May 18, 2017 admin

Terms that Every Stage Lighting Student Should Know

Every profession has its own personalized jargon. These highly specialized terms may seem baffling to people who are outside of that profession, but to experts within those given fields they are an important tool for communicating effectively with others in that area of expertise. In the field of stage lighting, it is no different. It is incumbent upon lighting students to begin to master the specialized words and terms that are so essential to the craft. Here are some basic lighting terms that students and event lighting people should know.


    • ACN: Advanced Control Network. This is an Ethernet-based control protocol between control desk, dimmers & moving lights. It was developed by Strand Lighting, et al in 2003.
    • Backlight: This is a light that comes from upstage, behind scenery or actors. It helps to separate them from the background. Tip: Smoke, steam, and other Translucent work very well with backlighting.


  • Intelligent lights: These lights that can be controlled and programmed by sophisticated lighting software and hardware systems.
  • Non-Intelligent lights: These are basic, static light fixtures that move to music (as in rock concerts, etc.)
  • Vertical and Horizontal Truss: Vertical truss systems are hollow, steel columns that stand on either side of a stage’s floor and support lights. Horizontal truss columns usually rest above or below a stage allowing them to lay over or below it.
  • Digital dimmer: A digital dimmer responds directly to the multiplexed output of the lighting desk. This technology permits the dimmer to report faults and other data back to the control board.
  • Dimmer: This is an electronic or electric device that reduces a fixture’s brightness sometimes with a corresponding loss of color temperature. Optical dimmers maintain color temperature.
  • Dimmer Hookup: This is a spreadsheet that lists each fixture in a show with all its relevant information, including, color, template, accessories, dimmer, circuit, channel, wattage, and purpose.
  • DMX Terminator: This device regulates DMX fixtures when many fixtures are used on a single DMX line (Universe). Its function is to remove excess noise and flickering on the DMX Tx line.
  • GOBO (short for Graphical optical blackout): This is a physical stencil or template that is placed inside or in front of a light source, to control the shape of the emitted light.


Finally, knowledge of these specialized terms – and many others – will help you communicate better with lighting experts if you are outside of the field and help you communicate with peers if you are a lighting specialist.

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