Theatrical performances, concerts, and trade shows each have vastly different creative needs when it comes to the rigging of lights and other equipment. But they also have one thing in common: the installations are temporary.
Arena Rigging Requires Flexibility
Arena stage performances rarely strike up a permanent residence, and the next show to come through may have little to nothing in common with the previous one.
Every production has a unique combination of shifting backdrops and drapery, scenery changes, or even airborne performers in addition to the palette of scene lighting fixtures. If the show is traveling (such as Cirque du Soleil’s globe-trotting extravaganzas), the rigging equipment will also need to adapt to whatever arena space it ends up in.
Trade shows are, by their very nature, also transitory (often occurring on an annual basis). Each event that comes through the arena or event center will require a unique match between the size and scope of the venue with the event itself. The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, for example, hosts 25 unique events between the middle and end of September 2019, ranging from 40 attendees to 6,000.
Selecting rigging hardware that can accommodate this sort of flexibility can be a complicated business. A few critical things to look for are:
- Dynamic Load Tolerance: A performance might involve shifting backdrops and drapery, scenery changes, or even airborne performers in addition to the palette of scene lighting fixtures. Moving concert lights and motorized drops will create unstable forces on rigging hardware. For this reason, event rigging hardware must be optimized to handle indirect and moving loads.
- Durability For Continuous Use: Equipment for traveling shows and temporary events has to handle continuous load-ins, load-outs, and unpredictable moving loads. Unlike drapes that are dead-hung in a high school theatre for many years—or the predictable static load endured by fixtures in an art gallery—this equipment will be frequently handled and exposed to unpredictable impacts or abrasions.
- Installation Versatility: Every arena space is unique, and it can be difficult to predict how the stresses on the equipment will vary in a new environment. You may need to bridle the load of a floating truss between two awkwardly placed roof beams or adapt lighting fixtures to accommodate either pipes or i-beams. Arena riggers value flexible equipment that can adapt to the shape of the environment.
Triple-Threat Rigging Hardware
Arena riggers are looking for hardware that combines a capacity for heavy dynamic loads, durability, and versatility.
Let’s talk pulleys. Unlike in more static circumstances, where a bushing block would be ideal (with its high load capacity), arena rigging involves more dynamic motion—drops fly up and down, and rigs are sometimes only in place a day. Bearing blocks are ideal for these sorts of environments, as their low friction enables them to handle more flexible movement.
However, one challenge with bearing blocks is that fabric backdrops and other suspended structures are never exactly motionless, even when hung in place. Any subtle sway or wobble in the load or cables causes small movements. With a typical bearing block, these tiny shifts cause flat spots and uneven wear.
‘Ay, there’s the rub,’ the Bard might say. Entertainment rigging hardware needs to handle both high loads and dynamic movement (both large and small). Fortunately, advances in pulley technology have made this possible.
Take the Ronstan Core Block™ series, for example. These pulleys are structured for:
- High Dynamic and Static High Load Capacity: These self-lubricating acetal ball bearings that straddle the sheave can carry lighter loads with minimal friction. The ball bearings deform out of the way, and the bushing takes the load from the central hub as the pulley is loaded up. This gives the pulley the best of both worlds.
- Longevity Under Heavy Stress: High-strength nylon, aluminum alloy cheek plates, and marine-grade steel minimize wear and tear during constant setups and breakdowns. The ball bearings also counteract side thrust loads.
- Versatile Attachment: The hole through the central hub works as either a becket take-off or tie-up point, and the universal head handles a wide range of fasteners.
Hardware with triple-threat capabilities gives arena riggers peace of mind no matter what unforeseen obstacles a new venue has in store.
Featured image (top) courtesy of Noe Robert.