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Author Topic: Cable raceway/tray/trough in stage wings flush with floor - code compliant?  (Read 1521 times)

Caleb Dueck

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One church project I did years ago - their TD also mixed at the local theater, and requested something similar for the church instead of floor pockets. 

That project had a trough across downstage, another across upstage, which both dumped into a stage right main trough that went from DSR to backstage, then to the rack room.  There were Edison outlets every 10' or so in the trough.  The cover plates were wood (wood stage) with the same finish, with one cutout per cover.  Each cover piece was 4' if I remember correctly.  When the covers were in place, you could hardly see them, and they weren't any more of a trip hazard when closed then regular floor pockets.  I think they had a few small sub-snakes in there, along with network cable. 

In the end - it worked for them and they were happy.  I didn't see any benefit over traditional floor pockets, and it was slower than simply plugging into a floor pocket. 

The other factor seems to be - are trenches intended to replace floor boxes, or replace sub-snakes on stage, or be used between stage and FOH?  Very different applications.
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Russell Ault

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I didn't see any benefit over traditional floor pockets, and it was slower than simply plugging into a floor pocket. 

The benefit in my mind is cost and flexibility: today I've got a ukulele ensemble with 32 inputs downstage, tomorrow it's 18 circuits of footlights and an 8-piece jazz ensemble just down of the cyc, and a couple of days from now it's a tour providing their own stage setup. Floor pockets will accommodate two of the three, but require a lot of up-front cost for a lot of rarely-used copper, whereas with a trough I can use the same subsnake downstage today for the ukes and upstage tomorrow for the band, and the electricians can easily run soca for the one time a year some asks for foots, and the tour can drop their cable in for the day.

-Russ
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brian maddox

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The benefit in my mind is cost and flexibility: today I've got a ukulele ensemble with 32 inputs downstage, tomorrow it's 18 circuits of footlights and an 8-piece jazz ensemble just down of the cyc, and a couple of days from now it's a tour providing their own stage setup. Floor pockets will accommodate two of the three, but require a lot of up-front cost for a lot of rarely-used copper, whereas with a trough I can use the same subsnake downstage today for the ukes and upstage tomorrow for the band, and the electricians can easily run soca for the one time a year some asks for foots, and the tour can drop their cable in for the day.

-Russ

I'm gonna chime in and say that floor pockets are of the devil and then I'm gonna slink back into my corner...

[But yeah, floor pockets are evil and should be banned from the earth.]
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brian maddox
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Matthew Knischewsky

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I'm gonna chime in and say that floor pockets are of the devil and then I'm gonna slink back into my corner...

[But yeah, floor pockets are evil and should be banned from the earth.]

I'm also going to chime in that floor pockets are not what I prefer. Inevitably there's not enough channels, or the pocket is in the wrong spot, something must be placed directly over top of it, if the floor gets mopped eventually there's corrosion issues...

The goal of a floor pocket is tidiness, and minimizing trip hazards. Can work if the configuration is well thought out and either doesn't change, or the potential changes have been taken into account. This almost never happens.

A while back I was lead installer on a council chamber type project. It's supposed to be a multi-purpose room so all of the tables and chairs may be stowed in 2 rooms that are the correct size to accommodate. Many, many consultations with architects and engineers. There's highly detailed drawings of everything including the layout of the custom council furniture that we're installing microphones and data cabling into. The floor pockets have been cut into the concrete and properly sized conduits installed by the electrician. Lots of floor pockets... 11... 13, maybe more. A pocket for each desk and the lectern. I've pulled wire and terminated the floor pockets, ready to go.

The furniture people deliver, assemble, place and leave. We're in the final push of the job, finishes are coming together, cleaners are starting to come in etc. Of course there have been change orders for the other trades but the opening date has not been moved back... so at this point we're trying to get cracking on wiring up these desks, which is looking good. Then this person I've never seen before that works for the client comes in and starts barking orders: "NO, NO! I told them this won't do!!! Move this there, move that here!" All of the desks get moved around to accommodate her vision of the layout never mind what anyone else has planned or paid for. "There. That's where they go." And for whatever reason that's where they went.

After that only 3 of the floor pockets were in locations that worked. The conduits were not sized to be able to accommodate this change well. Serious compromises were eventually made that negatively affected the automixing capabilities of the system.

