What does a Lighting Director do?
A lighting director, also known as an LD, is the person on tour that’s responsible for the stage lighting during the show. They spend time programming and creating automated cues for the tour, as well as operating the board for things that can’t be planned like lighting up the crowd.
Skills required to be a Lighting Director
In order to be the best LD possible, it’s necessary to be good at the creative aspect of the job. The most important skills needed are having a good eye for design and color combinations, and how to apply them in different settings to create the most appealing looking show. Part of the job of a lighting director is trying to invoke a specific mood from the audience during certain parts of the show so being able to accomplish this through different lighting techniques is key.
No two shows are the same, so being able to create lighting that looks intentional and attractive can be tricky. An outdoor daytime festival show can’t be lit the same way an acoustic set in a 100 cap venue would be. Being able to roll with the punches is also important because circumstances might arise where gear isn’t working correctly in the space or maybe the venue doesn’t have the proper specs necessary to handle the production of the show.
Lighting Director vs. Lighting Designer
Although both of these jobs blend into each other, there are specific roles each job has. Lighting directors are usually using the pre-set plots. Their job entails directing the pre-positioned beams to illuminate the stage. The house lighting person is usually a lighting director.
A lighting designer is the crew member that’s building their own rigs to create a lighting design for the show. They’re programming cues and making sure they have all the gear needed to make their plans work just in case the venue doesn’t have what they need. They’re usually part of the touring crew.
Daily tasks of a Lighting Director
Upon arriving at the venue, the LD is responsible for meeting up with the house lighting crew and going over their spec sheets to ensure they have accurate information. It’s possible to receive outdated stage plots so double-checking all the specs once inside the space never hurts. The lighting director will decide if it’s necessary to use the tour gear or if the house’s gear will suffice for the show.
Depending on the size of the venue, load-in might be staggered. If it’s a small venue, not everyone can be on the stage working and setting up at the same time so lighting and audio normally loads in earlier than everything else. Their gear is all hung in the air on rigs, so those dead cases can be brought back out to the truck to make room for the rest of the production.
Once all the lighting is hung, if it needs to be, the LD then starts programming the board to make sure they’re able to get the effects they need for the show later on. A really important thing to consider when talking about lighting is the safety of the people in the venue. When you’re at a show and you can very clearly see the beams of light, this is because of haze. Haze is a lighting technique that involves very fine particles released into the air that the light beams reflect off. Haze is a cool feature but it’s also dangerous. The liquid is flammable and venues require fire detail to be on the premises before anyone can use it. In the case that the haze can’t be turned on until later, a visualizer can be used to help fine-tune the show.
Once the show starts, the LD can either run the show manually by triggering certain lighting cues themselves or by creating queue stacks to help them automate the show. After the show is over, the house lights come back on and it’s time to strike the stage to reload the truck and do it all again the next day.
Lighting Director Tips
- Teamwork is critical to success, so don’t micromanage when you can help it
- Read the room when interacting with people and trust your gut instinct
- Pay it forward to other people in your position whenever possible
- Wake up with your team even if you don’t have to
- Use a visualizer when you can’t use haze
- Keep up with the changing technology or get left behind
- Leave whatever you can on the truck, less load in means less loadout