Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Rigging Kino Flo's To Ceiling - Safety Concerns

Hello everyone.

Have a shoot coming up that I will be Key Grip on, not shoes I'm used to walking in as I'm usually behind the lens so I've got some concerns with the rigging I'll be doing.

The location in question is a "bank" interior, high (about 17 ft) ceilings, with fluorescent fixtures built in to the typical office ceiling. By "typical office" ceiling I'm referring to the very light, removable boards that rest on strips of metal. The DP wants to rig about 12 large 4 bank Kino’s up there because there is no safe area, we'll be seeing ever corner of the place so stands are out of the question.

I've never rigged anything bigger than a 150w Arri to these types of ceilings and want to check in here as to the safest way to rig this set up. What clamps should I use? I have seen it done in the past with Large cardi's.

I will be ratchet strapping them down, I've also added 2 dozen safety chains to my package.

There WILL be actors underneath and don't want any disasters on my first key grip gig, even a light falling on the other end of the set might scare the mostly senior cast into heart attacks and we can't have that on the first day of shooting can we.

Thank you all in advance.


Kevin Rasmussen
Cinematographer / Colorist
HD / Film / Video
Fini Films Inc.
Toronto, CAN

Hi Kevin,

You have a couple of options.

One is to use 2x4 lumber pieces (3-4' long) and screw baby plates to them. You can rest these boards on top of the false ceiling, baby pin facing down through the removed panel, and use a #2 or #3 grip clip on each side to keep it from rotating from the weight of the Kino. This will distribute the weight of the Kino to two sides of the metal frame as opposed to one point.

The other option is to use c-clamps to attach to the beams of the real ceiling above the false one and use c-arms to put the light below the false ceiling.

I don't recommend using scissor clamps. You could also use bailing wire through the fixture and around the metal frame to flush it to the ceiling. I'm sure there are all kinds of ways to do this.

Best wishes,

Graham Futerfas
Director of Photography
Los Angeles, CA


Kinos work great in that type of setting, but are surprisingly heavy.

Typically that type of drop ceiling is tied to structural members above them. The metal strips can hold quite a lot, but if there is any way you can rig into the structure, via speed-rail, chain or even straps your safety will be much better.

Can you get into location on a scout with a big ladder so you can look up there?

Dan Nestel
Salt Lake City, UT

You won't have to strap them down if the ceiling is a drop ceiling with typical 2'x4' or 2'x2' panels. Kinos are a little over 4' long and when you spread the doors they can safely and easily be placed in the hole ABOVE the ceiling level. You will of course have to safety anything you place overhead, and the best place to run your safety lines to are the support points that are every 6-8 feet. These hold the drop ceiling rails in place, you can generally trust the drop ceiling rails to tie a line around, just use the longer continuous ones as opposed to the short 2' cross pieces which are fitted into the longer bits.

If you want to have directionality or the extra spread by being below the ceiling, you can use Grahams 2x4 trick. I don't like using springers to secure wood if it needs to support an armed out lamp, but if the Flo is just pointed down it'd be fine. In any case, you’d have to safety the springers as well.

Good luck and maybe after this you'll be nicer to your grips... lol joking

Dave Araki
NYC Grip

My first advice would be to get a rigging grip on the call sheet. This is what we're here for.

Secondly; if no RG will be on the call, try to rig from the red steel structural members. Or wood joists or whatever holds their ceiling and a/c ducts up. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE RIG TO THE ALLURING AND INVITING SPRIKLER PIPE!!! She is a bitter harlot who will eat your soul. Seriously, the fire suppression pipes are bad news. Don't even bump them too hard because they typically swing a little and if you knock a fuse out of a head, it is a very long time before the water gets turned off. Been there, SEEN that. You may be able to span the grid with a section of speedrail and rig from that. Good luck getting a full stick above the grid though. Three six footers above the grid to span several t bars and a twenty footer below would do. That gives you enough room for three four bank Flo’s spread out.

Here's the numbers:

Kino four bank @ 12 lbs x 3 = 36 lbs
Ballast @ 5.5 lbs x 3 = 16.5 lbs
Speed rail @ .93 lbs/ft x 38' = 35.34lbs
Dbl cheeseburger@ 5 lbs x 3 = 15 lbs
Total 102.9 lbs
Divided by three rig points = 34.3 lbs
Divided by 3 grid bars per point = 11.43 lbs/ grid bar

FYI - the troffer lights that are made for the grids are 30 lbs each.

