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removable tech desk for running show from audience rear?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Stuart R, Sep 15, 2018.

  1. Stuart R

    Stuart R Member

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    Miami FL
    Hello everyone -

    You've been super helpful with my many past questions, so here's another one.

    So the main audience seating in my glamorous cafetorium consists of retractable bleacher-type seating. When it's time to do a show, three rather large (perhaps 10' high x 3' deep x 16' wide) of these units are moved into place facing the stage, and the seating tiers are pulled out sequentially, starting from the bottom, until we've got 268 (built-in) seats facing the stage. [We also stick another 120 folding chairs in front of that.]

    It being a cafeteria, there is no booth whatsoever. We've been running lights and sound from the side, rather near the stage, and while this sort of works for lighting, it's just silly for sound, since the board op has no real idea what the audience is hearing. I've been wondering if it would be worth the trouble to build a tech desk that could be set up in the last/highest row of the audience risers, to hold the lighting and sound boards. I could build in a bit of wall so the boards are hidden, and the ops would be on headset, so there wouldn't be a need for a lot of chatter, and they'd have an eagle's eye view of the stage. There are a couple of different ways to run power and control cables so I'm not too worried about that.

    I'm wondering if any of you have done this, if it's worth the hassle to build and set up, if it would disturb the audience too much, and if anyone has any sketches or plans for how such a piece of furniture might be built/configured. Thoughts?

    Many thanks.

    Stuart R
    RonHebbard likes this.
  2. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    ATD and Sound Head
    Ypsilanti, Michigan
    This is pretty common already with tech tables for working in the house during rehearsals. As long as the bleachers are pretty stable and you won't slip a leg or something off of it and dump a table full of gear onto audience members, I'd go with a similar set up.
  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Portland, Or.
    Don't have any sketches but that is EXACTLY the way to do it. I did mke one that used studio flats that sat in the next to last row. They were tall enough to act as a wall for the purpose of blocking the view of the boards. the desktop wasa light weight 'platform' of 1x with a 1/2" ply top. the framing of the flats had a cleat/board that supported the back edge and half the sides of the desktop. There were loose pin hinges to lock the desktop onto the cleat. A couple of legs on the operator side of the desktop and you've got a Tech Table. Cut some pass through holes or mount quad boxes for power cables, audio snake, DMX, and coms and you are good to go!
    I'm not sure but you might want to check out the thread "Booth Pictures:)" someone might have posted pictures of something like this.

    Good luck, share pictures!
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
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  4. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    @Stuart R I'll give you a few thoughts from my past and you can see if any of them may be applicable in your venue.
    In the mid 1970's, the Stratford Shakespearean Festival dealt with this as follows:
    We had approximately eight easily managed tables each approximately three feet front to back by four feet wide. The working surface was Arborite or Formica so as to be smooth for use with pencils and / or ball point markers and quickly damp moppable. The rear edge had a full width raised lip routed to accommodate the working surface and rising approximately 1" above the working surface to prevent items placed on the surface from disappearing off into the sunset.
    In the mid seventies the seating in the Festival's main theatre was rigidly anchored in place to stepped poured concrete tiers wrapping 220 degrees around the thrust stage with its surrounding moat. Patron access and egress was via 11 stepped aisles at orchestra level and 11 more at balcony level with each aisle accessed via light-tight hinged double doors. At the time we were allowed to do full black-outs including the aisle and exit lights as our AHJ had decreed we had sufficient doors to be classified as an arena for his fire exit purposes. The seats were un-padded with seats which hinged up parallel to the seat-backs and were narrow by today's standards to maximize the number of seats within the confines of the venue.
    The collection of comparatively small desks worked well for many reasons.
    In early stages of rehearsal you could begin with only one desk close to the stage for the director.
    As rehearsals progressed and blocking was proceeding a second desk could be added to accommodate an SM. The SM's desk could be placed on either side of the director, in front or behind depending upon the desires of the personnel. Remember this was repertory theatre with rehearsals for productions opening later in the season along with understudy rehearsals being fit in with eight to ten (and eventually twelve) revenue generating performances per six day Equity week. Desks would be added as required to accommodate costume and lighting designers and their assistants plus composers timing orchestra music they were writing from scratch to suite the pace and duration of scene changes the duration of which were constantly being shortened as blocking tightened up and performers became quicker with their moves. Tables were placed and arranged to accommodate the needs of each rehearsal / cuing session. Sometimes tables were spaced apart while at other times three tables would be placed tightly together 'cheek by jowl' as it were. If you're old enough to remember when white bell-bottom trousers were in vogue you may appreciate the following tale: Imagine Festival Artistic Director Robin Phillips at a desk with Gil Wechsler (Head of LX Design) two desks to his left and PSM Maggie Palmer at a third desk jammed in between them. It had been a long, tense session, they were close to completing lighting a scene; Maggie was watching her watch and hoping to record one last LX cue before before calling coffee or lunch whichever it was. Unfortunately Ms. Palmer learned she'd delayed a few moments too long which she summed up succinctly by saying: "All I can say is NEVER put too much faith in a phart!" Can you just imagine sitting wedged in tight between the Artistic Director and the Head of LX design resplendent in your stylishly pristine white bell-bottoms. Most emphatically one of Maggie Palmer's two best quotes.
    To get this back to the small, easily configurable, one person tables:
    They were small enough to be set and stashed extremely quickly and you could always find a space to store one somewhere. Storage is always tight in a repertory company and doesn't become any more plentiful as the season progresses and more and more productions are added to the constantly rotating rep'.
    They were easily dealt with by one person if / when necessary.
    We had a collection of weighted, shrouded dimmable desk-top work lights with an assortment of white or blue lamps to suite the needs of the session.
    SM's cue-light control stations could be plugged in via 36 contact Cinch-Jones 300 series connectors in either of two locations and with extension cables to suite. This was long before ClearCom and we had custom built production intercom stations ranging from two to four channels, all intercoms had 'Cueing' with LX, Sound or SM private included depending upon whose desk they were destined for. All production intercom stations had begun life with momentary press to talk (PTT) buttons and plug-detachable headsets had been added to every station by the time I arrived. All intercom stations plugged into 24 or 27 contact Cinch-Jones 300 series females secreted under various seats throughout the orchestra level. Occasionally a new eager-beaver young TD would be hired and attempt to prove himself to all of us old codgers by suggesting everything would surely be far more efficient if we just had one new six or eight foot table. A few new-comers tried but we always went back to our tried and proven flexibly convenient little tables.
    With apologies for droning on and ON @Stuart R but possibly you may find something of use in the foregoing chapters.
    Ron Hebbard

