Thursday, March 20, 2008


I arrived in Houston today for the first day of USITT. The flight was good – the weather was good (for once I am glad I didn’t try to come a day early. Took in a view sessions, and ran into a lot of people – which is always one of my favorite things about coming here. Thought I would take a few minutes and write down a little about the seminars today.

Designing and building simple performer flying systems Presented by Dilbert Hall and Johnathan Deull.

The seminar was good for the most part. They present systems I haven’t used before, and variations of ones I am familiar with. I wish for seminars like this one that the power point outlines were made available, as it would be nice to have a copy of the schematics. Though I suppose, that publication creates a risk (presenting does as well of course). He covered straight lifts, pendulum swings, interdependent pendulum swings and some tracks. Most drawings showed variations – direct pull, mechanical advantage, and counterweight situations. The danger in a seminar such as this is that I belive it is a little deceiving. First, there is a great debate about whether or not flying effect should be done in house – or if you should bring in a reputable company. Second, calling it simple is deceiving. There are terminations and connections and working load factors and design factors that are important – even vital for the piece to be done safely. As they say – the devil is in the details. Many of these weren’t mentioned or glossed over. And as questions from the audience clearly indicated a low level of rigging proficiency, I wonder if seminars like this increase risks. You know have 60 or so people who just watched how you could simply “safely” rig a performer to fly, and who are in an age range that won’t often question the deeper intricacies of the situation.

Cruise Ship Safety for Technicians and Designers
This was geared mostly to people who were looking to work on a cruise ship. The panel discussed who governs cruise ships (and it is interesting that maintenance is handled by an agency that isn’t theatrical in nature), and what the biggest safety issues are. They talked a little of show control (though the automation control and the rest of the show are on different systems), and automation. They mentioned that all soft goods are flame retardant and tested yearly, and that all scenery must be secured when not in use. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to learn a little about how they make scenery and props safer for the boats. The rigging on the line sets are tracked in a different manner, automation is used a little different, and stuff like that. I had also wondered if any different scenic materials were needed due to the environment and safety issues. Or if things were built in a different manner – say mostly out of aluminum, for example. While it didn’t answer all of my questions, I did like that it was talking a little about commercial theatre, and that it involved outside people (a rep from the Coast Guard was one of the presenters).

Lifting, Moving, and Stopping: Tools and machines that help.
This was presented by a large panel of people, and was perhaps my favorite of the day. Each person had slides of things they had worked on. There were pancake cyclinder feet, the same with casters, Chris Fretts pads that were in the tech expo last year, and a variety of traps, and effects. A rotating step unit was also nicely done. They also called out pneumatic cable guides – showing one small unit as a project browser. I think these units are very interesting, and think that there could be a lot more uses for the cable guides than what is being seen currently.

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