Rigging

Basics

This section will give a basic introduction to rigging, but the best ways to learn rigging are in person. So make sure to attend rigging training and take opportunities to shadow on the job.

The primary job of the rigging team is to safely hang chain motors that lift the trusses, speakers, and other heavy objects.

The people who crawl across the grid and drop the points are called Up-riggers. The up-rigger secures the rigging equipment in place. Usually he hauls it up on a rope. If one up-rigger is on the grid, he must have at least one other up-rigger with him. Most commonly, the ratio is two up-riggers and one down-rigger. The Down-rigger is on the floor, assembling the gear, attaching it to the up-rigger's rope, and feeding out the motor chain. Sometimes, a pulley is used to allow the down-rigger to assist in pulling a heavy point up to the grid.

Standard chain hoists, called Motors, range from 8ft to 300ft, but most commonly we will see 60 to 100ft motor chains in our venues.

Motors come with a hook on the bottom and a long chain with a hook at the end. On a normal hang, the bottom hook connects to the Load, (the truss, speakers, etc.) and the top hook with the chain goes up to the grid.

On theater shows, we sometimes use Inverted Points, or Inverts, in which the rigger pulls up the motor by the bottom hook leaving the chain running down to the floor. This allows the chain to run up and down without the motor being in the way or in view of the audience.

Other components of the rig are the Steel, which is typically wire rope of varying lengths, and Shackles.


Steel has universal color coding to make it easy to identify the lengths.

Red                   -    5ft

White                -    10ft

Blue                   -    20ft

Green/Yellow    -    30ft

A combination of steel and shackles that the up-rigger attaches to the grid is called the Basket.

A basket is usually a piece of steel long enough to wrap an I-beam and two shackles to connect it to itself. A Burlap protects the steel and beam from rubbing against each other when the point vibrates. A chain's length may also be extended by an extra piece of steel (or multiple) called a Stinger.

You can see in this image the shape of the basket, how it will connect to itself, and the proper way to tie a rope to it for the up-rigger's convenience.

Remember "princess" or PRCS, which means

PIN - ROPE - CABLE/STEEL - SHACKLE

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rigging system.jpg

Often the point will be connected to a load using Round-slings, which are often called either Span-sets or GacFlex. It is important to understand the difference: Gac flex has steel cables inside of it, which can easily be felt, that make it rated to hold far more weight than span-sets.

Riggers sometimes use Carabiners attached to their ropes to let the points back down on the load out. This is mostly for speed, so that a bowline does not have to be untied and retied over and over. Carabiners used for rigging need to be rated for the proper load and have a locking or auto-locked enclosure for security.

Here is a diagram of a rigging system, courtesy of Lyn Marie Neunenfeldt and IATSE Local 470.

Other basket types

Some situations call for a different type of basket.

A Choke changes the position of the chain to the side of the beam. The steel has one shackle at the end of it, which connects back to itself, just wrapping the body, allowing the shackle to slide until the weight chokes the beam.

A Closed-Basket is a common theater point. The steel is all made up like it would be around a beam, with the rope tying onto the body of the steel. This allows the up-rigger to pull up the basket through the mesh grid, then just slide a large pipe through it to secure it.


This picture of a closed basket with a stinger is also provided by Lyn Marie Neunenfeldt.

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Bridles

Some of the time, a point will land directly underneath of a beam, making it a nice simple Dead Hang.


A Bridle is used when a point must land in between two beams. The math involved in figuring out how to make it land in the right spot, is complex, but there are phone apps that can do this math for you based on a few measurements. There is an App for iphones called Bridle, and another App for android called RigChalk that are available.

A bridle involves a basket for each beam, with two Legs connecting them. An even bridle will have equal length legs, but most bridles have different lengths. When building one of these points, pay close attention to which basket goes to which beam. The two legs meet together with a shackle called the Apex.

A leg may consist of any number of lengths of steel wire rope to make up the length necessary, but usually inches matter. To fine tune a bridle, Deck Chain is used. The chain has large (usually 4 inch) links and the number of links the down-rigger uses is written on the bridle diagram. When building a bridle, it is important to always put the smallest parts of a leg , as well as the extra chain links, closest to the up-rigger, so that adjustments can easily be made in the air if needed.

Hieroglyphics.jpg.webp

A Rigger's Diagram

This diagram shows you how to build this specific bridle. The X inside the diamond on the right indicated where the point wants to land. In theater, the shapes around the X could refer to departments, in which case a:

  • Circle - lighting

  • Square - Audio

  • Triangle - Video

  • Diamond - Other

In arena concerts however, the shape often refers to the size of the motor used. When the X is inside of a:

  • Diamond - Quarter-ton motor.

