How Do I Get into Board Op-ing?!
This is probably the most popular question that people ask me.
As my blog title suggests, being a dimmer board operator for Local 52 jobs is not just typing numbers. Of course, typing numbers is part of it and may seem, to many outsiders, a majority part of it but that is not true at all.
There is a lot of layers of knowledge to controlling lights through a lighting console. They can be separated into 3 major categories. First is to know the console, second is to know the lights, and third, which many don't pay attention, is to know DMX. These three elements are tightly intertwined together and you would not be able to do your job properly if any of it is missing.
Currently, ETC EOS family system is what most productions use. There are variety model of boards under this big umbrella, such as ION, ELEMENT, GIO, and ETC Nomad on a computer. It is fairly easy to get your foot into the door of using this board. Once you learn the system, you pretty much can use all the boards in the family. ETC headquarters hosts ION workshop every month, and they walk you through all the fundamentals. After that, it's on yourself. A good programmer usually learn from practices and mistakes. It's that 10000 hour rule and the work you put in.
Knowing your lights is a never ending task. As technology developed, there are more and more lights on the market, especially LEDs and moving lights. They now designed to do many jobs at once, which means there are more and more detail works putting into making them do what you / your DP and Gaffer desire. How efficient you can be is deeply rooted in knowing your lights and picking the right profiles/ modes for the job.
DMX is the magic that glues your knowledge of lights and super "typing" power on the board together. Understanding how this glue functions can give you leverage at tight corners, for example, creating a custom profile for a new fixture and control it on your board without any manual!
I can go on and on about each and every one of them. All elements contain tons of reading, testing, researching and practicing. BUT, the most important thing makes me want to write this down is to recommend a book, The Automated Lighting Programmer's Handbook by Brad Schiller. He is an experienced Broadway musical programmer and this book is originally aimed to share that with more fellow programmers, which I think translate really well to how to approach a dimmer broad operator job.
I have been recommending this book to many that have asked me the question. I bought it and read it a while back as a reference when preparing for a workshop. It is very easy to read and well-written, a nice introduction to what being a good and professional board op/ programmer like.
If you are interested in the board op world, you should definitely check it out. And, please feel free to reach out if anything bugs you. I will be more than happy to help! If I can't answer you right away, I promise I will find answer for you and make sure you get what it means!
P.S. this is an article that originally post on my old blog- not just typing numbers