But by far the easiest would be to open the barn doors all the way and place them above the grid with grip clips securing them to the long side of the grid bars. This hides them somewhat as well.

Good luck, don't drop anything!

Jared Petticrew
Location FX Inc
Rigging Grip

Good luck, don't drop anything!

Jared Petticrew

The best advise. That and get a real grip to do the job. Better crews save you a lot of grief and money, plus make you look better. Smart money to spend.

What I have been doing lately is building a T-arm with speed rail that I have on a stand. The cool thing about this is that you can move it quickly. This opens up a few options as the set ups change.

I would touch as little of the location as you can, I have seen weak "grips" ruin walls and drop ceilings. And think about what you put up above you, a ballast is not need in the rig, run the cable.

Jimmy Gribbins
Buffalo, NY

>>What I have been doing lately is building a T-arm with speed rail that I >>have on a stand. The cool thing about this is that you can move it >>quickly.

Hi Jimmy,

Can you please describe this a little more? I'm interested in how it works. I know it's difficult to describe rigs on a forum like this (especially after my own post describing a 2x4 that I was sure nobody would understand).

I'm imagining a 'T' built of two pieces of speed rail... how big? Is the stand in the middle of the T and you rig lights out on the four points of it? Maybe I'm completely misunderstanding, but it sounds like an interesting rig.

I guess that the stand would be a hi roller, because it moves easily. Would speed rail bend with the weight of Kino Flos?

Good ideas from everyone here, by the way, and great point about the sprinklers, Jared. Having some Speed-C's (C-clamps that take speed rail so they can be any width jaw you want and make a quick pipe grid) might be a good idea for this rig, depending on what the ceiling looks like above the false ceiling. Will you have a Genie lift? 17' plus what's above the ceiling will put you beyond a 12- step, though you could get a 12-step with center extension (stage ladder... are those considered safe?).

I will almost guarantee that you're going to break\damage some of those ceiling tiles, by the way. You might want to number them on the top so you can take them out and get them back easily.


Graham Futerfas
Director of Photography
Los Angeles, CA

Thank you all for the advice.

After a close inspection of the drop ceiling grid yesterday there's no way I'm going to put even one Kino bank up there, let alone 12.

The building is too old and there are visible cracks around some of the bolted plates attaching the drop ceiling to the building ceiling. I've told production it's not an option.

We've got some other options, I actually might just take the Kino tubes out of the housings and gaff just the tubes and head connectors right onto the ceiling, blackwrap if we need skirts. Obviously the ballasts don't have to be up there.

Alternatively we'll bounce Par’s into some white board gaffed to the ceiling, not as directional as Kino’s I guess.

Problem more or less solved, thank you.

Kevin Rasmussen
Cinematographer / Colorist
HD / Film / Video
Fini Films Inc.
Toronto, CAN

Sounds like what we also call a Menace Arm or a cantilever.

We normally use a HiBoy or a Supercrank or avenger with a combihead. I prefer to use the leaf style big ben or a 20x20 speedrail ear, because it allows the arm to be tilted for easier height adjustment etc. On one end you place the lamp and on the other you place a shot bag counterweight (held on by springclamp or sash) AND additionally you have a safety line going down to the base of the stand. Generally you can do about a 1/3 to the back and 2/3s out front. 10' would therefore be about 6' out and 4 to the back. more or less. Matthews makes a great item called the MaxiStand, which is a freestanding small footprint menacearm that can do some serious arming out. They also have what's called a MiniMaxi which is ideal for kinos. The ideal part for some is the lack of a backfootprint, whereas normal menace arm rigs need back space. This isn't for our newly minted Keygrip but that may clarify things a little.

Regarding rigging in the ceiling, it takes a ballsy tech to go up to top floor on a 12step, so a genie lift or small scissor is a must. Personally, unless you need articulation of the units, I'd go the easy way of spreading the doors and using the existing drop ceiling frame to hold the units in place. Bunching up the ballasts in one area would be a good idea to minimalise having to go up and around more than necessary. Ballasts don't weigh 5lbs, or I'm getting stronger... But safetying them isn't a bad idea.

