Monday, December 22, 2014

Museum Men

I have been watching a new show on the History Channel called “Museum Men”.  It’s about a small custom fabrication (design/build) shop in Florida that builds (at least primarily) museum exhibits.  In some ways the shop is very much like what I work in, and it is interesting to see how projects play out in their shop. 
On the flip side, the show brings up a number of concerns (which I am sure is true for every industry that is boiled down to a short reality tv series).
                -Their timeline from project initiation to installation is about a month.  At times it seems as though they have a month of fabrication time, either way, this isn’t very realistic or practical.
                -How the content is developed seems a little odd.  Perhaps we just aren’t seeing the nuts and bolts here, but the show goes from a conversation about an element, to going forward full steam.  In fact in an episode about building Chuck Yeager’s Supersonic Jet, they were half way through building the piece when the owner comes in with goods news and bad news.  Good – they client was spending more money, bad – they jet is too large and a new piece needs to be built and installed with only the remaining 2 weeks that had been previously scheduled.  Seems like the client is paying extra to have the jet redone- but this seems like a pretty major detail that should have been worked out on paper before anything was built. 
                -Drawings and research, as well as what is being delivered seems to be at the owner’s discretion.  Once thy wondered if the jet could be installed upside down?  Even if the unit is a design build contract, the client should be signing off on something – including what it will be and look like once it is installed.  It seems like they move forward into construction before they even know all of the details about what they are constructing.
                -Perhaps a few all night work calls still exists in the industry – but showing the tight timelines and then encouraging these work practices doesn’t really help clients understand what we can reasonably accomplish. 
                -And a 1 hour load in is just a little crazy. 

I can only hope that the bigger picture is edited out, but I am left with a connotation that it shouldn’t take more than a month to design, build, and install a major piece of exhibition scenery, which is not really feasible.  Now there are a couple of things to note – they do mention not taking on much additional work – it does seem like they primarily work on one project at a time.  Whether bad or good it is interesting to see some of their processes and get an inside look!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Props - life sized animals, dinosaurs, and characters

You never really know what you will find yourself in the need of when you are bidding projects.  The latest museum project has me looking for farm animals and I came across this site: Butlers and Signs.

They carry life sized fiberglass and resin props.  The prices seem fairly reasonable, though probably too high for theatrical props.

Some of what they carry includes Christmas and Santa themed items (great for those Santa visits), dinosaurs, mounted heads, cowboys, pirates, butlers, carousal horses, oversized food and lots of zoo and farm animals.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

USITT Tech Expo

It is not too late to submit your innovative technical solution to USITT's 2015 Tech Expo.  Download the form here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gaff Tape Runner

And now for a product that should have been invented years ago (or was and just not marketed): GaffGun.

I am waiting for one that carries a handful of colors of spike tape marketed to stage managers next...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Digital torque wrench

I was reading a handyman magazine and they had a product that I thought would be a good edition to any theatre technicians tool bag- a digital torque wrench that can be used with any 1/2" socket.  It can also be used with 3/8" and 1/4" adapters.  It is made by Pittsburgh and available at Harbor Freight for under $40.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014


While browsing linked in I cam across this post from ibookbinding on marbling tutorials.  I remember doing this as a kids, and thought it was lots of fun at the time.  Obviously by the title you can tell that this isn't exactly a theatrical site, but I thought that as I looked over the post, that if you adjusted the basin, you would be able to do tiles to create a marble effect onstage.  I know that scenic artists have ways of creating these effects already, but I don't think it ever hurts to have a new technique in your tool bag!

Friday, October 3, 2014

What Type of Collaborator Are You?

One way to look at how you handle collaboration, along with how those you work with act. Knowing a bit about how other people work can help you navigate interactions.  

Mindjet has a blog that has a number of short, to the point entries that are both fun and useful for getting work done.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Technology Training Free Resources

I came across IDC Technologies September 2014's newsletter technical download page, and thought that it is good information to keep as well as to pass on. The page offers a number of links ranging from project management to mechanical Design Concepts for Non-Mechanical Engineers to a train the trainer document.  They also have webinars available, that would be worth looking into.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Electro-magnetic Boards

I recently received an email about a product called Justick.  Its basically a bulletin board without pins, tapes, etc - where notes just stick, without any additional aid.  This works via an electromagnetic field, generated by AA batteries.

While this probably is not robust enough to hold up in some environments, I could see uses.  If you could control the power remotely, things could easily fall onstage.  But I could see it more in use backstage, or for use in meetings where you may not have a post it note, but need to make a note.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

History of Prop Money

Priceonomics has an interesting article called The Business of Fake Hollywood Money.  It’s a really interesting read.  I have certainly ran into issues when I have done props in the past – making money realistic enough for use, but in a way that we could do without getting into trouble (its not like you can just go to the local kinkos and plop a $5 bill down on the copy machine…).

The article is also interesting as it discusses some of the Hollywood prop shops.  And for listing the book by Fred Reed called Show Me the Money, about the history of money in the movies.  It is definitely a book to add to my reading list!