Automation (Scenic)

[photo above: The Lord of the Rings, Theatre Royal Drury Lane]

Scenic automation is at the forefront of the largest most complex productions in the world, ensuring that the most mind-numbingly complex sequences of scene changes can happen at the touch of a button right in front of the audiences’ eyes.

Relevant pages at Theatrecrafts.com

Automation Credits

Random Glossary Entry

CONTINGENCY
An alternative plan of action if a piece of technology fails to operate. Large-scale productions have to continue wherever possible to avoid having to give the audience refunds. So if a small piece of the set fails to work or gets stuck (particularly automated scenery) the cast and crew will have rehearsed an alternative choreography to work around it while the crew repair it. For example in The Lord of the Rings The Musical in London, when the revolving stage with multiple lifts had a safety sensor triggered, the automation went into 'E-Stop' mode, a thunderclap sound effect was triggered, the stage lifts went to a flat floor (once it had been found safe to do so) and the actors for the next scene were rushed into new positions, while the actors on stage immediately adopted a new choreography.
It's vital that contingencies are worked out in advance so that as soon as something goes wrong, the show can continue, and the audience will hopefully be unaware.

A selection of notable shows and designers / suppliers

Safety

Modern automation systems have a high degree of safety systems built-in.The automation operator has easy access to an E-Stop (emergency stop) button, enabling the system to stop moving in the event of a problem. There are also E-Stop buttons in locations where problems might occur, such as in the theatre basement where an actor may get onto a platform lift, or at high level if performer flying is used. The automation operator has a number of closed-circuit TV monitors to enable her/him to see all parts of the system.

This video shows a ‘safe edge’ on a lift for a production of The Bodyguard. As soon as something gets in the way of the scissor lift, it stops moving instantly, preventing what could be a serious injury.

Books

2018
2009
2008
2008
2007

External Links

Companies

Broadweigh Portable wireless load monitoring [UK]
PRG Scenic Rigging & Automation [USA]
Unusual Rigging Rigging, suspension and automation [London, UK]

Flying

Fisher Technical Services 3D Flying [USA]

Jobs

Automation London Theatre Automation & Motion Control jobs [London, UK]

Makers

Weld-Fab Stage Engineering Ltd Revolves, Scissor Lifts, Scenic Engineering [UK]

Manufacturers

AVW Controls Impressario System [London, UK]
Bosch Rexroth Stage Technology [Germany]
Creative Conners Inc.
Delstar Engineering [UK]
KEB America Automation Products [USA]
Kinesys Motion control
Q Motion Stage engineering and automation
Silicon Theatre Scenery Scenic automation and performer flying [The Netherlands]
Stage Machines LLC
Stage One Scenic Automation Projects [UK]
Stage Technologies Includes many examples of their projects
Tait Scenic Rigging & Automation
VisualAct Technology & Engineering for the entertainment industry [Sweden]

Software

Spikemark Scenic Automation & Visualisation

Keywords: Scenic Automation, Automated Scenery, Moving Scenery