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Power assisted fly operation


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Hi There, I am Tech Manager for a Theatre in Provincial Queensland (Outback Australia). We have 25 Double Purchase fly lines. We run an Eisteddfod each year, Four Dance Schools and Two secondary School use the theatre. we are endeavouring to get an Amateur large scale Musical happening every other year. The Centre used to do that, but it died when the local mine changed from 8 hour to 12 hour shift pattern. There is Just the two of us techs here. Not everso busy but enough work for three of us. We have two inexperienced casuals and can get extra hands from a local agency. There are no nearby theatres with which we can share crew.

 

We came here two years ago and found, as in many theatres, there should be a policy of "No clients operating the flys" But this policy becomes very difficult to enforce when we find that Fredrick (husband of the lady that runs the Dance School) has been flying at this theatre for 30 years and there is not anything that he can be taught! To enforce the policy would be flying in the face of years of tradition and would upset people who have the ears of Councillors, - Council owns the Theatre! I would be that "know nothing upstart" who has drifted into town and spoiled the show for hundreds of children and their parents. Charging $600 for another crew member as flyman is not on either, it's been perfectly safe since 1988, why should the poor dance school have to up their hire amount when there is no perceived safety concerns or extra danger eh?

 

He only does show and rehearsal calls which consists of flying in and out the half tabs twice and flying in and out one back drop. It used to include flying the house rag as well (4 cues and a bounce per show) I have since fixed that by installing a new track and motor so now the stage manager (dance mum) can close it. I am working on repairing the motor from the old track and installing that on the half tab bar. Should have that in place by the time we re-open.

 

That leaves the backdrop cloth!

 

I have a solution and would like to runs this past some experienced flyman for opinion.

 

I plan to install one of those cheap Chinese winch motors, on a mule, over the head block of one our double purchase upstage line sets. I will need to extend or duplicate the remote operating device so that the winch can be operated from the fly floor or stage level. I fly the cloth and balance it, then attach the winch cable to the top of the cradle. I then over weight the cradle with six bricks (60kG) . Now, when the winch is operated, lifting the cradle, the cloth flies in, and when it drops the cradle the cloth flies out, There is a limit stop on the winch that I can adjust with cable clips (dog clips) for an in-dead and I will install a limit at the bottom of the frame for an out-dead. This can then be operated from a pickle or pickel at stage level (the brake is left off for the performance). Although I will still in effect have clients operating flys (powered flying), I wont have them on the fly bridge. After the show the duty tech will check the system, dead the cradle at the bottom, and isolate the motor.

 

Has any of you ever done this for a show? I have used chain motors attached to the bottom of the cradle to assist with reloading lighting bars, pre-loaded trusses, we would have the cradle down to min weight while we swapped LX rigs for rep Opera. This was in Linz, some time ago. We would then reload the cradle to operating weight.

 

If any of you have advice, lets hear it.

 

https://www.ebay.com...5.c100005.m1851

 

 

https://www.ebay.com...353.m1438.l2649

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My advice - Don't f@ck with your flys. I can tell you right now that if you rig a motor to your fly bar in a way that is not approved by the manufacturer (which is basically in any fashion) then if there is a problem you are 100% not covered and worksafe will hang you out to dry.

 

An experienced (even if not employed by your theatre) gentleman running the rail is preferable to a bodge like that! Hell - you are probably less liable with an untrained monkey than with that approach.

 

If you are concerned then my approach would be to insist that "Since he has not flown in the theatre for a year, you require him to come in for a refresher and to demonstrate that he can act safely and in accordance with the venues fly policies.". Maybe bring it up with the councils legal department - ask them to prepare a waiver for this gentleman and the dance company to sign. Now they will probably tell you that this waiver is not worth the paper it is written on - as you cannot waive your liabilities like that, however IF the decision to refuse to allow the gentleman is handed down, it will come from the council, not you, whilst doing your job and looking after the theatre's safety obligations.

 

That said - you are talking about 6 or so cues yeah? Do you have a duty technician? Can you not just have the duty technician run these cues?

Edited by mac.calder
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I've been involved in a few shows that tried motor assisted counterweight setups. Only one of them ever worked properly, and that was an expensive custom solution from an experienced supplier. The rest had no real advantage to manual operation, and one of them failed repeatedly causing show stops and much upset.

 

If you're only flying soft goods I'd ensure ops are competent and get on with it. I've flown at several venues as a visiting crew member, the venue just took us through their induction (which is often a little patronising, but I'd rather it be thorough than scant), watched us do some fly moves, and signed us off. I think that's all risk assessable, and I'd have no issue doing similar in my venues (and have done for our power flying setup and chain hoists when competent visitors are in).

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Aren't they only for lifting? But not rated for suspended loads? i.e. You'd need spot lines that could be tied off? Does extending the remote invalidate any (in the uk) LOLER type regs? Edited by Dave m
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As soon as you bring motorisation in to flying you loose the direct contact the flyman has with the load - if you're bringing something in and it catches or hits something you can feel it instantly and take action. Quite aside from the practicality issues others have flagged up if you're going down the motor route then you need some sort of formal monitoring of the area (i.e. night vision cameras covering the whole stage looped back to a monitor the person pushing the buttons can see) and you need a robust "dead man handle" system and really an e-stop system so that movements can be stopped instantly by multiple people.

