My daily routine on location is fairly simple. A quick walk-through around the set, finding a spot to set my transmitter that can hopefully cover multiple sets without being in any shots, and setting myself up near DIT so I can see what I am doing and respond to both my gaffer and DP as needed. All that is left after these steps is adjusting levels and programing for light gags at times. For those who don’t know, we call any lighting effects light gags, it covers a wide range of thing, could be lights on and off, fading up or down as actors move around, and TV flickering etc. Also, not all board operator like staying close to DIT, which is a station that camera department sets up with monitors and a specialist editing color balance, setting up color references layering on top of the raw feeds from cameras. I like to because DIT guy can do what I do too. we can help each other out. Sometimes it is me adjusting color on my fixtures and sometimes it is better coming from him adjusting his color profiles. But it can be stressful working so closely every day with your boss, the gaffer, and your bosses’ boss, the DP.
The other thing that is very important for me is how the team works together. I don’t think many people talk about it but it is very crucial on a tech-heavy team to have everyone understand what each instruments need and how to trouble shoot and setting up. It helps tremendously with your daily work flow and maintaining all the fixtures on their up-most potentials. I was very fortunate to have excellent teammates that could be my eyes and hands when I could not leave the board. That allows me focusing on my job and supporting them with tips via walkie talkie, not interrupting my gaffer and DP’s work flow. Especially when it come to location works, with different locations, you might have different rental packages come in and out everyday. With the fixture fluxes, it is very time consuming running between your light board and the units trying to set them up. Having reliable supports from my teammates daily makes my life much easier on locations.
Also, this is probably is another thing that people don’t realize I do a lot. I read a lot of manuals of different instruments, especially those that are new on the market. To understand what you are controlling on the console is a very essential responsibly as a board op in my opinion. It doesn’t matter which part of the lighting hierarchy this instrument fits in. As long as it is part of my lighting world, I have to know it inside out. Because it is my job to control all the lights on set to do what my gaffer wants. It is only reasonable that I know how to trouble shoot all the things from the control end, sending out DMX, to fixtures responding correctly. Only when I am comfortable with all these, I can possibly share these knowledge with my teammates.
Most of the points I mentioned above are geared toward location set up work. I have a few points to add when it comes to studio works.
I am really grateful that I have been working with a team that trusts me fully. I have a great working relationship with my rigging gaffer. It makes both of our lives much easier. Before quarantine happened, we were preparing for a new production, He and I worked closely planing out how to channel and address different sets. We came up a system which would help us track each units down to which set and what room it is at and know what kind of instrument it is just by reading its channel number. It is unfortunate that we didn’t have a chance yet to put it to practice but I imagine this system would be helpful for our team to learn our sets inside out in a structured way and easy to memorize.
When you work on a productions that rents multiple studios and built multiple principle sets, multi-universe work is usually a must. This set up allows you have all information under the same show file and without each set interfering with each other. It is not ideal to control all set with one console but it is possible under this circumstance. I usually keep an excel file tracking all my DMX address usages. It is very helpful, especially when swapping and moving units from one set to another. It is fundamental to know what you can fit under your DMX capacity. The 512 addresses hard limit per universe is not going away anytime soon.
I didn’t expect this article to be so long but I guess I have a lot to say about this position. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions of anything I mentioned or just simply curious about my job.