Design Issues and Solutions Side Lighting Solutions

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Dynyd, Nov 29, 2018.

  1. Dynyd

    Dynyd Member

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    Hi all!

    I'm noodling this question for my own theaters: What would my ideal side lighting position be? And how do I make the position as simple to access, hang, circuit, and focus as possible?

    A little background on the question in itself: I work for a university meaning the level of skilled labor I have access to fluctuates frequently as new students come in and old students leave. I'd love to give the students something that gives them a few skills, shows them some new equipment, and makes them think about how much thought and preparation went into making this thing work. The production schedule is often hectic and the lack of a consistent labor pool means complicated solutions often cannot from show to show. The dance show's however are always variations on the same rep plot, and the side lighting positions are the ones I believe have the most potential for being improved (mainly because they take the most time somehow).

    What I've got now: I have floor ladders which are our stock side lighting for dance. They are screwed into the floor and a bit difficult to circuit and hang (floor pockets with just 1 less circuit then I need). They are only 7-8' tall but the very top overhung position is just out of reach for most of us working here. In order to achieve a "high side" light position we've used drop down ladders from our main electrics which for a variety of reasons are a PITA.

    What the design team would like: a position easy to hang, easy to stow away, 18-20' tall, & safe.

    What I would like: exactly what the design team wants; but, thought out in such a way that once I draw it up and take pictures of its finished state I can hand it to an employee that has never seen the thing before and have them get it exactly right with a minimum of help.

    I can give you more details if you ask for them in the thread below.

    What I'd like from you guys in this forum is some inspiration: What cool ways of achieving sidelight do you have?
    Do you have any tricks of the trade you're willing to share?
    Any pictures or descriptions of the coolest and easiest to set up touring rig you've ever seen for stuff like this?
    Advice on what you guys do to combat limited circuits?
    Recommendations for the latest and greatest thingamabob?
    Another thread with something related in it that I just couldn't find by searching?

    I'd really appreciate your insight!

    TLDR: I'm trying to get my sidelight floor ladder/boom positions to be a bit easier to setup and use, what are your recommendations?

    Thanks,

    D.
     
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  2. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Side light ladders on trolleys on a beam that flys (motorized). Full upstage to down stage a foot or so off pipe ends.

    Of rather than tracked individual ladders, just a full up and down stage ladder of mid to high sides - maybe every 2; from 10' to 18 or 20' (and put a tab track on the bottom.) Do vertical box trusses for lower side lights - maybe 8' tall - castered - and feed power and data from ladder over.
     