To finish the story off, a few days after this we're down to the wire. We've been waiting for this real wood laminate wall paper to be installed so we can mount 4 90" TVs which everyone is very nervous about because at the time they were about the largest size you could get and very expensive. It's a Sunday afternoon before the opening the next evening and the owner of the company I'm working for is there because the 4 TVs were worth a total of something like $50000. Long story short, the main client rep shows up and demands 2 of the TVs be mounted in slightly different locations. Slightly different enough that the blocking that's long been installed in the wall behind this expensive wood laminate won't work. My employer and the rep get into it with the result that the TVs go in the new location.

Anyways, when the architect comes in the next day he starts to very calmly blow a gasket on me for 2 of the TVs being in the wrong spot. I re-direct his attention towards the client's rep, then the architect proceeds to very politely rip this guy a new one while indirectly letting all of the remaining trades and the client's associates know who's actually in charge of a construction project. Too little too late, but it was also a good lesson in how effective a little professional humiliation can be.

This job didn't have a good ending, the hired programmer bricked the main DSP during a firmware update a few hours after this. Big oops, no spare available, massive scramble to try to get something, anything working. We did in the end but it was not pretty, none of the fancy automation was available for opening night of the Million Dollar Boardroom. (Maybe should have posted this story in the disaster gigs thread in the basement)

So yeah, I'm not down with floor pockets most of the time. A lot of planning needed for something that IMO doesn't often work well.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 01:38:11 pm by Matthew Knischewsky »
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Tim McCulloch

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Every one of my corporate horror stories starts with a "person supposedly in charge" making sweeping changes to plans approved or created at the highest levels, but *we* are but minions to be ordered about.  I've told this story before but it's worth a condensed repeat.

Back in a previous decade Cessna Aircraft was purchased by Textron (who also ended up buying a helicopter company and Beechcraft/Hawker).  Textron was flying in their CEO for a big off-site meeting with executives and managers.   Textron has a PR company that handles the planning and design for such events.  The firm set detailed drawings for the set, video and room treatments.

I'm there as a grip to help set lights (minimal fixture visibility, cables run thru the ceiling, etc).  We arrive at 8am with the projection/AV crew.  We get it mostly all set before noon.  Decorator comes in, put his hands on his hips and says "Boys, this just wont do!" and proceeds to rearrange the set to his liking, and we move some lights and refocus.  Now time for a late lunch... but no, Mrs R. (her real initial!) comes in and because she's the personal assistant to the Cessna president, when she put her hands on her hips and said "boys, this just won't do", we're obligated to listen.  She has the crew rearrange the set and decor/props.  We relight it, recable some fixtures... and now it's 4pm or so and still not had lunch.  The advance man from Textron's PR company arrives, looks at the set and asks "why doesn't this look like the diagram you were faxed?"  We all explain the "death by corporate pecking order" and he nods.  "Ok, make it look like the picture I sent, we'll do a quick test and I'll buy dinner and drinks and approve the overtime."  Had he flown in the morning of the event it would have been too late to restore the changes made by Decorator Guy and Mrs R.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 12:51:07 pm by Tim McCulloch »
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Caleb Dueck

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I'm gonna chime in and say that floor pockets are of the devil and then I'm gonna slink back into my corner...

I used to think so as well, back when I was on the live mixing side of things in older churches.  After switching to the AVL designer side for new construction projects - they're now a necessary not-so-evil.  With the huge caveat of - "If they're designed well."   
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brian maddox

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I used to think so as well, back when I was on the live mixing side of things in older churches.  After switching to the AVL designer side for new construction projects - they're now a necessary not-so-evil.  With the huge caveat of - "If they're designed well."

I've not seen many of these alleged "designed well" floor pocket systems you speak of.  :)

For me it comes down to a lot of little things, that mostly come down to the age old caveat that "things change".  Lots of floor pocket system are well designed for the use case when they were installed, but then "things change".  And now they're in the wrong place or don't have enough of one type of connection but too many of another.  No matter how many XLR inputs they have in them, I'm sure to need one more, meanwhile the 8 NL4 outputs in the box go unused.

If you make the boxes big enough to have a large assortment of connections, they become so large that they impact what I can put where on the stage without covering them up.  Or we put in a bunch of smaller ones, and we end up with the same issue.  Stage rugs cover them, risers sit on them, etc.

Then there's the boxes themselves which inevitably bust my knuckles getting things into them or are so tight that I can't get the stupid XLR lock released or the opening when the door is closed is too small for the 12AWG power cables that I'm trying to run into them or whatever.

I totally get the desire to have a clean looking stage.  There are times when some downstage pockets can help keep things clean.  But I think I'd still rather have a trough system with cable cutouts so I can put in whatever I want so that I can make changes more easily when the needs change.

