Entertainment rigging is comprised of two main branches, both of which benefit from marine-grade materials: theatrical rigging and arena rigging. Both call for the same rigging skills, but they differ in the conditions under which the equipment must operate.
Dynamic, Static, and Environmental Stresses
Stage rigging often involves a permanent fly system and equipment that is in continuous use under similar (indoor) environmental conditions. In the case of traditional lighting fixtures, all ropes and rigging hardware must be prepared to survive exposure to extreme heat. Heavy electronics and drapery could also require support for years at a time of continuous, relatively static use.
When entertainment rigging equipment is used in an arena—or other versatile venues with exposed structures—it’s usually put through constant assembly, disassembly, and storage. Arenas fully transform in purpose and shape regularly (for sporting events, concerts, performances, and more), so nothing stays in place long. Rigging equipment must have the durability to survive a grueling travel schedule of rapid sets and strikes under unique circumstances. Exposure to UV and the elements for open-air arenas further complicates matters.
Both wings of the entertainment rigging industry have long relied upon marine-grade steel and advanced synthetic materials to withstand these diverse forces.
Heat and Fire Resistance
Intense, hot sunlight and UV exposure are norms on the open sea. The synthetic fiber ropes, stainless steel, and thermoplastic pulleys preferred in the marine industry are constructed to tolerate these high temperatures without losing performance.
Organizations like SOLAS and IMO also set rigorous specifications for fire resistance. Materials rated for use on ships must meet high international fire safety standards—a critical concern of performance venues that house large audiences. Innovative materials like Torlon® can provide marine equipment with incredible resistance to extreme environmental forces while remaining lightweight.
Load-Rated for Safety
Many entertainment rigging systems still rely on steel cables to hoist drops that are too heavy for traditional rope, but this is changing in many industries. Advanced marine ropes, like Dyneema® (made with HMPE fibers), offer 15-times-steel strength at only 15% the weight. High maximum loads are critical to safety at sea, where wind and water forces put enormous shock loads on equipment.
At Ronstan, all of our entertainment rigging equipment is load-rated to provide you with the peace of mind that it will perform under extreme loads and unpredictable forces. A safety factor of 10:1 is often necessary for the entertainment rigging industry to guarantee the safety of audience members and performers alike. The marine industry has long held the same generous standard.
The lightweight construction of marine-grade pulley systems can also drastically reduce the overall burden of the system without sacrificing vital strength. Less weight means faster and easier setup, strike, and transport.
For example, a coiled rope is far less cumbersome than a coiled wire and puts less strain on the rig in the air. Consider a system comprised of a 100-pound pulley and 200 pounds of steel wire holding up a 200-pound drop. That’s 500 pounds overhead. A durable synthetic pulley could be half the weight, and Dyneema® only 15%, so only 280 pounds needs to be held aloft. Less weight above performers’ and audience members’ heads is always a good thing.
Built for the Unexpected
The ocean is an unpredictable environment. So is the stage. Marine-grade equipment is made with materials that stand up to unexpected side-loads, shocks, and abrasions from contact during setup, strike, and travel. The Ronstan Core Block™ series, for example, has captive ball bearings that counteract side-thrust loads while the bushing handles heavy direct loads.
Entertainment rigging and ship rigging both demand dynamic load tolerance, durability under continuous use, and versatile installation or attachment methods from their equipment. Marine materials are always ready for the unexpected.