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  3. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Dynyd You've a major advantage over us, you can see your space, its pluses and its short comings.
    That said I'll type a few lines then you can tell me to phuque-cough.
    When I began in a road house in the early 1970's, our original side booms were 21' lengths of 1.5" schedule 40 with four hole plumbing flanges threaded on their bottoms, side arms with boom tees bristling from three sides (US, On stage and DS) at at least four elevations. We assembled and 2/4rd the booms with the base on stage and the upper end secured to a 5/8" hemp line from a spot sheave on the grid and normally routed to the lower rail on the near side, occasionally we'd run both the SL and SR spot lines to the same side depending upon how large a crew we had on, if we had experienced fly rail personnel available on both sides. When the deck crew was ready for us to position our booms, we'd muscle them up 'til the flanges were about 2' above the deck and let them hang, stretching the hemp until well past lunch when we'd hung and flashed all of the LX pipes. Two or three of us would haul down on the suspended boom and see if we could muscle it down to the deck. If so, we'd use a spare flange to mark and pilot four holes across two planks then pull the boom down into position and use an electric roto-hammer to sink four 3" x 3/8" lags into the deck. Two or three of our burliest crew would haul down on the boom while I, the shortest guy, would crouch and add the lags and washers. There was zero point in using longer lags as there were only two layers of tongue and grooved planks on top of the sleepers and rubber pads. Certain locations were popular and we were forever having to drill out worn holes and glue dowels in for fillers.
    After a few years of this treatment, the deck was suffering a serious beating.
    Two or three times per year, our National Ballet of Canada would tour through for four or five days and we got to see their touring booms evolve through several versions. The last version I recall rolled off the truck about 30" wide by about 30" the opposite way (front to back while in their trailer / on and off stage when in position on stage) and approximately 4' tall. The National Ballet's booms toured with Fresnels and ellipsoidals in place pre 2/4 rd and cabled. Once they were in position, approximately 200 pounds of counter-weights were added to each base and they were unfolded with the aid of a spot line to stand approximately 16' high plus the height of their casters. Normally we'd focus all booms from our shorter rolling trestle ladder, approximately 20' with its vertical section lowered. If time was tight, we'd focus both sides simultaneously with the shorter trestle ladder on one side and the taller trestle ladder on the other.
    The next evolution of our venue's own booms were HEAVY rolling ladders each comprised of four 21' lengths of 1.5" schedule 40 iron plumbing pipe. We built eight of these with each rolling boom measuring approximately 24" wide by approximately 30" on and off with pipes welded in place as close as practical the entire height of their on stage-sides and at sensible heights for climbing all the way up their off-stage sides. We also kept the bases filled with counter-weights. The eight HEAVY rolling booms normally lived all the way in the SL wing rolled up against a permanently installed scenery bumper secured to the block wall at approximately 16'. We'd roll the booms off-stage against the bumper, clamber up and secure each in place with two rated trim chains.
    As far as quantities of luminaires and heights: The more or less normal configuration from bottom to top was two "floats", two "shin-busters", two "beaver-traps". two bonus ellipsoidals often utilized for gobo washes at approximately 12 or 14' and two high sides yoked up above the highest position.
    As far as powering: When the National Ballet toured in, they normally located their touring dimmers on stage right and routed their cables to SL either all the way across up stage then circuited their touring booms from the bottom up covering all of their touring cables with rubber mats securely gaffed in place. Dancers would stand in their touring rosin boxes awaiting their entrances. Sometimes the National Ballet would run circuits across their overhead LX pipes and tail them down off the ends to keep their deck clear. If we were using our own booms, or if / when a touring company chose to use our dimmers, we'd normally C-clamp a drop box per boom. Due to how the venue developed, we had drop boxes ranging from from 2 to 12 2P&G stage pin circuits per box including a few 4 circuit boxes but mostly 6's, 8's and 12's.
    Other booms I recall touring in over the decades: Somebody used to tour in with pneumatic contraptions with knee-high tanks from a welding gas supplier travelling in their bases but I recall them often being problematic. Sometimes they'd roll in desperately asking if we had a welding supply store near by. Sometimes their booms would begin to sink during a performance. Basically I learned their system had little to recommend it.
    Our venue was originally supplied with about a dozen Century Strand booms with triangular castered bases but they were too light, too wobbly and too short. We soon pulled their sleazy casters off so we could lag them to the deck.
    Our venue was also originally supplied with two threaded 50 pound bases, possibly manufactured by Altman. These were fairly reliable to support an 11' half-length of 1.5" schedule 40 with a few "floats" near the base and a couple of "shin busters" and "beaver traps" but you'd be fool hardy if you threaded a 21 or 22 foot length of 1.5" schedule 40 in one and began seriously loading up the top without a secure and taught length of 5/8 or 3/4" hemp spotted from your grid.
    There you go @Dynyd more than you NEVER wanted to know about how not to construct and secure booms.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
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  4. Chase P.

    Chase P. Well-Known Member

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    In college we had some homemade truss-like boxes. They were open on the side facing the stage, and had unistrut running up the opposite face. They kept the instruments nicely encapsulated and away from the drapes. If I remember correctly, they were drilled top and bottom so that multiples could be bolted together, or flown to create high side positions. They were lagged to the stage, and picked from above if the added sections warranted. Because the instruments were inside, they could be dropped on their backs onto dollies and rolled away. It made using them easy, it could all be hung in the shop, then rolled out, bolted down, and plugged in.

    If I were building them myself, I'd add rated casket locks or some other easy hardware top and bottom, and build the casters into the back of the units. I would also steal some of the designs I've seen on top of line arrays for hanging and leveling. There's probably a stock truss solution now that does all of that and more.
     
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  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  6. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @Chase P. The sections you spoke of from your college, approximately how tall would each section be and how many / how tall in total would you erect them??
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  7. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Ron, I think the old Production Arts truss design, as created for some of the NYC ballet and dance companies, were about 18" wide, open front., 24" deep (mine are 30" to accomodate scrollers, how quaint) and 7ft high, 'ish. The aluminum PA version had welded top plates and bolt holes so as to bolt together as many as 3 tall, so 21' total. Then an Iwo Jima lift. Some side trusseses are double wide so as to accommodate side by side units, or a ML. I think it's NYC Ballet that has a slick system of side trusses that are hinged so as to fold down to a 6ft. high X 7ft. long unit, they than lay out all 5 wings and chain hoist them vertical in one move.


