Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sound Design

Browsing Exhibit Builder, I saw an ad for, and thought I would post what I found here.

The audio Spot Light uses a 1/2" thick speaker (available in multiple colors!), which you can focus sound to one direct spot. They are used in exhibits and museums so that multiple tracks can be played in an area without the sound being overly cumbersome. While the price is certainly more than whats available in most sound designs - it could bring an interesting feature to theatre.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rigging Bibliography

Esta has a list of books regarding rigging (and theatre technology). Its a pretty decent list.

Educational Resources
Rigging BibliographyThe Seminars and Training Committee promotes the improvement of technical proficiency and safety within the entertainment technology industry. In furtherance of this mission, the Committee has compiled a bibliography of rigging reference materials which includes books, articles, standards, and other materials.
Rigging Resources-> Rigging BibliographyRigging Seminars
Electrical ResourcesElectrical BibliographyElectrical Seminars
This bibliography is not intended to be a definitive compilation, but merely an additional resource for locating relevant reference materials. Neither The ESTA Foundation nor the Committee makes any representation or warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or content of any of the resources contained in the bibliography.
The Committee intends to update the listing periodically as new information is provided to it. If you do not see rigging reference material that should be included in the bibliography, please contact Lori Rubinstein at
emailwrite("info",""); with the complete bibliography listing information.Please note: If you would like additional information about the materials listed in the bibliography, please contact the publisher or author. The Seminars and Training Committee does not provide or sell these materials.
ANSI E1.1 - 1999 Entertainment Technology - Construction and Use of Wire Rope Ladders. ESTA Technical Standards Program Rigging Working Group
ANSI E1.2 - 2000 Entertainment Technology - Construction, Use and Maintenance of Aluminum Trusses and Towers. ESTA Technical Standards Program Rigging Working Group
ANSI E1.2 - 2006 Entertainment Technology - Construction, Use and Maintenance of Aluminum Trusses and Towers. ESTA Technical Standards Program Rigging Working Group
ANSI E1.8 - 2005 Entertainment Technology - Loudspeaker Enclosures Intended for Overhead Suspension—Classification, Manufacture and Structural Testing. ESTA Technical Standards Program Rigging Working Group
ANSI E1.15 - 2006 Entertainment Technology - Recommended Practices and Guidelines for the Assembly and Use of Theatrical Boom & Base Assemblies. ESTA Technical Standards Program Rigging Working Group
ANSI E1.21 - 2006 Entertainment Technology - Temporary Ground-Supported Overhead Structures Used to Cover Stage Areas and Support Equipment in the Production of Outdoor Entertainment Events. ESTA Technical Standards Program Rigging Working Group
The Art of Knotting & Splicing Fourth Edition. Cyrus L. Day, Edited by M. Lee Hoffman Jr. and Ray O. Beard Jr., United States Naval Institute Press, Annapolis MD, 1986
The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide Third Edition. Monona Rossol, Allworth Press, New York NY, 1994
The Backstage Handbook: An Illustrated Almanac of Technical Information Third Edition. Paul Carter and George Chiang (Illustrator), Broadway Press, New York NY, 1994
CMC Rope Rescue Manual Third Edition. James A. Frank, CMC Rescue, Inc. Santa Barbara CA, 1998
Developing an Operations Manual for a Performing Arts Facility. Reid Neslage and Dr. Randall A Davidson, 1991
Entertainment Rigging: A Practical Guide for Riggers, Designers and Managers. Harry Donovan, Rigging Seminars, Seattle WA 2002
The Event Safety Guide. Health & Safety Executive Books, United Kingdom, 1999
Greening Up Our Houses: A Guide to a More Ecologically Sound Theater. Larry K. Fried and Theresa J. May, Drama Book Publishers, New York NY, 1995Handbook for Riggers Second Edition. W.G. (Bill) Newberry, Newberry Investment Co, Ltd., Calgary Alberta, 1989
Handbook of Rigging: For Construction and Industrial Operations. W.E.Rossnagel, Lindley R. Higgins, Joseph A. MacDonald (Photographer), W. A. Rossnagel. McGraw-Hill, NY, 1988
Health and Safety Guide for Film, TV and Theatre. Monona Rossol, Allworth Press, New York, NY, 2000
Illustrated Theatre Production Guide. John Holloway
Introduction to Fall Protection Third Edition. J. Nigel Ellis Ph.D, CSP, P.E., American Society of Safety Engineers, Des Plaines IL, 1993
An Introduction to Rigging in the Entertainment Industry. Chris Higgs, Entertainment Technology Press, Cambridge, England 2002
The Klutz Book of Knots. John Cassidy, The Klutz Press, Palo Alto CA, 1985
Modular Loudspeaker Flying Hardware System. ATM Audio Visual, Gardena CA
On Rope Second Edition. Allen Padgett, Bruce Smith, National Speleological Society, 1997
Pocket Ref Second Edition. Thomas J. Glover, Sequoia Publishing Inc, 1997
A Practical Guide to Health and Safety in the Entertainment Industry. Marco Van Beek, Entertainment Technology Press, Cambridge, 2000
Rappelling Second Edition. Tom Martin, SEARCH, Mt Sterling KY, 1988
Reference Cards for Entertainment Rigging. Harry Donovan, Rigging Seminars
Results of Stage Rigging Hardware Tests, 1986 through 1991. United States Institute for Theatre Technology, NY, 1991
Rigging for Entertainment; Regulations and Practice. Chris Higgs, Entertainment Technology Press, Cambridge, 2003
Riggers Handbook. I & I Sling Co., Inc., Aston PA
Rigging Manual for Iron Workers. International Association Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Iron Workers, AFL-CIO, Washington DC, 1976
RigRight 1.0 Software. Harry Donovan, Rigging Seminars
Rope, Knots, Hitches & Splices. Wellington Puritan, Madison GA, 1968
Scene Design and Stage Lighting Seventh Edition. W. Oren Parker and R. Craig Wolf, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Fort Worth TX, 1996
Scene Technology Third Edition. Richard L. Arnold, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1993
Single-Failure-Proof Design for Theatre Safety. Olaf Soot, USITT Journal, 1986
The Splicing Handbook: Techniques for Modern and Traditional Ropes. Barbara Merry (Editor), John Darwin (Contributor), New England Ropes, New Bedford MA, 2000
Stage Rigging Handbook Second Edition. Jay O. Glerum, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale IL, 1997
Stage Scenery, Its Construction and Rigging Third Edition. A.S. Gillette and J. Michael Gillette, Harper & Row, New York NY, 1988 (Out of Print )
Stage Specs: A Guide to Legit Theatres. League of American Theatres and Producers, 1990 (Out of Print)
The Stagecraft Handbook. Daniel A. Ionazzi, Betterway Books, Cincinnati OH, 1996
Standard Specifications for Theatrical Rigging. J. R. Clancy, Inc., Syracuse NY, 1988
Strength of Materials, Block and Tackle, Tackle Maintenance. The Crosby Group, Tulsa, OK, 1991
Structural Design for the Stage. Alys E. Holden and Bronislaw J. Sammler, Focal Press, 1991
Structures: Or, Why Things Don't Fall Down. J.E. Gordon, Plenum Press, New York, 1978
Technical Design Solutions for Theatre (The Technical Brief Collection, Volume 1). Ben Sammler, Don Harvey
Technical Design Solutions for Theatre (The Technical Brief Collection, Volume 2). Ben Sammler, Don Harvey
Technical Rescue Riggers Guide. Rick Lipke, Conterra, Inc, 1998
Theatre Backstage from A to Z Fourth Edition. Warren C. Lounsbury and Norman C. Boulanger, University of Washington Press, Seattle WA, 2000
Theater Technology Second Edition. George C. Izenour, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York , NY, 1997
Theatre Engineering and Stage Machinery. Toshiro Ogawa, Entertainment Technology Press, Japan, 2000
Theatrical Design & Production. J. Michael Gillette
Why Buildings Fall Down. Mathys Levy and Mario Salvadori, W.W. Norton & Co, Inc, New York, 1994
Why Buildings Stand Up. Mario Salvadori, W. W. Norton & Co, Inc, New York, 1990
Wire Rope Sling Users Manual. American Iron and Steel Industry, Wire Rope Technical Board, Stevensville MD, 1990Wire Rope Users Manual. American Iron and Steel Industry, Wire Rope Technical Board, Stevensville MD, 1990
Return to Educational Resources

