As a Stagehand, you will be required to know what things are, even if you don’t know what they do or how they function. Imagine your lead asks you to get the yellow bin sitting next to the “Sub.” Since there is a naval base 35 miles away you might be tempted to go for a drive, but in the theater a “Sub” is a name used for a Sub-Woofer Speaker and not a submersible boat. Below are the names of many objects that you will regularly see in the course of setting up for a show arranged by department.
|Antenna (shark fin)||Most wireless microphone signals are received by an antenna that looks like a sideways shark fin. You may also see antennas that look like a helix or plastic dome—those can be used to transmit audio from the monitor mixer to a performer’s in ear monitors because of their directional pattern.|
|Point source speaker||Sometimes called a speaker cabinet or cab, or fill speakers. Self-contained unit made up of a speaker (sometimes 2 or3), it’s enclosure, and sometimes a built-in amplifier. Used in smaller venues, or to reach places that a line array can’t.|
|Line array||A Line array is an array of speaker designed to complement each other to consistently cover an area in sound. Most large productions use them, and they are often rigged from the ceiling or grid above a stage.|
|Subwoofer (Sub)||Subwoofers are large speakers mounted in enclosures specifically designed to reproduce low frequency sounds that smaller point source and line array speaker system can’t.|
|Amp rack||Many speaker cabinets don’t have them built in, so many shows travel with rack cases containing amplifiers. Often found underneath the stage, or in monitor world. Be aware, amplifier racks are extremely heavy.|
|Microphones||Microphones come in all shapes and sizes. Pictured is the industry standard entry level dynamic microphone Shure SM-58. Condenser microphones are often more sensitive, which is why they are often preferred on strings and woodwinds. Dynamic microphones are often preferred for things like loud vocals and drums. All microphones have a polar pattern in which they best detect sound, which should be considered when choosing and placing them.|
Do not plug any microphone into a channel without specific instruction.
|Analog Sound Snake||An analog snake is a multi-pin cable that is usually designed with a rugged stage box on one end, and loose cable ends on the end designed to connect to a mixer.|
|Mic Stand||Mic stands come in many shapes and sizes, but most common are boom stands like the one pictured. When storing them, collapse each joint as short as they will go, retract the legs, and ask the lead if the microphone clip gets carefully unscrewed and stored with the microphone.|
|Analog Mixer||This older style of mixer uses analog circuitry to process sound signals before sending them out the outputs. If you want to look up the basics, a Mackie 1604 is a good example of an industry standard mixer.|
The draw back with Analog mixers is that for more complex signal processing, they require “outboard” gear in external rack cases.
|Digital Mixer||While some digital mixers still require external processing units, the high channel counts, and ease of use means most shows use digital mixers now. Imagine—a show that required four extremely heavy 32 channel snakes can do the same thing with one ethernet cable. If you want a head start, the most common digital mixers Local 15 technicians run into are the Behringer X32, Yamaha QL5, and Allen and Heath QU-24.|
|Wedge, Monitor||A monitor refers to any speaker used in a production that isn’t used to amplify the show to the audience. A wedge or floor monitor sits on stage in front of a performer so they can hear themselves and the rest of the musicians. A backstage monitor might be used so performers or technicians know what point the program is at. A side fill monitor fills a stage with a monitor feed for a more immersive effect for performers.|
|DI||A Direct Box is used to convert an unbalanced, high impedance sound signal (like many instrument pickups put out) into a balanced, low impedance signal that is compatible with sound mixer pre-amps. These days, in the same form factor, there are lots of other handy sound tools, from other types of signal conversion, some with USB sound cards built in, or even ones with built in digital network audio inputs.|
|Backline||Backline is the term for the equipment used by a band onstage that isn’t part of the main sound system. Everything from guitar amplifiers, drum rugs, and sometimes the instruments themselves are under the care of the backline technicians.|
|Dimmer rack||A dimmer rack uses control signals from a light board to adjust power levels sent to lighting fixtures. LED lighting fixtures use much less power, and have their dimmers built in, but any show that uses conventional lamps will need to store their dimmers in some sort of rack. Watch out, they are very heavy just like amplifier racks.|
|Ellipsoidal Instrument||An Ellipsoidal is a lighting instrument that uses an ellipsoidal reflector behind the lamp. These lighting instruments can be finely focused and adjusted, and usually include shutters or slots to insert patterns to shape and texture the light beam.|
These will often be called for by the beam angle produced by the interchangeable lens barrels: i.e., “bring me three 19 degrees” or “let’s swap this out for a 6×9.”
