Scenery Flying vs. Person Flying

Chris Rigby

Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2014
Location
Heber, Utah
Over the next few months, I will assistant stage managing for a high school production of Mary Poppins. One of my specific responsibilities will be to oversee the flying in the show, both of the scenery and the people. We have obviously contracted with one of the many flying companies, which will install, oversee and train me on their system. However, I was wondering if anybody could lay out some of the basic differences in flying a person compared to scenery. I have extensive experience with a counterweight scenic fly system, but have not worked with personal flys before. While I will obviously be trained on all of this, I would be very grateful if somebody could give me an overview of the mechanics of flying a person so I am better informed before going into training.
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
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May 28, 2009
Location
Phoenix, Az
Get some good cushioned shoes to stick your landings and start curling.
 
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venuetech

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Apr 14, 2008
Location
AK,
endurance, usually the show itself will go very quickly. but learning the lifts and rehearsing them can be exhausting for both the operator and the talent. Curling will help.


as far as mechanics, basic systems usually rely on a track with two operators. one to provide lift and one to travel the actor. so you depend upon the other guy for much. the simpler form would be a single point lift like a pendulum . there will be some mechanical advantage so the operator does not feel the full weight of the flyer. the track will be guyed off so leave some room for that and keep your flying scenery well clear. operators will need a clear view so take that into consideration when designing scenery.
 
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icewolf08

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Jan 11, 2007
Location
Lititz, PA
Over the next few months, I will assistant stage managing for a high school production of Mary Poppins. One of my specific responsibilities will be to oversee the flying in the show, both of the scenery and the people. We have obviously contracted with one of the many flying companies, which will install, oversee and train me on their system. However, I was wondering if anybody could lay out some of the basic differences in flying a person compared to scenery. I have extensive experience with a counterweight scenic fly system, but have not worked with personal flys before. While I will obviously be trained on all of this, I would be very grateful if somebody could give me an overview of the mechanics of flying a person so I am better informed before going into training.
Chris, first off which tehatre in UT is doing the show (I used to live in SLC...), just curious.

As to your question, the best thing to do is to contact the company that is doing the flying and just have a chat with them. They will be able to tell you what to expect from them and their systems and what they expect from you and the rest of your production staff. We will only be able to provide very broad and basic suggestions as we don't know the flight company, what rig they are using, and how it all fits into your theatre. They physics and general principles of performer flying are basically the same as flying scenery, however being a performer flight operator is as much of an art as the performer on stage. Being a performer flight operator requires a level of communication and understanding between the operator and the performer that obviously doesn't exist with a piece of scenery. It can (and probably should) be quite an intimate relationship between a performer flight operator and the performer.
 

porkchop

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Joined
Feb 19, 2008
Location
Vegas
Communicate, focus, and when you think everyone is on the same page ask again just to make sure. If the performers trust that they're in good hands things tend to go smoothly. Once they lose faith in that it's hard to get back.

If you're using an automated system keep in mind that they're made to fail safe. Most automation problems start with something not moving when it's supposed to. Operators that rush to save the day are often the ones that move the wrong piece or the wrong direction and make things worse.
 

What Rigger?

I'm so fly....I Neverland.
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Location
PPT.
Chris, first off which tehatre in UT is doing the show (I used to live in SLC...), just curious.

As to your question, the best thing to do is to contact the company that is doing the flying and just have a chat with them. They will be able to tell you what to expect from them and their systems and what they expect from you and the rest of your production staff. We will only be able to provide very broad and basic suggestions as we don't know the flight company, what rig they are using, and how it all fits into your theatre. They physics and general principles of performer flying are basically the same as flying scenery, however being a performer flight operator is as much of an art as the performer on stage. Being a performer flight operator requires a level of communication and understanding between the operator and the performer that obviously doesn't exist with a piece of scenery. It can (and probably should) be quite an intimate relationship between a performer flight operator and the performer.
This is the best thing, and most succinct way, to tell you what you're headed toward. Thanks, Alex.
Nothing on the inter web of things is going to really prepare you, so remember to talk to your flying director a lot before he/she shows up, during install, and when it's time to rehearse be aware of when to not ask questions and just take direction. Check your ego at the door, but keep your confidence. Whatever the scope of this manifests, own it. I've been at this for 15 years and I still don't know it all.
 

