer.
The lighting technicians on a motion picture set handle all of the electrical needs as well as place and focus all of the lighting under the direction of the gaffer (chief lighting technician).
Lighting techs also:
Also, specialty roles are called upon the lighting technician such as:
Hours of work also vary. For example, those employed by large television productions generally work more than 40 hours a week, 60 hours or more are not uncommon. Technicians and other crew members typically work a 12-hour day.
Depending on script requirements, stage and locations bring on their own requirements for lighting and effects. Out of state, or country to get the right look in a script is not uncommon. Location work always brings on its own challenges. Weather is always a factor when going to a location. Technicians are like scouts and have to be prepared for all kinds of weather as per the season.
Working conditions for lighting technicians vary a great deal from one job to another. Lighting technicians generally spend a lot of time on their feet and the pace of work can become hectic. Last-minute changes are often required and safety precautions must be observed when handling hot lamps, climbing ladders or working on high voltage electrical cables and equipment. Lighting technicians are routinely required to lift and carry the heaviest and more dangerous equipment compared to the other departments and office staff.
The film set electrical department hierarchy is as follows: Electrical lighting techs (rigging electrical lighting techs) report to the Best Boy (Assistant Chief Lighting Technician or ACLT) who reports to the Gaffer (Chief Lighting Technician or CLT), who is the head of the department. The Rigging Best Boy (Rigging Assistant Chief Lighting Technician) reports to the Rigging Gaffer (Chief Rigging Technician) who is the head of the rigging, but not the department. Both rigging heads report to the ACLT and CLT of the department. The Gaffer is the Head of the Set Lighting Department and reports to the Director of Photography (Cinematographer) to make decisions on the creative lighting on the set (or on location), and is responsible for executing those decisions. A budget deciphered from the production schedule, script and vision mandates the types of lights and how to proceed with rigs.
In live music performances, concerts, and other entertainment, stage lighting technicians (also called a lighting tech, lighting operator, stage electrician, "sparky", "lampy", or "techie") set up lighting and make effects for live performances, concerts and any other show/production involving lighting.
The Stage lighting department hierarchy is as follows: