Media and Entertainment overview
Rigging for the Entertainment Industry
Rigging in the entertainment industry covers a wide range of activities, skills and equipment depending on the genre or style of entertainment. Adaptive companies are at the forefront of developing new ideas and solving problems that have enabled large rock shows and TV projects to be staged in all manner of places and in timescales that many other industry sectors would deem impossible.
One of the biggest drivers in developing technology for lifting and rigging in the entertainment industry in recent years has been Rock and Roll touring, which from the mid 70’s onwards has strived to get ever larger and more complicated productions in and out of venues as fast as possible.
These days a large rock and roll tour of ten articulated trucks can load in and out of a venue in a matter of hours, thanks in part to the Riggers who are able to construct large structural grids, from proprietary aluminium trussing and install temporary lifting equipment in an incredibly short space of time. Most of this is of course down to meticulous planning and a good knowledge of each venues structural variation. In this day and age nearly all venues plans, showing structural beams and dedicated lifting points are available in Auto CAD for the touring rigger to lay their plan over and decide what hardware is needed, to get their particular show in.
In the early days it was often the lighting crew, or the sound engineers who would go into theatre roof voids with steel wire rope, slings and basic electric chain hoists to lift their own gear into place. It was only a small part of their tasks, and many of these “Roadies” were untrained and working on a common sense only basis. Surprisingly the amount of accidents was very small.
These days there are many specialist freelance riggers, and Rigging companies Deletion that will design and plan every detail of the hanging and structural elements of a show, co ordinate between lighting, set, sound and video departments, to produce complex automated tracking and lifting sequences as part of the live show experience. The more prolific use of computers, and position finding encoders, mean that instead of Riggers being muscle bound guys with a good head for heights, they are now computer literate risk aware professionals, who also have a good head for heights, and the tenacity to work in difficult places.
Up until now debate has raged about industrial rope access courses, with many riggers arguing that often the techniques taught are not practical in the circumstances we work in, or that other methods of control, although less easy to evaluate on paper are often better suited to the wide variety of situations we find ourselves in. Most Riggers will have had plant training, for MEWPs and some will have done rigging and slinging courses, or LOLER based test and inspection courses. In addition product specific courses, for chain hoists or automation software are on offer. None of these courses have ever formed a nationally recognised qualification, and so the assessment standards have been questioned by many of the old school practitioners. However 2007 will see the introduction of the National rigging certificate, which for the first time will see universal assessment of skills and knowledge from working at height, through LOLER test and inspection.
Until this scheme is up and running, when clients call up rigging companies and ask for “qualified riggers” we always have to answer that we can provide riggers with proof of competence but not “qualified riggers”. Many practitioners’ comment that qualified and competent mean two very different things in a situation where we might hang several tonnes of extremely expensive equipment over some extremely expensive people. As the industry has changed, there has been a lot more pressure to be able to prove competence, both of kit and crew. The LOLER regulations went a long way to sorting out the cowboys from the responsible equipment providers. However it has taken many years before the entertainment industry has come up with a new set of standards based on an NVQ model with which to assess the competence of its Riggers specialising in non conventional techniques, where different approaches are required almost every time they go to work.
The term “Rigger” in the entertainment industry has gone through a very steep evolution from touring “roadies” or theatre fly floor crew, to a freelance population with varying skills in structural specification and design, electro mechanical engineering. CAD draftsmen, and computer software users. However the pressures of the shows have remained the same, they must always go in on time, on budget, and if anything goes wrong there will always be an audience!!
The first of the two images show the aftermath of a structural failure during the set up of a Justin Timberlake concert in America, where someone got it badly wrong. The second image shows the “Cardington Grid”, which is being used by Warner Brothers, after a fire at Pinewood Studio’s meant they had to find a replacement venue for filming, fast. These pictures show, both the risks we expose ourselves to and the expectations we have placed on us. The Cardington Grid was completed in just two weeks, with only two weeks notice to design and plan the project. The cost of delaying filming would have run into millions. Both access equipment and climbing techniques were used on the Cardington rig by a team of up to ten riggers. Deletion Over 70 motor points were rigged, all of which were on two or four leg bridals. The picture is taken above the truss grid which has 60ft clearance below it. The top of the bridal steels are at 150 feet.
Author - Toby Dare