CHOOSING A CAREER / JUL. 28, 2014
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How to Become a Lighting Technician

Lighting technicians work in the media and entertainment industry where they produce lighting effects for live events and TV productions. They interpret the ideas of stage managers, directors or lighting designers to produce lighting that meets the production’s needs. With good knowledge of electronics and electrical systems, and a normal colour vision, you could make a good lighting technician.

The Work

The work of lighting technicians ranges from sport-lighting for conferences to operating complex strobes. Although the specific duties of these technicians vary with whether a production is live or recorded, their work generally involves the following activities:

  • Interpreting lighting designers, and stage directors’ plan to install suitable lightings for productions
  • Assembling lighting equipment and planning where to run cables and install lights
  • Setting up back-up power supply equipment, such as generators, to kick in case of a power outage
  • Ensuring the equipment and power supply is working before commencing any production
  • Programming consoles an loading automated color change systems into computers before filming begins
  • Uninstalling lighting equipment after production and performing basic maintenance practices.

Working Environment

Like most professionals working in this industry, the amount of hours lighting technicians work in a week depends on production schedules. Aspiring technicians can, therefore, expect to have long and irregular working hours.

Lighting technicians could work at heights on cranes or scaffolding. Those working outdoors are often exposed to unfavorable weather conditions.

Lastly, if you are not physically fit, this job be might be unsuitable for you. The work of lighting technicians is physically demanding, as it involves handling heavy equipment.

Salary

The salaries for lighting technicians vary with level of experience and type of production. For example, technicians working in the production of big-budget movies earn more than those in low-budget movies. However, on average, lighting technicians earn the following annual salaries:

job experience

Annual pay

Beginning technicians

£15,000- £18,000

Experienced technicians

£19,000 - £ 27,000 or more

Source: National Careers Service

Entry Requirements

To become a lighting technician, you can follow any of the following routes:

You could pursue a course that equips you with skills in stage electrics and lighting design. Examples of relevant courses include:

  • Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Production Arts
  • Level 5 HND in Performing Arts
  • Foundation or bachelor’s degrees in lighting design, lighting technology, performance technology or technical theatre.

These courses are offered in several colleges and universities across the UK.

Alternatively, you could look for a traineeship in lighting companies, concert venues or community film projects to gain the practical experience required to impress prospective employers.

You could also get started as a lighting technician by completing a Technical Theatre Advanced Apprenticeship scheme.

When seeking employment, it’s important to have a DVD compilation of your past works to prove your competence and creativity to potential employers.

Useful Skills and Interests

Besides having good knowledge in electrical systems and electronics, it is essential that lighting technicians possess following skills and interests:

  • Good communication and teamwork skills
  • The creativity to develop the best color and light combinations
  • Good practical and troubleshooting skills
  • Good active listening skills to follow technical instructions from stage managers
  • An interest in the media and entertainment industry
  • Manual dexterity and the ability to work comfortably at heights

Career Development

After finding a job, you will most likely begin as a lighting assistant as you learn the tricks from experienced technicians. Instead of waiting to gain more experience, you can fast-track your career by pursuing relevant courses offered by:

You can also join professional organizations, such as the Association of British Theatre Technicians and the Production Services Association, to gain access to their career advancement resources.

Job Opportunities

Apart from doing freelance work, lighting technicians can find full-time employment opportunities in:

  • Theatres
  • Film and video production companies
  • Media houses
  • Advertising agencies
  • Training colleges and technical schools

With enough experience, increased creativity and advanced qualification, you can progress to become a lighting designer or electrical safety inspector.

Useful Links

Success Tip

In the media and entertainment industry, professional networks are very valuable. You should put some of your focus on establishing contacts with experienced lighting designers, stage managers and producers. With such contacts, it can be easier to land high-paying jobs.

So if you have technical skills and a real passion to work in the media industry then perhaps a career as a lighting technician is for you.

 

 Photo Credit - Digital Taiwan

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