Other common verbiage for these types of lights: leko, Source-4, or zoom (if the beam angle is adjustable).
|Groundrow/Striplight||Usually, a strip of lights pointing a wash of light up at performers or scenic elements.|
|Flood||A flood light is any fixture that outputs light in an unfocused, wide pattern. The flood lighting instrument pictured here is often referred to as a mole or “audience blinder” since it is usually pointed directly towards the audience.|
|PAR||The “PAR” in par-can stands for parabolic aluminized reflector, the type of reflector these fixtures use. These types of instruments can either have a lamp with different textures/patterns on the lens to create different beam angles or an interchangeable lens with a separate lamp.|
PARs can also come in a variety of sizes.
The top photo is a PAR56, and the lower is a Source 4 PAR.
These days, lots of basic LED wash and beam fixtures are called LED par cans even though they use completely different technology, but in many cases, they serve the same purpose.
|Mover||A moving light, moving head, or just mover is any fixture that has onboard motors to aim and modify the light coming out of the fixture. Early versions simply moved a mirror while the light source stayed still, but now most moving lights look similar to the one pictured. Some use LED light sources, but many still use Short-Arc lamps for extremely bright effects. These fixtures require multiple parameters of control from the lightboard, and so are deemed “intelligent” instruments. |
There are many formats of lighting instrument that are sold on different moving heads: Beams, wash beams, washes, profile, pin spots, and other specialized designs. Some moving heads are essentially video projectors designed to move.
|Fresnel||A Fresnel fixture uses a Fresnel lens, recognizable by its concentric circles. The instrument can’t create a sharp-edged beam, but its simple adjustment can quickly convert a beam to a spot, or vice versa. Add barn doors (flaps to shape the light), and you have a very versatile, if not old-fashioned lighting instrument.|
Fresnels come in a variety of sizes and are commonly referred to as their lens diameter and wattage.
|Gel/Color||To change the color of a beam of light, most lighting instruments have a slot in front of the lens to insert a gel frame, which holds a sheet of tinted plastic that only allows the chosen color to pass through.|
If you are tasked with cutting gel to size, always confirm what size is needed and never forget to mark the corner of each piece you cut with the manufacturer’s abbreviation and color code. Pictured is R24 , AKA Rosco Scarlet
|LED||Just about any of the fixtures in this list have LED (light emitting diode) counterparts. Even to this day, it’s difficult to reproduce the brightness and color depth of light sources like incandescent or short arc, the convenience of not needing gel, power savings, heat reduction, and cost of LED technology have made them ubiquitous. It’s hard to find a production that isn’t using them somewhere.|
Like moving heads, these fixtures require multiple parameters of control from the lightboard, and so are deemed “intelligent” instruments.
Another common use for LEDs are in a flexible strip that is easily affixed to scenery. Different types of LED strip require different methods when cutting to length and installing, so make sureto get instructions.
|Scoop||A scoop light uses a massive mogul screw lamp to produce a wash of light. They are very old fashioned and not very common anymore, but some theaters still use them as work lights or cyc lights.|
|Cyc light||A Cyc light is a fixture designed to cast a smooth wash of light on a tall surface from a short distance, most often to light a cyc—the white fabric background found in the back of many stages. |
These instruments can be multicell devices, where each cell can hold a different gel color like the incandescent one pictured, but LED Cyc Lights also common.
|C-Clamp||This kind of C-Clamp is used to attach lighting instruments to steel pipe. Use the small square bolt (Pan Bolt) to rotate the fixture, not the large hex bolt. Do not overtighten these clamps—if tightening the bolt more is drilling a hole in the pipe beneath the clamp bolt, you have gone too far. Never use this kind of clamp on stage truss without a protective shield.|
The Pan Bolt is delicate, over tightening can break the head off completely.
