Who’s excited about today’s topic on event rigging? Yes, that’s right! This week’s brand new episode of Whiteboard Wednesday is all about event rigging. And more precisely, all the types of event rigging you should know in order to implement it swiftly and seamlessly in a corporate environment. But don’t worry, this isn’t a masterclass. Rather think about it as a handful of great tips to help you figure out the basics. So language, budget, conversations, all that good stuff.

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And this week we have the pleasure of welcoming Andrew Latimer of Endless Events as our amazing host. Andrew knows all about event rigging, and today, he’s here to teach you the most important points. Are you ready to get down and dirty with event rigging? Then press play, it’s time for another great episode of Whiteboard Wednesday!

Video Transcription – Types Of Event Rigging You Must Know

Hey, everybody. This is Andrew Latimer, production manager with Endless Events here for another episode of Whiteboard Wednesday. Today, we’re going to be talking about types of event rigging that you must know to be able to operate effectively in a corporate event environment. We’re going to be looking at how can we save you money, get you into more effective rigging setups? What are some of the terminologies that you’re going to encounter and how can you have an effective dialogue with the venues that you’re into best suit your event without breaking the roof or breaking your budget?

We’re going to start off with a quick disclaimer. This is not to teach you how to be a rigging professional. Always consult with someone who understands the weights, the loading, and all the engineering that goes into it. But we do want you to be able to talk to them in the language that they’re going to understand.

Types Of Event Rigging Scenarios

We’re going to start off with the four common types of rigging scenarios that we are seeing in most ballrooms and this applies also to concerts, galas, really any standard event other than being inside a theater, which is going to have existing lines that come in and out as you see in Broadway scenery, we’re looking more at how is a temporary event set up in a ballroom, an arena, in a concert hall, in a warehouse even. The options all are very similar.

Ground Supported Truss Totem

Your first option is ground supported truss totem and this is standard, common, cheap, simple, effective. As you can see, it’s a piece of truss with a big heavy base on it and you can hang from that your stage wash, you can put a TV display about halfway up it. You can even hang small speakers from it. It’s very effective for any scenario where you might have limited height, you might want to put your lights somewhere that there’s not a rigging point in the venue. It’s also typically very cost-effective in most hotel settings to be able to build this for your front wash versus paying an in-house company, potentially a lot of money to build a big truss that hangs over your stage.

Genie & Summer Lift

So, pairing with that is the genie and Sumner lift. This is one of my favorite options for being able to deliver a really effective production look. And put truss bars in places that you might not otherwise be able to get them, whether it’s because you don’t have rigging above that you can tie into or because there’s cost restrictions or personnel restrictions that are going to potentially impact your budget in such a negative way. But you still really want to be able to have a cool backdrop behind your stage. Maybe you want some moving lights overhead that are panning, building your energy, and this is a very effective way to do that.

So, effectively what you have is big tripod base. Sometimes it’s four big legs coming out, usually about a six-foot by six-foot floor footprint. Always keep that in mind anytime you’re looking at if I want a ground support a PA system or a truss that you are going to have a fairly large footprint. Because these are big industrial devices that are taking a lot of weight. From that is a little crank tower that lifts it up. Usually, between 18 feet up to 25 feet. Again, you’re talking, it can take a load of typically depending on the model, somewhere between 400, 650 pounds is pretty common.

That’s going to let you put, as we have drawn here, you can hang an audio system from it. You can put your lighting trusses across it. There’s really an infinite number of ways you can deploy these and you can use multiple in conjunction so you can have one on this side, one over here with a piece of truss between it. Your audio hangs down from that, crank all that up, you’ve got your lights, your audio, all of that hung on a truss and you didn’t have to tie into the building.

Now, the downside of that is you do have this 6-foot-by-6-foot base with a big 25-foot metal tower wherever you’re putting that. Maybe you can put it behind pipe and drape, maybe not. One thing to consider with it though, but it is a fairly cost-effective manner of achieving rigging in places you might not otherwise be able to.

