JR Clancy: Cable Management for Lighting Battens


In JR Clancy’s September Rigging Report email, they cover the topic of Cable Management for Lighting Battens.  They cover the importance of proper cable management not only form a safety stance, but also a cost savings. If you work under light battens for a living, read this rigging report.  It will make you think about what is hanging over your head and how well you want to protect yourself, others and your theatre!

Read more on the JR Clancy Rigging Report

If you need an electrical cable management system over the stage there are several options listed in ascending order of cost magnitude.

  1. No management.  The cable swags directly out the end of the raceway and swags to the floor.  Cost – ultimately affordable but esthetically and practically not desirable.
  2. Simple cable cradle and additional lift line.  This adds a loft block (and may increase your head block size).  Cost – a couple hundred dollars per set.  The major downfall is that this reduces travel by about 1/3 although most electrics never really have to travel more than a few feet higher than the top of the proscenium.
  3. Additional lift line with a double purchased cable cradle.  This also adds a loft block and lift line and can increase your head block size.  Cost – about $200 more than the straight cable cradle.  This cradle travels half the speed of the set so it reduces travel less than the straight simple version above.
  4. There are also systems that have the multicable feed from one end (stage right) to a grid iron junction box at the ceiling on the other side of the stage (stage left).  The multicable would then have a device that rode along the lift lines and allowed the batten to pick up the cables as it rose.  This one requires a little more creativity in parts for the cable attachment around the lift line (perhaps cable spools, or Kellems grip type attachment).  This also requires more multi cable than a traditional cable cradle set.  Cost- probably close to the cost of the double purchase cable cradle system depending on your multicable to lift line hardware.
  5. Pantograph system.  This is frequently used for a front of house application where looks are more important and set travel needs to be maximized.  Cost – Several thousand dollars depending on total number of circuits and total travel distance.  The downfalls are the cost and the addition of weight (200-300 lbs.) on the pipe. The additional weight can lower your potential live load capacity, which could be an even greater issue with a double purchase system.
  6. Cable reels.  This can be more cost effective than pantographs for small cables and low number of circuits.  On a system with a large number of conductors you could need multiple reels for power and in every case, a separate reel for control (DMX, etc.).  Cost – on the larger systems this option can run several thousand more than the pantograph.  This offers the benefits of the least weight impact on the set while maximizing the travel, but it of course carries the highest potential cost.