  • Triangle - Half-ton motor
  • Circle - One-ton motor
  • Square - Two-ton motor

The Y indicates the bridle legs. Above the Y, the numbers tell you what size of basket to make it. Outside the leg marks tell you the size of the leg. 3L means 3 links of deck chain, and a 20 ft. steel goes below that. At the bottom is the stinger, 15 ft., which connects to the apex of the bridle.

Rigging Load-In and Load-Out

Before the Load-in begins, the road rigger will have to check that the grid can hold his rig, and find out about any obstacles or special circumstances of the arena.

The Load-in proceeds this way:

  1. The road-rigger draws out where each point has to land

  2. The local head-rigger does the math to figure how to make bridles land in the right place and writes them in chalk (as seen above)

  3. The riggers set out steel at each point and begin building points on the ground.

  4. Two at a time, up-riggers go up to the grid and put on their gear. They carry a rope, and a harness wraps their body, and attached to it is a landyard that clips to the safety lines on the grid.

  5. The up-rigger finds the right point to start on, and lets his rope into the down-rigger. The down-rigger ties a bowline onto the basket of the dead hang or one side of a bridle.

  6. The up-riggers pull up the baskets to the grid, and step off the rope with their foot

    • A bowline of the right size is useful because the up-riggers foot can sit inside the loop of the bowline and hold the weight easily.

    • Sometimes the chain is not long enough for the up-riggers to reach the baskets. In this case a longer stinger should be added, or the down-rigger can lift up the motor while the up-rigger secures the point.

  7. With the weight secure, the up-riggers hands are free to secure the basket around the beam carefully.

  8. Once he is finished and has the burlap in place, he notifies the down-rigger.

  9. The down-rigger verbally confirms that the point is "his" and he can "take weight". Taking weight involves pulling down on the point to see that it will land in the right spot and not have a foul.

  10. If a bridle or dead hand needs to shift in a way that can be slid along the beam, the up-rigger can do so easily when there is no obstacle. If a bridle needs to shift closer to one beam or the other, adjustments in the deck chain need to be made.

  11. After all parties feel confident that the point is secure and in the right spot, they move on until all points are hung.

  12. When a department head has been given confirmation that the point is his, he will run power to it, and control it using a Pendant (a paddle that can control multiple motors) or a Pickle, which connects directly to a motor to control it individually. He then uses gac-flex to connect the motor to the load.

The LOAD-OUT is much faster due to lack of need for precision and heavy lifting.

  1. Once a load is free from a point, the down-rigger lands the motor into the box or on the deck, and signals to the up-riggers to drop it to him.

  2. The up-rigger gives a slight lift, holds the weight, breaks the basket, and very slowly and carefully lowers in the point.

  3. When the steel is close to overhead, the down-rigger calls out to everyone nearby that there is "Steel coming in overhead!"

  4. When it gets to him/her, the down-rigger disconnects the motor, and then disconnects the carabiner or rope. IF YOU DISCONNECT A CARABINER, DO NOT LET GO IF THE CARABINER IS GOING TO SWING AND HIT SOMEONE. WALK IT TO A SPOT DIRECTLY UNDER THE BEAM SO THAT IT WILL NOT SWING WHEN YOU LET GO.

  5. While the up-rigger moves and resets on another point, the down-rigger carries the steel he just caught over to "Steel World", where another down-rigger is breaking it apart and putting it away.

One-tons and Two Tons

It is important to know the practical differences between the motor sizes. First of all, most motor points will use "one-ton steel". This means 3/8 inch steel with 1/2 inch shackles. 

Two-ton motors are more heavy duty. They use 1/2 inch steel and 5/8 inch shackles. Know what you are building before you set out the wrong kind of steel.


While one-ton motor chain is around a pound per foot (adding up to around 75 pounds when it gets to the grid), two-ton motor chain is about twice that. Riggers have a few options for how to work together to make pulling "deuces" easier.

One option is to have two men on either side of the bridle, each with a rope attached to the baskets, and all pull together.

Another option is to use pulleys or Sheaves. One way to do this is the up-riggers themselves pull with sheaves, and then one rigger holds the weight while the other makes the basket.

Another way is to run the rope through the pulley to the ground, and the down-rigger can pull and hold the weight while the up-riggers make-up.

The last common choice is to rig up one pulley over the point and another pulley on the catwalk. This allows the rigger to hold the rope end and walk down the catwalk to pull up the weight.

Whatever the case may be, rigging must involve a lot of communication between all parties. Know what is going on at all times and keep your eyes open.