The Ten Commandments
- ALWAYS turn your headset OFF before moving it.
- NEVER let the performers head get out of your light.
- In a body spot, keep ALL of the performers body parts in the light.
- Listen carefully for YOUR cues, there won't be time to repeat them.
- Run the light at Full Heat unless otherwise directed.
- Keep your light OUT of the audience unless otherwise directed.
- During ballads, keep the moves Slow and Smooth.
- Match the Senior Operator's spot.
- NEVER change adjustments on another persons spotlight.
- Know HOW to operate the spotlight.
- Don't make excuses for mistakes, LEARN from them.
In Depth Discussion
ALWAYS turn your headset OFF when moving it.
- One way to get everyone irritated is to bang your headset
around when it's on. Turn it off when you sneeze, cough, chew gum etc.
Better just keep it off unless you have something Incredibly Funny to
Beware... Headset Humor is an Elusive Art!
Also... you never know who ELSE might be listening.
NEVER let the performers head get out of your light
- At least keep their EYES in your light. That way they will
think you have them covered. If you zone out and let their eyeballs get
out of your light, they will run to the Company Manager and you won't
When in a body spot, keep ALL of their body parts in the light.
- Singers LOVE to gesture dramatically, it's an Ego thing.
Try to keep their hands in the light just in case they are flipping you
If you don't... they probably will.
Dancers spend a lot of money learning how to do stuff with their feet - better keep them in the light.
Listen carefully for YOUR cues
- The Cue Caller has better things to do than repeat YOUR
cues. He probably doesn't have time anyway, he's trying to call 15
other spots. Figure out what your spot number is and listen for it. If
yours is the only light shining on a dark stage and you hear "Blackout
A--hole" chances are good that it's probably you!
Run the spotlight Full Heat unless otherwise directed.
- This is the general rule for Las Vegas. Other venues have
different standards. For instance, Broadway type shows have a softer,
more subtle spotlight look. I actually prefer this more unobtrusive
feel, but in Las Vegas the spots usually have to overcome 3.7 tons of
conventional lighting, (your actual mileage may vary).
Therefore we're lucky if we can even SEE the light, especially if stripped out.
Keep your light OUT of the audience unless otherwise directed.
- Sometimes you may want to include an audience member when
they hand Celine a rose or when Penn & Teller give something to a
poor shmuck in the front row. A bad time to include
the audience is when a dancers shoe, wig, dentures or body part flies
into the crowd. The crew will love it, your boss won't.
During ballads, keep the moves Slow and Smooth.
- This one is pretty obvious. Keep your moves smooth in
ballads, don't slam the colors in. Take your time, feel it. Go with the
Match the Senior Operators spot.
- If you're not the regular guy, match up with the Senior
Operator. Usually this is the center light but every house is
different. Try to be the same size as he is. It's easier for the two
sides to match the center than for everybody to try to match the stage
left light, especially if they are at extreme angles.
NEVER change adjustments on another persons spotlight.
- This rule is more important with Carbon Arcs but applies to all spotlights.
Don't FIX the adjustments on another guys spot. Don't change the travel
speed, mirror alignment, ribbon tension, fine focus, transformer
setting, knurled knob, weight & balance or that other thingy.
Believe it or not, don't even lubricate it. Just RUN it like it is. If
you are a good operator you shouldn't have any problems.
In other words, if you want a call back, leave it like you found it.
Know how to operate the spotlight.
- If your spotlight career consists of spotting people at
podiums, don't take calls for production shows. Get some experience
first. As Clint Eastwood said "Man's Got to Know His Limitations". Duh,
you shouldn't take the the call if you are a Bozo. Know what the Cue
Caller means when he says things like: "strip the group on
stage-right", "go up and out" or "stick and iris". Learn how to do Cool
stuff such as an Astro Blackout or a Cosmic Blackout.
Learn how and when to Kanibulate.
Know where your light is going to be when you pop that dowser open. If
you're not sure, cheat in... just don't get caught.
Don't make excuses for mistakes, LEARN from them.
- Hey, we don't wanna hear WHY you screwed up. Just try not
to do it again. It's been my experience that the worst operators have
the most excuses. In fact, I have added a list of favorite spotlight
excuses at the bottom of this page.
- Astro Blackout - Pop your iris closed as you fly up to the
top of the curtain and b/o. Looks best with hand gestures by the
performers. Sometimes go to the Mirror Ball. Use Sparingly.
- Atmosphere - Smoke... Fog... the Stage Managers Breath?
General rule of thumb: If you can still see the dancers, there's not enough smoke.
- Ballyhoo - Move your spot in a pattern resembling an "8" on
it's side. (the Infinity symbol for you New Agers) Combine the Ballyhoo
with iris opening and closing for Much Excitement. Try to stay opposite
- Beamage - Wiggle-light term. The pattern the light beams make in the atmosphere. "Wow Dude, good beamage"
- Bump - It is just as it says, a quick, clean cue, no matter
what it is. Going to black, restoring, changing frames. "Standby to
bump from frame 4 to frame 1".
- C-wrench - Crescent wrench.
- Cheat In - Put in some dark colors, slowly fade in pinspot where you hope you are. Adjust as necessary.
- Cheat Marks - (rookie crutch) Notice the little light leaks
out of various holes in your spot? See where the light hits the wall?