Quote of the Day

"theatres are like grapes; they grow best in bunches." Greg Falls, founder of Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Safe Sets

A big quirk of theatre is that we generally don't have nearly enough $ to do what we want - but we spend a fair amount each show (depending of course on where you are) to then turn around and throw it out. While some places do use a larger amount of stock, or are able to store larger amounts of previous built pieces, unfortunately money still enters into the equation. Storage doesn't come cheaply, plus you have time expenditures in terms or storing, organizing, maintaining, and transporting saved pieces. And that sometimes makes it cheaper to rebuild a piece instead of keeping it - plus allowing the designer customization of said unit.

What that means to the environment is that we buy lots of stuff, add chemicals and then trash it. The site listed below discussed alternatives that are more environmentally safe.

Future Glow tape alternative

Check out:

Seems like a neat concept - the litrospheres can be made into a wide range of objects (injection molded or added to paint), and can come in a variety of colors.

While the flip side of this is LED technology, I like this idea as well.

Also check out:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lift Table

I thought this product was cool...
The table lifts up to 300 pounds and uses a drill for its power. I could totally see having one of these around the shop. Though not cheap, at 500 bucks, it isn't out of reach.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tape Dispenser

Spike tape dispenser?

Check out:

Its a bit pricey, but could be nice when you are taping out a floor

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Theatre Fun

Check out Backstage Betty to take a fun backstage quiz. The quiz isn't hard, but its fun.

For more fun, and links to a wide variety of very useful information check out:

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cable Fittings

This product from Outwater seems like it warrants a second look. I have seen these in use in permanent installations, and on-stage for scenery. When I last did a set that used cable as a detail on the railings we used another connector (verlocks - The verlocks in this instance were a little clunky to work with, and I like the look of the Outwater projects. The fun of being a TD is finding new toys and being able to come back and rethink technical solutions!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Stage Lighting Primer

This site offers a primer for learning lighting. Good for people you need to know a little about the subject – its enough to allow you to talk intelligently about the subject, and to know when you need to ask questions, get more information, or to leave the person doing the lighting do their thing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Online Beam Calculator

So in my quest this morning to find some steel design information so that I could run the math for a beam I was working on, I found the following site:

It's a nifty calculator to calculate some of the forces on simple beams and cantilevers. Easy to use, though it would be nice if it had more loading conditions.

After browsing the web there are a few other locations that are of use as well:
Allows several different tests for simply supported beams and cantilevers and a purchase seems to allow more scenarios.
a variety of solutions including ones for automation. some are available online, some you need to download. It is free for 30 days, but the cost is reasonable.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Finger Wrench and Pocket Levels

Finger Wench: This tiny little tool sticks on the end of your finger and lets you put in a nut or a bolt in an awkward position. And it holds all nuts up to ½” so it is even practical for some of the stuff we do theatrically.
Pocket Level: The same size as a credit card it shows level and slopes. While as a true level, the small distance means that it isn’t wonderful for what we do, I like that it has the 45 and 60 degree slopes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Power Options

Power Strip liberator: This cord plus into your power strip and provides a 1’ extension cord to facilitate plugging in wall wart plugs. It allows you to plug in large plugs without using adjacent outlets. Also, it has a pass through plug.
Squids: This type of cord looks like an octopus – hence the name. The unit plugs in and then separate cords branch out each ending in an outlet.

Two-fer style connectors: like the lighting plugs – one cord branches off to provide two outlets. Available at: Also available (from lee valley) are cords that allow 3 instead of 2. The squids mentioned above allow for 5.

Multi-Outet cords. These cords have staggered outlets along the length of the cord. You can check them out at:,104,53212&ap=2.
They are convenient to string around a shop or location where not enough outlets exsists. A great use for this is back stage for clip lights.

Rockler Products

It’s that time of year and as always, the catalogs are on overdrive arriving in your mailbox. Today I was flipping through Rockler woodworking and hardware and there were a few notable things I thought I would mention.

First, Topcoat. It’s a spray “lubricant”. It can be used on saws and hand tools and repels rust and moisture.

They sell prevals. Prevals are great for spraying custom colors, and it seems like I can never find them when I am looking for one.

They have these nifty little do dads (I actually saw a similar product in Lee Valley but they call them tape tips) called square check. They are tools to help you hold your tape on the corners of a frame to check the squareness of whatever you are building.

T-Jaks. These are adjustable height tubes that help to support weight while you attach what you are hold to something structural. They resemble roller support stands used for saws, with the support being solid as opposed to being a bearing.

EZ-Mark Cords. This is basically two clips tied together with an elastic clip. You can indicate lines on a piece of wood without marking it (say for the internal fasteners on a flat or platform). Simple, but useful.

