When using large quantities of moving lights, there are basically two solutions: store the fixtures in boxes and mount them on truss at the venue during load-in, or use pre-rigged intelligent trussing. Now there's a third solution, courtesy of Light & Sound Design/Fourth Phase Los Angeles.
During the whirlwind production process of the McCartney tour, lighting designer Roy Bennett met with LSD/Fourth Phase Los Angeles vice president John Lobel, detailing the technical aspects of the rig. Lobel considered the number of moving lights in the rig (substantial), the triangular shape of the pods (somewhat unusual) and the video (massive). “We looked at Roy's drawing and knew we needed to come up with a way to put the rig together and make it move quickly,” Lobel says. “Because there's so much video, the lighting has to get up in a hurry.”
Lobel started sketching, and came up with a new solution. “We started out using swing-wing or intelligent pre-rig truss, but soon realized that's only efficient in linear applications. We then thought through several alternatives to traditional truss and developed a new method of transporting and hanging automated lights that's extremely quick and flexible,” he explains. Lobel went out and got some feedback on his sketch from industry insiders who were bemused by the simplicity of the design, and then turned to Tomcat to finalize the details and manufacture it (with many thanks to Tomcat's John James). The concept quickly evolved from a custom solution on the McCartney tour into something almost every designer using moving lights can employ.
The solution is deceptively simple. “The lights ride on flat frames of various lengths [which can accommodate two to five fixtures], and the frames ride in carts,” he explains. “You just roll the carts in, attach some truss on top of it [for added stability] and, when the points are in, click on a couple of motors, plug in a few multi-cables, and fly it out,” he concludes. As the frames are flown out, the carts are removed and stored until load-out. “This system saves a lot of time, it's very flexible, and I think it's a very powerful solution for making automated lighting systems deploy more quickly,” Lobel adds. Although the Light Frames are an LSD product, Lobel designed them so that moving lights from all manufacturers can be used in them, proving an easy, one-size-fits-all solution.
But are the LSD Light Frames living up to their potential? Wally Lees, McCartney's lighting director, saw them in use daily. “They're fabulous,” he says. “They work very well and really take down the labor time.” The wheels on the carts also mean that they don't necessarily need to be built where they're going to eventually hang. “They're easy to put together and are quite strong,” Lees adds. As for enduring the rigors of the road, Lees also has a positive report. “They did really well in the truck,” he comments, and since there's foam in the bottom of the carts, the instruments are as protected as they'd be in an intelligent truss, without the hassle of netting.
Although this was a custom solution designed by LSD for the McCartney tour, Lobel sees Light Frames as suitable for other sectors of the industry. “I think that once people see it, they're going to realize that it will make their lives easier,” Lobel reports. “I think it's also going to be really useful on large-scale TV and industrial shows where you need to be flexible — one of the problems with pre-hanging automated lights in intelligent trussing is that if you want to move a light, it's difficult and time-intensive,” Lobel states. Since the instruments used in the LSD Light Frames are attached to the frames via cheeseboroughs, moving the lights themselves isn't a problem. It's a custom solution that can be used in a variety of configurations, giving limitless options to lighting designers.
Although the McCartney tour has wrapped up, LSD's Light Frames are scheduled to go back out on the road soon and will undoubtedly be coming to a venue in your hometown.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.