Flying a Clump of Medium Sized Objects

Noah Watkins

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Oct 27, 2018
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Evanston, IL
Hey all,

New poster on the site and hoping y'all can help me out.

I'm currently TD'ing the Dolphin Show at Northwestern University - "Hello, Dolly." The designer wants to fly two different clumps of objects - foam dress forms and parisols. I've attached her AutoCAD drafting. Long story short, I'm trying to figure out the most effective way to safely fly these clumps. I'm not quite sure how to attach the aircraft cable to the pieces or how to link the pieces together. I currently think that I'm going to superglue fishing weights onto the handles of the parisols to keep them weighted down, but other than that I'm clueless.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 

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soundman

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Sep 4, 2003
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Nashville TN
Any object with less than two points will spin so for the ones that have to fly separately they will need two lines even though weight wise you might be ok on one piece of aircraft cable.

For the clumps you will need some sort of framework to keep the shape the designer wants, design it stout enough and pick it from that.
 

bobgaggle

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Philadelphia, PA
Go with some kind of rigid frame. Get your designer to draw something that fits the world. (since you're going to see it behind the added gak). This is one of those designer ideas that is beautiful in their heads, but in real life you get the twisting/swaying/other weird movement if you don't tie everything together...
 
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microstar

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Yes, there is a counterweight system in a 42' proscenium theatre. I've also cleared the batons all around it so I'm not worried about it hitting any of our other batons.

Here's the PDF.
Just a terminology note. The word is "batten" not "baton".
A baton is a thin stick used by a conductor to direct an orchestra or choir or
  • a short stick or tube passed from runner to runner in a relay race.
  • a long stick carried and twirled by a drum major.
  • a police officer's club.
 

rsmentele

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Get your designer to draw something that fits the world. (since you're going to see it behind the added gak). This is one of those designer ideas that is beautiful in their heads, but in real life you get the twisting/swaying/other weird movement if you don't tie everything together...
I agree with bobgaggle. Designers create pretty ideas and don't always think about how to make it actually happen. Work with them to modify the design enough to allow it to be practical and still stay true to their intent.
 

kicknargel

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Denver, CO
I think I'd look at using 1/16" black aircraft cable and drilling it all the way through the center of the dress forms (vertically, in whatever orientation they want to hang), and up to the batten. Draw vertical lines on the clump until you've hit each piece twice. You could do some horizontal or diagonal ones just to hold the shape together. Use stop swages under the pieces to support them, and some kind of bushing (a T-nut might work) where the line enters and exits the foam to prevent the cable "sawing" through the foam. Similar idea on the parasols; how the connections would work would depend on the construction of the parasols.
 

nathanras

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Mar 17, 2016
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anchorage, AK
I have one question how much does the items weight?

If we are talking about only around 2-3lbs max per item then I would simply use 2 lines of monofilament (fishing line). Something with a test of 30lb or more will be more then strong enough. Attach them to 2 different points on the object then up to the batten in a y pattern to prevent twisting.
 

RonHebbard

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Waterdown, ON, CA
I have one question, how much do the items weigh?

If we are talking about only around 2-3 lbs max per item then I would simply use 2 lines of mono filament (fishing line). Something with a test of 30lb or more will be more then strong enough. Attach them to 2 different points on the object then up to the batten in a y pattern to prevent twisting.
@nathanras @What Rigger? @porkchop @egilson1 @derekleffew NO! Loudly and most emphatically NO!!! Never, NEVER, NEVER use mono filament to fly items overhead. All too often the naive suggest this to fly flags, banners and similar then they develop a false sense of security, consider themselves riggers and just keep adding a little more weight and a little more. Even if / when they're truly flying a simple flag they need to consider what happens when a draft or a cast member starts the flag swinging up stage / down stage on it's way out, it snags on an 800 plus pound LX pipe, pulls out an 8 way barn door which plummets like a rock and / or severs the mono filament due to inertia before the fly person can even notice the sudden increase in weight as the banner or flag attempts to pick up the additional weight of the comparatively heavy LX pipe. I say no NO NO to mono-filament for overhead rigging of anything. @porkchop @egilson1 @What Rigger? @derekleffew Your comments PLEASE.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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theatricalmatt

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New England
Do you need to use actual dress forms? Those are both bulky and expensive. If you can get away with styroform wrapped with muslin, painted to look like a traditional dress form, you might save on weight, plus be able to rig a strong core through the center of all of them and fly that. You might get away with a triangle of steel with an extended hypotenuse, custom welded at the shop.

The parasols are a little more difficult, since their own structure is so slight. Again, you might be better off faking the parasols (since presumably they don't need to open or close), which would also allow you to better attach one to its neighbors, which would he'p keep them from spinning and bobbing separately. I think you're close to the money with weighting them so they hang in a particular orientation; you might want to consider mending plates, since they're designed to be screwed into. Wrapping the handles with lead tape might also work.
 

Van

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As Ron stated above Mono-filament is a huge No-no. Braided Dacron fishing line. It comes in all black. It's what we always referred to as "Trick Line". here's some from Walmart <No, I don't shop there>. I think you could make this work in several ways. I don't think it will be easy to pull off flawlessly every time. I don't think "one at a time" for that many items is very realistic though. I would think of it as rigging multiple lines of Dacron sort of like a net, then attach the parasols. as the net flies out it picks up parasols. The big issue being setting the trick every time. you will have to very carefully set the lines on the floor to make sure they don't get crossed as they fly.
 

egilson1

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Mono-filament has a low melting point. Fixtures or friction can make it melt quickly. And it's flammable.

Only use for it in our business is for helium balloon arches!
 
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theatricalmatt

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I took the designer's note of "each object rigged t fly separately" to mean only the four objects particularly noted that way, not the entire clump.