Speed Dolly:I thought this product was interesting, and potentially very customizable for theatrical use. Its basically a dolly with a back that tips – you tip it up to load it and then set it back on its wheels. From the picture in the catalog its pretty small, but again, I think customization could make it useful for material handling,

Lastly, they carry a variety of rare earth magnets. While rare earth magnets aren’t “rare”, it always seems like whenever I need them, I can’t remember what catalog I have seen them in.

Poly Clips

A while back I blogged about the wide variety of clips available for stretching fabric. Most of these are sold as tarp clips, but Rosebrand does market versions to use for for theatrical use. Today I ran across another type used for netting: poly clips.

The link above takes you to a PDF about them. I wonder if the teeth would effectively grip webbing without damaging fabric. I liked that they incorporate a wire guide, but I can also see this as being ineffective- the way the pull is orientated it could be difficult to get enough stretch - you would have to be able to tension your cable enough.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cars that Drive Themselves

I have been reading about the race in California for robotic cars.

While it seems off topic, I think it has an interesting tie in. There are a variety of engineering competitions out there that can bring a little fun into a fairly studious program of study. Yes, theatre is fun. But I think technical theatre is pushing the envelope of technology more and more everyday. I have heard that in Europe they are replacing counterweight systems with all motorized systems due to safety concerns. In the US, rigging went from hemp systems to counterweight systems, and many locations do have automated systems of some sort, even if just on a few lines. Automation is making more scenery move by itself, and projections and other special effects are becoming norms rather than the exception in many places. Yet, how does technical theatre education handle all of these new technologies. I firmly believe in training for tomorrow, yet it seems most places are barley keeping up with training for today. One of the ways that I would propose to help that situation would be to have more competitions. To encourage more inventiveness, for instance. Too many times, one place does a show, and then the show does the LORT circuit, and the shows are way too similar. The effects are copied or passed around. While an education in technical theatre needs to have a sound basis of common techniques, and knowledge of technical theatre history, a student needs to be able to take this knowledge and merge it together in new ways.
I realize that we have difficult parameters – there isn’t a lot of time (or budget) outside of a show, and the show has various needs and a TD only has limited options according to designs, space, time, and so forth. But perhaps if we had more outside interactions – above and beyond USITT, and the Tech Expo, perhaps we could generate new technology instead of getting it from outside sources. I suppose this ties in to my thoughts on elegant solutions and my blog about reality shows, but I think it is important to start integrating more technology in a manner that learning can occur outside of show pressure.

FYI, I have spoken several times about elegant solutions. These types of solutions are ones that are complex enough to do the job, but no more complex than necessary. Simple can be beautiful. They should be the most effective solution for a particular set of circumstances – a great solution for a show in one venue may be wrong for the same show in another venue. In grad school I had a course in which every week we were given a scenario and we needed to come up with a technical solution.

Yale Update

The following links provide some updated information about the incident at Yale.

The event saddens me greatly and my hearts go out not just to the family, but the friends and community of the Yale Drama Department.,0,6692894.story?track=rss

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yale Incident

I heard about the following accident today at Yale, and I thought it would be appropriate to post and ask that those who read this do 2 things: Send warm thoughts to the family and take a few minutes to reflect about the safety procedures in place where you work, and take steps to make it better.

The newspaper write-up:, 26, dies in freak accidentBy Jim SheltonNEW HAVEN — A Yale University graduate student was struck in the head and died Sunday morning while unloading a truck filled with heavy stage scenery and equipment for the Yale Repertory Theatre.Pierre-Andre Salim, 26, was from Indonesia and lived in New Haven.An unspecified number of long, thick pieces of compressed particleboard fell on Salim's head, according to officials at the scene.Although the student was wearing a hard hat, the weight and force of the material was enough to kill him, sources said.Salim was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was pronounced dead."The family of the student was notified today by (Drama School) Dean James Bundy," university spokesman Tom Conroy said. "A member of the family will be traveling to New Haven. It's hard when someone so young and full of life dies.Members of the drama school family are mourning a tragic loss."Salim graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2002 with a degree in computer science, according to his Facebook page.Grief-stricken colleagues from the theater and the Yale Drama School stood outside the Chapel Street building Sunday morning, embracing each other and fighting back tears. None wanted to comment on the incident.Likewise, Bundy would not comment when he arrived at the theater Sunday morning.A white truck sat on York Street next to the theater's side entrance,with yellow police tape cordoning off the truck's open back end.Inside, personnel from the police department's bureau of identification examined the stage scenery items that remained there.Meanwhile, workers in hard hats carried items from a second truck into the theater.The Yale Rep's most recent production, "Trouble in Mind," had its final performance Saturday evening. The theater's next production,"Tartuffe," is scheduled to begin Nov. 26.Jim Shelton can be reached at 789-5664 or

TV meets theatre

So I have to admit that after years of not watching TV, I have lately gotten into the habit of watching some of the “reality series”. Not the put a bunch of people in a room survivor type, but ones like Design Star, Tope Chef, and The Next Iron Chef. And it made me think that I could totally see this sort of competition in the theatre arts. Obviously for design, Design Star would easily be altered to be theatrical instead of homes. Project Runway covers fashion design, but could be altered easily to be costume design. But I think it would be fun to create a competition for technical directors. I more of less see it as a “elegant solutions” class that has a real world component. Perhaps one week a challenge could be to design a particular type of effect (say leaves dropping on cue), with a budget, and other resources (only 2 carpenters, 16 hours….). Also shop resources and space restraints could be used. Sort of like a blown up tech Olympics competition. Points could be awards for practicality, originality, function, and such. Who knows, could be fun.

Rigging Resources

Check out Sapsis Rigging for some great resources about rigging:

The articles are well written and informative. The photos are fun too. But I have to say that Sapsis, is to me, one of the most respected people in the rigging industry, so his articles are a must read.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

hinges unhinged

A couple months back I blogged about a book about the history of the screw and screw driver. Now comes the hinge. Check out the link below to catch a little information about the history of the hinge.


I heard about a new thing today called tribolgy. And though it calls certain images to mind it has nothing to do with Africans or Native Americans or the like. Though the roots maybe as deep. Wikipedia says “Tribology is the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion. It includes the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and wear. The word "tribology" derives from the Greek τριβο ("tribo") meaning 'to rub', and λόγος ("logos") meaning 'principle or logic'.”

Basically what it comes down to is that when 2 materials pass each other 1 should be soft and the other hard. It doesn’t necessarily matter which is which, but if they are the same the materials will seize and bind. While little of we do is intense engineering or highly critical, it is something to keep in mind.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lunch Time Fun

Need a break?

Try some minigolf at:,21598,22672772-5005375,00.html


Try building an online paper airplane.

