Lighting technicians are involved with setting up and controlling lighting equipment for entertainment venues (film or theater). Toward this end, they work under the direction of the cinematographer and gaffer (in film) or the lighting designer and master electrician (in theater). They are responsible for the movement and set up of various pieces of lighting equipment for visual effects.
Theatrical lighting technician
In a theatrical setting, a lighting technician will be responsible for building the lighting rig in the theater space as per the design drawings of the lighting designer.
A common hierarchy in a theatre is as follows:
Head (Master) Electrician – In charge of overseeing the lighting crew, interpreting the Lighting Designer’s drawings, and ultimately responsible for the building and maintenance of the lighting rig.
Assistant Electrician – Assistant to the head electrician, usually in charge of maintaining paperwork, and keeping up with changes that are made to the rig during the process of technical rehearsals.
Electrician – labor used by the master electrician to construct the rig. Duties of an electrician include; hanging lights in the proper place, Running power and necessary data to all lights, doing light rigging, and installing the necessary color and image patterns into the lights. During a day of focus, the electricians on call with aim all lights under the direction of the lighting designer.
Film lighting technician
Also called Set Lighting Technician, Lamp Operator, Electrician, or simply Electric. 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).
The lighting technician's duties include:
Placement and focus of lighting fixtures for any given scene to be photographed.
Distribution of power and work lights around the set and support areas (including actor's trailers, portable production offices, catering, etc.).
Management of electrical generators.
Providing electricity to all support services and departments on the set.
The film set electrical department hierarchy is as follows:
Gaffer (Chief Lighting Technician) is the head of the electricians. The Gaffer works directly under 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.
Best Boy Electrician (Assistant Chief Lighting Technician, Second Electric) works under the Gaffer as the supervisor of the electrical staff. The Best Boy is, generally, the liaison between the set and the equipment truck, and between the electricians and other film crew departments. The Best Boy manages the equipment and workers, organizes rentals and returns of special lighting gear needed for specific scenes, and sometimes repairs equipment. In the absence of a Generator Operator, the Best Boy manages the main power source(s) for the set, balancing power loads and maintaining electrical safety.
Set Lighting Technician (Lamp Operator, Electrician, and Third Electric) handles the physical lamps and the stands or other hardware they are mounted to. Stands placed on uneven ground and hardware that is mounted to walls or hanging in any special area are often under the control of the Grip department. The electrician lays cable, runs extensions, wires fixtures, sets fixtures and focuses them under the direction of the Gaffer.