Chain Motor

Now, what I would say is the most common rigging apparatus that we see in a corporate account of setting is the chain motor. This is a mechanical device, uses steel chains with a hook on each end and this will hook into the ceiling up above you and then will also hook onto your piece of truss, typically horizontally laid out. It can also clip right into the top of your audio system and it will raise it up mechanically to the ceiling.

Now, it does require power. It requires points to be installed in the ceiling above you. It typically has a higher cost and a lot of times in a corporate event environment, you are seeing an in-house company that’s charging you for the point, potentially charging you for the motor, for the labor and that can add up. The advantage to them though is they come in multiple weight ratings.

Event Rigging: The Shapes & Sizes

So, as a standard, the industry uses quarter-ton, half-ton, one-ton, and two-ton as our weights, at least in the United States. In overseas, it’s fairly well adapted to the metric system. You might be talking like 250 kilogram, 500 kilogram and so forth. But we keep it fairly standard. So, the way of denoting the weights on a rigging plot that you might see and how you can line up your chain motors to them is a two-ton motor can hang from a two-ton point. Two tons, a thousand pounds or sorry, 2000 pounds per ton becomes 4000 potential pounds. Clips into the two-ton point. That’s how much weight you can take on that motor, including the weight of the motor, whatever’s hanging from it.

These are really versatile tools. They come in those different weights and sizes and there are some custom ones. There are options for really high-speed ones for if you want to do cool deployments where your truss is swinging from side to side. You see that a lot in high-end concerts. It’s very cool but also very costly. So, on your day-to-day, you’re going to see a motor that looks like this, lifting up your truss with your audio hung from it, your lights, your video and typically, in a corporate environment you’re talking a couple of hundred pounds per motor.

Get With The Program!

So, most often, we’re going to be seeing half-ton, one-ton, quarter-ton within our realm in that sphere. Two-ton typically is mostly in large scale arenas. The last rigging scenario that we see is kind of a cool option for a truss roof. This is what you see built out at big concerts. You can also build that inside. It’s very labor-intensive. It does take a long time. You’re talking about 10 hours maybe just to build this, but if you really want a rig and really can’t afford to do it from the venue’s ceiling, it is an option.

Now, when you’re looking at all this, a lot of venues are going to say, “We allow a thousand pounds per point or 500 pounds per point.” What that is saying is from each point, how much weight can I hang? You’re factoring in maybe the truss, the cables, how much of this motor itself weighs. Usually, talking 60 to 100 pounds. Your audio, that can range from 150 pounds to 1500 pounds, a lot of information to take in and that’s where your production company is really going to come in handy.

They know all that information and they can relay that either to the riggers or they might themselves be providing the rigging for the show. But what this enables you to do is understand, all right, well, this venue has all these points laid out here and each one in this specific case is a thousand pounds. So, that gives me right here alone, we have three points. That’s 3000 pounds that I can hang there.

And The Catch?

The catch to that is there’s this fancy little chart here, commonly available elsewhere online, and I’m sure we can link to it as well that talks about how the weight works. You might think, “Man, that’s 3000 pounds right there. I can hang 3000 pounds. No problem.” Well, there might be a problem actually, because you could have a static versus dynamic load and that’s referring to, is it just going to hang there or is it going to move up and down during the show, when it moves up and down, it’s like picking up a grocery bag?

It’s really heavy at first, but then when you’re holding it, it seems a little lighter. That’s your dynamic load. As it moves, it’s accelerating, gravity’s pulling it at a perceptively increased weight. Also, you’re looking at, is a uniform load, which means maybe I have a whole bunch of lights hung one foot apart on this truss. That would be a uniform load, but maybe I also have just a 500-pound audio system at each end. That would be considered a distributed or a point load. It’s a single point here, a single point there.

What you’re looking at as a point load is kind of referring to what we were talking about before of, “Hey, this is a point that can hold 500 pounds.” Well, it’s a 500-pound audio array. We’re adding in the weight of the motor, adding in the weight of the cable. Maybe we can’t put it there.

Give Me All The Event Rigging!

Could we use all three of them? Maybe, but what you have to look at too is when you add in your uniform load, it doesn’t distribute as you might think. You might say, “Man, I got a thousand pounds of lights here. That should be 333, 333, 333. Man, that’s a thousand pounds.” Well, due to some weird physics where effectively the center point sees all the weight here or these outside points only see a little bit of the weight.

