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Electrican Schools


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#1 David Calson

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Posted 01 June 2006 - 10:53 PM

I am getting my electricians license soon but the only schools I can find seem to be online. Do you think getting your license from an online school is credible enough in the job market? Also, do think learning about electricity online is a compromise of safety?
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#2 Rob van Gelder

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 03:30 AM

Can you link some of those online schools here? I am interested in what they have to offer.
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#3 David Calson

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 11:08 AM

Can you link some of those online schools here? I am interested in what they have to offer.



Sure, http://www.pennfoste...cian/index.html
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#4 James West

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 12:00 PM

I have worked as an electrician and best boy electric on a few features, music vids, shorts. As far as I know there is no need to be a licensed journeyman, except for the need to tie in to existing power sources. In LA there are so many generators, everything is lit off of genny's. Other parts of the country tying in is pretty common.

Anyways, the bible is Harry Box's book (Set Lighting Technician's Handbook) That's the standard that everyone expects you to know. And I also had a 3-day workshop with Larry Parker over at Mole Richardson in Hollywood. The rest is just getting out there and working and learning, and always safety first!
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#5 David Calson

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 01:13 PM

Words of wisdom, thanks James. But also, I want the license as a way to spruce up my resume as well as give me more job opportunities, say when the film market isn't biting.
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#6 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 02:05 PM

Being an electrician usually requires more than "book learning", so "hands on" experience as an apprentice is often required for certification, which may require both written and practical testing. Perhaps more than any other craft, the dangers of incorrect practice can be fatal.

As mentioned, tying into mains power safely almost always requires a licensed electrician. But even the power from a small genny can kill.
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#7 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 05:46 AM

I agree wholeheartedly with John on this. I think an apprenticeship with an older electrician would be crucial.
Film often involves situations that are quite special such as proximity to water.
Besides the electrians safety there is the safety of the entire crew as well as the equipment.
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#8 peter bartle

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 07:20 AM

As i'm a qualified electrician myself, i'll give you some advice...

Here in Australia, to become a qualified electrician, you must complete a 4 YEAR APPRENTICESHIP first. 90% of it is on the job training working under the supervision of a qualified electrician & 10% is school based learning. Even when you complete your apprenticeship, this only gives you an ELECTRICAL WORKERS LICENSE. This is probably enough to carry out most jobs on a film set but if you wanted to wire a house or similar which involves tapping into the mains power lines you must also have a ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS LICENSE. This involves another 2 years on the job experience which you'll be issued another license & contractors number. This allows you to wire up houses, factories etc to mains power supply (or grid power, depending on what you call it over there). As i've never worked as an electrician on a film set before, you'd need to find out what & how you're connecting your lights etc before you can know what qualification is needed....

I'm not sure if these rules also apply to America so you might want to check. Electrical work is very strict here and rightly so. Not only can it be dangerous but a producer or yourself could be sued if something goes wrong.

Don't even consider any online education, its totally a waste of time & money(it should be illegal to offer online education in this field). Electrical training is done on the job learning from others, not in front of the computer.

Hope this helps....
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#9 timHealy

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 10:35 AM

In the US you do not need to be a licensed electrician to work in the film business. However the knowledge would be helpful in some areas. I know one film electrician who has a license and one film electrician who has a masters in electrical engineering, but the rest became electricians for a variety of reasons from a variety of backgrounds. One: nepotism with older union families, two: some have aspirations to become a DPs, and three: some just like films and lighting.

Personally I just wanted to learn lighting which can be the creative aspect a licensed electrician would know nothing about. Also set etiquette too, but they are skills in which someone could learn.

The words of caution about tie in's are valid. I had some one teach me and then supervised a few times so he was confident I knew what I had to do and not do. I have to admit I did "arc" a box once in my carreer and there is nothing that puts the fear of god into you like arcing a box during a tie in.

But like the previous post mentioned many larger film jobs have larger generators, so that tie ins are rare. Personally I did more tie ins in the beginning of my carreer before I got into the union. Where none union jobs has less money and did not want to pay for a generator and a teamster. Actually I had the understanding that in LA where the film business is more regulated than in many other parts of the country and world, tie ins were actually illegal. Perhaps someone can clear that up. Here in New York where tie ins are not "legal" by code standards, they are are not illegal by city ordinaces or laws. We get away with it because it is a temporary thing. However while shooting in many commercial buildings, the owner of the location will have a stipulation that their licensed house electrician do the actual tie in. No one ever has a problem with that and elctrcians alike just work together to do what is necessary to get the job done.

One other catagory that electricians may find useful is generator maintainence and troubleshooting repair. From small putt putts to larger 1400 amp generators. Some of it is basic automechanics and engine repair.

Mostly though film electricians learn by doing and working with others. Every job presents new challanges on many levels from dealing with your electrical crew or the dp to dealing with production. And I have to say, with the internet, so much information is available online that much learning can easily be done from home.

Also, it is actually getting to the point where it would be helpful to have someone in the electrical crew who is a sort of IT guy with dimmer boards and moving lights.

