Case study

Supported lighting vision supervisor — Matthew Maller

Getting experience and making industry contacts have both helped Matthew break into a career in television lighting. Find out about the role and his tips for success

How did you get your job?

I graduated from Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance with a degree in creative lighting control in 2017. While at university I did as much work as possible in the lighting industry to gain contacts and create inlets into the industry, as much of the work and job opportunities come from meeting people and companies.

An industry professional I'd met during my time working had heard about a job at BBC Studioworks and put me forward for the role. I went through the interview process and was lucky enough to get the position of supported lighting vision supervisor (LVS).

What's a typical working day like?

It's always different, depending on whether I'm filming outside or in the studios. Working hours are typically long and the team around you changes all the time, so it's very hard to say what a typical day is like.

It takes a lot of work from the entire team - from the lighting director (LD) on the studio floor, who decides which lamps go where to create the correct look and feel for a scene, to the Gaffer, facilitating the LD's requirements to effectively light the scene.

The studio engineers dealing with camera exposures and colours play a very important part in the overall look of the picture, which the LVS has a large role in.

Once the LD is happy with the lamps that are in place for the scene, the LD and the LVS balance levels of lamps to establish good-looking pictures, with the LD usually on the studio floor and the LVS behind the lighting desk in a lighting gallery sat next to a camera engineer.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I particularly enjoy working with the rest of the lighting team to produce really good-looking pictures.

There's always plenty going on, and lots to think about - for example, the technical aspects that arise from the lighting desk operation itself, such as programming lighting cues and chases, and dealing with recording ‘lighting looks’ in case the shoot revisits a set to re-record something at a later stage.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge of the job is the speed of filming - keeping up with where the cameras are looking on the sets and what the LD wants doing with lamps. There's also quite a lot of paperwork involved to keep track of scenes for lighting continuity.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is incredibly relevant, not just from the lighting programming aspect but from the understanding it has given me of how lighting systems and networks work, the physics of light itself, the effects of it on the brain and how a whole production team comes together to produce a show whether in theatre, a concert or on TV.

Having an understanding of the collaboration that goes into producing something is important. Although I trained mainly in theatre lighting programming, it's given me a very good skills base that can be applied to any area of the lighting industry.

What are your career ambitions?

Having initially joined as a trainee LVS, I hope to gain plenty of experience in this role and would eventually like to move down onto the studio floor into the role of the LD.

What are your top tips for getting into TV lighting?

  • Get out into the industry as much as possible. Making contacts is vital and any experience is incredibly valuable, even if you just spend a few hours over a weekend in a local theatre or studio around a lighting department.
  • Watch productions, TV shows and films, and become critical of the way they're lit. Ask yourself why something has been lit in that particular way and whether it's been done effectively. Asking yourself these sorts of questions will help to develop your own eye for lighting and improve your overall knowledge of how light can be manipulated.
  • Use forums or networking sites such as LinkedIn. If you watch something and like how it looks, search for the LD or director of photography and message them asking to discuss what you've seen. This can be an effective way of getting your name out there, as well as learning valuable information and tips.
  • Research lighting hardware, and sign up to industry magazines and societies. Reading about the kit used, and new technologies changing the lighting industry, is extremely important.

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