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What does a Lighting Director do?

By Lori Smith
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A lighting director is in charge of the design and implementation of theatrical lighting and special effects for concerts, performances, television, film and various events. The person with this job title typically schedules and oversees a crew of technicians and stagehands. He often establishes budgets for specific projects, purchases equipment and handles other logistical details as well. This individual is an integral part of a production team.

Extensive theatrical lighting packages are sometimes used to enhance various performances, such as concerts, plays, stage productions and large-scale group functions. A lighting director often works with other designers to create luminary effects to enrich a scene or emphasize various areas of the stage for maximum visual impact. Concert promoters often hire these individuals to tour with a crew so that the special effects of each show can be perfectly coordinated.

Lighting directors commonly incorporate special effects to create a dramatic experience for an audience when the scene calls for it. Indoor pyrotechnics, for example, may be used at key points during a show for an exhilarating result. The use of fog machines and lasers can also enhance an atmosphere, especially during musical performances.

Sometimes, a lighting director works for a local audiovisual or special event company. Instead of traveling with entertainers or planning large-scale productions, these professionals execute the lighting needs of multiple smaller events based on each client's specifications. For example, corporations may require audiovisual services for a general session, conference or trade show. Themed events can be made more dramatic when props are lit in coordinating colors. Weddings or social functions can benefit from ambient illuminations as well, to create a soft, romantic mood or an exciting, pulsating light show.

In addition to the design aspect of a lighting director's job, this person is also responsible for maintaining an inventory of equipment and purchasing new items to cover breakage or loss. This individual, along with his crew, makes sure that everything is in working order prior to a show. Color gels, power cables, extension cords and basic fixtures, for example, may be replenished in advance to meet the needs of a particular job. Other equipment, such as trussing, may be required to fly lights overhead.

A lighting director is usually responsible for ensuring that a venue has an adequate power source to run the audiovisual equipment he provides. In some cases, he may be required to bring in industrial generators. This is common for outdoor events where the power supply may be limited. Expert advanced planning on the part of this individual and his crew ensures that each performance is appropriately highlighted and intensified by visual effects to complement a show, performance or event.

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