 

I've never encountered a situation where adding motors to a flying / rigging setup that is currently done manually has been a cheap and frankly you would have a much better solution by instigating a training program and oversight process's so that outside volunteers could be able to use the flys on non-revenue shows.

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Does extending the remote invalidate any (in the uk) LOLER type regs?

 

OP is in Australia - no a modification like extending a remote would not fall foul of our lifting regulations. The modification/misuse of the counterweight fly system however would be a massive no-no as it is an unauthorised modification of a system which has been engineered to function in a specific way. . If it is a direct drive pickle for the motor (which they normally are) then technically the extension should be done by a licensed electrician.

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With shows with unskilled or young people, the biggest safety issue is people running under a bar or cloth coming in. We routinely station our people at the bar ends to make sure they come in safely, but grabbing and shoving somebody out of the way is still common. Motors, controlled by somebody out of direct sight of the entire thing are scary - and all these Chinese things and indeed proper hoists are so slow.

 

Training somebody in loading/unloading, adjustments and proper weighting is time consuming, but you don't need to do that for basic operation. Ten minutes is sufficient for some supervised practice and the safety briefing. We can have people safely flying cloths in a very short time. They often over shoot, or stop before it's on the ground, and often go too slowly, but they can release brakes, fly the cloths and re-apply the rope lock safely and efficiently. Not as smoothly or accurately or as fast as the real crew, but the risk assessment finds no issues. I suppose it really boils down to somebody having the courage to say they are safe, and making a note of it.

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With shows with unskilled or young people, the biggest safety issue is people running under a bar or cloth coming in. We routinely station our people at the bar ends to make sure they come in safely, but grabbing and shoving somebody out of the way is still common. Motors, controlled by somebody out of direct sight of the entire thing are scary - and all these Chinese things and indeed proper hoists are so slow.

 

Training somebody in loading/unloading, adjustments and proper weighting is time consuming, but you don't need to do that for basic operation. Ten minutes is sufficient for some supervised practice and the safety briefing. We can have people safely flying cloths in a very short time. They often over shoot, or stop before it's on the ground, and often go too slowly, but they can release brakes, fly the cloths and re-apply the rope lock safely and efficiently. Not as smoothly or accurately or as fast as the real crew, but the risk assessment finds no issues. I suppose it really boils down to somebody having the courage to say they are safe, and making a note of it.

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I'm with paulears - Assuming that you or one of your colleagues does the weighting, then you need only ensure that the Dance Dad is capable of operating ins and outs correctly and safely to your satisfaction. This need only be a short refresher if he doesn't do it between annual shows and might include a formal check on how flies are called and who is responsible for safety onstage (Dance Mum by the sound of things) as flyman's view is usually very restricted - and how flying can be immediately halted if a problem occurs (usually both on cans and anyone, including LX who might have a better view from FOH, can call a safety halt).

 

If he expects to do the weighting as well, then this is a whole different ballgame although I would expect it to be a theatre rule that the resident techs (or other person they have authorised such as a casual) should do this and ensure each line is properly balanced with ins and outs marked in the appropriate manner (usually white tape in the UK). They should also take additional precautions to ensure that other bars, especially heavy ones like LX, cannot be accidentally moved usually by putting additional brakes on or clear marking. It is all too easy to release the brakes on the wrong line when in the dark and not experienced!

 

I am not a flyman but have been a production manager several times at hired venues but have production flown like the Dance Dad and know what works safely - although it is always up to the resident tech to confirm precise local arrangements.

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Thanks for that. Do you have any evidence, anecdotal or otherwise that would suggest that these motors are less reliable than the ones I would buy from any other source? Are German or American ones any better? Is it the price that makes us feel

 

Is there a brand or type of winch motor that you would recommend for stage use, spotlines or lifting up to a flybar? or even taking equipment up to or down from galleries or slots.

 

Simon

 

 

 

 

Trust me - you do NOT want to go down the route of using those things for anything more than lifting kit well away from stage.

 

Is it the price that makes us feel uncomfortable about these motors or maybe the fact that they are available on ebay? If I can get this hardware delivered for less than $150 then it has to be constructed with no QC from a company that cuts corners wherever they can, doesn't invest in R&D and sells junk, it must be bad!

 

Sorry, then end of this sentence dropped out of my reply some how

 

Simon

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Is there a brand or type of winch motor that you would recommend for stage use, spotlines or lifting up to a flybar? or even taking equipment up to or down from galleries or slots.

yes - one that is specifically made and advertised for the theatre / events industry and which has a manufacturer or local distributor with industry specific knowledge that can give you qualified advice.

...you're in for a heart attack when you find out just what the control cable for a proper, trustworthy, appropriate electric hoist costs; you've almost certainly bought cars that cost less than you'll be spending on a single trustworthy hoist.

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If you are asking these questions Unplugged, in Australia, you are not qualified to be using a hoist. Full stop. Do a dogging and basic riggers course to get your high risk work license. You should have these at a minimum to install and operate any form of hoist.. Then read the regulations. You are in QLD, so maybe talk to Theatre Safe Australia - they are in your neck of the woods and supply theatrical rigging equipment.
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