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Understanding Electricity

Lighting diagram about understanding electricity by Tyler Kaschke, Colorado Gaffer

Let’s *try* to understand ⚡️electricity⚡️

There is a lot you need to be familiar with to be a good lighting technician. Comprehension of how the quality, direction, intensity, and color of light affect an image is a good place to start. But what’s more technical and equally important is a basic understanding of electricity to power those lights on set.

There are four units of measurement for the flow of electricity and the attributes of a circuit.

Volts: Voltage is the force with which a current is pushed through a resistance. Household sockets are 120V in the US

Amps: The flow of electrons is a current. The volume of that current is measured in amps. Amps are the amount of current pushed through a light by the voltage of the power source. Everything in an electrical distribution system has to be sized to handle the amperage.

Watts: Wattage is the amount of total output - in both light and heat. High wattage bulb = brighter than low wattage. Wattage is the product of both voltage and amperage.

Ohms: Resistance is the opposition to the current created by the load (lights on a circuit) and the resistance of the wires themselves. It’s what prevents a 50W fixture from drawing more current and becoming a 500W 🔥 The relationship between resistance, voltage, and amperage is expressed by Ohm’s law. (Resistance = volts divided by amps)

Now that we understand the fundamentals of electricity we can begin calculating safe loads on a circuit, and eventually move into more complex electrical distribution equipment required for bigger fixtures. More to come in the following weeks!

The shot above was lit with three 5K tungsten units into an 8x book light with control grid, two 4K space lights overhead for room tone, several lekos as specials, a Nanlite Pavotube II as an edge on the subject and a couple others for soft fill light on the props 🤌

Production @human___design

Director @galinfoley

MU Sameera Ahmed

Hair Grace Martin

Wardrobe @wolfela

Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with a grip truck based in Lafayette, Colorado serving Boulder, Denver, Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain region at large.

For more about understanding electricity and other set lighting tips, follow me on Instagram @colorado_gaffer


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