Inventions and Gadgets

I have been reading design news lately – the website is definitely one that I would recommend. I particularly enjoy some of the gadget freak articles which describe a variety of technical innovations. They are fun and include build instructions if you wish to build your own.

They have a blog as well:

I like the this week in history, and that they have a section devoted to engineering disasters (at the moment the I-35 bridge collapse). The calamites section describes smaller disasters, but are informative but fun to read as well. As seeing how something went wrong can be as helpfulas how things were built correctly, I like to read this sort of stuff. All in all, its definitely a site work spending some time.

Adhesive Resource

Has a variety of epoxies, silicones, contact cements and other adhesives for a variety of situations. The have a variety of information available as technical resources as well (though some of the pages were not working properly).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

kerf kore

Another alternative to bending luaun or bendy board are Kerfcore products.
Kerfkore comes in 4x8 by ¼”, ½” and ¾” thicknesses. It is composed of particle boar, MDF and plywood. The face paper is a black impregnated paper, and is also available with a brown backer paper. Good for fast and accurate cuts, works well when repeatability is needed, and allows laminates to be mounted flat and then curved.

Ultra-lite is similar except that it has a foam core. It is not available in the ¼” thickness either.

Timberflex comes in a 4x8 or 8x4 (depending on bending orientation and in ½” 5/8” and ¾” thicknesses. It must be formed and then laminated, however, its exterior surface is stainable or paint ready.

Flexboard is the economical alternative. It only does a 10” radius though, so it can’t be bent as tightly as the other choices. It has a hardboard face, and weighs about 2 pounds per square foot.

These also have a new product called foamkore. This is essentially two hard panels (hardboard, luaun, poplar or birch ply, laminated on either side of a piece of foam. You may note that I described this construction in an earlier post, and have been using the technique for a while. Though if labor dollars where an issue it could be worthwhile to purchase the material pre-laminated.

Econokore is a 2 ply material – mdf / poplar ply laminate that is available in 3/8” ¼” and ¾” thicknesses.

You can get more information on these products at:

More on 3-D prototyping is a new online rapid prototyping service offing quick turn around and “low” prices. I have been watching these processes for quite a while because I believe that these types of machines will be very useful in theatrical work. I know that cnc machines have been very useful, and has certainly changed the way work is done in the shop where I work. And, it allow better construction, ease of generating customized pieces more economically, and ease of construction because you can plan your construction into the cut piece (bolt holes, slots, registration marks). And, it doesn’t replace people, indeed these new technologies demand perhaps more time in drafting and planning. 3-D drafting, conceptualization and other design tools are being used more and more as a tool in stagecraft, not just design, and this is partly due to these emerging technologies. I can easily see a point in the future where that special custom prop will be “printed” in a 3-d plotter.

Curves for Carpenters and other tools...

The classic problem – your laying out something with curves and would like a guide to either help with the curve or to replicate the curve.

While I have used thin strips of luaun before to help, there are a couple products on the market that can come to the rescue as well. (Both available at Lee Valley)

Drawing Bows: This works on the same principle as the strip of wood but has several improvements that allows for 1 person to easily do it themselves

Blending Curves: Can use to match a series of points, or for smoothing the point where a straight line meets a curve.

Plastic razors: able to contour around edges, won’t rust, good for paint or cleaning or assorted other jobs, these pieces definitely made it on my home shop wish list.

Bo Wrench Deck Tool: used for position warped lumber on top of joists. Perhaps not the most theatrically useful, but I have definitely had situations where it would have been helpful. This could join the variety of jigs I have seen in use for dealing with warped wood in shops all over. Seems like a good idea for a book – shop build jigs for theater use….

Audels Carpenters and Builder’s Guide: First published in 1923, it’s a 4 volume set that contain woodworking info. As a firm believer in the fact that older technologies may be as good or better than newer (or newer isn’t always better), I like having this type of information around.

IATSE Local 1

Local 1 is on strike, as you might have heard in the news. Rumors are rampant of course, and information is hard to come by and when you do see it you need to read between the lines.

The issue is interesting to me because I have mixed feelings about the union. I don't think that the inclusiveness nature of IATSE serves the whole of theatre production, and that it actually may promote more abuses than it protects. In my ideal world, the union would be much looser, much broader and service more technicians - much like equity does for actors. Is it weaker then? Some would argue yes, but I don't agree. I see people as the strength of the organization. And theatrical practice isn't the same as it was when IATSE first started. Indeed, I think IATSE is most suited now for events that aren't as theatrical in nature; film, TV, corporate events. The places where technicians don't have steady work, and are often subjected to shorter bursts of long work hours (and thus break and meal penalties are needed - though many producers are willing to pay them - the allowance of a penalty sells your soul! Its okay to not eat as long as you give me more $).

Point is I guess, that I see valid points from both sides. has some info about the strike. The theatre sound list also has some information at

Monday, November 5, 2007

Flexible Molding

A recent project I have been working on involves some flexible molding. I thought I would post some of the sources here:

It should also be noted that Outwater Plastics carries flexible moldings as well.

I have used them a couple times previously and they are pretty nifty.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
-you can order off the shelf profiles, or match existing molding
-the size can be slightly different than off the shelf profiles, and may vary slightly in the curve.
-some curves can be produced off the shelf, others have to be ordered - so leave time in your timeline to accommodate

The moldings do create some nice results!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Since I do a fair amount of it, I have been thinking about it quite a bit lately. Its an activity that we learn to do very early, and often do almost subconsciously. It is ingrained as children since it is a natural activity – how much farther is it? When will be there? Children ask for estimates from adults, and they learn to make them fairly early as well. Estimating is a base part of planning, though there is a lot of help out there. For instance, now that internet programs give directions, the estimated amount of time to get from point A to point B is quite easy to determine. But it is the simplicity and “everydayness” about estimating that makes the topic not studied as it should be. We take for granted why we do it and how we do it. I believe that with a little more thought behind what it is, it could make us better about our methodologies.

When we got to the estimating section in class while I was in graduate school there were a couple of notable ideas to take away. First, every person had a different estimate of how long project X should take. Sounds not quite right on one hand, yet, it could be true depending on construction methods and variables determined in the estimating process. Secondly, each persons experience level varies, and the method of estimating varies. These variances create different budgets solely based on previous experience. In this way, the more experienced the estimator is, theoretically the more accurate the estimate is.

Methods of estimating:
Analogy: In the past a flat took 3 hours. This flat is nearly the same it will take about 3 hours also. It cost 200 last time, so we can pencil that amount as well. Or the new flat is slightly more complicated lets multiple labor and materials by 10 percent.

