Taking care of the stars – load cells take centre stage

Published On: October 13 2016
stage with lighting

In a week when a film production company will be sentenced for breaches in health and safety law, entertainment bosses will no doubt be looking for better ways to keep their stars and their staff safe.


stage with lightingFoodles Production pleaded guilty after an incident in which actor Harrison Ford broke his leg after the hydraulic door of the set of the Millennium Falcon spaceship pinned him to the floor. At the sentencing hearing, the court was told how Ford was hit with the equivalent weight of a small car, and was only saved from further injury by someone quickly pressing an emergency stop.

Theatre managers have long been aware of the potential safety risks of elaborate sets and heavy lighting gantries. However, there are significant risks for the crew involved in creating and building these structures, as well as those performing underneath them.


Load cells rise to the occasion

The Rose Theatre in Kingston, London, added four load cells to its rigging for a recent production of Shakespeare’s “King John”. The complicated and multi-level set included a raised floor, a lift, two 9m tall towers, and numerous staircases and walkways. The cells were initially used for the set get-in (installation), as Wayne Parry, Head of Production, explained in an article for Hoist magazine:

“Large steel sections were lifted using several motors (hoists) and, although the safe working load was well within the point capacity, we set the load cells to sound an alarm if any weight transfer came close to that capacity.”


Load cells work with John Malkovich (not a phrase you see every day!) Load cells were also used in the theatre’s opening production of the Autumn 2016 season, Good Canary, directed by film actor John Malkovich. The play featured three large LED display screens which moved on tracks. The load cells monitored the loads on the front of the structure, as the theatre has no flying system and a rather unusual grid layout.

Two additional cells were added at the dress rehearsal stage, when side masking was added to the screens. The masking enhanced the look of the screens but also increased the load to close to the venue’s capacity, as over 2,500kg of weight was suspended in the air. By adding load links with wifi capability, the crew were able to monitor the loads at all times, and ensure they did not exceed the capability of the grid.


Load cells for special events staging

Load cells are used throughout the entertainment industry to measure and monitor loads on rigging for lighting and sound rigging on stage, especially for special events which use temporary structures. As anyone who has been to Glastonbury or any outdoor festival knows, the weather can be highly unpredictable, and changeable. Adding load cells to temporary outdoor structures ensure that the crew can safely monitor loads, weight distribution, and wind speeds at all times, to keep everyone safe on and off stage.

If you have a major event planned and need to monitor your temporary structure, call us. We can advise on the optimum set-up to monitor any type of stage, rig or structure. With Richmond Industries load cells, there are no expensive international shipping costs, lengthy delivery times or currency fluctuations to worry about. We can provide you with high quality, cost-effective load cells designed and made here in the UK, within a matter of days.