A commonly used method of rigging stage lighting, the lighting stand is safe, flexible and can be cheap. Perhaps you looking to buy your first set of lighting stands for your own mobile rig. If so, read on at the On Stage Lighting guide to using and abusing stage lighting stands…
Working with small lighting rigs in small venues is common ground for many bands and other acts. Simple touring theatre shows rig their lighting on the humble stand for versatility and speed while mobile DJ,s are never without a truss ‘n’ stands “goalpost” for their lighting effects.
Types of Stage Lighting Stand
Lighting stands come in all shapes and sizes, from small lightweight tripods that lift a few lights up 3m to large winch-up stands that can safely lift several hundred kilograms to a dizzy height of 6m.
Push Up Stands – Small telescopic tripods made from metal tube with a locking system that you can hang a few lights on, cable up, test and then push up by hand. These stands have a small weight capacity or Safe Working Loads (SWL) and usually lift to 3m or less.
Wind Up Stands – More advanced and with better SWL, Wind Ups use a mechanical system of winch/cog to lift more lights to 3m or more. They sometimes have adjustable feet to be able to cope with slightly uneven floor surfaces. A wind up lighting stand is often called Manfrotto, the brand name of the one most popular makes of stand.
Winch Up stands – These stands are cabable of lifting a few hundred kilograms up to around 6m. They have safe braking systems and a wide “footprint” (the size of the base) for good stability. Because they lift high, the stands have adjustable feet to enable them to be erected safely by ensuring that they are vertical.
Rigging Lights on the Stand
A lighting stand needs some form of rigging hardware to actually hold stage lights.
A single light can be attached to the top using a “spigot” that is bolted where the hook clamp normally fits. The spigot slots into the top of the stand and is clamped in position using a wingbolt. Standard stage lighting spigots are 15-20mm diameter and the popular “TV spigot” being 28mm diameter.
If the stage lighting stand is incompatible with the spigot, you can always use a “spigot adaptor”.
The spigot is usually part of any system that allows rigging of multiple lights on the lighting stand.
Rigging Multiple Lights
You probably want a bit from your stage lighting stand than to rig only light on it! So you need another piece of rigging kit.
The unimaginatively named T-bar is a cross piece that fits on top of the lighting stand using a spigot. T-bars can be square or round section metal with holes drilled to bolt stage lights onto, or made from 2″ scaffold pipe for lighting hook clamps to grip. Using a T-bar you can rig quite a few lights on each stand, making sure that you keep within the stands weight limits, often written on the stand.
A standard pipe (or barrel, bar) can be attached to the top of a lighting stand using a scaffold clamp welded to a TV spigot. In the UK, these are often known as a “Big Ben”.
On larger lighting rigs, truss can be attached to the top of lighting stands using “Truss Adaptors” which are fabricated comprising of a TV spigot, spreader bar and clamps that grip the truss. Using a few large winch-up stands and truss with adaptors can create a decent sized lighting rig without the need to hang the system from the roof. The only consideration might be winching four or more stands up, all at once, when it’s only you and your mate!
The great thing about stage lighting stands is, as well as being versatile and safe when used correctly, you can rig all your lights from the comfort and safety of the floor.
You might still have to get the ladder out to focus those PAR cans – unless you are pretty handy with a long stick!!!!
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Rob is a Lighting Designer and Moving Light Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production at Bath Spa University in the UK. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and runs workshops in stage lighting practice.
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