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The Wrath of the Theatre Gods

Discussion in 'Safety' started by icewolf08, Jun 5, 2007.

  1. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Well, that is what we call it. Some people believe it has to do with a replacement that was put in to finish out the run of the show, but I digress.

    So, all of this happened about a week ago, but it has taken so long to get everything back on its feet again that I only now have time to really think about it and tell you about it.

    Well, I don't remember the exact dates, everything kind of blends together. But about a wee and a half ago we started having some issues with the revolve during an understudy rehearsal for Les Mis. I don't know the exact details as I was not at the rehearsal. For the performance that night we ended up having trouble getting the revolve to hit it's target positions. Well, it turned out that one of the two drive motors had lost the key that creates the positive connection between the gear reduction and the drive wheel. This was discovered part way through act one, and as the positions got so far off from spike when we ran the cues with the computer I ended up continuing the act with manual controls and cued by sight. At intermission our automation engineer was able to make it in to have a look and he was able to fix the damaged key and get the second motor running. At this point something ended up being calibrated wrong as whenever we ran a cue using the computer we got an overload fault on the power inverter (that is a whole other long story). So, I run the show manually for act two.

    The next day, the TD and automation engineer come in and fix the system and it worked fine for one show (wed. 5/30 matinee) but when we came in to do our preshow checks and setup for the second performance of the day we basically had catastrophic system failure. I was zeroing out the revolve and putting in it's preset position when it jumped into full speed and wouldn't stop going. It turned out the the controller that connects the inverter and position encoder to the computer had been fried, but we didn't find that out until the next day. The computer was reading the encoder as moving in the opposite direction as the revolve. This caused the computer to speed up the revolve as it was trying to get it to the correct position.

    The good side of this, we discovered the problem before the show started. Had this issue reared it's head during the performance it would have been really bad as there would have been great potential for injury. We actually had to cancel the show as we could not determine the problem before curtain. This is an unfortunate event and financially very bad when you have to cancel a show that has a full house. It is only the second cancellation in the 45-year history of the theatre.

    So, the put in rehearsal that was scheduled for the next day was cancelled so that the problem could be fixed. Once it was determined that the controller was the problem it was replaced and sent back to the manufacturer for diagnostics. We had to reprogram the cues as we now have a more accurate setup and each controller reads the encoder slightly differently.

    Right, so after we got the revolve fixed, we had an issue with the barricade. The TD had used the controller from it to test the revolve and the encoder had been moved. The encoder was jamming and not giving accurate counts so we crashed the barricade into it's garage. This problem turned out to be an easy fix. Then when we went to run the cue that brings the barricades on stage the SL barricade didn't move as it had lost a key. Go figure. It was pushed on to it's preset position, where the TD started to make repairs. Had we given him about 3 more seconds it would have been fixed. In any event the cue was called to get the barricades on stage, so the TD was shut into the motor box on the barricade and the unit was pushed on. Then they realized that they had locked the TD in the box only after I came looking for him...

    Well, we have everything back in working order. We still have to tune some of the cues with the new revolve controller, but things are back to a good place. it was a crazy week though.

    EDIT:
    For those of you wondering what an ME is doing running motion control, that is another long story. Has something to do with having a deck crew that panics instead of troubleshoots. So they put me, someone who can keep a cool head running automation while my AME is now running lights.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2007
  2. PadawanGeek

    PadawanGeek Active Member

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    Poor TD... Getting locked in the motor box like that... :twisted:

    :p
     
  3. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Yea can you explain what ended up happening to the guy locked on stage... :neutral:
     
  4. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Well, once we got the barricade on stage I got up from my station to check in with the TD to see what the problem was and if it was fixable/fixed. I asked the SM where he was and she says: "Oh... um... I totally forgot, he is locked in the motor box." Well the motor box is in the upstage side of the barricade, so we had costumed crew let him out.
     
  5. PadawanGeek

    PadawanGeek Active Member

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    Big LOL!

    Did the audience notice anything?
     
  6. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I doubt the audience noticed, as it was upstage of the barricade, and the barricade is pretty tall. If you want to see some photos of the show you can find them on my website.
     
    avkid likes this.
  7. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Very nice Alex, and yet another reason you all should bow to Macs!
     
  8. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Ok, so it doesn't end with the mechanical issues with moving scenery. Today I ended up having to change out a Source Four Revolution (still find it ironic using this fixtures on Les Mis) because it was eating lamps. We had a lamp failure during the second act of the matinee. When I got up to the fixture after the show I pulled the lamp out, and lo-and-behold, the lamp was fine save for the fact that the entirety of one of the metal contacts was completely gone. On first inspection I thought it had just been charred, but when I hit it with a file I realized that the contact was total gone, probably welded into the lamp base. Well, I don't know how many of you have had the pleasure of replacing the lamp base in a Rev., but if you have, you know that you can't really do it in the air, not to mention the fact that I don't have spare Revolution lamp bases in house.

    So, I have a spare fixture, the trick is getting it up. We can't fly anything in because the walls of the set are 24' tall. We only have a one man genie and it can't lift me and the fixture. It can however lower me and the old fixture. So, strike old fixture and put all the needed modules in the spare. Then We have 2 people toss ropes in from the grid and haul the new fixture up while I go up in the Genie and hang the fixture.

    This was the second Rev that I had to swap out of this show, the first one's brain died, but that was back in tech, and we have since had it fixed, hence me having a spare. Now I don't have a spare until I can get a new lamp base.

    For all the trash talking people (including myself) do about the Revs, they aren't bad fixtures, the problem is when they break they are a PITA to fix.
     
  9. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    Which automation controllers are you using?

    I also had a Revolution start eating lamps a few months ago. Luckily it was somewhere easy to reach. We just let it eat lamps until the show closed.

    --Sean
     
  10. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    We use the "Make It Move" system from Creative Conners Inc. as our control system. It is integrated with the motors and mechanics that the theatre owned. Up until this year they had been running their automation (mostly revolves) by dead-man's switch or right on the power inverters. This year the theatre has had enough money to buy a control system, and this one was what fit the budget. It is a good system, though I think that Garreth should rewrite Avista so that it can use an abstract control model, it would make programming easier.

    Actually, I think all of the issues we have had with automation on this show have been due to mechanical issues and design flaws in the mechanics and not the control. I am an electrician, so that is just my opinion, I trust our TD and his work, but I think there may have been better ways to build the system.
     

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