I think if I was designing a system for a stage today, I would possibly install floor pockets with power and cat5.  Then drop whatever digital audio stage box I need in whatever location I need it.  Bonus points if it can all be Dante.

But 5 years after its install, Dante's successor will come out and use fiber or something and the pockets will STILL be wrong.

Just my 2 pennies worth.  YMMV...
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brian maddox
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Matthew Knischewsky

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I've not seen many of these alleged "designed well" floor pocket systems you speak of.  :)

SNIP
I think if I was designing a system for a stage today, I would possibly install floor pockets with power and cat5.  Then drop whatever digital audio stage box I need in whatever location I need it.  Bonus points if it can all be Dante.

I used to think I was going to love Dante (or any scalable digital snake system) for exactly what you're describing. And in some situations it does work very well. I love it for corporate gigs where everything is spread out, I need a select number of I/O in several locations: FOH, Stage, Visuals, RF, etc. Having multiple 16x8 I/O boxes in considerably more useful than say, having 48 inputs in one location. I love it for expanding smaller mixers to use in addition to the onboard I/O like the Yamaha QL series.

What I don't really like is having the I/O boxes out on stage for a performance. I always feel a bit apprehensive that someone is going to unplug it by accident, or knock something onto it, or on a small stage trip over it. Most I/O boxes I've used are of the rack mount variety besides the one A&H offering I'm aware of no one is really building a "sub snake" digital I/O box. Or if they do exist I'm not seeing them in the wild. (back when we still did gigs). So we're back to square 1, trying to keep the stage clean with floor pockets but not really accomplishing that.

Maybe I'm not looking far enough ahead- perhaps more devices will come with a standard digital interface in future and we can just run Cat whatever cable everywhere to everything. Judging by how analog interconnect turned out I'm not optimistic . For example, how many connector types and how many analog interface types do we have to work with on an ongoing basis? OR, the very small Dante interfaces need to come WAY down in price.

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Caleb Dueck

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Quote from: Matthew Knischewsky
Maybe I'm not looking far enough ahead- perhaps more devices will come with a standard digital interface in future and we can just run Cat whatever cable everywhere to everything. Judging by how analog interconnect turned out I'm not optimistic . For example, how many connector types and how many analog interface types do we have to work with on an ongoing basis? OR, the very small Dante interfaces need to come WAY down in price.

Quote from: brian maddox
I've not seen many of these alleged "designed well" floor pocket systems you speak of.

There are well-designed floor boxes (stage infrastructure), but only in a few churches; if tours come through, the floor boxes typically aren't used.  Stage infrastructure includes not only the boxes but also the conduit, connectors, and power.

More often now the floor boxes also include fiber, especially at potential camera locations.  This fiber in its as-installed form can handle 12G-SDI, com, data; super-mega-future-Dante/AVB/AES67/whatever; and SDVoE, MediorNet, etc.   

The invisible future-proof components though is the conduit, and the relative low cost of replacing individual connectors.  Say there are a pair of NL4's that are long-unused, and going forward OpticalCon will get a lot of use.  Pull out the NL4 connectors, tape fiber to one end of the old cable, pull the speaker wire out/fiber in, terminate, and done.  As long as there is plenty of conduit, sized for current and future use, run to the right other locations - this does a good job of not inherently limiting boxes.  What it doesn't do is move the physical location of each box, but if designed well (floor box or upstage wall panel within 15' of any point) - having to move floor boxes is not an issue. 

I'm not saying floor boxes are best.  I am saying that for some applications (HoW mostly), if there are enough boxes at the right locations, if there is enough right-sized conduit, and if the right connectors - along with wall panels behind the curtains along the upstage walls for sub-snakes and backline - it can work well.  Designing permanent stage infrastructure well is not trivial or cheap, hence why it's so often botched. 

As a BE on tour, where every cable and connection is rolled up and taken from venue to venue - I consider floor boxes part of the physical structure, and thus not used by the tour.  In that situation it's all sub-snakes and wireless. 

Like Matthew - I haven't personally used any of the digital stage boxes (IE Dante or ACE or MADI) on stage in place of sub-snakes.  I see those devices as best racked-up, with analog sub-snakes from them to the various points on stage.  In the same rack as wireless receivers - great.  Sitting next to the drummer to have the network cable stepped on - not so much.  If there are more 4 and 8 channel, tiny form factor, tiny price tag options in the future - then yes. 
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