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Fisher Technical Flies High With Spider-Man, Part 2

Fisher Technical Flies High With Spider-Man, Part 2

In The TheatreThe second challenge for Fisher Technical Services was how to achieve believable, high speed, superhero-level flight sequences over the audience, often involving more than one performer at a time. Traditional 3D flight systems are very good at this type of movement, but it's difficult to coordinate the rigging for a multi-line system with other objects in the space, as the lines will “sweep” through the entire volume of the flight space during motion. Since the main flight sequence involved Spider Man actually engaging in full-contact, mano-a-mano aerial combat with the Green Goblin over the audience, an alternative had to be devised.

Spider-Man does his best-looking work when he's swinging from a wire rather than being manipulated by a 3D rig, and since the Goblin was already going to be on a four point 3D rig to achieve his flight dynamics, it made sense to put Spider-Man on a vertical wire ‘pendulum' rig that could ‘inject' him into the Goblin's flight space at will, but without fouling in the Goblin's lines. The normal method for doing this would be to hang a fly track and have the performer swing from a line travelling on that track, but the battle scenes required considerably more freedom of movement and dynamic action. A new rig based on FTSI's “flat plane” 2D motion technology was devised that allowed Spider-Man's suspension lines to be moved to any point over the audience area instead of being restricted to a track path, and to add spice to the motion, the capability for rotation and for altering Spider-Man's vertical axis were also added. All in, it takes seven separate winches to achieve Spider-Man's over-audience flight mechanics, all of which are intuitively coordinated and programmed through the Navigator ‘Space Device' interface.

The remainder of the flight systems are relatively straightforward and based on existing technology. There are both tracks and single point rigs over the stage and proscenium, and a number of mobile points for snatch blocks and redirection of flight lines for different rigging configurations. FTSI also supplied the machine that performs the dual performer/quad line “Seduction” scene aerial pas de deux. Overall, the system is composed of 23 winches representing four different models of FTSI machines (M-Series, G-Series, Q-Series, T-Series), collectively adding up to over 1100HP of total power. The winches controlling the flights from the proscenium downstage are all located on the front of house grid, and are rigged to their final points of entry into the flight space via a complex series of muling and diverter sheaves. The onstage rigs have winches located on the flying bridges with their lines diverted to tracks and points below those bridges. Structural reinforcements and modifications were required throughout the theater to accommodate the muling points and provide points of connection for the flight space sheaves, many of which see over a ton of force while flying a single performer.

To assure safety during the rehearsals and performances, the complete system and all components and connections underwent a rigorous engineering and review process as well as failure mode analysis. Key pieces of scenery and deck that the performers needed to land on or near are monitored by Navigator via a secondary system that checks positions to make sure everything is in the right place for the flights, and all technical systems performed flawlessly during rehearsals and previews. For operations, IATSE Local 1 automation technicians Hugh Hardyman and Andy Elman were sent to the FTSI shop in Las Vegas for in-depth Navigator training and 3D programming sessions to prepare them for show programming, and Jason Shupe was the primary Navigator programmer.

As if the flying wasn't enough, FTSI was also tapped to provide pre-visualization of the scenery and lift moves and cueing for the show. All of the show scenery was imported into Navigator's 3D pre-visualization environment and cued for the show prior to load in, which allowed the set designers, stage managers, and director to check scene change timing, verify sight lines, and run through the show from top to bottom and make changes as necessary. Once the PRG Stage Command system that runs the scenic automation was in place, the pre-vis data and video from the Navigator sessions were available as a reference for programming the actual moves.

The end result of all of this technology, teamwork, time, and effort can easily be seen in the faces of both the kids and the adults in the audience the first time Spider-Man leaps from the stage to the railing of the balcony—when you can render kids who have grown up on video games and visual effects completely speechless, you know the flying has hit a home run.


Scott Fisher: Mechanical and Rigging Systems Designer/Supervisor

Scott Rogers: Stunt coordinator

Jaque Paquin: Rigging and harness coordinator

Jason Shupe: Navigator programmer

Todd Renchler: Harness manufacturer (Climbing Sutra)

Hugh Hardyman: Navigator programmer and automation technician

Andy Elman: Navigator programmer and automation technician

Lily Twining: Navigator 3D Previsualization Tech

The Entire FTSI Shop: Design, Engineering, Fabrication, Testing, Programming, Rigging, Software Development, Technical Support, Moral Support


2 FTSI Navigator Quad Monitor GUI Stations

2 FTSI Kinetic Operator Consoles

10 FTSI M-Series Modular Winches

8 FTSI T-Series Touring Winches

1 FTSI Q-Series Low Profile Zero Fleet Winch

1 FTSI G-Series General Purpose Winch

23 FTSI D-Series Integrated Motor Controllers

6 FTSI ESE-1 Estop Controllers

Fisher Technical Flies High, Part 1

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