Lighting Equipment and Instruments

LESSON 2: Lighting Equipment and Instruments



Students will demonstrate their knowledge of lighting equipment and instruments by playing “The Light is Right” game.


Materials Needed:

Lighting Instruments:

Lamps, Scoops, Fresnels, Par CANs, Ellipsoidals, Striplights, and Follow Spot.


Lighting Equipment

C-Clamps, Safety Cables, Gobos, Gels, Gel frames, and wrenches.


Other Materials:

Copies of the “Lighting Safety” and “Lighting Instruments and Equipment” handouts for each student and slips of cardstock paper with the names of all lighting instruments and equipment written on them (for “The Light is Right” game).

Lesson 2.A Lighting Timeline Handout

Lesson 2.Lighting Equipment and Instruments Handout

Lesson 2.Lighting Safety Handout

Lesson 2.The Light is Right Game Directions




Anticipatory Set/Hook: Have the lighting instruments and equipment on display out on the stage as the students come in. Also have the batten lowered.


Step 1: Instruction—Give a copy of the “Lighting Safety” handout and go over it with them. Have each student read a rule until you’ve gone through all the rules (take time to discuss each rule if necessary).


Step 2: Instruction—Start by talking about plugs. Show students the three types of plugs, and explain to them that the Edison plug is the most common type of plug, but it is not very sturdy and cannot handle much power. Therefore, you won’t see many Edison plugs in theatre lights. Show them the Stage pin plug (which is also referred to as the “three pin” or “stage plug”). Explain to them that this plug is sturdy and can handle a lot of power. Show them the final type of plug, called the Twist-lock plug. Explain that this plug is as sturdy as the Stage Pin Plug, and they actually twist and lock (hence the name) so you don’t have to do any taping when using this type of plug.


Step 3: Instruction—Give a copy of the “Lighting Instrument and Equipment” handout to each student. Remind them that all of the handouts they get in class are supposed to be put in their binders, and that the binders will be turned in at the end of the semester for a grade (and then given back to them, of course).

Modeling—Put on your gloves. Show them a lamp for one of the lights and explain to them that the bulb within the instrument is actually called a lamp.  Remind them to never touch a lamp/bulb with their bare hands because the oil from their fingers will burn and cause the light to explode when it is turned on. (I could give a more detailed explanation of this phenomenon, but it’s not necessary—just don’t touch them.) Give them a quick demonstration of how to change a lamp. Tell them that they are never to change a lamp unless they are supervised or certified. Explain to them what the Lamp Housing is.


Guided Practice—If you feel extremely daring, let a few kids put on some gloves and change a lamp.


Instruction—Show and explain the other basic instrument parts: (here are some suggestions of what you can say, but feel free to use whatever wording you want and cover whatever else you feel necessary)

  • A C-clamp is the device used to mount the light on the hanging pipes. It is shaped like a C (go figure) and has a bolt on the side. Loosen the bolt to turn the instrument left and right.  Just be careful not to twist it off.


Modeling—Show them how to twist the bolt without twisting it off.

  • The C-clamp attaches to a U-shaped yoke, which goes over the instrument and attaches at either side. A safety cable is required to attach each light to the batten, as an added safety precaution.
  • The front of the instrument has a color frame holder.  Some instruments have a latch you must pull open to slide the frame in, while others just have a slot.


Step 4: Show and explain the different lighting instruments: (here are some suggestions of what you can say, but feel free to use whatever wording you want and cover whatever else you feel necessary)

  • Soft-edged lights mix together well and provide nice effects, but it is important to remember that they will spill onto proscenium arches, speakers, etc. Barn doors can help give a little control, but cannot make a sharp edge.
  • Fresnels are the most popular soft-edged light because they are cheap and blend easily.  The beam from these instruments is adjustable, allowing for flooding or spotting. The Fresnel is named after it’s inventor, Augustin Fresnel – a French man who did a lot of optical formulas.
  • For large, smooth washes of light, use a strip light (a.k.a. border light).  These are long, narrow enclosures with a row of lamps set into them, which provide large amounts of unfocusable light and have several colors.  For example, you may have all the blue lights up, all the red, or all the green.  Or, you may bring all three colors up at once and the colors mix together to make white light.
  • Scoops are used to light large areas or used as work lights. They are inexpensive, but the light goes everywhere.
  • PAR cans give off a very bright and intense light.  They cannot be focused, but they make good sunlight.  These are more popular in rock-and-roll type shows.
  • The most popular type of hard-edged lights is the ellipsoidal reflector spotlight, sometimes known as a Leko, which is simply a brand name.  These instruments can be hard or soft-edged, but it’s easier to use Fresnels for soft-edges simply because they are less costly than Ellipsoidals. 
  • Ellipsoidals contain reflectors that allow greater focusing ability.  They also have shutters, which can be pushed into the light to create a sharp ledge.  Templates (a.k.a. gobos) can also be used to create a pattern in the light.  Fresnels can’t do that.
  • Ellipsoidals with a long focal length have narrower beams of light than those with shorter focal lengths.
  • Follow Spots give off a hard-edged circle of light.  You can make the circle bigger or smaller by adjusting the iris.  Like ellipsoidals, follow spots have shutters to make hard edges.  Follow spots can dim by using the douser, or be colored with color frames.
  • Color filters, usually referred to as gels, fit into the front of the instruments and color the light. Filters come in large sheets that you may cut to fit your instruments.


Modeling—Installing color filters: (Again, more dialogue)

  • First, find a frame that fits the instrument you want to put a filter in.  Second, cut the filter to fit the frame.  Slide the filter into the frame.  Some frames have a hole in them to stick a brad in.  This keeps the filter from slipping out before it gets into the color frame holder.  Finally, slide the frame into the slot on the front of the instrument.  Be sure the instrument is facing up or the frame will fall out the bottom.
  • Diffusion filters are white and are used to spread the light out.  Some are made to soften the light and others spread it over large areas.


Step 5: Guided Practice—Give everyone an opportunity to put a gel into a gel frame and then into the light. Let them put a Gobo into an Ellipsoidal. Let them practice opening and closing the shutters on the Ellipsoidal and making other adjustments. Let them practice using the follow spot (moving it, adjusting shutters, etc).


Step 6: Have everyone stop what they are doing and gather around. In preparation for the following game, the lighting instruments and equipment will be separated so that half of them are one side of the stage, while the other half is on the other side of the stage.


Directions—Explain the rules of “The Light is Right” game. Split the students up into two groups. Have prepared a stack of card stock slips of paper with the names of lighting instrument and equipment names on them. Give one group of students half   of the slips of paper and give the other half to the second group of students.


Explain to them that each group will have 30 seconds to put the right name next to the right instrument and be back standing by me. If any of the names are by the wrong, tell them so (without revealing which ones are wrong), and then give them another 30 seconds to go and fix what they think is wrong. Do this until they have everything right. Let one group at a time go. While one group is going, have the other group go away where they can’t see what is going on. When both groups have done the game for both sides of the stage, you are finished with the game.


Assessment: Students can be assessed through their guided practice with the instruments, as well as their ability to play “The Light is Right” game.