    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
  5. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Our tech desks are made from 32x80 hollow core doors with some IKEA telescoping legs (Gerton?). When set up they straddle a row of seats in our raked auditorium. I don't know if I'd put a Midas console on them but they do the job for us. Power and data are from outlets built into the face of one of the steps.
    Van and RonHebbard like this.
  6. macsound

    macsound Well-Known Member

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    San Francisco, CA
    Not sure if you're asking about desks in the audience during tech week or in your theatre-in-a-gym actual convertible seats that become a booth.
    Our tech week tech table was either a regular folding table with folding table leg extensions on the front legs, or a custom built, folding wooden table.
    The complaint about both of these is how they wore on the audience chairs. No matter how careful you are, the metal legs of the folding table would scratch the theatre seats. The wooden contraption, even with carpet padding on the touch points, would mar the wooden armrests.
    What was eventually (20 years later) decided, since theatres are relatively good at building things, is to make a table that rolls above the seats, completely avoiding touching anything and the lower legs matched the rake of the house so the table was ultimately level. This proved great as once the show was in session, it was stored in the house manager's closet and was great for staging usher's vests, but because it was sloped when wheeled on flat floor, eliminated the possibility that people would leave their drinks on it.
    RonHebbard likes this.
  7. jonliles

    jonliles Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Marietta, Georgia, United States
    They have 2 .. .I really like this idea.
  8. Rich Rosenbaum

    Rich Rosenbaum Member

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    Back in the day, those hollow cores doors were our standard for drafting tables (with the green drafting board cover), but it was difficult to attach legs since there wasn't much to attach to ("hollow core...."). We attached cleats to the doors where there was some structure, and layed the doors on frames with built-in angles (built like flats).... they were pretty awesome, and cheap, and flat.
    RonHebbard likes this.
  9. Ben Stiegler

    Ben Stiegler Active Member

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    Consultant, A1, System Designer, Prod Mgr, TD
    Sf Bay Area
    Leave lighting where it is, perhaps, and look into affordable digital consoles that allow mixing via tablet. I regularly do complex shows using 2-3 iPads on Mackie Dl32R and DL1608. Processor = stagebox can be located backstage or where wireless receivers are clustered. Mix position needs WiFi or Ethernet access to processor, a hard wired cable for phones solo monitoring, and perhaps a 2nd for Qlab playback. I use a few heavy duty music stands (solid on stage stands) for script, tablets, etc or a smallish table if space allows.
    RonHebbard likes this.
  10. Lextech

    Lextech Well-Known Member

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    No hassle would ever stop me from building a tech table out in the house to mix from. At my current job I ripped 10 seats out of the back of the house to put a mix position in. The powers that be complained until the first event. Funny how my being out of the booth and actually in the room made it possible to mix a show well. Since these are pull out seats the worries about damaging the seats probably is not that big a deal. Lastly while I use my iPad all the time to walk around and adjust things, I will express my opinion that most people who do not mix all the time and should be seated at at console. You state that this is a cafitorium which to me means school and a crew that has day jobs. Make their life easy, build a tech table. Put a skirt on it to make it pretty and a piece of wood on top to hide cable. Paint it black or the school colors. Everyone will be happier.
    macsound, Mike R and RonHebbard like this.

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