How do I get up there?

Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Tools and Methods | 0 comments

I like to show off the height of the spaces I light by installing elements quite high up in tents and barns.  Guests at the weddings I light often ask me how I manage to get up that high.  Usually, the answer is: I rent a self-propelled scissorlift.

Here I am using a scissorlift to install aircraft cable rigging up high at Stonover Barn.  The aircraft cable provides infrastructure between the barn’s columns and beams so that I can suspend lighting elements in the wide open spaces.

Julie installing rigging in Stonover barn

For indoor jobs where I have a flat, weight-bearing floor, I rent an electric indoor lift.  My current favorite is this 26-foot Optimum 1930E from the North Adams Carr Hardware, a 3000-lb. self-propelled scissorlift that is large enough to allow an operator and one passenger to work comfortably, yet compact enough I can drive it easily through a regular-size doorway to stash it out of sight.  Here I am giving my friend Crane, the florist Crocus Hale’s trusty assistant, a lift up to the top of Crocus’s scenic burlap curtain to fine-tune its arrangement.

Julie and Crane in lift

For outdoor jobs such as pole tents erected in grassy fields, I rent a four-wheel-drive outdoor scissorlift.  The ground must be solid, firm earth and relatively level, though there are models with outriggers that can level the machine if you are on a slight incline.  These lifts are fantastic as long as you have plenty of room to work and it hasn’t been raining for a solid week–if the ground is soggy at all, the wheels can tear up the turf.  After I’m done with the installation, I can drive this guy anywhere to stash it out of sight–over a hill, behind some trees, into a garage, down the road to a neighbor’s driveway, you name it.  Here is one of my crew working on an installation of paper lanterns inside a pole tent:

 4WD diesel scissorlift


So… do you need a license for this thing?  Believe it or not, no.  But you have to have some training, like you do for any kind of personnel lift, large or small.

I’m a member of United Scenic Artists, the union for performing arts artists and designers of all kinds, which is a subsidiary union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.  IATSE Local 481 in Boston offers training and certification on aerial work platform operation, and through their training program I am now an IATSE- certified Aerial Work Platform Operator, trained to operate mast lifts, scissorlifts, and boom lifts.  Interestingly, though legally you have to have a license to operate a forklift, OSHA law does not require a license of any kind to operate an AWP.  They merely require that the operator be “trained by a qualified person,” and they specify what that training must include.  It’s left to the industry to create certification programs, as IATSE has done.