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What does Board Op do? Part-I

Updated: Jul 16, 2020


This post is for readers that don’t know TV/Film work and are curious about what it is like working as a broad op. If you are already in the industry and want to know how to start doing Board op I have another post from earlier day and here is the link.

The structure in electric department is fairly simple.The compositions usually contains one Gaffer, the department head; one Best boy electrician who manages daily labor, keeps track of equipment rentals and a lot of other things that sustain department daily work flow; one or zero Board op which we will take about soon; one or more Genny Op depending on how many generator on set that day, industry stander is one generator needs one Genny op; several Production electricians, also named Lamp op, who are preparing and setting up lights under Gaffer’s direction on set for each shots. These positions form the “core,” whom are stable members staying with the production from the start to the end. Depending on daily shooting schedule, there may be Additional electricians, also named Additional lamp op, who join the department a day or two to help out on more complicated location settings.

As you can see, there is only one Board op on set and some productions don't even use one. If you are lucky, your best boy or one other electrician can help out when you need to use bathroom or want to get some water. But most of the time, you are on your own. Many of my colleagues have seen me running in lightening speed to and from bathrooms, just to minimize any possible delay on any adjustments needed. When on set, I am pretty much glued to my light board at all times.

Every board op works differently. Personally, I prefer joining my team as soon as check out. Check out is the process that you go to rental houses get all the gears the gaffer had ordered and pack your truck. I like to make sure all the lights that need to be DMX controlled are in their best condition. It starts off by performing a factory reset and checking their firmwares. Then proceed to address them and set up their profiles as gaffer and I discussed. Also putting a big and clear label on each units to let my teammates know what is the setting. It takes time to do detail preparation but this process helps avoiding wasting time trouble shooting when you set up for shots.

I would also test my light board and DMX system, usually wireless, during check out. I don’t think wireless DMX system is popular in most of the theaters but it has become fairly common on set, especially on locations, for TV/Film. Basically, you link your light board to a bridge/transmitter sending out DMX signals via radio waves. After pairing the receivers , could be a built-in or an add-on, to your transmitter, your lights should respond to your commends. There are several brands out there for you to pick and choose. Most of the time they should be able to talk to each other because protocol is all the same. But once in a while, there would be nooks and crannies to figure out how to make them work together smoothly. Each piece of electronics has its own temperament sometimes. It is better to get familiar with them early on, almost like convincing new-born duckling that your are their mom, so they will follow your directions on set!

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