Bottom up: taking an element, engineering it, counting materials, breaking down build tasks and assigning each one an amount of time. (The time inevitable is estimated somehow but that’s a mute point at the moment). Accurate, especially for materials, but takes a long time to finish the estimate. Labor tends, in my experience, to be close as well in terms of the overall project, but less accurate in terms of each task. I think this is mostly due to efficiencies. It may take a half an hour per cut list if you do them individually, but you may be able to do 4 cultists in an hour instead of 2. Secondly, the 1st flat may take 4 hours, but the 10th flat that is the same may take 1 hour. In these circumstances setting up the jig may be as time consuming as welding all of the pieces once the jig is complete. Third, I think we can only estimate so precisely – and that results in a little bit of slop in each number. The more you break it down the more slop happens. For instance think of all the steps to making a pot of coffee. I remember in class we defined some 15 tasks, and it took like 25 minutes for the coffee to be done. Not exactly true to life. While the percentage of inflation that we saw in the pot of coffee example is more exaggerated than in most scenery example, it should be noted. Yet, I have found that it tends to still work out, because the built in contingency helps in the long run for the inevitable snafus that come up.

Units: Similar to analogy in ways, but in this method you count say the number of sheets of luaun needed for all of the flats and you extrapolate information from that base number. Labor might be 2 hours per sheet for easy projects, 4 for more complex shapes, and 6 if there is a laminate or surface that is needed beyond the normal paint treatment. If you know that a 4x8 platform needs uses 36’ feet of 2x4, then 5 platforms will use 180’. This works, except it can get inflated if flats or platforms share members. This estimate is partially based in past experience, but also based on counting. As usual, the hardest part of estimating is the hours. The materials are easier (provided you can count, have some experience in the materials, and understand the level of support needed for the materials).

Square footage pricing: not often done in theatre environments, but practical for early preliminary estimates. I think it would be interesting to take past sets and create square footage costs from them (perhaps divided among major elements like flats and platforms). Then you could use those averages against a new project very early in the project to give the design team an idea of where they are headed in terms of scope. Pricing like this is often used in the construction industry for building (high end museums cost between 300 and 400 dollars a sq ft), and for general estimating (the cost of have a drywall contractor come in put up drywall, tape, etc, costs 8.00 a SF on average).

The above aren’t all the ways, and frankly, when I approach a project I think I tend to come at it from several different angles, which hopefully increases the degree of accuracy in the estimate. But I think that by understanding how you come to an estimate it better prepares you to defend the estimate, as well as improve it.

The other part of estimating is the need of feedback. I think one of the major issues in our industry as Technical Directors is the lack of useful feedback. If you are way over budget, I’m sure that most TD’s hear about it. But they don’t get necessarily enough information to determine the cause. I am a firm believer in the postmortem process after a show. Part of this process is comparing how much was spent in both labor and materials and how that compared to my original estimate. What were the discrepancies? Why did these happen? Where they planned events? How can this information be used in the future? The key here is that the information is only as good as your coding. If nothing is coded, it can only be looked at globally. If your carpenters track material usage and hours on a line item basis you can track it that much closer. Your level of detail will be dependant on a variety of factors, but it should at least be a detail that is considered.

Labor estimating is in particular need for feedback. It’s generally harder to estimate. You can do it on industry averages (great for construction, pretty hard for theatre). Averages could be created for your theatre but that would take development time. Analogies could be made from previous projects. And a lot of times your own experience is used; “I think I could build this wall in a week… yea that seems reasonable.” The flip side of this is that in our industry, labor is the bulk of the budget – especially if it isn’t salaried.

So what’s my point? The next time you put together an estimate think about why you are doing it. Is it just for the boss or are you using it as a tool to help you run your shop? How do you get your numbers? Are there ways to improve their accuracy? Are there methods to track the results of this estimate? Where in the process does it fall – does that affect the level of detail, or the amount of information necessary for an accurate estimate? While an estimate isn’t meant to be the same as a “bid” or an absolute cost for a show, the closer you estimate to the final product the more credible your estimates are. Then when some show comes in that is way to big for your shop, you have credibility stored to be able to ask for additional resources based on your estimate. (Credibility and estimating is another topic I want to explore another day….)


Wednesday, October 10, 2007


So today I propose a challenge: What have you learned today?

I try to ask my self that everyday. I’m not always successful, especially when I am busy, but I try to remember. On some days it is an easy question, I have learned many things – I might have seen multiple new materials, or new ways of building something, multiple insights might have came my way, or some other event transpired that triggered a massive amount of thought or inspiration. Those are great days – often fun and interesting, and exciting. Unfortunately, mass assaults also sometimes leave you unable to fully absorb everything new I have seen despite my attempts to document like crazy.

Yet, I remember when I was little I was often asked when I got home from school what I had learned in school that day, and the question frustrated me. Nothing was usually my ornery reply. The issue was, and still is some days, is that it hard to quantify learning. On one hand, you really can’t live without somehow learning new things all the time. Every book or magazine article (even fiction in some ways) departs more information, new insights, and at least the foundation for new knowledge. But at the same time, learning can happen very slowly – so slowly that you barely feel like you are learning at all. Then suddenly something happens and you realize that you know.

I was thinking of this because I was having a hard time thinking about what I have learned today for myself. When I first started my job here I went through lots of periods of mass learning, and have been trying to sort out the details. I hear of a new material – is learning when I hear about it, when I read more about it or when I use it or see it being used in the shop? Then again, there is more learning when that same product is realized to be useful in multiple processes. How significant does learning have to be? An insight into the process of the organization? An insight someone mentioned casually while talking about other topics? I think the problem is that I sometimes forget that learning something is a process and sometimes a slow process. A fact doesn’t have to turn your life around to constitute learning, it just has to be heard and understood. It can be added to the file cabinet in the back of your head so when that particular file grows it can be reexamined and connected into more meaningful insights.

So I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to ask “what have you learned today?” And, feel free to let me know what you learned – it may lead to me learning a bit more as well!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hardware and wood working resources

Hardware hut:
They carry a wide range of products. I came across them in the search for organizing drawers and cabinets for my kitchen. No exactly stagecraft related, other than we often have a variety of odd objects that need to be stored, and special hardware that needs to be found for specific scenery purposes. And this place is a nice blend of both.
Deerwood fasteners are a good resource for square head screws. I have mixed thoughts about square head screws. But, some will swear by them. Nevertheless Deerwood also has a fastener guide located at:

And just for fun:
Check that out for some fun. Clever idea, fun, and useful - what more can you ask for in product design.

Live wire

I was browsing a new Edmond Scientific catalog and found something that might be useful in theatrical production. Its called live wire and is a "flexible glowing wire". It reports to look like neon, and includes a "live pak unit" that has a blinking function with a speed controller. while $75 for 20' still isn't exactly cheap, it is much more economical than neoflex, or the like.

