What Are You, New?

I want the set cart (a mobile cart about 5 feet long by 30 inches wide that holds gel and gear like small dimmers, repair tools, markers, tape, spare light bulbs, etc.), the Kino cart (a rolling cart with Kino Flo units), the tungsten cart (usually means lighting units with Fresnel lenses 5 kilowatts and smaller, along with stands), the Chimeras (a brand of lighting control device that attaches directly to the ears of a lamp), and the open-face cart (holds units with sealed-beam type globes like Molepars, parcans, mini-brutes, as well as lighting fixtures without lenses known as redheads and blondes, nook lights, which have no lenses and a double-ended globe, and stands) staged by the ass-end of (behind) that truck. We’re looking up towards that way so they should be safe there. Soldier up (place on stands in tidy rows by type) one senior (a Mole-Richardson 5-kilowatt Fresnel lensed light), two mini-9s (aka a mini-brute, a Mole-Richardson lighting unit with nine 650-watt sealed-beam globes in a three-by-three pattern), two juniors (a 2-kilowatt Fresnel lensed instrument made by Mole-Richardson), two babies (a 1-kilowatt Fresnel lensed instrument made by Mole-Richardson), four tweenies (650-watt Fresnel lensed instrument made by Mole-Richardson), four blondes (2-kilowatt unit with no lens), and two redheads (1-kilowatt fixture with no lens).

Put two more mini-9s on low combos (‘combo stand’ means combination stand, a stand with both a baby pin [5/8-inch rod] and a junior receiver [a hole to receive a 1 1/8-inch-diameter junior pin]) for a 12-by (12-foot-by-12-foot frame) griff (grifflon is a plasticized fabric that is black on one side and white on the other) the grips are putting over there on hi-rollers (a type of rolling grip stand). Stage two of each on C-stands (Century stands), fat and thin, men and boys and singles, all tungsten (2-foot and 4-foot, two-bank and four-bank and single-tube Kino Flo-brand lighting fixtures).

So up along the window inside the building I want four 4-bys (a 4-by is a Kino Flo lighting fixture consisting of four 4-foot tubes) tungsten (fluorescent tubes outputting light at 2800 or 3200 degrees Kelvin) with 216 (another type of Lee diffusion) on the doors (taped outside the doors of the fixtures instead of mounted on the tubes) and no crates (remove the plastic diffusion panel which attaches with Velcro to the light). No stands, just lay them on the ground with the backing plate (attach the plate used to mount the light on a C-stand and use the pin to adjust the angle).

Take a 26-degree leko (a lighting fixture with an ellipsoidal reflector and a 26-degree lens) and use the shutters (lekos have internal shutters, aka ‘a grip in a box’) to frame up the sign (cut the light so it stops at the edges of the sign) across the street. Put a frame of hamster (Hampshire Frost diffusion) on it to take the curse off (diffuse it just a little bit so the look is less harsh). It’s going high, so don’t use a baby stand—pull the handwheel (bolt used to lock the head [lighting instrument] in place), put it in the bag with the iris (accessory for the leko), and use a three-riser combo.

Over by those shrubs, put three par cans (rock & roll-style lighting instrument, a black metal can with a PAR 64 globe in it) with WFLs (wide beam globes) on beaver boards (a board with either a baby plate or junior plate; ‘beaver board’ is either from its resemblance to the flat tail of the aquatic rodent or because it puts a light at the perfect angle for lighting the eponymous part of the anatomy) for uplights. Put a half and a quarter blue on them—put the half in the frame (a metal frame that slips into the ears of the lamp) and C-47 (clothespin) the quarter over it; we’re going to audition it (try it out, see how it looks). Put variacs (portable rheostats variable autotransformers) on them; you can gang up the first two (meaning one 2-kilowatt rheostat and one 1-kilowatt rheostat; the par cans are 1000 watts each).

