Channels, Dimmers and the Light Board

LESSON 7: Channels, Dimmers and the Light Board



Students will demonstrate their understanding of channels, dimmers and light boards by practicing lighting cues and taking an oral quiz.


Materials Needed:

Projector Screen, Projector, VCR/DVD Player or Laptop, “Confessions of a Light Board Operator” on DVD or Video, enough copies of the “Light Board Rules,” “Running Lights For A Show,” and copies for each student of the “apple cord” scene from The Nerd, and oral quiz questions

Lesson 7.Light Board Rules Handout

Lesson 7.Running Lights Handout


Anticipatory Set/Hook: After the students have all taken their seats, turn off the lights and start the “Confessions of a Light Board Operator” movie up on the projector screen. This is a short movie that you will have prepared, filmed and edited that humorously depicts what can go wrong if one breaks the rules of being a light board operator, as later discussed in this lesson. (An alternative to this movie would be performing a short skit showing the same types of scenarios.) When the movie is finished, tell the students, “These are the kinds of light board operators we are going to train you not to be” (or something along those lines).


Step 1: Transition—Have them follow you back or up to where your light board is located. When you get to the light board, explain to them some of the rules of the light board (the rules that are necessary for them to know at this time). Of course, these are my own rules. Feel free to use these rules or substitute your own rules.

  1. No food or drink in the light booth.
  2. No pushing buttons unless you have been certified on the light board, and have prior authorization to be using the light board.
  3. If you are a beginning level student, do not push any buttons on the light board unless you are with your teacher or a certified and authorized student.
  4. If you don’t know what a button does, don’t push it.
  5. Only certified students, or students being certified, can create cues.
  6. No one, under any circumstances, is to erase or clear cues, except for Mr. Purdie (substitute your own name or students may be very confused and want to know who Mr. Purdie is).
  7. Only certified/authorized students are allowed to turn the light board on and off.
  8. If you are running lights for a show, you must pay attention at all times. Don’t let yourself get distracted by anything or anyone. You should really only ever be communicating with the stage manager while the show is going on, and this should be kept to only that which is absolutely necessary.

When you have finished going over the rules with the students, hand out a copy of the rules to them and tell them to keep it in their class binder.


Step 2: Checking for Understanding/Discussion—Review with them the basics of Dimmers and Channels, if necessary. Here is the basic review.

  • The lighting instrument has what is called a connector (as most electrical devices have an Edison connector that you plug into an outlet) the connector on a lighting instrument plugs into the dimmer. The dimmer is the electrical source, which regulates the amount of voltage conducted to the lighting instrument.
  • Each dimmer has an assigned number that must be noted when it is ‘circuited’. These numbers are permanent and correspond to the place the instrument is hung. “Channel control is an electronic patching system in which one or more dimmers can be assigned to a control channel, which in turn controls the intensity level of those dimmers.” The channels are also numbers. Patching allows the designer to organize the instruments in a way that makes more sense. For instance all of the front light can be channels 1-10; top light could be 11-20; etc. Channels are then patched into cues in a similar manner. All of the lights that are on before the show begins are in cue 1 (This is also known as the “pre-show”.) Cue 2 is usually identical except the house lights fade to 50% intensity instead of 100%. Cue 3 might fade to black and bring up the prayer light. And so on. There can be movement within a cue; lights can fade up/down over a set amount of time.


Step 3: Instruction—Sit at the light board and have the students gather around you. Explain to them that the only buttons on the light board that they need to worry about at this time are the “CUE” button, the “GO” button, the “BACK” button, and the numeric key pad. (Of course these instructions can easily vary or be completely different based upon what light board you will be using.) Tell them that these buttons should be the only ones that are required to execute each cue during a show. Explain to them that when they are running the show, they will actually only need to press “GO” when it is time for the cue. Tell them that you will get to the other aforementioned buttons later on in the lesson. Explain to them that each light change that happens on stage is called a cue, and that these cues need to be written (by the stage manager and light board operator) in the play script exactly where they happen in the play. Tell them to pay close attention to the next instructions and exercise. Remind them that the light board is only to be turned on and off by the teacher or a certified/authorized student. Explain to them that there are many cues already stored in the computer/light board and that is one of the main reasons why you are so careful about who uses the light board and how it is used. Much of the time there will be a show going on and they will have their cues stored and ready to go. So, basically, just follow the rules and don’t mess around…ever.


