Batten (theater)

Batten (theater)

In theater, batten or "pipe" refers to a long metal pole suspended above the stage or the audience from which lighting fixtures, theatrical scenery, tabs or other curtains may be hung. Usually these battens can be lowered to the stage (flown in) or raised into a fly tower above the stage (flown out) using a counterweighted fly system or automated, motor driven lift.



An electric is a batten with cables run above the pipe, usually enclosed in a raceway. It generally has plugs for lights, DMX data cable, or audio built in which continue through a snake to dimmers, control boards, or patchbays. The plugs have indentifying numbers printed on them so that they can be easily referenced by the control system. Loaded electrics are among the heaviest types of battens, often weighing more than a thousand pounds. As such, it is very important to keep them in proper balance as severe strain can result on the fly system's brake and the counterweight ropes.

Often they have large loops of spring steel extending to each side so that other battens which are swinging do not damage the lighting instruments. Electrics generally have an established "trim height" (a reference for standard height) so that focusing is consistent. In some theaters, especially where battens are close together, a heat resistant fabric is attached in front of the electric to prevent heat from the lighting instruments from damaging nearby flown items.


A drapery pipe carries travelers, tormentor legs, borders, or tabs. Full-stage drapes can be very heavy, weighing hundreds of pounds, especially the grand drape. Legs or borders however, can be comparably light as they are not usually very thick and sewn without fullness.


Many theaters have built in shells designed to reflect sound produced on stage back into the audience. These shells often include large folding panels which can be flown in.


Elements of the set which are relatively flat or light can be flown in on battens.


Some theatres use spare battens to store unneeded scenery or lighting instruments. This practice is generally frowned upon due to the hazard created by overhead storage.


Some theaters do not employ this system, and instead use a static network of pipes accessible from catwalks above the stage. This is sometime considered a safer approach, as there is less chance of pipe accidentally "running" in or out, but it forces electricians, riggers, and audio engineers to carry equipment or scenery to the pipes via ladders, lifts, or ropes.

=See also=
*Rig (stage lighting)
*Fly system
*Fly captain

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