Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting

AIEL Shop Tips


A proper work area is necessary for the lighting technician.
Even if you are currently working for someone else, acting
upon suggestions presented here can increase your value
as an employee. At the minimum, you'll be better prepared
  if you decide to go freelance and establish your own shop.


Be aware neither Atlantic Illumination, nor its owner
and employees will be responsible for any problems
encountered as a result of following or not following
the procedures here. This is only a guideline. You
must decide the suitability of the steps given, and
be responsible for the results of your own work.








    This guide is written with the idea of designing a shop space from scratch in an open area. Make adjustments should you have an existing location which is to be modified. If the latter is the case, it is best if you can clear it out so you may start from scratch if possible. Doing so will eliminate the domino effect of having to move or change existing things in order to fit in something new, which of course, will require that yet something else will have to be moved first, which then requires...

    Removing everything from an existing location has the additional advantage of allowing an inventory to be taken. Knowing what one has makes it easier to allot the correct amount of room for each item and purpose, meaning better organisation.


(Image Left: Clipboard)   Decisions

    Location:  The first consideration is the site you will choose in which to work. If it's your own home or workshop, this decision is more personal than if made under an employer. Still, your recommendations should be considered by him or her if you will be the one working in that space. You may want to refer to the other articles in the AIEL Work Area Setup series to get an idea of what might be required, and to be able to refine those requirements to suit the exact type of work to be accomplished. Then return here with a better understanding of the layout to be designed.

    Devise a Plan:  Begin by listing on paper or in a computer file the types of work you expect to do and the tools/facilities which might be required. Do not include lighting equipment storage -- just supplies and parts. Although gear storage is important, a proper work environment should take precedence. If only a small shop is available, try to divide it in such a way that equipment won't encroach upon the work zone. Being in cramped quarters is frustrating and leads to procrastination of needed maintenance.

    Know Sizes:  Take measurements of the items you plan to install, and of the space itself, if it already exists. Lay out these items on paper or using computer software. Nothing sophisticated is needed for the latter; even a simple "paint" program will suffice if you don't have office or home design software. Simply draw rectangles to represent the various areas, benches and storage units based on the measurements taken; try to make it to scale as much as possible.

    Below are some considerations about which to think during the planning stage. Don't worry right now that you may not be able to fit everything into your space. Scale the important items to fit, but don't make any of them smaller than the minimum size required to work for your purposes. In fact, allow extra room for later expansion if possible. Be efficient with the usage of wall and ceiling space so as to be able to include as much as possible. With items that come to be left out, try to fit them in just outside your shop space. These could be a Wet Area with a sink for washing, stock storage for the stations in the shop, and a painting enclosure.

    Defining the Space:  If building within an open area, consider walling it for privacy considerations. An open work space invites interruptions from fellow employees and customers, or from family and friends if working from home. A closed one allows for concentration on the task at hand. As well, isolating your new shop will contain noise and dust and keep them from contaminating adjacent shop spaces, and they from encroaching upon yours. Show the walls on your plan with any window and door openings. Regarding doorways, make them wide so that cases can be brought right inside if the shop will be large enough. Consider insulating the walls for both sound isolation and as a heat barrier.

    Try to plan the walls last so that the shop will be designed to hold everything you need, or at least as much as is currently feasible. Then surround this with walls and doorway(s). Doing it this way allows the boundaries to change as your shop plan evolves. This method works best for a large open area, but even for an already-defined space, waiting until your plan is complete may save changes to parts of walls, or where doorway and window openings end up, or how existing ones get incorporated.

    Work Benches:  Decide the number, type and size of benches you will require, then place them accordingly into your layout design. Consider different benches for different tasks. In particular, keep dirty-work ones away from clean-work ones, and place benches away from doorways so as to prevent traffic conflicts while working. Read Work Bench Setups in this section for more details.

    Work Stations:  Decide the number, type and size of stations you desire. Examples might be a Vacuum Station, a Buffer Station, a Washing Station, Paperwork Desk, Solvents Station, and so on. These are discussed in the Work Stations article.

    Paint Booth:  If equipment is to be painted, and this is likely to happen with stage lighting fixtures, define space for an enclosed booth in which to do the work. The enclosure is necessary so as to prevent dust from contaminating the paint job, but also to contain paint particles and for fumes safety. Design it to be ventilated to the outside, and to include strong, direct lighting. The latter is important so that paint coats can be monitored for completeness and evenness.

    A Safe Place:  It's important to have storage where fragile items can be left during equipment maintenance. These would include lenses and lamps. This Safe Place could be as small as a large drawer or it may be an entire cabinet. Line some or all of this with felt and/or provide soft containers for such parts. If there are likely to be many items in there from different pieces of equipment, arrange a convenient labeling system so that days or weeks later you will remember to what the parts belong.

    Lighting, Electrical, and Plumbing:  Devise the lighting required for work zones, and the benches, stations, and storage facilities. Include natural light from any windows or skylights. Mark the desired switch and outlet locations. Consider two-way switches for some lights, and one or more switched outlets. If a Wet Area is to be included, lay out the plumbing as part of your design. Articles for Lighting and Power are at:
  Area and Task Lighting
  Work Space Power

    The Look of the Space:  As a final thought for your plan, consider how the space will look. Think about painting the walls and floor to suit. Typically, it is best to use light colours if the space is small because they will give the illusion of more room. Bright colours also reflect light better making for an evenly illuminated space. Don't paint with too light a colour though, as dirt will show too easily. It is suggested that neutral colours, such as two or three shades of grey, will give the impression of a space that says "Professional". Trim this with flat black to make the grey stand out. Floor painting procedures are in our Shop Floor Painting article.


(Image Left: Clipboard)   Layout

    Peruse Your Plan:  Study the diagram for conflicts or problems regarding bench types, separation of various areas, overhead and side clearances, door and window openings, and traffic considerations. The latter is important. One would not want to have to step aside for every person coming into and out of the work space. At the same time, do not place a main work bench at the back of an area where it might get boxed in. Try different combinations until the items fit well with no conflicts, and then decide upon the materials required to construct your work space. Remember to visit surplus and used office supply companies for suitable shelving, benches, counter tops, desks, storage units, and so on.

    If the space available is small and/or you have many items to fit into it, you may wish to read two articles in the Tech Tips section of the AIEL website. Directives there may help you to devise a more efficient design.
  Need a Larger Space?
  Decluttering your Shop Space.


(Image Left: Clipboard)   Preparation

    For an existing location, do the demolition/clearing necessary to transform to your new space. Consider floor and wall repairs plus any integral electrical and plumbing work. If it's a new area, begin preparations to install the lighting, benches, and shelving. Think about insulation for both heating/cooling considerations as well as sound isolation.

    Books for most of this type of construction should be available from your local library. View online tutorials and scan renovations websites for additional instructions, and then consult the other sections of this website for details regarding the lighting workshop and required infrastructure.

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