Long Term Portable Lighting System Use?

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In our world, many venues have installed lighting systems consisting of raceways, installed dimmers, and hard wired power. The lighitng system is a part of the building. Some venues have ran socapex cable through the building, brought in a touring 96 rack, and made that their lighting system. At any point the entire lighting system could be removed in a day or two. Some venues have a mixture of both.

So, my question to the CB world is: At what point does a portable lighting system become a permanent one? At what point are you in violation of code? If you are the production electrician for a Broadway show that is going to have a 10 year run, what do you need to take into account in order to be code compliant? Could that show use a touring 96 rack connected to cams and socapex cable and still be code compliant?

Usual QOTD rules apply, if you consider yourself a professional please wait 1 week before posting!
 
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echnaret

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At what point would the ME actually know that their show would run for ten years? I've never worked on Broadway, but it seems like, in theory, a show that is set to run for ten years could close after one (or sooner), if it doesn't sell. If you're setting up a show with an unknown end date in a space that uses temporary gear, it seems a little impractical to enter a space and request they hardwire the space to your specs.

I'm fresh out of college with no experience in this area, so I realize I could be completely off-base here.
 

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At what point would the ME actually know that their show would run for ten years? I've never worked on Broadway, but it seems like, in theory, a show that is set to run for ten years could close after one (or sooner), if it doesn't sell. If you're setting up a show with an unknown end date in a space that uses temporary gear, it seems a little impractical to enter a space and request they hardwire the space to your specs.

I'm fresh out of college with no experience in this area, so I realize I could be completely off-base here.
It really depends on the show. Many Broadway style shows do extensive changes to the theatre in order to put the show in, especially if it is the "big" show of the season. Wicked ripped out a ton of stuff out of the Gershwin when it moved in, such as HVAC ducts from Starlight Express and they completly reconfigured the pit and lowered the floor. Running more power to an additional area is not out of line in this arena.

Looking at it from another way, if you have an electrical inspector/fire inspector come through your venue after you have had a show up for 5 years and the producer is selling tickets 3 years in the future, lets say Phantom of the Opera, would they have any problems with you using portable lighting gear for the last 5 years? Would they make you change anything?
 
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derekleffew

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Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas has built three theatres from the ground up, and done extensive remodeling (as in keep only the exterior walls and roof, and dig down 50 feet) to four. All of their shows are on open-ended runs, the longest thus far, Mystere, has been running 17 years and just passed 8,000 performances. I think, but am not certain, that all use some Socapex-style multi-cable.

On the other hand, there's a showroom in a small hotel here that has been using two LMI 48x2.4 rolling racks and Pyle-National multi-cable and break-out s for the at least the past ten years, with no show running longer than six months, after the original installed racks were removed when the property closed due to bankruptcy. All the circuits were cut and left hanging.

Usually, before a Broadway show will spend the money to make extensive changes to a theatre, the show has to be a hit someone else, usually London. A much-publicized current exception being Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark, with its reported $52 million budget. I don't expect it to last a year.

Let's all hope OSHA never decides to apply some of its regulations to "portable" stage lighting systems and practices. "Whaddya mean I'm not allowed to plug an extension cord into an MOS?" How am I supposed to two-fer this light here with that one way over there?
 
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Casey

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Here in Chicago if its for the entertainment industry its temporary. Our longest running show, Wicked, was only like 10 years, and they only ever sold tickets 9 months out. That could be part of it. And for the regional and smaller theaters (IE, non-commercial, non-"broadway in Chicago", etc) it is more customary to sell extensions in 3 month blocks. And even at that it isn't very common to do extensions because they have promised their subscribers other shows.

The amount of dust on the "temporary" cables doesn't matter, Just don't cover up the exit signs!

Oh, sorry. I guess I don't qualify as a student, but I'm also not a fire marshal....
 
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derekleffew

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...Our longest running show, Wicked, was only like 10 years, and they only ever sold tickets 9 months out. ...
As best I can tell, Wicked ran at the Oriental for two years, from 2005. Pump Boys and Dinettes ran at the Apollo from 1984-1989, with a mixture of house dimmers/circuits/fixtures and gear rented from BASH. A more current example is likely Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theatre, which I suspect, but am not positive is a mixture of house-owned portable equipment and rented or BlueMan-owned gear.
 

David Ashton

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The answer is simple, a temporary rig can be used as long as you can get away with it.
 

museav

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The answer is simple, a temporary rig can be used as long as you can get away with it.
Unfortunately "as long as you can get away with it" can mean until being told to change it or until people die. Being able to get away with it is an excuse but never an acceptable one.
 

photoatdv

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Unfortunately "as long as you can get away with it" can mean until being told to change it or until people die. Being able to get away with it is an excuse but never an acceptable one.
I properly maintained portable rig does not suddenly become dangerous because it's used for 31 days. A poorly maintained rig, whether used at a different place each week, or sitting in the same place, is the danger.
 

JChenault

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I properly maintained portable rig does not suddenly become dangerous because it's used for 31 days. A poorly maintained rig, whether used at a different place each week, or sitting in the same place, is the danger.
I think the interesting question is 'What should one watch out for in a temporary rig'. IE what things are likely to need most watching?
 

ToddH

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I get this question often. It all depends on local code and your inspector. What YOU call temporary may not be in some areas despite what NEC says.
Now on the other side of the issue. Raceways vs Soco. I have seen and designed both. Many larger road houses need to be able to strip all the pipes for the tour coming it. Raceways get in the way. It is easier for them to run socopex out. I commonly see them creating a custom loom for the house plot electrics. I also see this in exhibit spaces where the exhibits move around often.
In schools and repertory theatres I prefer distribution raceways. In general you are not having a big Broadway tour coming in that is demanding all pipes be free and clear... The cable management is much cleaner in my opinion. Code wise the inspectors like the metal raceways in schools a lot more. It is also significantly less expensive over buying socopex and breakouts.
However I have a customer currently that has graduated from the little "found space" theatre company to building their own facility. Since they own thousands of feet of Soco they have decided to do disto boxes with soc connectors. We will run conduit to the distro boxes for cable management purposes and to reduce to load on the pipe grid.
 

