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Under stage tracks


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For a production next year it looks like we'll need a number of tracks under the stage to move sets, props and assorted dancers around.

Way outside my comfort zone but I have a year to learn. The budget for the production is reasonable but not at commercial productions level.


For the moment just looking for different options, recommendations what to do and what certainly not to do.

The show will be in Sydney so I'll be looking for Australian suppliers.


And by semi-automation I mean that we will use winches, motors, etc. but unlikely to go the whole computer control way.

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The first thing you will need is a show floor, at least 18mm thick, into which the tracks can be situated. This show floor will need to be screwed into the stage floor.


The simple way of doing this is to create your tracks by separating boards, with say a good straight length of 3x1" timber, in the line that the track need to run. All of your trucks that run in these tracks will need to have fixed castors attached to the bottom of them, as well as provision for a 'spade' to be inserted and removed that allows the truck to run guided in the track. With push sticks or actors/crew walking them on, there is no need for automation.


The easiest way to automate this is to use a truck winch with a trip counter. This requires more fabrication and purchase of essentials such as low level return pulleys, but is still very common. The main difference to the floor will be a groove routered into the underside to provide a channel for the wire rope from the winch. The rope that runs in the visible track will need a 'mouse' (a slender piece of metal that attaches to the wire rope that has a rectangular hole cut in it to take a metal spade).


The Flint catalogue is a good start for looking at the bits you would need.

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They are not cheap - but check out Creative Conners - they have off the shelf deck dogs and knives - they are simple enough to engineer yourself, but if you can get it off the shelf, who needs the headaches.


Their hardware is all 110V - so definitely not suitable most of the world really - which is a shame - but Jands VE, Harris ME etc will have most of the other components you need (some sheeves and a drum winch basically). With deck tracks I would strongly recommend some form of positioning encoder along with hard limits and your hoists will need to be variable speed.


If you are at all familiar with programming PLCs then you can pretty much write the basics yourself for managing the motors, otherwise kinesys running Vector or similar will give you the basic automation needed to do it safely.

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