Note—a lighting C-Clamp is different than a C-clamp used in stage carpentry.
|Truss Clamp||For mounting lighting instruments to stage truss without damaging a truss chord, use these truss clamps. Again—no need to overtighten. As long as the wingnut is in no danger of vibrating loose, you shouldn’t need to use a wrench to tighten this.|
There are a variety of different manufacturers’ versions of this clamp that all hang and tighten differently. This is just one example.
|Light Console (Theatrical)||To control dimmers and multi-parameter intelligent light fixtures, most theatrical productions use ETC EOS software and hardware. These consoles are tailored to easily store and playback lighting scenes and effects. |
ETC makes their software free to download and has excellent video tutorials if you would like to learn.
|Light Console (Large Event)||For concerts, festivals, and other complex live events, most light designers prefer a different type of console. Usually Grand MA or Hog brands, these machines are designed for “busking” a style of live performance lighting akin to playing a musical instrument instead of the same cue sequence each night like a theater requires.|
|Light Console (Small Format)||For small setups, like conference break out rooms, a simpler solution is desired. Basic lighting consoles, like this Leprecon model, have a low number of parameters and are handy for controlling just a few lighting instruments. Sometimes referred to as a “Scene to Scene Preset.”|
|Hoist||A chain hoist is the backbone of most arena event rigging systems. Riggers pull and attach chains with slings, spansets, or GACflex to the structural steel of a building, then chain hoists climb up those chains lifting lighting and scenery truss into the air.|
Hoists used for overhead lifting in the entertainment industry are different than the wire winches used for pulling out stuck cars—they must contain one or even two braking systems to make sure that once a load is in the air, it is never dropped.
There are several types of chain hoist, including the basic fixed speed one pictured, variable speed automation hoists, and ones with double reaved chain systems for extra capacity. Always follow manufacturer instructions.
|STAC Chain||Special Theatrical Alloy Chain, AKA STAC chain, is used for fine adjustment when positioning a chain motor hanging between two rigging points. STAC chain is easily recognizable by its 4 ¾” link length and accompanying load rating tag that should never be removed.|
|Trim Chain||Trim chain is used in a theatrical counterweight fly system for rough length adjustment between a lift line and a batten or scenic element. Only Grade 30 Proof- Coil chain is approved for use as trim chain.|
|Turnbuckle||A turnbuckle provides fine adjustment in a rigging system. Only forged turnbuckles rated for overhead lifting are suitable for use in the entertainment rigging industry.|
If someone mentions “mousing” a turnbuckle, that means using a zip tie or a piece of wire to tie the eye to the body of the turnbuckle, as an extra precaution to prevent the eye from unscrewing.
|Pickle||A pickle is the simplest form of motor controller, featuring just an up and down button. When plugged into a powered chain hoist, it provides convenient control for raising a motor to working height when attaching truss or other production equipment.|
|Motor Control||Pictured is a yellow control pendant, and motor control/power distro. The pictured system can power and control up to eight chain hoists. Never touch a motor pendant or controller without explicit instructions from the department head responsible for that rigging system.|
|Shackle||A shackle is the standard device for connecting a load to one or two rigging points, made up of the curved bell, and a threaded pin. Always follow manufacturer instructions.|
Never interchange pins and bells from other shackles.
If someone mentions “mousing” a shackle, that means using a zip tie or a piece of wire to tie the pin to the bell, as an extra precaution to prevent the pin from unscrewing.
|Wire Rope Sling||Widely used in arena rigging to attach rigging points to structural steel. Usually made from galvanized IPS or EIPS (Extra Improved Plow Steel), sometimes it’s referred to as “GAC” for galvanized aircraft cable.|
|Spanset||“Spanset” is the trade name for a type of synthetic round-sling frequently used to hang stage truss from motor points, as well as many other general lifting applications. When attaching a sling to a truss, check with the person in charge to determine the correct way to wrap the truss. |
These slings are made from synthetic cord wrapped many times around inside the webbing cover, making a durable yet lightweight solution. In many cases, these may be inappropriate to use because the synthetic construction is not fire resistant.
