Just the ticket

16 January 2007


Electric hoists have become a staple behind-the-scenes component of the entertainment industry. Phil Bishop reports

The most common model of hoist that is used in the entertainment sector is the Columbus McKinnon Lodestar. This chain hoist has proven itself many times over the years as a rugged and dependable piece of kit. The latest version of the Lodestar is designed specifically for entertainment industry rigging operations, and can either climb its chain or be mounted in an upright configuration. Also popular is its little brother, the Prostar.

The needs of the entertainment and leisure industries vary. Sometimes a permanent installation is required, such as in a theatre. Sometimes the rigging will only be in place for a day or two, such as at an outdoors rock show, touring from city to city, or an annual awards show like the Oscars.

Knight International is a UK company that specialises in installing sound and lighting systems for events. A recent project was the ice skating rink in its local town, Chelmsford. The Riverside Ice & Leisure Centre holds ice disco sessions four times a week, an annual show on ice and is home to the Chelmsford Chieftains ice hockey team.

A recent technical upgrade of the venue included a new lighting rig. Hoisting equipment specialist Lift Turn Move (LTM) supplied Knight International with eight 1t capacity Lodestar hoists and an eight-way motor controller to co-ordinate their movements.

The hoists were rigged into the roof void, out of sight from any spectators or skaters. They suspend a 45m x 16m aluminium box truss constructed from Milos M390L heavy duty trussing, complete with 30 moving lights and effects.

The hoists enable the lighting rig to be lowered to ground level for maintenance work, adjustments or bulb replacement, allowing the work to be carried out much quicker and saving a lot of downtime on the ice.

“Putting the Lodestars in has made the whole space and the process of lighting and staging a multi-purpose event far more dynamic, versatile and efficient in terms of production values,” says Phill Knight, boss of Knight International. He adds that the Lodestars are also resilient to the operating conditions in the ice rink which, naturally, gets very cold and also has humidity up to 74%.

A pair of 1t capacity Lodestars were used for a remarkable one-off publicity stunt in Indiana, USA, which involved raising and attaching a full sized Formula 1 race car to the facade of the building at the 21st floor.

Sapsis Rigging, a Philadelphia-based entertainment rigging company, provided the rigging services for the Target Racing Team event staged at the Indiana Square Building in Indianapolis. The stunt was staged in conjunction with the 89th Indianapolis 500 in 2005.

In addition to the car, three members of the German stunt team Vertical Catwalk performed on the side of the building in and around the car.

Working with Cincinnati-based Entertainment Structures, Sapsis Rigging designed, built and installed a support structure in the 21st floor of the building to raise, suspend and then lower the car. A steel frame was constructed inside the building with a cantilevered frame out the window, which was removed. Once the car was lifted into place it was bolted to the frame.

Polyester roundslings were used to connect the hoists to the car and were left on as a back-up to the bolted connection. Each hoist had 90m (300ft) of chain installed. Sapsis Rigging also designed, built and installed the structure on the roof of the building that supported the Vertical Catwalk team.

To ensure safety, all hardware used in the project had a minimum design factor of 7:1, says Bill Sapsis, and all steel structures and connections were approved by a structural engineer.

A couple of months later Sapsis Rigging also worked on another stunt involving the Vertical Catwalk team - a fashion show on the side of the Rockefeller Center in New York City. The rigging for the models, who were on human belay as they walked the wall, was mounted to the top of the building and anchored at ground level.

Anyone who has seen the YouTube footage of the guys from Bank of America and MBNA singing U2’s One to celebrate their merger will be aware that corporate events increasingly aspire to be showbiz. The automobile industry particularly likes to put on a show, it seems, and its industry exhibitions and dealer meetings often include sophisticated lighting and sound systems.

Chicago’s main conference centre, McCormick Place, was the venue for the 2004 Acura Dealer Meeting. (Acura is Honda’s luxury brand in the USA and certain other markets). For this event, the lighting system was hung from a complex array of rigging that used 63 electric chain hoists.

Chicago-based Reed Rigging, an entertainment rigging specialist, designed the rigging with three concentric circles, measuring 30ft, 100ft and 200ft in diameter. A supertruss was hinged at 16 junctions on 88 points, creating three concentric hexdecagons (16 sided polygons). It took 63 bridles to rig the design, with a hoist at the bottom of each bridle.


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