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Lights, camera, action! Supplying standard parts and components for stage and screen

Estimated reading time 6 minutes

Film, TV, and theatre production sets rely on rigging, safely securing heavy duty items at height with durable components. Also, with a need to quickly move from location to location, this equipment needs fast and safe transportation. To achieve these aims, durable, easy to use standard parts and components are required – and these items are also integral to the set build itself. Whatever type of component is needed in the fast-moving world of stage and screen, quick delivery of an accurate specification is a frequent requirement.

John Marshall, WDS Components, explains how to fulfil the requirements of standard parts and components for stage and screen.

Whether for film, TV, or stage, standard parts and components are vital to ensure smooth and safe running of equipment on production sets. In the theatre world and live events, stage equipment might need to be moved quickly on set, particularly for theatre productions where this might take place in an interval, or even during the performance itself while actors are still on stage. Levelling castors (WDS 12202) enable heavy set items to be quickly moved, and when the set piece reaches its desired location, an internal ratchet-operated plate lifts the wheel to prevent movement, or alternatively it can be set as a brake. This tool-less design enables fast movement during live action but also ensures safety, locking the item in position when required.

Safety is also paramount when suspending stage equipment at height. Hoist rings and lifting eyes attached to the floor or ceilings and raised framework enable tension and control of cables. Tamper-proof designs increase safety, while hoist rings might be needed in vertical, side, and pivoting configurations to ensure movement flexibility. These devices might be needed to help suspend equipment weighing up to 4,000kg, so a highly durable steel construction is required. All hoist rings and lifting eyes are provided with a certificate of safety conformance and typically, the parts should be tested to ensure a sufficient safety margin.

Whether securing items on stage and set or locking them away in containers, loss-prevention devices are ideal. Fast-paced activity while assembling and moving sets means that parts can easily be misplaced, which can cause a safety issue as well as the cost and inconvenience of replacement. Knobs, bolts, and clips can be fitted with lanyards, meaning that even when they’re removed for quick disassembly, they still remain attached to their parent item, preventing loss and enabling quick assembly next time they’re required. Components with loss-prevention devices attached are available, as well as individual lanyards and retainers that can be retrofitted.

When packing and unpacking stage and set equipment gas struts are ideal additions to containers, they ensure convenient retention of container lids, and they also improve ease of use by bracing lids either open or closed. Gas struts in various sizes, load capacities, and fitting styles can be retrofitted to containers and crates, or they’re available as replacements for original equipment.

Standard parts and components are also vital in the development of the actual production sets. To enable immersion in the experience of a movie or TV programme, it’s vital that the viewer can accept the surroundings in order to pay full attention to the dramatic situation. To achieve this, the set has to be highly realistic, and this means using components and parts that demonstrate the scene’s ‘reality’. The part could range from a doorknob to a handwheel or a lever, and the set design team might also want to customise the item themselves, such as distressing it appropriately to the historical period.

Whatever the part required, the set designer typically has a clear idea of their needs, usually based on aesthetic characteristics. To clarify parts specification, as well as being able to quickly view accurate part images online, it’s often useful for the set designer to have a discussion with a supplier’s customer or technical support team. Comprehensive knowledge of a parts range, and crucially, their application of use, can quickly help to identify the most appropriate component designs. Once these are selected, the designer can easily download 3D files from the WDS website, reducing the time taken from concept to production.”

Many standard parts and components required by set designers are vital, though seldom seen by the audience. Parts such as door hinges, levelling feet, or bolts, are essential components of set build. Just like real-life developments, these items have to be durable, and in the fast-paced world of dramatic production where studio or theatre time is at a premium, they’ve also got to be quick and straightforward to use. For example, if there’s no guarantee of a level floor but when quick set up is needed, levelling feet with a swivel end ensure fast and reliable assembly. Again, a comprehensive online listing with images and specification is useful, but a standard parts and components expert who is available to talk to, can quickly ensure the required specification is provided.

A commonality with all stage and set standard parts and components is the need for in-stock availability to ensure rapid delivery. Set designers and contractors usually have a comprehensive list of parts that they require for delivery in advance, either to a stage and scenery builder or even direct to the set or studio itself. However, when it comes to filming or the day of production, the set, situation, and environment can always present unexpected requirements. As a result, set designers often have an urgent need for components that might require same-day delivery.

At WDS Components, we provide standard parts and components for productions ranging from Hollywood blockbusters through to local theatres. Many of these productions take place in Britain, whether that’s a film studio or on-location, which are often located close to our Yorkshire base, but we also supply items around the world. With on-site manufacturing and a large warehouse enabling in-stock availability across the range, we can provide same-day delivery as required.

We don’t always know which productions our parts are supplied to, but we’ve supported high-grossing movies, BAFTA award-winning TV productions, Music concerts and gigs, we’ve even supported productions taking place on diverse locations such as cruise ships.

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