I also liked the Moppels - LED lights with flexible handles so you can arrange them into any position.

You can check out Edmond Scientific at:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Project Management Articles

I have thinking about estimating lately, and I came across a site regarding project management. I have mixed feelings about the site to be honest. They have some great information, but not all of it is available for free. The article that led me there for instance was only for premium subscribers, so I got a teaser about what the article contained, but needed to subscribe to get the rest of the info.

Nevertheless, they have a variety of free articles available. While I haven’t made my way through all of them yet, there are some good articles. I have particularly enjoyed reading about how parenting relates to project management, because well, do I really need to say more?

You can check the articles out here:

Monday, October 1, 2007


Last night I happened to catch a show on HGTV about new hardware that was coming out. They had some interesting products that were being showcased.

One that I thought would be useful was the volt bolt.
Not only does the key turn on and off the power, but locks the cord into the box so it can't be unplugged and plugged into something unprotected.

Also they had a product that promises to get rid of air compressors:
An interesting idea, and one that would be nice. I have an electric stapler, and there are a few cordless ones available, but they have a limit to what they can drive. There is an air driven pneumatic gun that is great made by Paslode:,
But it is somewhat expensive, and the cartridges don't last as long as would be nice.
At any rate whats nice about the one on the HGTV site is that any stapler can be used, as it hooks up to a normal hose and a portable co2 tank that you can clip to your belt.

More products can be seen on their website:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tiny URL

Tiny URL is a website where you can make a long url shorter so that you don't have to worry about it wrapping and destroying the link.

I like it - but wish that it allowed for a better reference of the original link.

You can also add it to your browser for easy use.


While I know a few weeks back I wrote an entry about New Haven Moving supply, I recently was browsing their catalog and spotted another cool product. They are small lifts that are meant for items that are too fragile for a forklift. You can use them in a pair to completely lift an item, but I think even using one miight be more effective than a J-Bar or lever lift bar.

You can see them at:

The major drawback is their price - over a thousand for 1 pair - about 5 times the price of a J-Bar.

I have also been curious about the shoulder lifting straps and the fore-arm lifting straps.

Its hard to tell though cause they have a novelty as seen on TV feel about them that makes me feel that they aren't what they say they are.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pocket Ref

If you don’t have a copy of the Pocket Ref by Thomas J Glover, you should pick up a copy. It’s a great book and should occupy a space of honor right next to the backstage handbook. As its name implies its pocket sized, and it’s full of handy, but sometimes odd information. From structural info on joists to the periodic table of elements to material, as well as property information (steel wood and plastics), and a little of everything in between.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Theatre meets web 2.0

I have been reading a bit about museums lately, and it has created some ideas that could be very useful in theatre as well. Museums are currently developing more flexible content – stuff that can be used in a web 2.0 format to extend the museum experience outside of the walls of the museum and into the homes of the visitors. One technique is using tags that will encode the activities of the visitor when they go to specific exhibits. Their pictures could be taken, or they could do an experiment that they later check up on at home. The museum exhibit is personalized, a website is create which can be further customized, and the visitor can interact with the museum on a much broader basis than just a couple of hours inside the museum itself.

Theatres are making some advances here – the resources below show some blogs that various theatres have created to start to disseminate information in a looser, internet friendly way. But I don’t think it is enough.

The key is user involvement. The blog is nice, but the blog needs to elicit user response and interaction. Think theatre meets MySpace (and some theatres are on myspace). What if a theatre community had a space online where theatres could post show information (rehearsal blogs, construction blogs, etc.) and audiences could post pages about their favorite productions, could comment and ask questions of the artists. Think of it as an extended talk back. An involved community will help the theatre to prosper both in donations and in ticket sales. The internet offers a low cost way to generate a high amount of involvement, that doesn’t inconvenient the staff overly so as they can control how and when content is published.

Some resources:

What Would MacGyver Do

Technical Direction and MacGyver. Definitely a connection. Which is why I recently picked up a book called “What Would MacGyver Do” by Brendan Vaughan. The book’s concept is interesting – a collection of short stories about how real people got through real situations with MacGyver like skill. The book, however, was at best mediocre. A few stories were genuinely inventive and worthy of the title, others not so much. The plus is that it reads fast and is mildly entertaining (I actually enjoyed the snippets at the end of each story better than some of the stories). After all, I did manage to read the whole thing.

I was thinking though it would be cool to do a theatrical version of the book though- then at least you would have a group of resourceful people would are often in tight situations with limited resources. The book could even result in being an actual technical resource like the tech briefs. Alright so perhaps the expectation is a little high. Nevertheless, MacGyver like skill has real value in technical direction. I have been asked in the middle of interviews how my “MacGyver skills” are. When you are in the middle of an offsite load-in and something happens and you have x, y and z to make it work, its good to have the flexibility in thought to make something work (of course keeping it safe).

At the same time, my philosophy has always been to 1 – thoroughly plan out what you are doing to eliminate chances that you will need to pull off a MacGyver stunt, and 2 – plan out the tools and resources that you have on a project so that you will have useful things to work with when the inevitable snag occurs. Nevertheless, I have to admit that the ability to problem solve and to think flexibly and adaptable to the situation are needed skills, and skills that don’t seem to be as common as they used to be. More and more there seems to be a mentality of “you can only do it this way”, and that if you don’t have the 1 tool, or the one favored material a job is impossible. And since theatre in general has lots of scarce resources, the more flexible and adaptable you can be the better you will serve. To me, there isn’t one way to do anything. There are better ways and worse ways. Ways that I will tend to think of first because of my experiences, and methods, that I will tend to not think of due to the same.

Hardware Cyclopedia

I thought I would mention a new book I just bought called the Hardware Cyclopedia - The complete illustrated guide to everything sold in hardware stores by Steve Ettlinger. Its a nice resource. Its a "pocket size", though it is pretty thick. Each tool or material has a description, other names, uses, and sometimes tips next to the picture. The pictures are in the backstage handbook style - drawn images. The book includes sections on hand and power tools, general materials, general hardware, paints / stains, lumber, plumbing, electrical, masonry and safety stuff.

You can check it out on amazon at:

Friday, September 21, 2007


Instructables .com is an interesting site that I see good potential in for stagecraft. Its a web 2.0 type site - sort of like you tube meets DIY. For example this link:
shows a step by step guide on how to build a homemade lathe. While this article has photos, others have video.

