How to work with the lighting tech as a sound engineerMark Ellis
Sound and light should work in perfect harmony at live gigs, and to the audience, that’s (nearly) always the case. If everything goes swimmingly, they’ll be treated to great sound reproduction and a dazzling stage illumination.
Behind the scenes, things might be rather different, for as long as gigging has existed, there has often been an inexplicable divide between the lighting and sound teams. It doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in fisticuffs, but it’s there, and can result in two silos that fail to work together efficiently.
If you’re a sound engineer and you’ve found working with lighting technicians either difficult or completely uninspiring, we’ve got some tips for building a great partnership.
Treat them as a team member
OK, so you arrived separately and represent two entirely different companies, but as the sound and lighting techs, you’re a team. You have to be a team. Otherwise, this gig just ain’t gonna work.
Start as you mean to go on by making a beeline for the lightning technician. Introduce yourself as soon as you can, and do so with a smile. Explain you’re looking forward to working with them and exchange the usual pleasantries to break the ice.
If you’re with the band and they’re not – share every secret
As the sound dude, you may have arrived as part of the band’s wider team, and if that’s the case, you’ll have a detailed knowledge of the set list and any surprises the band is likely to throw in during the night’s performance.
Share everything you know about the performance with the lightning tech. It’ll save multiple questions later on and further endear you to them. Point out when the band is likely to be at its most unpredictable to ensure they know when to be on point with the controls, and a great night should follow.
Give them enough space
You’ve got a great big desk and loads of outboard gear, but then so has the lighting guy or gal – give them space; 50/50 is the rule you should abide by here.
Be ready to help (and ask for their emergency cover, too)
Things go wrong during gigs and, worse, you may encounter an unrelenting requirement to answer a call of nature. During those moments, having someone to briefly man the controls or lend a second pair of hands can be very useful indeed.
You’re not asking the lighting tech to take over full mixing duties – instead, you simply want them to be ready to keep an eye on the desk if you suddenly need to be somewhere else. You’d do the same for them, after all… wouldn’t you?
Help them pack up
Unless you’re on a particularly big tour, you’ll probably be packing up your own gear. The lighting person will have to do the same, so muck in, and you’ll find they’ll quickly return the favour.
Worst bit of the night? Not if you’re doing it with someone, eh?
Don’t forget to swap business cards
You’re both in this together. If you’re freelancing, you need as many friends as possible, so make sure you swap business cards and numbers at the end of the night. Lighting techs can be a great source of potential new business for sound engineers, and vice versa.