• Laurie Swigart

LIGHTING DESIGNER OR MASTER ELECTRICIAN?

A lighting designer's primary responsibility is to ensure that a show's lighting fulfills the

director's production concept.


A good LD will strive to maintain cohesion with other design aspects of a production,

including sound, choreography, and perhaps most importantly, scenery and costumes. He

or she begins this process during the design stage by drafting a light plot and creating an

instrument schedule. Another important tool provided to the ME is the channel hookup

(also known as a magic sheet). A channel hookup is a simple rundown of every channel

the LD plans to use. It will detail every aspect of that channel, including its purpose, area

of focus, physical location, gel color or template need, and what type of instrument is to

be used.


All of the paperwork allows the master electrician and the lighting crew lead time to

assemble and prepare the lighting system before the lighting designer is actually working

on site in the theatre. This will help the ME plan in advance for an necessary renting or

purchasing of equipment.


The lighting designer will also make decisions regarding the colors to be used, and what

type of instrumentation to employ during the design phase. This is generally dictated to

some degree by the budget and lighting inventory of the theatre they are designing for.

Like their counterparts in the areas of sound, scenery, and costuming, LDs will spend a

fast amount of time researching and studying the script or piece for which they are

designing.


Once the crew has hung, circuited, and patched the show, the LD will begin working in

the theatre, utilizing the crew during the focus and troubleshooting phase of the process.

After the plot has been focused and all equipment is patched and operating correctly, the

LD will write cues for the show. Some LDs arrive with cues already written, which they

will then modify as necessary during the tech process.


The master electrician is a theatre's charge electrician. The ME is responsible for

maintaining and operating the theatre's lighting equipment, managing the lighting budget,

and hiring the necessary crews to complete the tasks of hanging, focusing, running, and

striking individual productions. Between productions, the ME will ensure that the

electrics department and its equipment is organized an din proper working condition,

guaranteeing that spare parts and replacement lamps are in stock. The ME must also be

sure that all of the proper gel (or color) is available, and any other materials specified by

the designer, such as pattern templates (also known as gobos), irises, and sidearms. If

necessary, the ME will oversee any rigging that may need to be accomplished in order to

successfully carry out the design.


During the planning stages and tech process, the ME is the LD's right hand, responsible

for putting the paperwork of the designer into action. Supplied with a light plot,

instrument schedule, and channel hookup, the ME compiles all of the necessary

equipment and makes a plan for how to organize the work that will need to be done.

(Many MEs will create informative flash cards known as hang cards so that electricians

will have the information they need to complete their assigned tasks without having to

return periodically to the usually centrally located light plot.) The ME is also responsible

for deciding how much time and labor will be needed for a given project in order to

ensure that the work is done on schedule.


Generally, the LD will arrive for focus and preliminary notes once the electrics crew has fully hung, patched, programmed any equipment requiring it, and checked the entire

system for problems. During focus, the ME will head up the crew, assisting the

designer by making sure the proper lights are on at any given time.


Once the show has been focused, the ME will assist the LD in programming cues. If the

ME is not also to be the light board operator, he or she will at least be on hand throughout

the tech process in order to fix unexpected issues and change things that the LD has

decided to adjust in order to accommodate the design more fully, such as the focus of an

instrument.


Obviously, the work of an ME is never done.

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