We have a walk-and-talk, so rig up a china ball (paper lantern) on a paint pole with a 213 (PH-213 light bulb, 250-watt tungsten [3200 degrees Kelvin] balanced) and a hand squeezer (small homemade portable dimmer, usually a household dimmer in rugged enclosure). He’s probably going to want two fat boys on a Danny DeVito (low C-stand; can also be called a lowboy, shorty, Gary Coleman, Mickey Rooney or any other small but mighty thespian) over-under (fixtures are parallel to the ground and mounted one over the other) in front of the truck at the end of the walk.

We also need to pull from the truck two 20Ks (20,000-watt Fresnel lensed units) on supers (Supercrank, a heavy-duty stand with a geared crank for raising and lowering large, heavy lighting instruments) and get a low crank (low rolling stand with a crank) to staging, as well as the Dedo kit (Dedolight, a small and precise lighting instrument kit) and a couple of rolling turtles (folding, rolling stands which place a light with a junior pin as close to the ground as possible).”

Meanwhile, the grips are putting a Ubangi on the dolly and need a bump; the camera department is converting the Steadicam into low mode and prepping the Libra head with a 10 to 1; wardrobe is putting more fuller’s earth on No. 1’s jacket and the vanities are doing final touches on the movie star. The DIT tech is setting up his tent and transpo has the picture car in place, which grip and electric will be rigging for a poor man’s process later in the night. The UPM wants to tell the keys about a tech scout after wrap; the leadman is checking with the decorator, the on-set, and the greensman before she goes home; special effects is getting ready for a wetdown and props is pulling the hero props. They’re doing a rehearsal by the numbers for marks with second team and the publicist is with EPK setting up near video village. The balloon guy is filling a hybrid module light, and the grips just said they’re out of baby plates and want to know if a junior nail-on with a buttplug will work.

The hardest part of working—or, rather, starting to work—in the film business is that as in most craft-based industries, most of the knowledge comes from experience. You show up knowing nothing and learn on the job—a job, as the above passage illustrates, which is infested with slang, much of it regional (e.g., a baby plate is a 1K pigeon in New York), and almost all of it a vernacular that isn’t set down anywhere. There are some good resources out there to learn how to identify the gear, but frankly, the thing to remember is that inexperience and overconfidence in the set lighting department can kill you and the people around you. So be humble and always admit what you don’t know.

Best Boy, eh? What Makes Him the Best?

Working on a film or TV show might as well require foreign language training. Check out our glossary of film terminology for answers

That said, the first resource for any aspiring set lighting technician is Harry Box’s excellent Set Lighting Technician’s Handbook. Now in its third edition, it’s written by a member of the only union with a membership consisting solely of set lighting technicians, Hollywood’s Local 728, drawn from his own personal experience as a set lighting technician as well as extensive interviews with other set lighting technicians currently working in Hollywood. (Disclosure: I was one of many programmers interviewed for the dimming and automated lighting section of the book, new in this edition.) From there you can also use the Google … don’t know what a Dino light is? Here you go.

Mole-Richardson has an extensive catalog, available online, but a lot of their gear is listed by brand name rather than common vernacular (1000w Molequartz Solarspot Baby-Baby, anyone?). Other large rental companies such as PRG, ELS, Lee Filters, and others are worth a look for gear references. Also, good sources of “by the people and for the people” info are the following: Electric and Grip, Dollygrippery, How Big Is Your Meat Axe?, Film Hacks, and, of course, IATSE728.org.    Get In Media

Dave Slodki was a bad grip and the world’s worst camera assistant, and currently works as a lighting console programmer in Hollywood and points abroad. 

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Comments

Great article!

Small error towards the end of it. A variac is not a portable rheostat. It is a variable autotransformer which regulates voltage. A rheostat (hand squeezer, household dimmer, etc.) regulates resistance. The variacs are preferred for large sources because they do not generate as much hum as rheostats. Small lights on hand squeezers generate a small but tolerable amount of hum. Overall the article was fun and very informative.

Right on the money

My error for sure. I was using rheostat to mean “dimmer”, which is a general term for what they’re used for. In terms of the actual electronics … remember that part about “set lighting technician” vs. “electrician”? This is a perfect example of the difference. (although, from my memory, I thought inside the variac housing it says “rheostat”.) But he’s right … they are two different types of device. Good catch.