A couple of reactions:
1 - its in some ways part of my hope of what I can do here (like the LED star post or the pneumatic caster posts), but I like the idea that multiple people post to it.
2 - it reminds me a user friendly version of the tech expo, tech briefs or the USITT resource that is online. Or the high school theatre tech page also has some of these ideas going for it.
3- TD's, and theatre people in general have a tendency to not document process or product very much. Sure, people try to take down info / pictures for their portfolio, but step by step processes aren't detailed. On one hand, people feel like the information is too common to make it necessary, or too much of a one time only type of thing. I think either way is useful - common tasks help new people in the industry, and one time projects can sometimes be applied to other tasks in the future to build on the previous knowledge, or could be referenced in future productions (some shows have very specific technical challenges for instance).

Random Resources

The past few days I have traveled quite a distance with regards to topics I have been thinking about. Its a good thing, and I have much to write about here when I have a little time to sort out how each thing relates.

Until then, a few small bits of information and resources: is a link to a company that has "magic tape". Of course my first thought went to glow tape. While glow tape (and even glow paint) used to be the coolest thing around, LED's have quickly become very useful backstage, and even in select places onstage - or in the back of the house for dancers. I see the magic tape being most useful backstage as well, perhaps in competition to rope lighting as well. However, though no price is listed, I suspect that until the litepad, cee-lite, and similar products are around a little longer they won't be priced in an affordable enough range for most theatres. is a blog I have been reading lately. While written with a exhibit point of view, some entries are useful theatrically speaking as well. One blog mentions (an adhesive web page that gives you advise on the proper glue dependant on what 2 materials you are using) as well as cool tools, which is a, well "cool" site as well. The site also has a link t o an article about prototyping:

Prototyping is something that doesn't occur as often in theatre as I think it should. More often we try something, and if it appears to work, we use, it or start over, but he don't often mock something up to test prior to the start of building the "real" object. While time and money are always factors, it can be argued that the time spent in development (research and design and prototyping) would be worth labor and material costs later in the process when time is more precious and money is already being stretched tight.

Another interesting blog (though even I will admit that it is a stretch to be a true TD resource_ is at But, museums and theatre share some things in common, build techniques, patrons, culture and so forth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cut Awl

The cut awl is a pretty nifty tool, in my book. I really enjoyed using it the few times I have used one. They aren't very cheap, but alot of the theatres I have worked with have one - usually tucked away and buried unfortunately. And really, between jigsaws, scroll saws, routers, and the roto-zip, there isn't much need for a tool as expensive as the cut awl. But I like it nonetheless. Its great for small detail scroll work, inside cuts and it can do sharp corners (unlike rounded roto-zip edges). It takes a little time to get used the control, but thats part of its charm. If you haven't used one take the time to check out what it is at least and if you ever see one try it out.

Besides the fact that the cutawl has earned itself a museum is pretty nifty in its own right.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

10 ways to make a difference

I was just reading this on yahoo's hot jobs and thought I would re-post it here as I liked the message. It is so easy, at least for me, to get bogged down in all the day to day stuff that needs to happen. Yet its important to take time to do do some of the things listed below. Just because something isn't listed in the job description doesn't mean it isn't important. Instead it seams sometimes to me that doing a good job involves lots of little activities / and tasks that aren't listed anywhere, but that you need to search our and discover.

Ten Ways to Make a Difference This Year
Debra Davenport

If you want to make 2007 your most satisfying year yet, consider this checklist of 10 ways to inspire you in your career and enhance your work-life balance. The simple suggestions below are meant to generate new ideas, stimulating you to think and act in ways that will not only benefit you, but our world as well.

Raise the bar. Expect more and deliver more. Speak up! Dress up! Raise your own personal standards. Don't settle for the status quo and don't accept mediocrity.
Get connected. Get out of the office, turn off the Blackberry and spend quality time with people, face to face.

Live true to your values. What's really important to you? Are your actions and communication in keeping with your core values? Clarity of purpose and intention catapult individuals to the pinnacle of their success.

Mentor someone. Reach out to a student, a budding entrepreneur or a new employee and support their efforts any way you can. They'll never forget you!

Ask for help when you need it. Cull an advisory board, get a mentor, work with a coach or hire a consultant. The most successful business people are surrounded by the best and brightest. Find them and bring them into your circle.

Take care of yourself. "Use it or lose it" is absolutely true. You can't climb the mountain to your personal pinnacle if you're out of shape, so resolve to get healthy so you can enjoy the journey as well as your ultimate destination.

Learn. Expand your knowledge and skills by taking a class, getting a degree or simply reading up on topics of interest. Every time you learn, you create new neural pathways in the brain. Not bad for just reading a book.

Get passionate. Get fired up about something -- a cause, a project, a new business venture or a political issue. Let's banish complacency in 2007.

Innovate. If you're stuck in the "we've always done it this way" mentality, there's no better time to get out of the quagmire and change your thinking. Try something new, even if it's just a different route to work.

Assess your career. Do you love what you do? Would you do it for free? If you can't wholeheartedly answer "yes," perhaps it's time for a change.

Here's to your success!

Debra Davenport, PhD, is an Executive Professional Mentor and the president of DavenportFolio, a licensed firm with offices in Phoenix and Los Angeles that mentors entrepreneurs and professionals. She is the creator of the Certified Professional Mentor designation and certification program and the author of "The Ten Commitments of Highly Successful People" and can be reached at

Monday, September 17, 2007

Resource for novelty items

When I am looking for that odd item, or bulk of an odd item one of my favorite sites is the Oriental Trading Company. Add to that another resource:
Rhode Island Novelty
They have the same type of product and at competitive pricing.

Check them out - its always kind of fun to see what odd stuff they sell in a gross.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Artful Manager

The artful manager is a blob by Andrew Taylor about arts and culture management. Link: He offers tidbits, almost every weekday about different things relating to arts and culture. The comments are often based off of things he has read, or other current events, and are often tie ins to other information all of which often give me some insight or a different point of view. While not always relevant, and not really stagecraft related, I think he has some good things to say.

This for example - is a good example:

I also have to say that his blog was one of the reasons that I choose to start doing this blog. I admire his dedication to what he does and the need to pass on ideas that might be helpful. An electronic mentor if you will.

While a TD doesn't directly deal with many of the management topics he discusses, a TD is a manager, and the culture of the organization and the surrounding area / audience, affects the production. The more aware of how this can influence whats going on in their own shop the better prepared the TD will be to handle the results.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rigging Resource

Checkout Wesco for some good rigging information. Especially their guide to wire rope termination is nice. (link:

While the information offered is available at other locations, some of the stuff here is unique, though ment for objects much larger than we use in theatre.

But I still think its kind of cool and fun to look at some of the huge rigging hardware that they can make.

