Hanging and Focusing Lighting Instruments, Part 1


LESSON 5: Hanging and Focusing Lighting Instruments, Part 1



Students will demonstrate their ability to hang and focus lighting instruments by practicing to hang and focus lighting instruments.


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 “Hanging and Focusing” handout 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 5.Hanging and Focusing Lights Handout




Anticipatory Set/Hook: Have the lighting instruments and equipment on display again. When the students arrive, tell them that for a review they are going to play another quick game of “The Light is Right.” Split them into two groups again, and this time just have each group do all the instruments and equipment at once instead of breaking it up into two games like last time.


Step 1: Transition/Discussion—Go over the “Lighting Safety” document with them again.


Step 2: Instruction—Show them and talk to them about the different lighting positions—various places where lights are hung:

  • The pipes hanging above the stage are called battens. When they are specifically used for lighting instruments, they are called electrics.  The one closest to the front of the stage is called the first electric. Battens are lowered by the fly system. No one but certified students are to use the fly system, or touch it for any reason at all. If ever you hear someone yell, “Batten Coming Down! Are we clear?!” that means that you need to move from underneath the battens, and then yell back, “We’re all clear!” After that, the batten will be lowered. If you ever hear someone yell, “CLEAR THE STAGE!” that means you run as fast as you can off of the stage and get as far away from the stage as possible.
  • Vertical lighting positions are called booms. They are sometimes on a tree on the sides of the stage, or hanging on the sidewalls of the theater.
  • Lighting positions above the audience are called beams or coves.  If you have a balcony, you may have a beam across the front of it called the balcony rail.


Step 3: Modeling—Show them the procedure for hanging lights on the batten.

  1. Hook the C-Clamp onto the electric. Remember that if you are leaning into the electric, you will want to face the opening of the clamp away from you so that you may push the C-Clamp towards the electric, where-as, if you are leaning away from the electric you want to hook the C-Clamp from the far side of the electric so that you may pull yourself into the electric.
  2. Tighten the C-Clamp snug with your fingers.
  3. Attach the Safety Cable.
  4. Tighten the C-Clamp bolt with your wrench. Don’t over tighten!
  5. Un-wrap the pigtail and let it hang.
  6. Point the unit in the general direction as indicated by the Light Plot.
  7. Double check that the unit is right side up.
  8. Tighten the various bolts so the unit is snug. This is how you lock the unit. (Show them how to “lock” the unit). However, don’t “lock” the unit until you are told to do so by the designer.
  9. Pull all the shutters.
  • Plug the unit into the specified circuit. If you don’t know which circuit to plug into yet, let the pigtail dangle. This reminds us that the unit still needs to be plugged in.

Remind them that the lights get extremely hot, so wait to turn them on until you absolutely have to. Show them which spots on the instrument are hottest and the spots that are cooler and best to handle the light.


Step 4: Guided Practice—Give each student the opportunity to hang a light just as you showed them to.


Step 5: Explain to them that for focusing lights, they will do much of their work on a ladder, but for today they will be working on the ground. Explain to them and show them the basic procedures and terminology for focusing lights:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Take the time before you start to figure out what you are doing.
    • Get all the lights hung in the right place, get all the color cut and put in, and plug the instruments in to the right dimmers.
    • Make sure you have all the ladders you need, enough wrenches for everybody, and spare lamps to fix the burnouts.
    • Make sure you have enough people. Focusing takes at least four people: someone on the ladder or catwalk, someone to hold the ladder, someone to run the light board, and someone to tell everybody what to do (generally the designer).
  • Keep it quiet.
    • Lots of people, including me, like to work with the radio on.  Focusing, however, is a time for quiet.  The designer will need to talk to the technician and people are usually doing things high in the air.  For safety and clarity, keep the music off and conversation to a minimum.  Above all, no power tools should be in use.  Focusing is best done when nothing else is going on in the theater.  Sometimes the painters can work while you are focusing, but they should know that you may have to move scenery around to get to the instruments.
  • When you get to the instrument, prepare it for focusing.
    • If it’s an ellipsoidal, pull all the shutters out.
    • If it’s a fresnel, pull it to full spot.
    • Take the color out.
    • Loosen the three adjustment bolts: the one on the side of the C-clamp, and the ones on the side of the yoke.  As you get used to the process, these first actions will become second nature to you.
  • When you start to focus the instrument, first get it pointed in the right direction.
    • With the designer directing you from the stage, point the instrument in the proper direction.  Many designers will simply stand in the right place and tell you to “hit me.”  Look at the beam of light coming from your instrument – there is a bright spot near the center.  This is called the hot spot, and you should put it right on the designer’s face.  After all, the face is what you want to see most clearly. Above all, listen to the designer.
  • Lock it off.
    • Once the instrument is in the right spot, tighten the bolts. Do this before you move the shutters or put in the color.  Otherwise the instrument will move, and you’ll have to go back to the previous step.
  • Insert the template, set the shutters or adjust the spot/flood knob.
  • Again, follow the designer’s instructions.  Once the designer is satisfied, drop the color in.  Then, move on to the next instrument.  It’s helpful if the light board operator turns the next instrument on “at a glow,” or at a very low level. This makes it easy for you to see which one it is. Continue this way until you are done.
  • You will also want to make sure that there are no dark spots, or shadows, or abrupt color changes in the lighting. Have someone walk in all areas of the light, and watch and see if the they cross through any dark spots, shadows or abrupt/noticeable color changes. If you see any of these problems you will need to make adjustments to the lights, and possibly add more lights or colors, until the problem is fixed.
  • Take breaks.
    • Focusing is hard work and it is easy to get wrapped up in the work so make sure you rest every couple of hours.
  • Other things to know:
    • When your teacher tells you to cut the light at a certain point he wants you to use the shutters to cut the light off at a certain point. You adjust the shutters by pulling them out or pushing them in. (Demonstrate this.)
    • When your teacher asks you to flag the light it means to swing your hand back and forth in front of the light. You are asked to do this so that your teacher can see where the light spot is.
    • When your teacher asks you to run the barrel he wants you to loosen the hand screw on the lamp housing and to pull down the barrel until he tells you to lock it. (Show them how to do this.)

Step 6: Guided Practice—Give each student the opportunity to practice focusing a light, under your supervision. Act as the designer and call out things for them to do. If you run out of time before all students get a chance to practice, let those who did not get to practice know that they will get a turn at the beginning of next class.


Step 7: As the students leave class give them each a copy of the “Hanging and Focusing” handout.


Assessment: Students can be assessed through their practicing to hang and focus lighting instruments.