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Problems with rigging

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by Annolennar, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. Annolennar

    Annolennar Member

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    Okay, so I have an interesting situation, and I was going to ask if anyone has any brilliant ideas about how to approach it. Comments are much appreciated! :)

    A venue I work in has this very nice motorized fly system thats about 4 years old. The problem: It has never worked properly. :(

    Its a Chameleon system from Stagetech (a UK company), with an Illusionist control console. The actual install was done by Texas Scenic, however (who are good guys, I just don't think they really knew what they were doing in this particular case :grin:). Anyway, here's the deal:

    - Manual control works (but obviously isn't nearly as useful for performances), and actually moves all the battens.
    - The Chameleon server seems to work.
    - The Illusionist console seems to work.
    - The console communicates with the server, and one can use the console to "control" the battens, so far as the server shows numerical positions and status.
    - BUT, any action taken on the console/server has no actual effect on the battens/motors/brakes. In fact, when one uses the manual control to move a batten, the server/console doesn't register any change in position, and vice versa.

    Now, its not user error, because many people (all with considerable technical experience) have spent hours (probably days, collectively) trying to fix it - even Texas Scenic tried to come out and repair it. Every concievable combination of modes, commands, and voodoo spells has failed to make the console communicate with the actual system. There was, at one point, a remote that seemed to communicate a little (certain battens could be coaxed into moving), but it never worked right and had a short... now it doesn't work at all either.

    So, while I suspect that there is something fundamentally screwed up in the way the system is put together (there's an unplugged wire somewhere or something along those lines), does anyone have any experience with this or similar systems that could shed some light on what the problem is?

    If anyone would like more information, I'll try to answer. And no, I don't have the authority to call in Stagetech and have it fixed, I'm just a volunteer - I don't have any of the warranty information or whatnot.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who replies. :)
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Sounds like bad software to me. I have a feeling this problem is much higher up then anything anyone can really fix without re-writing code. It could just be something simple, but if it never worked... it is not going to start. Really, Texas Scenic should get someone out from stagetech to fix it. I am surprised they were not there for the initial power up anyway. Does Texas Scenic have any of these installs that do work? Rigging software is an extremely vertical application, there are only a few hundred of any one system throughout the country. The code might not be as clean as it could be.
     
  3. fredthe

    fredthe Active Member

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    I can think of a number of areas to look at for the problem, but I am not going to offer them here. One thing I will say: If the batten position shown on the automated controller doesn't match the actual position of the batten, that is very bad.

    Now, before we get any farther, would you be willing to fix a broken elevator, and assume all liabiity for the repair? With motirized fly systems, that is the level of safety and complexity we are talking about. Yes, it may be a simple problem, but if you mess it up, the results could be disasterous. Where these systems are designed to be operated with limited training, repairs should only be carried out by those with proper training.

    As an example, when our Clancy motorized system was installed, two Clancy employees came to comission, configure, and test the system (and perform the training.) Although they were extremely knowledgable about the system, whenever there was a question about any part pf the system which they wasn't intamately familiar, they were immediatly on the phone to talk with someone who was. They left nothing to gueswork.

    The question is, has anyone talked with Stagetech? I note that they offer 24/7 service, and even claim remote diagnosis and troubleshooring capabilities. It may be that they can tell exactly what is wrong with the system without anyone getting on a plane.

    It also seems a little odd that the system never worked. Usually, if a system doesn't work on install, the installer doesn't get paid. It would certanly be bad for Stagetech if they got a reputation for non-functioning systems... so they may be motivated to get the problem fixed. A call to them is really the first place to start.

    -Fred
     
  4. fredthe

    fredthe Active Member

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    One thought that occured to me... if the controller is out of position sync with the motors, then it likely won't move them, as a safety precaution. You mention manual control... if the motors were moved without the automation system on, this would cause them to get out of sync.

    Again, this is not something for you to fix, but if it is the case, should be an easy fix for Stagetech/Texas Scenic.

    -Fred
     
    Van and (deleted member) like this.
  5. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Yeah, Texas Scenic aren't known for doing the best work. Unfortunately, there aren't a whole mess of other options around here. There's the "N" place in Dallas, but they're worse.

    If the system has never worked properly, it's on Texas Scenic to fix it, even if it means them flying a guy over from UK who knows how the thing actually works.
     
  6. photoatdv

    photoatdv Active Member

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    I the venue in question a school or other sort of impossible buracracy? The same thing happened with our sound system install (3 years ago)... and I still don't think it works properly. One guy knew there was a problem from the get go and he forced them to fix a couple of things but he didn't have any real authority (not on district staff), and I don't think anyone listened when he tried to tell them. Then by a week later half of it didn't work.

