Why Spend More For Electrically Operated Stage Rigging?
T.C. (Tom) Ziolkowski
There is no denying that the original purchase price of electrically operated stage rigging is more than any manual system; but, when you examine the facts, the difference becomes a secondary consideration.
The two main reasons for spending more are simply Safety and Economy; and in today's litigious society the two are synonymous.
Contrary to popular belief, an electrically operated and controlled rigging system is safer than any manually operated system, simply because the possibility of human error is reduced.
Everybody knows how to operate switches, push buttons, etc., and even if they operate them improperly, the electric winch knows its limits and reacts accordingly.
A not so obvious safety feature is the fact that the power to electric winches can be controlled with a key switch, and without a key it is impossible for unauthorized or inept personnel to operate the equipment.
It is virtually impossible to overload any electrically operated winch. If it is designed to raise a predetermined load, it simply will not move a load in excess of that. At worst, it will simply trip the circuit breaker.
With an electrically operated winch system it is simple and inexpensive to have a hand-held control that can be taken out on the stage for full visual contact of movement. An electrically operated winch can actually sense and react to fouling quicker than a human operator on the average manually operated system.
Like many other situations in life, some times you must spend money to save money. While most stage rigging budgets do not include the actual costs of loading galleries, increased roof structures, arbor trenches, etc., it still costs the owner extra money that
is not necessary for motorized systems.
A motorized rigging system is always ready for immediate operation. It does not require time-consuming labor to climb up to loading galleries to pile on the weights, etc. With a motorized system you don't need to resort to expensive double purchase counterweight systems to compensate for lack of stage height.
When dealing with critical focusing of stage or studio lighting, relamping or changing gels does not require time-consuming refocusing due to the precision return to previous trim heights found on electrically operated rigging systems.
The trend in today's society is to computerize everything, including stage rigging. Obviously, you can't computerize a manually operated system unless you put a motor on it. Therefore, it becomes obsolete as soon as it is installed.
Especially in theatre renovations, an electrically operated winch can be located above or below the stage, thereby avoiding expensive remodeling of off-stage spaces to accommodate a typical manually operated system.
One person (male or female) can operate multiple lines of heavy objects simultaneously with ease.
Stage rigging systems are operated by two types of individuals, professionals and non-professionals.
Professionals are usually paid and are trained in safety as much as possible. There-fore, the element of Safety is not as much of a consideration as Economy. The extra cost of a motorized rigging system can be recovered in a few years just in labor savings along.
Non-professionals are usually not paid or trained in stage safety. These people are found in schools, community theatres, etc. With them, labor savings are minimum, but the Safety element becomes of prime importance.
How can you put a price on Safety?