Skip to main content
Try your luck with this career: entertainment engineering

Try your luck with this career: entertainment engineering

The 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea opened with a high-tech display involving 1,218 drones flying in tight formation, making various shapes including the Olympic rings, a snowboarder, and other fabulous coloured shapes in the sky. It totally wowed the crowd at the event and viewers around the world, and was a tour de force of what this article is about: entertainment engineering.

It was somebody’s job to make sure the drones all flew, had the right coloured lights on at the right times, appeared and disappeared exactly on cue, and a thousand other technical things to make the show go without a hitch.

Big stage shows like Cirque du Soleil employ entertainment engineers to build sets, gadgets and props and to design lighting, sound and acoustics. As the largest theatrical producer in the world, Cirque du Soleil needs full-time entertainment engineers to manage the technical side of their lavish stage shows. It has shows going on all around the globe at any time, including multiple permanent shows in Las Vegas which are experienced by over 9,000 people a night.

Which brings us neatly to one of the places you can study entertainment engineering – the Entertainment Capital of The World itself. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas offers a program in Entertainment Engineering & Design, a collaboration between its schools of Fine Arts and Engineering. To get in, you need to be hot at maths and science, and a knowledge of CAD would be helpful too. Nerds with creative sides are the ideal candidates.

After the first two years’ focus on building skills in materials science and artistic design, students will have opportunities to intern with entertainment companies like Wet Design and – yes – Cirque du Soleil.

In the UK there are two entertainment engineering specialities on offer at the University of Derby, one focusing on broadcast engineering and the other on sound and light technology for live events. Derby also has an MSc in Audio Engineering for those who want to develop their expertise in electronic engineering and music technology.

Graduates of the Derby programmes end up as venue designers, acoustic designers, broadcast engineers, live event producers and managers, and set, lighting and video designers.

Both the Las Vegas and Derby programmes have a strong emphasis on hands-on experience in the entertainment and events world, and career opportunities at major production companies are likely.