Though it wasn't around when I started working, the Harry Box book is a great source for learning a very specific craft.

Best

Tim
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#10 Rik Andino

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 11:13 AM

In the US you do not need to be a licensed electrician to work in the film business.
However the knowledge would be helpful in some areas.


Well there is a difference in being an electrician and a film-set electric

An electrician usually does things like wiring houses, fixes light sockets, repair fuses etc...

While an electric does work with electricity they usually don't do crucial wiring...
However there are other skills that are necessary...
Like knowing how to operate production lighting equipment...
Knowing how to operate generators and knowing how to assist the grip and camera dept.

It has a simialr name but the job are very distinct...
I would expect an electrician to be a good electric just from the start
Just like I wouldn't expect and electric to be a good electrician.

However it can very useful for an electric to know how to be an electrician (thought not necessary)
It'll help you understand how to do the job better...
And also if they might have to moonlight in other job fields sometimes. :)
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#11 timHealy

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Posted 06 June 2006 - 01:37 PM

Well there is a difference in being an electrician and a film-set electric


Well it may be a matter of semantics or personal preference, but I think you are splitting hairs. (kind of like the recent thread about the differneces between a "cinematographer" and a "DP") I am not a residential or commercially licensed electrician but as a long time member of IATSE local 52 in NY, I and the other members of my union consider ourselves "electricians". But if some needed an "electric" well we'll answer to that too.

Also in New York as opposed to LA, NY electricians do everything concerning power and lights. We are set electricians, gaffers, best boys, dimmer board operators, shop electricians, generator operators, base camp generator operators, and house electricians, where we'll also hook up heaters, craft service, all the trucks, production trailers and campers.

In LA, IATSE local 728 members, of which I also belong, are truly "set lighting electricians" or "set lighting electrics" where electrical responsibilities are broken up a little more between unions. They work on set during production, gaffer, best boy, dimmer board operator and electricians, and that's it. Teamsters are the generator operators where they belong to the teamster union and I believe local 40. Two unions for them but only one paycheck. The teamsters also hook up power to the trucks (though I believe 728 will do basecamp distribution with the new hollywood basic contract). I think local 40 also does the power on stages as well but they don't work the set.

I work mostly in NY so if someone has anything to add about electrical duties that aren't under the jurisdiction of 728, please feel free.

Best

Tim
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#12 timHealy

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Posted 07 June 2006 - 01:07 PM

If I may make a correction. 728 electricians (or electrics, sparks, or juicers) are "set lighting technicians". So Gaffers are CLT's (chief lighting technician) and best boys are ACLT's (assistant chief lighting technician). But both will answer to gaffer and best boy. Thirds unfortunately are not refferred to as SLT's or at least I have never heard it or seen it in credits.

Best

Tim
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#13 Rik Andino

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Posted 08 June 2006 - 03:34 AM

Tim you will however agree that film electricians are different than household electricians...
Despite the fact that they both share the same name.

I think that set lighting technician is the proper term and much easier to grasp...
Because that is a more accurate description of the job performed by electrics.

Unfortunately most people called them electrics or electricians
Which gets confusing to folks outside the industry.

When I talked to a few electricians I knew
And told them I worked as an electric on a few movie shoots
They thought it was the average wiring stuff and installing light sockets...
In fact I knew...or know very little about wiring stuff...
I was mostly hanging lights up on grids.

So you can see how it's confusing to other folks.
From now on I think when I'm explaining it to laymen or the public
I'll use the word set-lighting technician it's easier for common folk to grasp.
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#14 timHealy

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 07:39 PM

Hey Rik,

Yeah believe me I am more than familiar with the differences between film electricans vs residential or commericially licensed electricians, but there are more grey areas.

Film electricians may not be completely versed in building codes, but here in NY where you and I am, we also do the "average wiring" of sets and adding sockets too. Generally we use zip cord or SJO instead of BX cable. But from building bay lights to repairing antique lamps (for the set dressers) to replacing switches with dimmers in practical locations, we kind of do it all. Some days I am working the set, on other days I'm helping the teamsters figure out problems with trucks, and on other days I'm hanging lights on a grid. Some of the constuction electricians or dimmer board guys get involved in some extrodinary rigging and builds as well.

So the set lighting technician may work in California where the 728 guys just do set lighting, but in NY we do more than just the set. I even think the large studio lots have guys who do just practicals and they may be in a different local than the 728 guys. Anyone know for sure?

I agree that people get confused when one says "I am an electrician" but I tried to elaborate by saying I am an electrician on movies, or I just say I work with lighting on movies and commercials. Most people outside the business have no idea what the craft is all about anyway.

You can call yourself a SLT in NY, but you may get some strange looks from folks who do not have LA experience. Heck even many people in the business can't tell a grip from an electrician. We all look like gaffers to them. To be fair, I still get hair and makeup people I don't know well mixed up too. Their little bags of brushes all look the same to me.

So go with what makes you happy. Personally, I'll answer to electrician, electric, spark, juicer and If I like you, sometimes jackass.

best

Tim
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