Put a piece of tape there on the wall when you make a critical pickup,
like a head shot on a dark stage. Now you will never miss it again
unless your buddy moves the spot or the mark. Don't use these unless
you are really BAD. Use the Zen method.
- Clothespin - What you need to change your sticks. (to avoid burning your fingers)
- Cosmic Blackout - Quickly close the dowser as you yank the stick back. Looks like entering Warp Speed. Use sparingly.
- Curly Cord - Take an old phone cord, ty-rap one end to your
C-wrench, one end to a snap hook. Clip it to your belt loop. Maybe if
you drop the wrench on someones head, it will bounce back and you can
- Dime - The tool you use to adjust your carbon arc. (also penny)
- Dracula Wrench - Century wrench. (looks like a Cross, repels vampires).
- Frame - The colors. Is frame 1 closest to you or closest to the stage? You better find out.
- Four Count - How long is a four-count? Any good cue caller
will define what he/she expects a four count to be...whether it be with
the music, or a counted out 4 second cue.....If no one defines it, just
try to go with the music whatever you are doing; fading, irising up to
a waist, rolling colors.. follow the senior operators lead.
- Kanibulate - Wiggle the iris with the music pops. Use sparingly.
- Lobsterscope - Rotating wheel that makes your spotlight flash like a strobe. Probably none still around.
- Mickey Mouse - Operator entertainment. Use 3 spots.
(clue: 2 spots are ears)
- Overlay - Sides in pink waist, center in full body blue/red/amb/etc.
Also looks good with center in waist, sides in full body in different colors.
- Pop - To do something suddenly as in "pop open"
" pop to a waist" or "pop to a frame two".
- Popcorn - Operator entertainment. What we used to put into our buddy's drip tray in a carbon arc spotlight.
- Relay Delay - Pronounced "Ree-lay Dee-lay". Spotlight Excuse.
The extra amount of time it takes from when the cue is called until you
do it. "Hey my headset cord had a Kink in it".
- Roll - As in "roll into a frame 4 from your current frame."
Gently changing frames. (As opposed to "pop in to...") Go with the
- Rubberband - Operator entertainment. What you hook on your buddy's dowser when he is away from his light.
- Soften the edge - (See stick and iris) Nice for ballads.
- Soul - What you need to be a good operator. (seriously!) It takes more than eye-hand coordination.
- Soundman - A thankless position. They have to guess what
everyone likes and run the sound accordingly. Stick to Lighting.
Remember our Mantra: "Real Men Don't Do Sound".
- Stage Wait - When the curtain is closed and nothing is happening. Time to entertain the crowd. See Mickey Mouse, UFO.
- Sticks - Carbons. (does anybody even USE these anymore?)
- Stick and Iris - Slowly pull the stick back while you close
the iris. Keep the spot the same size. It gets cooler with a nice soft
- Strip - Pull your stick back and close your shutters . Keep
the spot the same height. Practice going from a body spot to a
three-person strip while keeping the top and bottom the same height.
- Sweep - Pan back and forth when the Star intros the Band.
- Swirl - Move a pin spot around the bottom of the mirror ball, makes neat streaks on the curtain.
- Trombone - (Not the long brass musical thingy you put in your
mouth). The Stick... the handle on the right side of a Super Trouper.
(not to be confused with "sticks"). Also refers to the metal pipe that
allows you to hang lights down a couple of feet from the electric pipe.
- UFO - Operator Entertainment, can't be described here. Used when there is a Long stage wait.
- Up and Out - Spot goes up to a head spot and fades out.
Does not mean drifting up to the ceiling and blacking out.
- Waist - From the head to the hips, Does not include the crotch.
(except for Tom Jones & Englebert Humperdinck).
- Wiggle-light - Automated lights: Varilites, Cyberlites, Intellibeams, Goldenscans etc.
- Zen - the method of sighting your spot when not using any
form of sights. As in "She doesn't use a sight, she uses Zen. - Be one
with your spot, dude.
- Zeppelin - GIANT spot pickup. (like you would see in State Prisons)
Favorite Spotlight Excuses
- I thought this was the Dress Rehearsal.
- My chair got caught on the light.
- I was eating Pizza and my hand slipped.
- I was watching Wheel of Fortune.
- My headset broke and I couldn't hear the cue.
- I wasn't invited to the production meeting.
- My chair caster got stuck on the carpet.
- I thought you meant "House Right".
- Do you know how to tell if the Stage Manager dies? He drops his donut.
- What do you call a stagehand in a suit? ... The Defendant.
- Do you know why Soundmen only count "One, Two... One, Two..."?
Because on "Three" you LIFT!
Ron Stone - Bally's Technical Director.
Humorous Spotlight Cues
Additions... Corrections... Comments... Complaints..
- "Standby to pick up the guy in the Chrome Jockstrap."
Bally's Las Vegas Jubilee
- "Everyone get ready to iris down and strobe on the Horses Ass."
Royal Hanneford Circus
- "I can't give the spot cues right now because I'm also the backup singer. (sings) "Delta Dawn what's that ...."
Helen Reddy Tour
- "Standby to hit that girl in a waist when she rips her top off"
Only in Las Vegas
Zap me - email@example.com -
All material by Pat McDonald Copyright © 1996
These guys helped : Jeff Clark (RIP), Bob Beem, Rich Weeteling, Adam Berns, David Day (sound puke),
Cort Callahan, Susan Kelley, Paul Puppo, Steve Ruelle - IA-274, Tom Halpain - LD/PM the Four Tops.