August 18, 2016

An Inside Look at the Roles Within a Hollywood Lighting Department

Does the thought of working around lights on set spark your interest? 

Last week, DP Matthew Workman taught us all about the roles within the Camera Department, and now he's moving on to the Grip and Electric Departments. So, if you're more inclined to be involved with setting up lights, rigging, and operating cranes and dollies, check out his latest video in which he breaks down all of the major positions you could potentially fill.

So, here's a quick breakdown of the roles Workman mentions in the video:

Electric Department

Responsible for the electrical components of lighting: electricity, lights, generators, etc.

  • Gaffer: head of department
  • Best boy electric: foreman of department, management, etc.
  • Electric: responsible for setting up electricity

Grip Department

Responsible for the non-electrical components of lighting: diffusion, camera movement tools, etc.

  • Key grip: head of department
  • Best boy grip: foreman of department, management, organizing equipment
  • Dolly grip: responsible for rigging dollies, cranes, etc.
  • Grip: responsible for setting up flags, rigging equipment, etc.

These two departments answer to the cinematographer/DP and their job is to try to ensure that he/she has everything they need in order to get the lighting and camera movement the way they want it. The bigger the project, the bigger these two departments are most likely going to be, which is why it's smart to get an idea of what/who you might find when you arrive on set.

Even if you're only really interested in working on no-budget projects with skeleton crews it's still beneficial to learn about these roles, because these duties still need to get done regardless of how many people and technicians are there to do them. The more you know about the responsibilities of each department, the more of an asset you'll be.      

Your Comment

3 Comments

Sure those are the basics but there are more specific roles when you work on bigger shows. Most AAA movies are using more smart lighting and LED style lights and require more positions in the departments to help with the tech and schedule.

Lets not forget the Rigging crew for stages, which includes a rigging gaffer, best boy and rigging electricians.

Also the most overlooked are DMX crew. This includes a Board Op, DMX Techs, and Rigging Tech.

I would love to see a in depth coverage on DMX positions because they are now becoming a requirement instead of a luxury for big shows.

August 19, 2016 at 3:20PM

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Mike Mack
DMX TECH
147

As the headline says, "hollywood" aka North America.

Grips don't touch lighting of any kind in Europe. That's the sole responsibility of the electrical department.

On this side grips take care of "everything under the camera plate" and of on-set safety for the camera department.

August 20, 2016 at 7:25AM

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Grips don't touch lights here either, but "sparks" don't touch c-stands or diffusion.

Personally I found my work as an LX & grip on shows extremely helpful for understanding what was going on in the cinematography department. Personally I think you should work every position on set at least once, so you know what's going on for everybody.

August 23, 2016 at 8:30PM

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Nathan Taylor
Jack of all trades, master of none
455