    At the OP. We built 8 steel side truss/towers for our space, as per the dimensions above. They can hold 2 S4's at about 5 & 6.5 ft. Than 2 at shin and +1.5ft, plus space in the middle for a S4Par. Pre-wired as a 6 circuit pin connector bundle that feed to our floor pockets.

    OR you can do the old fashioned way with a 25lbs boom base, a 1-1/2" vertical pipe to +10ft or so and 6 or so units in that space. Hard to move around (like into storage) without disassembly, but the cheapest.

    We also have, in our large space, a DS/US side ladder system, essentially 3 x 24 ft long 1-1/2 pipes spanning the wing, each pipe 2 ft above the other, with 5 vertical 1-1/2" pipes holding the horizontals, we use Rota-Lok clamps. The entire ladder flies on a motorized winch (formerly a counterweight). It blocks the wing when at deck, but at +7ft to lowest unit is fine.

    The individual wing ladder - 4 wings or so, as noted by Bill, with a DS/US truss that has a flying traveler track to allow repositioning of each ladder (in case the wing location changes) is superior but expensive. We have something like this in our new space, we hate it as its too tall and is sized for 3 units side-by-side, so is just too big. Plus as it's a motorized winch, the winch motor was limited in it's US/DS positionine on our grid, with the result that the first wing is +6ft. US of the proscenium. So useless for lighting the first wing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
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  8. Scarrgo

    Scarrgo Well-Known Member

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    Years ago, when I was touring and pulling all my gear from Production Arts, they had single wide(for one fixture) and Double wide(two fixtures). They had locator pins on top and used hammer locks to keep them together. We always went 3 high, so about 21'. Lagged into the floor after the Iwo Jima lift. Finally we were able to do motors to do the stacking and safety, so much easier.....and I miss those towers every show I do now.....One show had 40+ lights each side in those towers...

    Sorry for the trip down my memory lane, no help in finding towers, but if you can build/buy used, they will be of great use
     
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  9. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Fight Leukemia

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    Pretty much how most of the tours are doing their side towers but like you said, motor assisted in various ways these days.
     
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  10. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @SteveB A few years back when the Four Seasons opera and ballet centre was built in the heart of downtown Toronto, they installed every flown pipe as a flat ladder truss with the intention of hanging off the lower chord and routing cables along the upper chord. Part of their theory was to be able to tail-down off either or both ends of their truss style system pipes with little to no bowing / buckling. They did exactly what @BillConnerFASTC described for their side booms / ladders with a massive non counter-weighted motor driven grooved winch drum secured to the US wall above their grid level on each side. The US walls were reinforced with massive amounts of steel reinforcing rod to support the winches and their massive loads. The winch drives were accurately positionable computer controlled servos with soft-starts and stops (of course) All of the linesets were single purchase arbors with greased double-wide roller compensating chains suspended from a beam a little more than half way between the deck and grid and with their lower idlers in a pit two or three basements below deck level. The idler pit was built with I beams running end to end and multiple points to power multiple bull winches within the idler pit. Manually pullng any of their self compensating line sets was PURE pleasure.
    Toronto's Four Seasons Centre remains the theatre I'm most proud to have been associated with. Their V12 diesel backup generator is up at a similar elevation, shock mounted and in a highly isolated multi-walled room to reduce its noise and vibration to phenomenally low levels. It was a special day when the hoisting engineers hoisted the V12 diesel in through the USR wall before finally blocking and pouring the opening. The V12's supplier was less than thrilled the day he had to hand-bomb sealed pails of its lubricants from the highest level serviced by an elevator to run it for a few days prior to draining and refilling the unit. Thanks for the pleasant memories.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard
     
  11. Chase P.

    Chase P. Well-Known Member

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    I want to say that they were eight feet tall, and they'd go two high, with possibly an additional one flown above that.
     
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  12. Jay Ashworth

    Jay Ashworth Well-Known Member

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    I'll get you a picture of our movable dance towers, which are out right now, and I think I have a part number for the bases, which are somewhat hard to come buy. 4xS4.
     
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