Deck Electrician

  • Deck Electrician

Working in tandem with the lighting console operator on a live show, the deck electrician lives backstage and ensures the smooth operation of all lighting and electrical elements. In addition to his or her show track, this technician is always standing by to jump in and tackle a potentially show-ending power failure.


Duties

The deck electrician, also known as a dimmer technician, is a member of the running crew for a live theatrical production or concert and is responsible for all lighting and electrical effects (except for audio) that are located on stage or backstage. Depending on the needs of the production, his or her show track may include operating practical lights on stage or striking electrical items from the set. This person is also able to assist the lighting console operator by troubleshooting and quickly fixing lighting and power issues that arise during the show. On touring productions, the dimmer tech is responsible for monitoring the portable dimmer racks and power distribution to all lighting and show control systems.

The deck electrician’s show track will typically include several preset steps, including working closely with the lighting console operator to perform a dimmer check—a walkthrough to ensure that all lighting fixtures and electrical systems are performing normally—and a cue-to-cue of electrical effects. When not in show, the deck electrician assists with regular maintenance and repair duties in conjunction with the other members of the lighting department. He or she will perform any other duties as delegated by the lighting supervisor on the production crew. On the job, never show up to work without four basic tools: a flashlight, multi-tool, volt/amp meter, and crescent wrench.

Skills & Education

A specific college degree is not required for this position, but an education in theatrical design or show production with an emphasis on lighting and electrical systems is preferred. A deck electrician must have expert knowledge about every lighting fixture in his or her production’s inventory, able to troubleshoot and repair instruments down to the component level. Fixtures will include conventional and intelligent lighting, color scrollers, and LEDs, among others Additionally, as a dimmer tech, this person must be familiar with various portable dimming and power distribution systems. He or she should know the optimal performance standards of each system and be able to respond properly in the case of a power surge or power failure. Most importantly, it is necessary to understand the concepts of electricity.

What to Expect

Employment opportunities are available on a full-time basis with a resident theatrical company or production facility, or as a freelancer on a specific show. You should anticipate long, irregular hours depending on the production schedule, working mostly nights and weekends for performances. If you wish to enter the profession, be aware that electricity is a fickle mistress, even to those who are experienced and educated. A deck electrician must be prepared to respond to any number of common glitches, as well as the inevitable uncommon electrical mystery. A live show cannot afford to disappoint an audience due to power failures. It is the dimmer tech’s job to quickly track down the problem, fix it, and quietly save the day. A big part of that mission is being equipped with the experience to recognize a problem before it happens. If each leg of power in your rig is not balanced, you’re going to have a bad day replacing fuses in 130 moving lights. Do you know what burning ozone smells like? That is the last warning sign of a dimmer rack that is about to go the way of the Dodo, a potentially serious fire hazard.

Industry:

Related Content

Have some feedback for our editors? Contact Us