That’s not how it boils down in practicality. And it can lead to some really challenging rigging scenarios or if you’re not familiar with that. You can actually very easily overload the center motor. If we hung these with 500-pound motors, a quarter-ton, 500-pound, 500-pound, 500-pound, that’s 1500 pounds. Why can’t I put a thousand pounds of lights on here?

The Strange Ways Of Event Rigging

Well, if it’s an even distribution, this center point is 62%. 62% of a thousand that’s 620 pounds on the center motor. So, now we’re exceeding the capacity of that motor. And that’s something that we see a lot in these corporate events where you have a real evenly distributed piece of the truss. And now you’re having to rely on maybe these 5 points here to get that center up to 500 pounds. If you add in 4 points, you can see it’s 13%, 37%, 37%, 13%.

Now, we’re at four points. That’s more money, that’s more motors, more labor, and finally, 37%. All right. Now, we’re at 370 pounds for that same thousand-pound load. Yes. We can hang it. But now you have to start looking at is on your rigging plot, you’re going to see all these little dots. Maybe it’s a one-ton. You always have to check. While these are the standard symbols, they’re not universally recognized. So, any rigging plot should say, “Hey, this circle is maybe for us, this circle is a thousand-pounds instead of one-ton.”

But, for this case, we’re going to assume these little circles here are one-ton. So, the common places you can hang your truss are going to be, “Hey, we got this nice line here. We have a little bit of a line here.” Let’s see what else we can do. There’s not a whole lot of options in this particular space. This is based on a real-world rigging plot.

What you’re looking at is someone that probably thought, “Hey, we should build our rigging to support a stage here and another one here.” You have a truss in front of that stage. And a truss in front of this stage, not always ideal, but through the help of some handy-dandy rigging, you can use different trusses across spans of these points.

So, looking at it, I see that I could probably build a circle somewhere along here. And you’ll notice, “Man, that’s kind of a long-distance between these points.” Well, you can always hang another truss underneath it to pick that up. Now, we effectively have given ourselves a point right here that allows us to hang this big circle all the way around. A lot of tips and tricks you can do with the help of your production partner to find those rigging points at places that they might not necessarily exist.

It also gives you the option of putting this truss underneath our big circle. So we can get that circle a little bit higher than we might have been able to by just hanging it straight off of a normal motor like the one behind me. Another thing to look at with that is you might need to pick your cables off the end of the truss to hide them behind the drape wall. Always think about that, maybe it makes sense. You’ve got a tech riser over here and all their control is living there. Maybe you do want a couple of extra points to drop off the side.

Now, the one-note with all of this is these motors are going to require three-phase power. And that can be expensive. Maybe it does make sense in your case for your event that you want to put a genie tower on either side of the stage with a piece of truss going behind your stage. And then another ground supported tower out in the front on each side of your stage. Now, you’ve got your stage wash happily done, your upstage truss, you can hang your drape, your video, you’re seeing all of that from it. And that gives you a very effective option as opposed to thinking about the expense and complexity of the rigging.

Conclusions

That’s a real quick primer on all the things that factor into the overall types of event rigging and how they can play together. Thank you for watching another episode of Whiteboard Wednesday. If you liked the content here, make sure to click and subscribe to it. One question we have for you all is what do you see most often at your events? What challenges are preventing you from rigging in a corporate ballroom? Is it the layout of the points? Is it the cost? Or the physical infrastructure? Is it the lack of acknowledge? Let us know in the comments and thank you and we’ll see you next week for another episode.

Resources

Hire An AV Company for Your Next Event in 5 Simple Steps

The 15 Biggest Event AV Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

What Do All The AV Labor Positions Do – Whiteboard Wednesday

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Andrew Latimer

Author Andrew Latimer

It should come as no surprise that Andrew ended up in producing events and growing businesses. The childhood roadside lemonade stand was never good enough - instead he was the precocious 8 year old that seized the opportunity to sell soda (pop, for him as a Midwestern) and water on last second notice at the local jazz and ribs festival, and now works at Endless Events as it's Chief Design Einstein.

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