ToddH

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What to watch out for in temporary rigs? Keep the cable off any hot lights... Strain reliefs, it is cable and the weight will pull it and put strain on connections. Watch the sharp corners of beams and truss. It is not a terrible idea to re-seat connection occasionally to knock off any oxidation.
 

STEVETERRY

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In our world, many venues have installed lighting systems consisting of raceways, installed dimmers, and hard wired power. The lighitng system is a part of the building. Some venues have ran socapex cable through the building, brought in a touring 96 rack, and made that their lighting system. At any point the entire lighting system could be removed in a day or two. Some venues have a mixture of both.

So, my question to the CB world is: At what point does a portable lighting system become a permanent one? At what point are you in violation of code? If you are the production electrician for a Broadway show that is going to have a 10 year run, what do you need to take into account in order to be code compliant? Could that show use a touring 96 rack connected to cams and socapex cable and still be code compliant?

Usual QOTD rules apply, if you consider yourself a professional please wait 1 week before posting!
First let's take a look at the NEC definition of "portable" from Article 520:

Portable Equipment. Equipment fed with portable cords or cables intended to be moved from one place to another.

The NEC acknowledges that some theatres (notably Broadway theatres) are buildings designed for use with only portable equipment (the "four wall" model). In such theatres there is no practical limit to the time a portable system can be used, since there is nothing but a portable system.

The NEC is silent on time limits for portable systems. Providing the system is installed in a code-compliant manner, most AHJ's will accept unlimited installation time.

Now let's look at where portable cord use is permitted and not permitted:

400.7 Uses Permitted.
(A) Uses. Flexible cords and cables shall be used only for the following:
(1) Pendants
(2) Wiring of luminaires
(3) Connection of portable luminaires, portable and mobile signs, or appliances
(4) Elevator cables
(5) Wiring of cranes and hoists
(6) Connection of utilization equipment to facilitate frequent interchange
(7) Prevention of the transmission of noise or vibration
(8) Appliances where the fastening means and mechanical connections are specifically designed to permit ready removal for maintenance and repair, and the appliance is intended or identified for flexible cord connection
(9) Connection of moving parts
(10) Where specifically permitted elsewhere in this Code

Point 10 means "Article 520 venues" in our case.

400.8 Uses Not Permitted.
Unless specifically permitted in 400.7, flexible cords and cables shall not be used for the following:
(1) As a substitute for the fixed wiring of a structure
(2) Where run through holes in walls, structural ceilings, suspended ceilings, dropped ceilings, or floors
(3) Where run through doorways, windows, or similar openings
(4) Where attached to building surfaces
Exception to (4): Flexible cord and cable shall be permitted to be attached to building surfaces in accordance with the provisions of 368.56(B)
(5) Where concealed by walls, floors, or ceilings or located above suspended or dropped ceilings
(6) Where installed in raceways, except as otherwise permitted in this Code
(7) Where subject to physical damage

Point 1 above might provide an AHJ a reason to require permanent wiring, unless the theatre was specifically intended to utilize only portable equipment. In such a case, the only permanent wiring might be the feed to a Company Switch, and circuits connected to FOH positions through a Road Show Connection Panel in order to comply with (2) above.

Bottom line: I do not think an AHJ could or would require permanent wiring if a portable system complies with NEC requirements.

ST
 

Casey

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Apr 1, 2007
Location
Chicago, IL
As best I can tell, Wicked ran at the Oriental for two years, from 2005. Pump Boys and Dinettes ran at the Apollo from 1984-1989, with a mixture of house dimmers/circuits/fixtures and gear rented from BASH. A more current example is likely Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theatre, which I suspect, but am not positive is a mixture of house-owned portable equipment and rented or BlueMan-owned gear.
Ok, it was a bit of an exaduration to make my point:

http://chicago.broadwayworld.com/article/WICKED-Closes-Successful-Chicago-Run-125-20090125

It was more like a 5 year run.

And the actual longest running show in Chicago is "too much light makes the baby go blind", though that isn't a single scripted show so by many definitions it wouldn't count.

And I don't count blue man because the show that runs today is only about 30% the same as the one that opened at the Briar Street Theatre in 2007. They have rebuilt the show twice in its now 6 year run. And Blue Man Chicago owns all of their own gear.

"Million Dollar Quartet" is another one that counts, as it opened in 2008, and has moved once from the Goodman to the Apollo I'm Lincoln Park, but is still running in Chicago as originally written and designed.

As to the original post, I think Fred answered the question completely.
 

Robert

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Apr 1, 2004
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The South
I've been down the same road three different ways in the same city. One venue we had to stike the entire show every 30 days and re-hang overnight to meet the AHJ requirements. Another venue I just had to hire an electircian to pull a new permit every 30 days. The third space we let everything stay as is. So the first space was a convention space and the State Fire Marshal wanted everythig pulled down, inspected, and re-hung. This went on for almost a year. The second venue was a found space that was converted to run as a Theatre. The building's engineer put it into the contract that we get "inspected" by an electrician and pull a new permit every 30 days. The final space was designed as a Theatre and all the electrical components were inspected and approved by the State Fire Marshall as part of the building. So as long as we did not change the design of the system or the use of the building we let it be.
 

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