|GACflex||When a strong, fire resistant, steel connection is desired, GACflex or Steelflex round-slings are preferred. These are made the same way as normal spansets, but the synthetic cord is substituted for a steel wire, wrapped around many times in the same way.|
|Brick||The term “Brick” usually refers to a slab of iron used as a counterweight used in a theatrical counterweight rigging system. The terms used to describe their weight depend on the venue. Some simple call them by their weight, some refer to the heaviest as Pigs or Full Bricks, mid weight as Half Pig or half brick, and for the lightest, Piglet, Wafer, or Pancake.|
Because of this consistency, if you are asked to load weight in a theater, let the head rigger or flyperson know if you need training, and always ask how they prefer to communicate weights.
|Cheeseboro (cheeseburger)||A Cheeseboro (affectionately called a cheeseburger) is a device used to clamp onto a pipe for carpentry and rigging purposes. Pictured here is a swiveling “double cheeseburger”, a version of the device that connects two pipes together in any orientation. These are generally avoided in overhead rigging because they are not rated for that purpose but are still widely used in the construction of stage structures.|
Sometimes these are referred to as Scaffolding or Scaff Clamps.
|Spigoted Truss||A spigoted truss can use a couple different methods of interlocking connection: pictured is a forked connection, where truss pieces fit together like a puzzle piece and are secured with pins and R-clips. Alternatively, some styles use egg shaped pegs instead of forks (we call them truss eggs) hold everything in place. Never use a steel hammer on aluminum truss pins!|
|Bolted Truss||Instead of pins hammered in place, bolted truss is simply held together with bolts, washers, and nuts. Assembling truss is one of the few times where the bolts should really be fastened as tight as you can make them, as long as you aren’t damaging the truss itself.|
Only use the bolts that come with and are designed for truss.
|Broadway Flat||A “Flat” is one of the most common scenic elements. Flats can be made in any size, but most companies have standard sizes that they build and keep in stock to use as components in sets they build. |
Broadway flats are built with thin lumber so that the flats can easily be rigged from a theatrical counterweight line set where space between moving scenic elements comes at a premium.
|Hollywood Flat||A Hollywood flat is more likely to be found making the walls of a set that rests on a stage deck or platform, and with proper bracing can easily be stacked and combined to create larger surfaces. These flats are thicker, but still use lightweight sizes of lumber, usually 1×3 or 1×4 dimensional lumber for ease of construction and portability.|
|Pallet (scenery sled)||A Pallet is a low-profile rolling platform used to move scenic elements like furniture and props across a stage with minimal visual impact. Often consisting of a single sheet of plywood or MDF with slots carved for low profile casters like the one shown here.|
Sometimes, these are hooked into stage automation systems. In that case, a “knife”, is inserted through the pallet into a connector, or “dog”, that is pulled along a track under the stage by an automation cable winch.
|C-Clamp||Notably simpler than its lighting department sibling, a standard C-Clamp’s only purpose is to squeeze two things together. Not suitable for overhead rigging.|
|wagon/riser||A riser or platform is a portion of a stage that is elevated above the rest of the stage deck. Most common are Drum Risers, or Ego Risers, usually for lead singers and performers.|
A riser that moves on casters is usually called a wagon.
|Coffin Lock/Key||To quickly secure scenery and stage elements to each other, these Coffin or Rotoloks use a camming action to hold flats or stage pieces tightly against one and other. You’ll need a T-Handled 5/16” Hex Key to use these.|
Many modern staging systems no longer use coffin locks, but a 5/16” hex screw is still the standard across many manufacturers.
|hamper (hamster)||To store stage drapes, drops, or other soft goods, most companies use these large industrial canvas hampers, affectionally called hamsters.|
|Fast Fold screen||The Da-Lite Fast Fold screens are the most common projector screens used in convention halls and large breakout rooms. Stored in compact plastic transport cases, the frames latch open and are affixed using crank handled screws (make sure to not lose them). The screen is then stretched into place and fastened with snaps. Most fast fold screens are color coded or marked so it’s clear which joints fit together, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. |
Fast fold screens require two to four technicians to safely erect.
