The Sonic Sphere hung in the Shed for 10 weeks for a run of shows last summer
USA - BNW, a leading production rigging company based in New York City, founded and run by Tony Bonilla, successfully executed the challenging lift of the Sonic Sphere at The Shed utilising Eilon Engineering’s Ron StageMaster wireless load cells to ensure precision and safety.
Bonilla, with over two decades of rigging experience, recognised the need for higher calibre rigging in the industry following years of work on concert tours, Broadway musicals, the circus and car industrials. The realisation led to the establishment of BNW in 2012, a company that has since become synonymous with safe and effective rigging solutions in and around New York City. An ETCP-certified rigger since 2005, Bonilla also oversees rigging at Cipriani venues and has imparted his extensive knowledge to aspiring riggers over the years through seminars and teaching.
The Sonic Sphere, a 65ft diameter spherical concert space suspended in the air within The Shed's 115-foot-tall McCourt, posed challenges in its setup and tear-down. BNW was enlisted to make sure the weighty structure got up and then down safely and employed Eilon Engineering's Ron StageMaster wireless load cells to monitor the loads throughout the process.
The complexity of the project required meticulous planning and execution and the weights involved were enormous. The Sphere housed a stage deck surrounded by amphitheatre seating, along with entrance and exit bridges. Inside were performers, audience and a myriad of equipment, including musical instruments, lighting and surround speakers. Original design loads were over 300,000 pounds.
Bonilla emphasised however that weights you are given do not always reflect reality. “You can do all the math in the world but if you have wrong data coming into your equation, you can’t see the difference. We need to precisely know the load, and the only way to achieve that is through our Eilon load cell system. We use Ron StageMaster load cells to verify the weight so there is no guessing and no argument.”
The innovative Sphere design required independent lifts of the Sphere and the show deck, with load cells ensuring precise weight verification at every step. “Knowing the loads at every connection gave us confidence in verification to how the rig reacted when we punched the 'GO' button.”
Motor bridles with 2-ton hoists married with a block to equalize the tension were used to lift the load. The load was then transferred to 1.5" SWR cables as static hangs to remove the motors from the system. BNW utilized 34 3-ton G4 Ron StageMaster wireless load cells on 2T CM single block chain hoists, with each load carefully monitored to ensure an even distribution of weight. Bonilla explains, “We used the load cells to tell how much load was being transferred off the hoists and onto the static cables as we tightened the turnbuckles. As it went up and the bridal flattened out, we could see the tension go up and make sure we weren’t overloading.”
The wireless nature of the Eilon load cells proved crucial, eliminating the need for cumbersome cables and streamlining the entire process. To monitor the load cells, Bonilla employed a portable Ron StageMaster PRR receiver in conjunction with an iPad, an easy-to-install wireless system that allowed him to view load maps while moving around the space. “Being wireless helped a lot and helped us fine tune everything,” Bonilla said. “If we had had to run cable to the load cells while we were moving the Sphere up would have been a nightmare of cable management.”
The Sphere and the stage deck were raised in careful steps with the load changing as the structure moved. “You can’t tell where the tension and load is just by looking at it visually,” Bonilla explains. “To lift something that big you’ve got to take your time and build the tension slowly. We raised it up only a few inches then stopped and took a look at everything to make sure the loads were even across the board. The lift took continuous monitoring and the Eilon system played a pivotal role in providing us with reliable data to make informed decisions.”
The show deck ended up weighing 84,000 pounds, which was significantly more than original figures, with the total weight of the structure before adding people and equipment at about 120,000 pounds.
The Sonic Sphere hung in the Shed for 10 weeks for a run of shows last summer with the lift and load out coming off with no issues. Bonilla praises his extremely talented team, especially BNW production riggers Shawn Robinson and Brian Lehrer, who worked with him to get the Sphere up and down safely and effectively. He concludes, “I would never do a project like this without Eilon load cells. It's about your margin of safety and what you need to prove.”

Latest Issue. . .