Spotlites Technical Manager reveals what he packs in his Edinburgh suitcase

I am about to go to Edinburgh to build 3 theatre spaces in our own edfringe venue Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall and was thinking what is the most important thing to pack.

spotlites suitcase packed

packed full of gaffa tape?

Well, we spend about 3 months in technical preparation for the Edinburgh festival – this includes things like pat testing thousands of metres of cables, lights, fans, sound desks and all the electrical equipment we need. We also maintain all the equipment from simple changing gels in a light up to soldering pcbs (printed circuit boards) on a sound desk. But it is way more than that, for example we have to run in lots of cables for the lights in the theatre and we have to calculate the length of the cable – no point taking five 3 metre cables when you only need one 15 meter one and different things need different connectors. The sound desk uses jacks and xlrs, the lights need 15 amp connectors, the intelligent lights need 16amp and dmx connectors, laptops need rj45 connectors, printers use usb connectors, the dimmers use 63amp connectors on three phases – it is a logistical rollercoaster of interconnectivity.


spotlites cable connectors cheap

which ones goes where?

So how do we ensure it all works as it should – simple – we build the venue before we take it to Edinburgh. No, not actually get brick layers and plumbers involved, we set up the lights with their dimmers and the lighting console with all the cables, power, gels, dmx addresses, hanging ironmongery, we plug all the sound equipment into everything and test if everything all works. This may sound a bit like we over do things but we are restricted by the amount of actual time we have on site in Edinburgh. Then we spend ages labelling everything with how it links together.


spotlites cheap pat test label free

pass or fail

So back to the original question, what tools do we take – well not many as everything should just plug and play – although we do take our general tool box for repairs and maintenance. And I do sneak into one of the trucks our welding gear when no one is looking. So the most important thing I take with me is my spotlites schedule of fit-up and technical drawings – which is all on my laptop and printed out as a backup as well of course.


Spotlites technical cad drawing help

Technical Drawing of something




Theatre Technician – real skills please not time wasters!

As Spotlites Technical Manager, I manage several theatre spaces all year round including an Edinburgh Fringe Venue with three performing spaces and I get cv after cv through my mailbox asking for techy jobs. So how do I tell the useful from the downright dangerous people with whom to trust my reputation as a supplier of world class theatre staff to.

Well for a start I prefer technicians who haven’t used the latest equipment or tested the new-fangled-dmx-led-moving-monkley-operated-goldfish-bowl-lenses-lantern-with-bluetooth-control-via-nasa-space-station-light I want to rely on people who know what equipment does and not how to just speak nonsense from catalogues. I want to know that the lighting tech uses a tissue to change a bulb, not his bare fingers – anti-devitrification and all that.

So I have come up with a list of skills I look for in new staff:-

Dresses respectfully, this isn’t college where a sweaty t-shirt and unwashed hair is acceptable, you are a professional.

Gets to work on time, preferably early so I don’t have to worry about replacement casual staff.

Knows what Health & Safety is about and practices it – a harness in your kit bag is no help when you fall off a lighting tower is it.

Can be shouted at by Artistic people, yes it isn’t pretty or nice but they are under a huge amount of stress, you just have to do the lights or sound for their show, which isn’t very stressful – their careers are depending on this show – yours isn’t.

Listen to the Artistic people and be sympathetic to their needs, be helpful, not jobs-worthy, hell they are in a new part of town and you are their only link to the local area at the very least.

Ask if you don’t know how to do something, preferably when the artistic people aren’t around.

Think about a solution before asking for help!

Can actually operate a lighting or sound desk, not just had 2 weeks playing around with one at college. If they haven’t used the theatre’s desk then they should have read the manual and had time to practice with the online version before walking into the building.

If they can’t rig a light with the business end pointing towards the stage with the cable coming out of the bottom of the light and the safety chain attached correctly then its goodnight.

Use white LX tape when rigging cables!

If they baulk when asked to sweep the stage, no you aren’t god, you are a stage tech – it is part of your job to make the theatre presentable!

Don’t give references on their CV – 1 in 3 employers check these, I phone them for a chat about you.

Talk loudly outside when you can be heard inside the venue

Don’t put their phone on silent – as if their social life is more important that work, theatre is your social life!

What I do look for in new staff:-

A can do attitude. I don’t want to have to show you how to set up a props table or re-wire a plug.

A smile.

Respect for others, their team and themselves. Be positive about the show they are working on, its a job!

Someone who always puts the show first regardless of ego.

Doesn’t smell!

Listens to others and their ideas.


Spotlites technicians do it smoking a pipe

led Vrs fluorescent emergency lighting – which is best

The great debate is whether led lighting is any good for theatre.

Well we all agree that we love led lights but they have their place in the lighting designer’s toolbox.

Now I have found that led emergency lights are just too bright for use in theatre as a replacement for the traditional 8w fluorescent tube.

I bought a new led one from cpc and rigged it in spotlites @ Kings Theatre and this is my review.

Once I installed it I tried to dim it by carefully positioning the running man stickers but it is just too bright as a maintained fixture. Would be excellent as a non maintained though.

So once again I have to climb the ladder of doom to uninstall the led fixture I have just installed and erect a new ‘old style’ one.

I may keep the fixture and use it as a work light and rewire it so it goes off with a switch – but that means stripping off the running man stickers so I may not do that just yet as we have 2 theater’s to re-install after our Edinburgh Fringe adventure!