Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I’ll bash you good!

Today, we were hanging lights (spacelights and Kino Flo Image 80s) from the biggest fucking truss rig I’ve ever seen – Since our airplane hangar cum soundstage has nothing installed so one can hang lights above the set, the grips put in this really massive truss rig – I wish I could take photos of it, since it’s impressive. Actually, I’m amazed that the roof of the place hasn’t fallen in from all the weight hanging from it, but that’s another story.

The problem with pipe grids (which is what this is, even though it’s truss and it’s hanging from chain motors), is that it’s much more difficult and time-consuming to rig lights than it is when one’s on a real stage with a permanent grid and walkways. Instead of just hoisting the stuff up, running it out and dropping it down to the lights, one must bring the cable up to the grid in the lift (and while we have two lifts for our department, only one of them is tall enough to reach the grid), then try to throw it laterally so it flies over more than one pipe (which always ends in tears – usually mine since I throw like a girl), or tie it to the bottom of the pipe grid, which means that one has to secure it to each pipe – by going up in the lift, tying off the cable, going down in the lift, rolling forward a few feet, going up in the lift, tying off the cable, going down in the lift, rolling forward a few feet….

You get the picture.

Someday, when I rule the world, all stages (even the ones that used to be airplane hangars) will have perms and walkways and anyone thinking a pipe grid’s “good enough” – even if it is really cool and impressively large – will be beaten to death with a frozen ham (or a C-Stand arm, whatever’s closer).

My job today was to stay in the staging area and put the pipe clamps* on the Image 80s before we sent them over to the folks who were hanging them from the truss rig.

Pipe clamps and lights that hang from them have a safety device called a cotter pin, which theoretically slides through the lined-up holes on both the junior pin and pipe clamp and prevents the thing from falling on someone’s head if the thing works itself loose.

Yeah. See that photo in the link? Cotter pins only look like that before they’ve been used. Once they’ve been used (because after the pin’s been run through the holes, the end’s bent to stop it from slipping out), they look sort of like, well… they look all bent and fucked up. They’re also hell to force through a hole that’s just barely big enough for them when they’re perfectly straight. The ideal tool to get them to go thorough the hole would be a hammer, but…

I’m afraid to use a hammer on an expensive piece of lighting equipment (not the pipe clamp, the lamp), because if I miss, then I either hit a) the bale of the lamp or b) my thumb. Either way, it hurts (Boss: “How’d that lamp get broken?” Me: “Ummmm….”), so I end up using the butt end of my poor, abused screwdriver (it doesn’t work very well, but it doesn’t cause as much damage if I miss).

I shouldn’t be bashing it at all, but sometimes I’m not a patient person and this particular item brings out my inner Homer Simpson and I lose all ability to do anything other than hit it and say “D’oh!”.

I was going somewhere with this, but I just saw the time (after 9 pm) – I’ve got to get up at 4:30 am, so I’ll have to remember whatever point it was I was trying to make another day.

*As you can see from the photo in the link, a pipe clamp is a sort of metal sleeve with a hook on it – the hook goes over the pipe, and the metal sleeve goes over the light’s junior pin**.

**For those of you who are now completely confused, look at the linked photo – the big U-shaped thing attached to the light in the photo is called the bale – the little pointy thing at the very bottom of the photo is the junior pin. This size pin is used for heavier lights – lights that weigh less have what’s called a baby pin. There’s no such thing as a senior pin, since I just know that was what you were thinking.

Filed under: Work

6 Responses

  1. Dave2 says:

    I suppose just stringing up some tiki torches for light is not an option? :-)

  2. Meg says:

    …and let’s not mention CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. Peggy’s already been down THAT road

  3. Charli says:

    Don’t you just love Kino Flos? I can’t afford them, well, I did bid on a small one on Ebay, but lost, whateva. Rigging those lights made me think of a Garth Brooks concert, behind the scenes, when they were rigging cables for sound. I dunno, I think you should forget Hollywood and go light up some cute boy band and oogle. Well, it’s a idea.

  4. galen says:

    Just a question or two about that picture of the 4/0 you have posted. Why are there 12? Do you have 4 hots per run? Also what colours do you use?

    Peggy sez: That photo is of a 480 run (we normally use 120 power for the small stuff and 240 for the larger lamps), and there are 12 because the hots and the neutrals are multiples. For standard cable runs, we use red, black and blue for the hots, white for the neutral and green for the ground. For a 480 run, it’s green, white (ground, neutral), and the hots are yellow, orange and brown.

  5. nezza says:

    That all sounds far too complicated for me. I have trouble changing the bulb my bathroom light, never mind anything else.

  6. Cotter pins are used on sailboats, too. I don’t know what size you’re using but when you have to reuse one sometimes you can straighten then squish their little legs together using a pair of pliers Once I get the legs just poking through the hole (new or used), I use needle nose pliers to pull their legs the rest of the way through then bend them up out of the way.

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