Healthy and Safety – Because common sense did a bunk.

Whoops, should have done this Tuesday (Wednesday at least) but you’re getting today.

Health and Safety. I can hear the groaning already, and I sympathise. Most of the time you want them to stick where the sun don’t shine and quit ruining your fun. But it does have its place, especially since people and common sense seldom occupy the same space when it comes to something that could kill you. In this case, it’s lighting and you’d better listen when they say you could die – this is the most dangerous part of working in film and TV. We were given the safety talk on Tuesday and here’s what we were told:

  • Check for gloves with the lamps – these lights are 300 watts and over and get extremely hot. Without the gloves you may as well book a bed in the burns unit. You also need to check for rips, any holes and the glove becomes useless. ALWAYS wear them when using the lights.
  • Visual inspection – check no wires are sticking out where they shouldn’t, no breaks in the outer insulation or cuts, no frayed wires and makes sure the cables are secure in the plug/plastic housing. Do NOT use if any of those is found.
  • Don’t keep the wires in a coil – if you paid attention in science you’ll know what a coil is usually for. It’ll heat up like nobody’s business.
  • Don’t lay cables where people are walking – that applies to your house as well, I’ve tripped over a far few cords over the years.
  • Tell people where the wires are and put rubber mats over them.
  • Not a safety tip but something to know – lay microphone cables at right angles over electrical cables if you can’t avoid it. This cancels out interference.
  • On stage and TV lights you’ll see a set of flaps surrounding the light (known as barn doors) – under NO circumstances should you touch the ring they’re connected to, it acts as a heat sink and becomes red hot.
  • Scrim – the mesh over the light, it protects you from broken glass if the bulb goes. NEVER use a light if it doesn’t have one.
  • On the lights at the Uni there are circuit breakers, these must be tested before use to make sure they work.
  • Spread out the light stand fully – the wider the base, the more stable they are.
  • Fix the light onto the stand at waist height (those things are heavy, there’s less chance of you dropping them this way). Don’t have the cable threaded through the bracket and down the front as that’s dangerously close to the bulb and head sink.
  • Ensure it’s secure and extend it from the bottom up (ie: top section first, than middle, than bottom. Collapse it in reverse order.
  • If the light is high up, have someone stand by it to stop people knocking it over (preferably someone who won’t knock it over themselves, which was what happened on Tuesday. Luckily he caught it in time).
  • All leads must go straight to the floor and flat across it – no having the cable suspended between the lamp and the wall unless you fancy yourself as the next Wily Coyote. You can also put stuff under the tripod that you want to keep out the way.
  • Warn people when you switch them on – your crew shouldn’t have to wear sunglasses in case you start flipping switches.
  • When finished, lower stand (see four points up), point the lamp down and face it towards the wall. This is the University’s method to show the lamps are cooling down and they MUSTN’T be touched.

That concludes this talk. Hope I didn’t bore some of you to death.

One last thing. The set-up we did is called a Three Point Lighting set-up. This consists of a Key Light, a Fill Light and a Back Light.

This translates quite easily to art: the Key Light is your Primary Light Source , the Fill Light is your Ambient Light – that is, the light that bounces off other surfaces and lights up the shadow, which is why you can see what’s in the shade on sunny days – and the Back light… actually I’m not sure where that one would fit in art. Basically. it does what it says on the tin. It’s set up behind the person to add a ‘rim’ around them (if you’ look at someone stood in front of a light, you’ll see a rim of light around them) to separate them from the background. I suppose in the much the same way you have a outline around the characters in a cartoon.


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