    -There was something wrong with the mains (we lost on about 2 months later and the other the next year) AND they were rigged totally wrong (don't know what was wrong, but apparently it was bad, though not bad enough that it was considered an emergency repair).
    -The sides were on the same ground as the dimmers... with fun results.
    -The monitors were recieving a low level of power from somewhere that was not supposed to be part of the curcuit because with the amps off they'd buzz really annoyingly.
    -The patch cables (made by the intall co.) fell apart.
    -The patch panel is in a roughly cut hole in the wall without a cover with wires everywhere going to the panel (in FOH so the entire audience can see it)
    -The former patch panel/ cabinet (which was on the catwalk) looked like an angry elephant with wire cutters and screwdrivers attacked it. Which is kinda bad because they cut stuff that shouldn't have been cut.
    -They didn't patch everything to the FOH panel and they cut wires everywhere so we can't run a cable from the old patch panel to the new location. And because of the GIANT mess we can't figure out what ANYTHING is to patch it ourselves (we have had a professional audio guy/ installer who can't figure out how to fix the patch!)
    -Inputs to the racks are on the front below the mixer so the cables are in the audio tech's way (plus looks totally awful)
    -The power switches for the amps are below the mixer without any type of guard, so they get bumped (this has happened in show)

    Okay really long rant over... at least until the next time I have to try to figure out which of the backstage inputs is actually connected to the patch panel.
     
  7. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Wow! Lot's to respond to.
    First and foremost; You will not receive advice on how to fix this on this board. Speculation on manners in which to proceed, avenues to receiving the proper qualified help can be given, but the discussion of Rigging How-to's and Wherefore's is strictly Verboten according the the TOS of CB.

    Now that that is out of the way, I really think you should get back in touch with T.S., they got the bid, they installed the system, they are responsible, and they know it. Simply raising the argument that " We have a faulty Rigging system, you installed it and therefore you are Liable for it until such time as it works properly..." should be enough to get their butts in gear. There is nothing a Company like TS, or Stagecraft or any other installer hates as much as the word Liability. If this doesn't get action for you the next step is to inform the company that holds their Liability insurance, this should be easy as it will be all over the documentation you received from them.

    I would pay particular attention to Fredthe's comment below. I'm going to bet that the synchronisation issue between the panel and reality is enough to trip a Malfunction Lock-Out / Over-ride protocol, which is the underlying cause of your lack of automated control. This could be a simple matter of their technician re-setting the positioning senors on the capstans.

    Now the other comments;

    I'm not sure that's even worthy of comment.
    Fredthe < sorry my multi quote isn't working right > "....if the controller is out of position sync with the motors, then it likely won't move them, as a safety precaution. You mention manual control... if the motors were moved without the automation system on, this would cause them to get out of sync."

    This an extremely good assessment, IMHO. And I would bring this comment to the attention of Texas Scenic and their Chameleon Tech.

    I hate outright blanket statements like this. There can be a million underlying circumstances that cause issues like this to crop up and a lot of them are completely outside our "normal" purview
    as Theatrical Technicians. Having worked for a company similar to TS I can tell you that often times, what gets labelled as; shoddy workmanship, inattention to detail, bad work or just plain "WTF were they thinking? This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen..." is not the "fault" of the company being criticised and more often the fault lies with the designers, architects and contractors. If an installation company does not perform the work specified in the plans, exactly as it is specified in the plans, even it is grossly stupid in the plans, then that installation company is liable for ANYTHING that goes in that facility. We in the production world are focused on public perception of end product, **** the plans, we expect perfection. The construction world is about production exactly according to plans, **** the consequences. I know it sounds like Legalistic BS, but it the way the construction business roles, and it is the reason, I believe that the best way to resolve this issue with TS is to proceed along the Liability tack.
     
  8. Annolennar

    Annolennar Member

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    Looks like lots of responses, so thanks in advance to everyone. I'll go through them now.

    In short: No. :lol:

    I have neither the desire nor expertise to do anything more than fiddle with the control side of things.

    Ooh, that might be exactly what I need! :grin:

    ... Although, I just looked at their website to see if I could find the number, and I noticed that while the website is stagetech.com, the actual company seems to be called Stage Technologies. Apologies, my bad. :oops:

    Hmm, I have spent some time investigating the state of each axis, and I've certainly seen several things that might set off safety precautions; for example, the Chameleon system detects many of the battens as having no weight hung on them, when in reality they have legs or travelers. The problem, however, is that if a safety feature is being tripped, it should display an error, and its showing all axes as having no error, which says to me that there is simply no communication between the server side and the motor side (along with some other symptoms). Basically, its like working with two completely independent systems that don't effect or even detect each other in any meaningful way.

    Good thought, though, I'll look into it. :)

    Yep, and thats a big part of the problem. Anyone who cares enough to do something about it doesn't have the authority (local staff), and anyone who has the authority doesn't care enough (district staff), and the red tape between those two levels makes it nigh impossible to get anything done.

    Yeah, I generally like Texas Scenic, though they're certainly not perfect. However, to date, the couple of times that their guys have looked at this system, nothing has come of it, and the ones we've talked to are just as frustrated as we are with the whole thing.

    -

    Thanks for the comments everyone. Unfortunately, my worst fears seem to have been confirmed, and it'll require in-depth examination by someone from Stage Technologies.

    Time to dig up the paperwork and make some calls...

    -sigh-
     
  9. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Just want to throw out that my experience working in schools is that people higher up don't care about your problems... but they also don't care if you exert yourself and try to fix your problems. You can do some amazing things if you go directly to the vendor and complain. Especially in a situation like this where you can say that you have dangerous situation and there are liability issues. The industry is small and competitive. Companies don't like having bad reputations or people complaining about them... especially when it comes to safety. Be assertive and I bet you will get if fixed.

    Also you mentioned Stage Technologies is from the UK. They have an office in Vegas as well.
     

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