TheaterEd

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Near Milwaukee
Had my first performer flying experience last year and it was an incredible learning experience. First, I don't care how strong your grip strength is, you're going to want more. I've been rock climbing and coaching for almost a decade now so I didn't think this would be an issue, but by the end of the two weeks my hands ACHED. Grabbing a rope is different. Second, know yourself. I had to tell the director that we were done rehearsing flying one day because at the end of the day I just could not guarantee that I could physically handle any more. As for the difference between scenic and performer. You will be holding much more weight out of balance with the performer than you ever should with counterweights. There is a mechanical advantage, but depending on the effect you could find yourself lifting up to 100% of the performer's weight.

Now, this is just my experience, I absolutely agree that you should touch base with your flying company. Mine had a great Q and A section on the website and I was able to talk to my flight director several times before load in. Something else to keep in mind is the number of people you will need to run this. If she is flying left and right and not just up and down, then you need a lifter and a traveler. For us I (a 200 lb adult) was in charge of lifting, my HS senior (110 female) was in charge of the left / right movement, and my HS Stage manager was in charge of hooking in the performer when they were on the other side of the stage. The people flying the performer should be the most responsible and trustworthy people on the crew.

Be ready to learn, and be ready to work.
 

Nicholas Day

New Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2017
Location
Sydney Australia
We've been doing a lot of performer flying of late and we've switched from a standard Hall's / Foy's type of rig to human counterweight. You just have a one to one system with your talent on one end and your counterweighter on the other who simply runs up and down a ladder or tri truss offstage, so your weight does all the lifting. As with all the above posts it requires attention to detail for safety and stamina on both ends but with a bit of rehearsal you can achieve great effects, just ask any Kung Fu director. The action film stuff is usually single point pendulum rigs but you can use a track and fox or multiple picks to do vertical and horizontal movement.

Nick
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
This is the best thing, and most succinct way, to tell you what you're headed toward. Thanks, Alex.
Nothing on the inter web of things is going to really prepare you, so remember to talk to your flying director a lot before he/she shows up, during install, and when it's time to rehearse be aware of when to not ask questions and just take direction. Check your ego at the door, but keep your confidence. Whatever the scope of this manifests, own it. I've been at this for 15 years and I still don't know it all.
@What Rigger? Please elaborate: For 15 years, you've been at rigging, flying performers, instructing people to fly performers OR?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

What Rigger?

I'm so fly....I Neverland.
Joined
Aug 24, 2006
Location
PPT.
@What Rigger? Please elaborate: For 15 years, you've been at rigging, flying performers, instructing people to fly performers OR?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
I first flew people back in 1997, as a house guy for a Peter Pan production (Always avoid alliteration), and landed a full time gig with one of the big 3 in 2002. Moved on to the current resident show I'm on now. It all started (for reals) 15 years ago. I also have some moderate skills in arena, theatrical and maritime rigging.

Hire the pros, or don't do it at all.
We've been doing a lot of performer flying of late and we've switched from a standard Hall's / Foy's type of rig to human counterweight. You just have a one to one system with your talent on one end and your counterweighter on the other who simply runs up and down a ladder or tri truss offstage, so your weight does all the lifting. As with all the above posts it requires attention to detail for safety and stamina on both ends but with a bit of rehearsal you can achieve great effects, just ask any Kung Fu director. The action film stuff is usually single point pendulum rigs but you can use a track and fox or multiple picks to do vertical and horizontal movement.

Nick
Sorry Nick, but I take your post to be a bit minimizing in terms of the risk, design, and skills necessary to even run, as you said, "just" a one to one system. Various systems and mechanical advantages work best under varying circumstances. Someone who "simply runs up and down a ladder or tri truss offstage" is like saying to a 10 year old "Here's the keys, just put them in and stomp down on the gas pedal." I promise you, if advancing a show were that easy, everybody would do it and flying companies wouldn't send their staff on site for an average minimum of 3 to 5 days.

I would be interested in hearing about who you've used in the past, and how and why you've chosen to go this route, though. This is a part of the picture we rarely get a clear picture of. Could you help us out and tell us more?
Thanks!
Brian
 
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