Realistically, though, the lower parasol at 7'10-3/4 needs to fly with the parasol above it.
 

tdtastic

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So do I understand correctly that they want you to fly twenty dress forms and twenty umbrellas??? That's a lot of crap to fly - where will the scenery go? Sounds like that's gonna have you pulling your hair out on an already demanding show. Cool idea, but doesn't seem worth the investment. Is this for "Ribbons Down My Back"? Your director should come to your aid on this one - seems like overkill for that show. Hello Dolly is magical in some ways, yes, but not "clouds of randomly floating stuff" magical. Not to sound negative, but if I saw an effect like that watching DOLLY, even executed extremely well, I'd think it was a weird choice... and TOO much. Invest your time on your massive set build. And save your money for more feathers in homegirl's act 2 headpiece.

Many technical directors are of the strong belief that it's their duty to never say "no." I am not one of those technical directors. Directors and designers can have themselves a blast dreaming up all sorts of craziness that never does nor ever will have a basis in reality. Sometimes, saying "no, because that is outside our scope of time, money, and technical capability" is perfectly acceptable and sometimes necessary to have a successful production. I am way more excited about a design challenge if the designer has offered some technical possibilities of their own, or who has willingly made other financial concessions to support their 'awesome idea'. I believe designers SHOULD have enough technical know-how to at least understand the scope of their demands as they relate to the other needs of a show....and physics.

Good luck though! I'd sure like to see a video of your flying clumps whenever you get it figured out.
 

microstar

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Location
Lawton, OK
As Ron stated above Mono-filament is a huge No-no. Braided Dacron fishing line. It comes in all black. It's what we always referred to as "Trick Line". here's some from Walmart <No, I don't shop there>. I think you could make this work in several ways. I don't think it will be easy to pull off flawlessly every time. I don't think "one at a time" for that many items is very realistic though. I would think of it as rigging multiple lines of Dacron sort of like a net, then attach the parasols. as the net flies out it picks up parasols. The big issue being setting the trick every time. you will have to very carefully set the lines on the floor to make sure they don't get crossed as they fly.
Expanding on the "net" idea, maybe use FR black plastic netting, cut the shapes out of Foamcore or other lightweight material, paint them to look three dimensional, and attach to the netting. They would not fly individually of course, just as a clump.
 

kicknargel

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Denver, CO
In my opinion, the job of the PM or TD is to say, "Here's how this could be achieved, and these are the resources / budget / trade-offs it would take to achieve it. Also, here's another solution that gets at the design intent, but consumes fewer resources." Then the creative team gets to make their choices. And the better you are at accurate estimates and creative solutions, the better you are as a PM / TD.

I've spent plenty of time being the no-sayer, and it's just unpleasant and unhelpful. Sometimes you have to put your foot down, but default to finding ways to say yes.

Designers come with different levels of tech knowledge, and that's good. Much of the best art is made by people who aren't pre-limiting themselves with plausibility, along with people who find ways to make magic work.
 

What Rigger?

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@nathanras @What Rigger? @porkchop @egilson1 @derekleffew NO! Loudly and most emphatically NO!!! Never, NEVER, NEVER use mono filament to fly items overhead. All too often the naive suggest this to fly flags, banners and similar then they develop a false sense of security, consider themselves riggers and just keep adding a little more weight and a little more. Even if / when they're truly flying a simple flag they need to consider what happens when a draft or a cast member starts the flag swinging up stage / down stage on it's way out, it snags on an 800 plus pound LX pipe, pulls out an 8 way barn door which plummets like a rock and / or severs the mono filament due to inertia before the fly person can even notice the sudden increase in weight as the banner or flag attempts to pick up the additional weight of the comparatively heavy LX pipe. I say no NO NO to mono-filament for overhead rigging of anything. @porkchop @egilson1 @What Rigger? @derekleffew Your comments PLEASE.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
Yeah, let's skip the fishing line idea. The trickiest part about that is the terminations: tying the right kind of knot and setting it so it doesn't slip out- in addition to what Ron listed.

I'm still unsure on the entire concept of what is trying to be moved/flown and how, so I'm going to highly recommend you get ahold of Vertigo Flying over in DeKalb and see what they can do for you.
www.getvertigo.com
 
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tdtastic

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Well said, kicknargel, and you are not wrong about that. I am also a proponent of being pleasant and helpful. And creative flow that is free from logistical concerns is a wonderful thing. I find it quite hard sometimes to design scenery for our own theater when I also have my 'day job' duties as tech director. It can make for some pretty quick production meetings with myself -- but the struggle between my designer brain and my tech brain can be a hindrance. I would say that I definitely have a more rewarding and fulfilling experience as a designer working for other theaters, and I find the product can often be more exciting creatively.

My original post was more to question the effect in that particular show. If I'm understanding the technical challenge correctly, I do find that creative choice a bit much for that musical. Not to mention it is a tall order for an already heavy tech load. As TD, that is not Noah's creative call to make, but he absolutely has to try and figure it out if at all possible -- maybe he can convince them to cut it down to five or six of each object?

Collaborating to find the balance of possibility and sensibility is what it's all about ultimately to have a successful production. My personal idea of 'successful' is to say that we made fun and creative things happen, we didn't go over budget, we didn't kill anyone, we didn't over-invest resources into one project while neglecting others, we were true to a unified creative vision, AND no production managers had to be committed for psychiatric treatment following a breakdown because some creative team member made impossible demands that were beyond a companies capabilities from the very beginning. That last bit being a little extreme, but I have seen it happen...and ruin shows.


...if my director and designer wanted to do a totally re-imagined abstracted HELLO DOLLY with nothing but fog, lighting, no scenery, and barefoot actors in matching shift dresses, I'd be all over tackling the 'forty flying objects bit.'