automatic/motorized fly systems

Joined
Mar 20, 2007
Location
Alberta, Canada
Hey all,

I study technical theatre at college, and I've heard a few of my friends mention automatic or motorized fly systems. I have never seen or heard from a "valid" source that such a system even exists. Does it? and if so, how popular is it? I can think of some definite cons about it, like not having the control to speed up or slow down a linesets movement on the "fly" if you will, so what are the advantages. Perhaps saving man power, yes. But I personally love flying. I'd rather pull the rope than press a button, it's all part of the magic.

Perhaps someone has some insight in to this?
 

soundlight

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Oct 27, 2005
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Yup, they exist. We've got a 15 lineset one in the music hall here. JR Clancey makes 'em. They also make the computer control systems to go with them. The controller that we have here is the monster-sized Shamrock 5000.
 

Chris15

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Yeah, they exist. The Sydney Opera House has a couple. Another con is they need power, and frequently lots of it. BUT, you can basically fly everything with one person and you can get your cues to within a millimetre every time, something seldom able to be done by hand. They can also eliminate counterweights, depending on the individual setup, a safety plus. And they can be used to lift HEAVY loads. Oh, and another con, price...
 

jmabray

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Feb 9, 2007
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Dallas, Texas
There are several companies that make motorized rigging systems.

JR Clancy, Rigging Innovators, Texas Scenic Company, Secoa, Vortek and the list goes on and on and that is only here in the US.

Generally they are a lot safer than a hand operated system and I see them put in to high schools (especially for electrical battens) all the time here in Texas.
 

Footer

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Before we go head into this.... there are two very distinct types of winches out on the market. There are utility winches and show operable winches. Usually, utility style winches are installed in most venues. Utility winches are used for electrics, soft good battens, that sort of thing. They usually do not have a speed control, but simply an in and out limit switches. They usually most very slowly 1-3 inches a second. Show operatable winches cost much much more then utility winches. They need many more hardware parts to operate (variable frequency drive, some type of position controller (can't remember the name for some reason), a computer controller, and a host of other things. They can be either shaft driving or drum driven. I personally believe that one day winches will replace counterweight systems due to the amount of labor it takes to put a show up as well as the safety factor. Winch systems have become very reliable and can hit there mark again and again night after night. I have worked in spaces that have both electrics on winches and counterweight scenery battens, and both have their perks. However, being able to add a fixture to an electric and not having to re-weight is a godsend.
 
Joined
Mar 20, 2007
Location
Alberta, Canada
perhaps....

Are these systems designed to detect a weight difference once they are in motion. What if, for example, the batton is going out after you have put a piece of scenery on it. If the batton is swinging any, or if for some reason there is an obstruction above, what happens? Does the system just put more juice in to it when it hits something, or does it stop? Even if the operator is paying attention, sometime you just can't see all the way up to the grid, especially in show mode, whereas if you are bringing a lineset out in a counterweight system, you can feel when there is a weight change, and handle it accordingly.

Also, do the motorized systems have enough versatility to vary speeds dramatically and very fast, if need be. I would say that a trained professional can probably go beyond technology, and are able to make flying "artful"
 

gafftaper

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I was looking at JR Clancy's "Power Assist" system at LDI. It was very cool and not Horribly priced (I think it was around $7 or 8k per lineset before installation but can't remember for sure). The cool thing was that it installs right into your existing system. You don't have to replace them all, you can just do a few. You put it in, load up a bunch of weight on the arbor, and then never touch a stage weight again. The motor will handle up to two thousand pounds out of weight. So you add or remove a lot of instruments without worrying about it. They move at about 25 feet per minute.

The rep said they are doing a lot of installs on smaller theater operations who can't afford to motorize the whole rail, but can afford to install them on just the grand and the electrics. For $30 grand or so your life could be MUCH easier.
 

taylorjacobs

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Dec 19, 2006
all of broadway is motorized linesets. i went backstage at jersey boys thanks to a friend and the "fly guy" just presses a button when the SM flicks his light. Pretty cool.
 

Traitor800

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Dec 31, 2006
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Lititz, PA
A community theatre that i worked at last summer had an automated fly system, 6 fixed speed linesets for electrics and speakers and such, and 6 variable speed ones for scenery. they had a JR Clancy system, and i believe that the control system was called the Juggler. It was really cool, it made load in much quicker cause theres no fooling around with weights or sandbags. Programing it takes some time cause you have to tell it where to go to and how fast to go there. But once its done you have a cue list and then all you have to do is just push go, and its cool cause on ours you could have up to three different moves going on in any one cue and as many linesets as you want making each move.

The one that I used didn't have any sort of weight sensor on it cause we had used one of the pips for an elevator and the guy who set it up didnt make it very square so when the pipe went out the elevator got caught and the motor just thought that there was more weight so it pulled harder and bent the pipe like 6".
 

gafftaper

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The one that I used didn't have any sort of weight sensor on it cause we had used one of the pips for an elevator and the guy who set it up didnt make it very square so when the pipe went out the elevator got caught and the motor just thought that there was more weight so it pulled harder and bent the pipe like 6".
My understanding of how they work is sort of like this. They balance the arbor at 1000 pounds and the lift motor is capable of lifting 2000 pounds. The system is dumb and doesn't care what you put on or take off it just plugs away at it's full capacity. You tell it how fast and how far and it goes there. As you found out, if something gets in the way, too bad.
 

soundlight

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Sure, I love running linesets by hand, but I HATE going up to the loading rail to load weight. Especially when we overload fifth electric for dance shows and have to make a structural truss out of two linesets and then move both of them as "fifth electric" (5E-a and 5E-b).

The Shamrock system, with the single drive shaft per lineset and 5 drums or so per shaft is actually really nice, but it does make some noise. I'd be interested to see/hear some of the "quieter" systems and a show that has motorized lineset cues in it.
 
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gafftaper

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Our first electric is the only motorized line set we have. I personally prefer moving them by hand.
Yeah again, most of these systems are being sold as products to make life easier for you when doing light hangs like Toffee has. Last night hanging lights it would have saved us so much time to not worry about being out of weight and just push a button. I'm jealous.

But when it comes to flying drops I agree to preferring a hand touch.
 

pacman

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Jul 14, 2004
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Atlanta, GA
We use the Vortek system. It has a touchscreen controller & you can record cues for shows similar to a lighting console. Multiple linesets can run simultaneously, depending on the installed electrical capacity. We had ours wired so up to five sets can run at the same time. In anything other than a university or professional facility, this is the way to go. No worries about students dropping counterweights, overloads, underloads, runaways... The Vortek calculates the load & you engage a safety that stops the set if it fouls on something that causes resistance exceeding whatever sensitivity level (5-100lbs, in 5lb increments) you enter (you can enter a different sensistivity for each line). It is expensive, but well worth the money!

When I learned on a single-purchase counterweight system, I was taught that if it doesn't feel, look, sound or smell right, beware that there might be a problem. The big downside with Vortek & other systems of this type, is you loose the tactile feedback.
 

pacman

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One other note, on the Vortek, the speed is variable. With ours, the slowest is 0.29ft/sec; the fastest is 2.9ft/sec (174ft/min) - that's frightfullly fast, if you have a big load barreling toward you!
 
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:) I think automated flysystems are the way of the future! Wish I could use one on a Daily Bases. It gets kida frusterating having to pull something up down 25 million times just to find out that it is wrong. Example:Light Bar or Electrical
 

DuckJordan

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While I don't believe they will ever fully take over fly systems unless a huge safety breakthrough happens for things such as electrics or things the generally don't move during a show, yes they are here but they are quite a bit more expensive.
 

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