Hiring a real grip to rig for the day isn't a bad idea at all.

Good luck

Dave Araki
NYC Grip

What I have been doing lately is building a T-arm with speed rail that I have on a stand. Can you please describe this a little more?

\I take a 10 or 12 foot piece of speedrail and put it through a swiveled cheeseboro or other speedrail to stand clamp, than I extend the put the pipe rig on a junior stand with one side a lot longer than the other. On the extended side (7ft-8ft) I place a matthellini or gaffer clamp for the light. On the shorter side (3ft-4ft) I tie the pipe back to the stand or to bags as counter weight. You have to bag the stand well and some of my grips like to put a bag tied to the short end, I do not like to have a bag up in the air so I'm less fond of this then tieing the pipe. The pipe will have a little droop in it but not as much as you would think. I have used this rig with a 1,200 High output head and it worked well. We just had to put a 45 degree side pipes back to the stand to brace the pipe because of the weight issues.

You can drill some holes at the end of the pipe if you need too for the rope or a safety cable. Speedrails cheap and easy to cut to length.

I hope my description explains this, it's really very simple and easy to do. It works great for a light outside a window where you are seeing out and are worried about seeing the stand or for a room where you can not rig a light where you need it.

Jimmy Gribbins
Buffalo, NY

Hey Kevin,

I just ran in to this situation on a feature about a week ago. Like everyone else says, avoid water/sprinkler pipes and scissor clips like the plague.

What we did was rig ourselves drop down points to the steel ceiling supports (that the drop ceiling itself hangs from). We attached baby studded c clamps (cardis work just as well), then a gobo head and long arm to that so the Kino would hang just below the ceiling. Having the arm in the middle allows you a second point of articulation instead of just one (as in cardi to gobo head to Kino) and gives you just a little more flexibility in positioning the light.

Like Jared suggested, if the budget allows it get a rigging grip! I spent last month keying a feature where they "couldn't afford" a dolly grip for me and I had to key from behind the dolly. One extra hand makes all the difference, especially when it's a heavy day (such as lots of rigging). Remember, when a large project is under taken one or two (or even more!) people become assigned to that and become unavailable to break away leaving only you and another grip (or worse yet just you) to perform all other set functions, including dolly, frames, etc etc.

Another thought, 17' is a formidable distance to have to get gear up to (possible even higher depending on the distance from tiles to steel supports.) Do you have to use a telescoping A-frame ladder or is production paying out to rent a scissor lift for the day? If you have to use a ladder I would anticipate at least two guys taking an hour and a half or very probably longer to get 12 units up safely. For a project like that the scissor lift is also well worth the rental in my opinion.

Best of luck on the shoot!

Geoff Knight
NYC Electric - Grip - Aspiring Cinematographer

Jared writes:

>> DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE RIG TO THE ALLURING >>AND INVITING SPRIKLER PIPE!!! She is a bitter harlot who will eat >>your soul.

Apart from the question of rigging to the pipe itself, you should never rig a hot (or even warm) lighting unit directly underneath, or close to, a sprinkler head. I don't know whether a Kino at close range can come close to melting a sprinkler fuse, but I don't think want to find out the hard way.

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

>>Apart from the question of rigging to the pipe itself, you should never rig >>a hot (or even warm) lighting unit directly underneath, or close to, a >>sprinkler head.

Demonstrating a down right scary command of trivia, you can tell a lot about a fire sprinkler head (here in the US) by simply looking at it. They activate at a specific temperature, specified by color. If they have a glass bulb activator, ones that activate at 135 degrees are orange, 155 are red, 175 are yellow, 200 are green. Heads that use fusible links have a different color coding: 100 degrees are black, 150 are white, and 225 are blue. Obviously, these temps refer to the average temp at the sprinkler head sensor. Recessed sprinkler heads go off quicker than those that hang down a few inches from the ceiling.

All temperatures are wacky Fahrenheit numbers, not Celsius.

A common myth about fire sprinkler heads that use water to extinguish flames has been created by the film industry, itself. Each water sprinkler head is passive, reacting to heat independently of each other. They do not all activate at the same time.

It should go without saying that there are more types of fire sprinkler heads than the water type. Those types do all trigger at the same time.

Sometimes the goofy stuff that has stuck in my memory causes me to shudder.

Cliff Hancuff
Washington, DC

Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.