When storing, make sure the screen is folded such that the screen surface is only ever touching itself, not the black borders.
|Dress Kit||When required, a dress kit, including Top border, legs, and skirt, can be installed on a fast fold screen. This requires additional aluminum frame components and needs to be installed before the screen is erected.|
|Tripod Screen||When a fast-fold screen is larger or more complex than a small event requires, these simple tripod screens are commonly used. |
Extend the legs, rotate and raise the rolled-up screen to the height you want the bottom of the image to fall to, then extend the hook and unroll the screen until you reach the desired aspect ratio.
|Projectors||There are thousands of projector models used in the A/V world, but you should understand these concepts that apply to most projectors:|
Zoom: On most projectors, zoom refers to the adjustable optics used to compensate for the distance between screen and projector. It is either controlled electronically, or by a small lever near the lens.
Focus: Just like a camera, a projector lens needs to be focused so that the image is sharpest when appearing on the screen. This might be controlled electronically, or by a small lever near the lens.
Keystone: To compensate for off-angle projection, keystone can compress an image to fit a rectangle screen. Not all projectors can keystone, and digital keystone sacrifices image resolution, so position a projector in a square plane with the screen when possible.
Lens Shift: Some projectors can mechanically shift an image without distortion to compensate for when a projector can’t be placed directly in line with the center of the screen. This can be accomplished by a small screw next to the lens that can be adjusted like a joystick when loosened or done mechanically with control buttons.
|Teleprompter||When a presenter is reciting from a script but hasn’t memorized it, they may require a teleprompter system that displays their speech to them as they read it. Sometimes, the text is displayed on monitors behind the audience, on a DSM, or in front of a camera like in a broadcast studio.|
The teleprompter shown is a “presidential” style teleprompter, where monitors project the text onto slightly mirrored glass that sits in front of the presenter.
|DSM (downstage monitor)||A downstage or confidence monitor is a screen positioned so that a presenter can either see their presentation notes, a teleprompter feed, and or the same feed that is being sent to the projector so they can be confident in what the audience is seeing.|
|Video Switcher||A video switcher is the device responsible for choosing what video feed is sent to an output like a projector, recorder, or DSM.|
Broadcast style switchers are most recognizable by the spaceship like transition lever, but most switchers we use are rack mounted like the Barco PDS-902 switcher pictured here. These are often configured such that you choose a video signal source like a computer or camera feed, a destination like a projector or DSM, then press the “TAKE” button to confirm your decision.
|DA/Splitter||A DA or distribution amplifier is a device that actively splits video signals to multiple outputs. Often referred to by number of outputs like 1×4 or 1×6.|
|Road box||Usually featuring metal corners, foam padding, and sturdy latches, a road or flight case is designed to withstand the rigors of fast paced live events and tours. |
The pictured case features wheel pockets, allowing identical boxes to stacked. When stacking boxes, always make sure the wheels line up appropriately for the wheel pockets. When doing this with a forklift, one experienced person should be responsible for communicating with the forklift driver. Never place your fingers between a wheel and a wheel pocket, even for an instant.
|Cable Caddy||A Cadillac or caddy style case is usually used for long cables like snakes, socapex, or feeder, so these can be extremely heavy. |
A caddy usually features a lid that can swing all the way flat against the back of a case, and cutouts to run cables out the end of the box when the lid is closed.
|Gondola case||A gondola case is a large road case that essentially serves as a mobile closet. They are often used as wardrobe storage like the wardrobe gondola pictured, but they can also be configured is portable workstations, aka a “work box” for a crew member or department.|
Since they are so tall and sometimes top heavy, take extreme care when moving these cases.
|Hand Truck||Don’t confuse a hand truck with a furniture dolly (top) or a wheel board (bottom), a dolly designed for a specific piece of equipment like a speaker system.|
|Packing Blanket||When storing flats or other fragile scenery for transport, use padding like a moving blanket to protect against abrasion.|
|Deck Cart||To safely move and store flats and stage components, carts like this one feature automatically locking latches that secure staging pieces as soon as they are lifted into the cart.|
Not all deck carts look or function the same. Many staging companies use much larger or complex deck carts, so take care when using them that you don’t place your hand in an area where it could be crushed.
Carts should be kept from moving while being loaded and unloaded. Loads on the cart must be held back from falling while other items are loaded or unloaded. Never leave a deck cart unattended when not mechanically secured.