Step 4: Instruction—Give each of them a copy of the “Headset Responses” handout. Ask for volunteers to each take turns reading a paragraph on the handout.


Modeling—When they are finished reading the handout, sit down at the light board and ask for a volunteer to be the Stage Manager. Go through the following basic dialogue with the volunteer:

YOU: Okay. So you are the stage manager and I’m the extremely responsible, rule-keeping light board operator. We’re running a show. You give me the warnings, and I’ll respond and do what you say. Understand?

STUDENT: Yes. (Of course.)

YOU: Great! Ready?


YOU: Okay. Let’s do it. Give me the first warning whenever you’re ready. Make sure and follow the time instructions as well.

(Slight pause.)

STUDENT: Warning Light Cue 20.

YOU: Light board warned.

(30 seconds pass.)

STUDENT: Standby Light Cue 20.

YOU: Light board standing by.

(Another 30 seconds pass)

STUDENT: Light Cue 20 Go.

(You will execute the cue with amazing ability)


Ask for another volunteer to be the stage manager, and then go through the dialogue again with the following variation(s).

YOU: Okay. Give me the first warning whenever you’re ready.

(Slight pause.)

STUDENT: Warning Light Cue 20.

YOU: (Say nothing.)

STUDENT: Spot A are you there? Did you hear the warning?

YOU: Light board warned.

(30 seconds pass.)

STUDENT: Standby Light Cue 20.

YOU: Light board standing by.

(Another 30 seconds pass.)

STUDENT: Light Cue 20 Go. (Make sure you are listening closely in case the student tries to throw you off by not saying,“Go.”)

(You will execute the cue with amazing ability.)


Checking for Understanding/Guided Practice—Ask for a volunteer to be the coveted light board operator. Go through the dialogue with this volunteer being the operator and you being the stage manager. When you are finished, repeat the same thing with a few more students. Ask if anyone has questions or if they all feel comfortable with this portion of the lesson. Resolve concerns and questions if necessary.


Step 5: Instruction—Explain to them that if they accidentally skip over a cue somehow, that the fastest way to solve this is to push the “BACK” button. That should get them back to the right cue. Also explain to them that they can get to any cue, regardless of order, by first pressing “CUE”, then entering the numeric cue number, and then pressing “GO”. This option should only be used as a last resort. Walk and talk them through these recovery options a few more times, and then ask them if they are all clear on what to do. If they are, then move on.


Step 6: Instruction—Explain to the students that next class period they will each have turn to run the lights for a 5 minute mini-play/scene, and that it will be part of their final grade for the lighting unit. Explain that it is the same scene for each student. Remind them that their 2-4 page reports will be due a week from next class period, and that they need to pay close attention to the scene during that class. Remind them to look over the “report rubric” that they were given before next class period so they know what to pay attention to when taking notes on the scene next time. Tell them that this will help them a great deal in writing their reports.


Step 7: Instruction—Give them each a copy of the scene they will be running lights for. Explain to them that the actors are going to do the scene for them right now and that you are going to help one of them run the lights for the scene. Also, explain to them that they need to write down the cues where they go in their scripts as the scene is going along (Cue 1, Cue 2, Cue 3, etc.). There will be 10 cues. Ask for a volunteer to run the lights.


Step 8: Guided Practice/Checking for Understanding—The actors will go through the scene (pausing as needed) while you help the volunteer run the lights. You will also need to help anyone who has questions or problems with writing the cues down in their script. When the scene is over, look over everyone’s script and make sure that the cues they wrote in are all correct. Have everyone sit down away from the light board.


Assessment: Have one student at a time come and sit at the light booth. Ask them the following questions:

  1. What is a dimmer?
  2. What is a channel?
  3. Which buttons on the light board do you need to be familiar with at this point?
  4. What do each of those buttons do?
  5. Should you ever push any other buttons besides these before you are certified?
  6. If you were running lights for a show and the stage manager said to you, “Standby Light Cue 20,” how would you respond?
  7. If the stage manager said, “Warning Light Cue 20,” how would you respond?
  8. What about “Light Cue 20 GO”?
  9. After the stage manager says, “Warning Light Cue 20,” how much time will there be before he or she gives you the “Light Cue 20 GO” command?
  10. When is your 2-4 page report due?


After each student has taken the quiz, you are finished. If there is any time remaining, tell the students that they are more than welcome to practice cues on the light board with you for the rest of class