One of the most spectacular stunts ever achieved at a live music event in South Africa involved flying a replica helicopter across the stage at the Afrikaans is Groot festival at the Sun Arena in Menlyn, Pretoria. This was achieved using state-of-the-art automation and mechatronics technology from SEW-Eurodrive.
The stunt for this yearly music festival was devised, set up and executed by specialist rigging company Film Riggers. “We are primarily a rigging company focusing on the film industry, particularly in-camera rope-based stunts,” explains partner Graham Terrell, who founded the company together with Alard Hüfner in 2012. From commercials to documentaries and television reality shows, Film Riggers has established a world-class reputation in the industry. “I do not think the organisers expected this level of rigging automation, especially from a South African company,” says Terrell. “Nobody is able to automate a live show like we can, and no local rigging company has a similar level of experience and expertise. The alternative was to turn to an international company, which would have been prohibitively expensive.”
Key to the success of Film Riggers has been its longstanding relationship with SEW-Eurodrive. The winches it devised use the Movidrive drive inverter, including the IPOSplus integrated positioning and sequence control system as standard. The drive inverters have a wide power range, large overload capacity, and a modular design. According to Maxolution engineer Dylan Enslin, they facilitate unrestricted application of AC drives, with a power range of 0,55 to 315 kW, featuring the most modern digital inverter technology,.
Terrell says that as a rigger he has been using SEW-Eurodrive products for over a decade. The Afrikaans is Groot event required four Movidrive drive inverters with CMP motors. These consisted of two 11 kW units and two 30 kW units, in conjunction with four 2,2 kW Moviaxis multi-axis servo inverters with CMP motors. Film Riggers also made use of three standard 2,2 kW AC motors driven by Movitrac Inverters. Synchronisation and coordination was achieved by means of a MOVIPLC motion controller. SEW-Eurodrive also supplied off-the-application modules for the operational controllers for the coordinated drives. This software provides for a range of functionality, from accurate speed control to precision positioning and torque control.
A major advantage for Film Riggers is that it has been able to take advantage of the latest developments from SEW-Eurodrive in automation and mechatronics. The basic winch it devised from the outset simply comprised an AC motor with a brake, running off a Movitrac MCO7 variable speed drive, which is an open-loop system with no encoder. This is the most manual or basic form of an electric winch.
Movidrive represents next-generation technology, incorporating servo motors with encoders where the positioning and control are very specific. This is far more accurate and safer than having a person with a remote control driving the winch. Instead, Movidrive allows for the winches to be preprogrammed, which means that all actions are repeatable, with no possibility of error or mishap.
Film Riggers was tasked by the Afrikaans is Groot production team to coordinate the moving and lifting of setpieces that were required to be airborne, in addition to moving performers around the stage. “The beauty of the Movidrive is that it is modular, which means we can use one to four, and have them all interlinked,” Terrell continues.
The replica helicopter flown across the stage consisted of a metal frame with a moulded fibreglass skin, weighing 300 kg, with an extra 100 kg added for an occupant. The initial idea was simply for a basic take-off and landing, but by using four Movidrive units, Film Riggers was able to achieve the spectacular effect of simulated flight on the stage. This meant moving from right to left, in conjunction with moving up and down. Not only was the angle of flight adjustable, but the nose section could be moved up and down as well.
Enslin emphasises that Moviaxis is an even more advanced evolution of the entire system, allowing for extremely refined resolution and feedback, and lightning fast reaction time to any changes in the drive speed. “Our brief from Afrikaans is Groot was to deliver a live stage show that superseded anything done before. This would not have been possible without the technology and support from SEW-Eurodrive,” Terrell concludes.
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