In the world of concert lighting, much of the focus (pardon the pun) is on the instruments and how they're used. Consequently, some of the less glamorous and more utilitarian aspects of the rig might be overlooked. Things like trussing. It's safe to say that most major concert tours depend heavily on trussing, and those that manufacture the product are always looking for ways to make it more user-friendly.
Last October, Tomcat of Midland, TX, saw an opportunity to bring a new product into the market. “While working with Hubbell Entertainment on a swing wing design, we determined that the swing wing concept in a truss suitable for the industry's larger fixtures would dramatically change the nature of load-ins and load-outs,” explains Tomcat marketing director Carrie Robertson. Tomcat created a prototype, introduced it at LDI last year, and listened to the comments they got at the show. “The truss has changed a lot since I saw it at LDI, and I believe most of the changes were the result of input they got from outside the company,” explains lighting director Ethan Weber, who had a sample of the truss out on the “Lost Cities” leg of Janet Jackson's latest tour. “I think it's great that they're open to suggestions from the people who will be using it,” he adds.
The principle of the Tomcat Swing Wing is simple. Once the instruments are hung in the trussing, they remain there, saving time during load-in. The sides of the truss swing up and are pinned in place, creating a workplace for those who might need to be up on the truss once it's flown in the air.
At LDI, the Swing Wing truss also attracted the attention of Creed's lighting designer, James Poepping. “It's so simple and space-saving, you can't go wrong with it,” he explains. “It's easy to just roll it in and swing the sides up and put it together. Since the fixtures are already in the truss, you save on room in the trucks because you're not using hard-shell cases, and the focus is always on because the fixtures never move.”
Those aren't the only benefits of the Swing Wing. “I especially like the fact that there are no pieces that need to come off and be stored,” comments Weber. “I also like that there are several different lamp-hanging options and that it pins rather than bolts.”
The Swing Wing also went out with the NASART show in Huntsville, AL, through Theatrical Lighting Systems (TLS), and is scheduled to be part of the Stand Up 2002 Christian Youth Revival in Indianapolis. “The future of touring will be based on truck-packing — the ability to get the maximum amount of equipment in the smallest amount of space,” notes TLS service production manager John Messina. “The Swing Wing Truss is the most efficient fixture container and trussing system ever invented,” he adds. Currently, Upstaging, Electrastage, and Theatrical Lighting Systems are all using Tomcat's Swing Wing Truss.
The development of the Swing Wing isn't over, though. “When we sent the truss out with the Creed tour, and then on Janet Jackson, we got a lot of feedback from them,” Robertson notes. “Since then, our research and development team has made some additional modifications, and future models will include some of those suggestions,” adds Robertson, who is also a member of Tomcat's research and development team.
In the end, what Tomcat hopes to create is a product that satisfies the needs of the end-user. “We want to produce a product that the people who deal with it day after day actually like and want to work with, as well as something that is competitive price-wise,” states Robertson. That product may very well be the Swing Wing Model Series II, coming soon to an arena near you.