Spotlight operator

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A spotlight operator working

The Spotlight Operator, Followspot Operator, Followspot, Spot Op, Dome Operator or Domie is a theatrical technician, defined as a lighting technician, who operates a specialized stage lighting instrument known as a followspot. A followspot is designed to move, change size, beam width, and color easily by hand. Followspotting is often seen as the apprentice role for new technicians, especially electricians, and having the role is occasionally referred to by some members of the run crew as being "a limey", a term derived from limelight.

Duties[edit]

A spotlight operator is expected to be familiar with the followspot with which he or she is working, as well as be able to read through a cue sheet and/or follow directions from the lighting designer, master electrician, light board operator, stage manager, assistant stage manager, and/or any electrician. Spotlight operator positions are usually filled by stagehands or deck electricians from the load in. In these cases, the spotlight operator may have an understanding of theater lighting principles and the technical aspects of lighting. In the case of smaller shows, the light board operator may also have to operate the followspot; but this is rare, as followspot and light board operation both need attention during most parts of a show. When used in a concert, followspot operators are often referred to as being hired 'from the neck down'. Despite the operator's opinion of what looks good, one is to follow his cues as instructed. On most touring shows the followspots will have no rehearsal and only a brief meeting (often only a voice meeting over headsets) to discuss call numbers, home positions and what to do if a problem arises.

Followspot controls[edit]

  • Choppers – Cuts or shutters the top and bottom part of the beam.
  • Douser – Controls intensity.
  • Iris – Controls beam size.
  • Trombone – Controls focal length.
  • Color Frames – Changes the color of the light. May also known as a boomerang and/or a color magazine. Color magazines contain the color gels, which are counted from the rear of the follow spot forward.

Behavior[edit]

  • Operators should keep chatter to a minimum on headset. It is customary to be in position 15 minutes prior to show start and to be waiting on the headset if available. This allows time to check the lamp and warm up the color temperature and brightness.
  • Truss spots will go up 5–10 minutes before they are needed either at preshow or at intermission. Often truss spots are only used for the headliner. Due to time restraints and hassles once up in the air, truss spots don't come down or take breaks until the end of show. Because of the lack of breaks it is common for a truss spot op to take both a full and empty water bottle with them when they go up. Truss spots may either have to climb a wire rope ladder or the entire truss will be raised and lowered.
  • On larger follow spots there is a 10–15 minute cool-down period before shutting off the fans and covering. The re-lamping requires specialized training, as lamps can explode if improperly connected to the electrical current or if fingerprints and/or oils are left on the glass envelope.
  • In theater it is customary to have a spotting scope or Sight to help with low light level and rapid, tight pick ups. In place of a scope, operators may align light leaks from the follow spot to marks on a board.
  • Cues are typically given with a warning, a standby and then a GO. However, all three are not always used. In a series of rapid cues, follow spot operators may get warnings for several actions and then GOs with no additional warning. Spot operators may be called to fade out on a cue or on a visual like an exit. There may be multiple spots with different pick up positions, fade times and color frame assignments. It is very common to have more than 10 spots on a concert in front of house and over stage. A circus may have 6–8, whereas a theater may only have 1–3 in a front of house position. Concerts with more than 20 spots are not unheard of. In shows with more follow spots, spots will share their spot call number with another spot working in unison. The combine positions may be mirrored, such as a house right and house left spot or a front of house and truss spot.

Safety[edit]

There is usually a designated area in the catwalk, control booth, tower and/or truss where one or more follow spot operators work. When working at height, spotlight operators wear harnesses for fall arrest. Operators may wish to wear gloves to protect themselves from burns due to the follow spot's temperature. Truss spot operators may need to wear additional safety equipment such as goggles and flame proof jumpsuits to be protected from pyrotechnics. Due to the increased risks, truss spots often receive an increase in pay rates. Follow spots output a high ultraviolet light and may cause damage similar to sunburns and sun exposure. Due to hazardous sound decibel levels, spot operators may need to wear ear plugs or ear muffs to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. The wearing of protection reduces the overall level of assault on hearing. This does not interfere with the ability to hear cues, since the headset volume must be set to a level higher than the ambient noise level.

See also[edit]