Also has alot of great resources as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


CNC machines have fascinated me for a while. I think they are a great asset to a shop, and they are almost reasonable to build one in house if you follow the tech brief (the cost was around 2k if I remember correctly). While still too costly for some shops to build, I have been able to get parts cnc cut from local vendors pretty reasonably as well. At any rate, since I have access to 2 different machines now, I have been doing a little research into their capacities. One article
I thought I would pass along since it talked about how the machines worked. While the article does get into alot of programming (which we eliminate by using CAD drawings to show the path), there is alot of information on the site.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Flexloc Locknuts

Unbrako offers a product called flexloc locknuts. They are completly made of metal offering more strength than nylocs. I thought these fasteners might be useful in rigging and automation. The link above also links to some information that they have created about fasteners (fasteners facts) and a white paper on fastener fatigue.

While it isn't something that occurs everyday, misuse of fasteners has caused, or been a factor in several incidents that I know of. Modern Marvels engineering disasters shows some of these, as does the book Why Buildings Fall Down.


While I was reading Machine Design today, I noticed a supplier that has some products that could be useful theatrically speaking.
Its the Pacific Bearing Company at

What caught my eye was the redi-rail. Its a track in which the slides are wheels /rollers that run horizontally in the track instead of vertically like most common track. Testing / more information would be needed before using this overhead, but for tracking scenery at deck level, I see this as not only an interesting product, but a product in which adaptations could easily be made to use in house.

They have a range of other products as well, including some meant to be motor driven.

Check it out.


Below is a link to a page that features knots.

Its nice because its a theatrical site.
The rest of the site has quite a bit of information as well, particularly for high schools, but Scott Parker (the site creator) has done a great job accumulating relevant information.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I came across (during a search for something completely different), a site that teaches some elements of 3D Studio Max using Lego's. They are using version 8.

I tried out 3D Studio Max on version 3 ( I think), and it can be a nice tool. Its more useful for design than technical production, but at the time it worked well with Autocad. Though, I particularly thought the site was intriguing because I use Lego's when I teach AutoCad. I like them because they teach basic 2-d commands, are easy to draft and thus help with showing various ways of drafting the same object, help with accuracy (stacking them on top of each other shows if you make a spacing error), and can be easily extruded into 3-D. And they are great for learning 3-d as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Neon, Neoflex, Rope lighting and more

Neon signs and diffuse light boxes are both items that make their appearances onstage. Real neon isn’t a great idea on stage and older products just really couldn’t imitate the real deal with an authenticity – especially in terms of light output. Now there are 2 different options – LED Neon (I found it at Platinum Lighting). It comes in 6 colors (at varying prices). The cost ranges from 11 a foot (red) to 52 a foot (white). The alternative is Neoflex Flexible LED. Same basic idea, comes in 7 colors, and starts at 13 a foot. You can also check out Neoflex at:

I have to say its funny how time passes by. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that rope lights came out, and how they slowly fell in price. Now lots of people have them for Christmas lights, and the blue lights are common in a lot of theatres for backstage lighting during shows. And now of course you can get the LED ropelight so its even brighter.

As for light boxes, between bouncing light off of reflectors for diffusion, Christmas lights, rope lights, and a variety of LED options, there always have been a variety of options. Hotspots are always a problem – individual bulbs, Christmas lights and the like all tend to create a box with differing intensities (which can be worked out, but it takes planning and a lot of light. Diffusion is definitely always needed. I have used sanded plexi, as well as frost gels, but last night on HGTV they built a box using fluorescent bulbs and vellum. I think it would be an interesting experiment to do plans of Plexiglas that have different treatments (sanded, sanded with frost, frost alone) and then different types of lights behind. Like a large divided grid where you could see each configuration first hand.

At work day to day it is hard to find time to experiment. There is not general money available to provide materials, and show budgets are tight as well. Plus in the middle of a production you often don’t have the time to try 3 or 4 different ways of doing something, you have to pick something you know, or are reasonably confident of and move forward. When I was getting my MFA, it was a disappointment that there wasn’t more time to experiment. The production pressure was the same, and if anything the financial situation was worse. I think academia needs to balance real production work with theoretical and experimental work better.

Colorblind Check

Every now and then the subject of colorblindness comes up. Usually it is in terms of drafting (whether or not printing in color is a good thing or not), but web pages also make the list when discussing whether or not someone who is colorblind can see the page.

If you have a site you can find out if it passes the "colorblind test" at

Monday, August 27, 2007

Variety of web sites

Some more links for you to browse:
A good source for technical theatre related books. It has a pretty well rounded collection of books, though I wouldn't say it was a complete listing.
This site has a wide variety of links catering to technicians. The page is slow to load, but does include some good sources.
This page is an information page hosted by a rigging company which deals with primarily ships rigging. Nonetheless, the information is valid for theatrical use.
Based in New Jersey, yet shipping anywhere Dykes Lumber offers a variety of molding profiles. You can see their catalog and download drawings. Dykes can be useful, as occasionally designs (especially ones from the city) will specify Dykes profiles.
Last but not least is a site hosted by thermal foams that has a variety of PDF's available about foam. Thermal foams itself, is a great company in which I often ordered custom cut EPS foam when I lived further east than I do now.

Fabric Stretchy Sculptures

You know you never notice something and then you do it and then you notice it all around you? It often happens right after you buy a car, and then suddenly it seems like your car, in your color is everywhere. Well, in this case its about stretchy spandex sculptures. While I did use spandex about 7 years ago in a production (though not quite as artsy, it really wasn't a common theatrical fabric. Then last year a production used a spandex like material to do some organic forms, and the next thing I know they are everywhere- you can even buy them preformed. I suppose that part of the new popularity is that you can project and light them in very interesting ways (and it doesn't make your whole audience cough).

Rosebrand sells fabric which distinctly lists stretch factor (in both directions if needed), as well as whole scenic elements. If you want to get a little more fancy check out Pink inc.
Though, while these are fun, I still think buying some fabric, a variety of fabric clips, and a few hours with some friends and a ladder may be the best way to go.


If you haven't been to Rosco Laboratories website, you need to check it out.

The site provides lots of information - from MSDS sheets, to how to paint faux surfaces, to how to square and size a drop (mostly on the tech info page).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bricks, bricks, bricks

Bricks (and stones, and other architectural textures) are a common scenery dilemma. There is hardboard that can be bought with a variety of patterns (often even available at the local lumber company), there are vacuum form panels, you can cut them out of foam (rout them out then go over with a heat gun, you can cut grooves in the foam with a heat knife) or you can cut out a billion squares out of a variety of materials and then shape them, then apply to a substrate (of which homosote give a nice, but very messy effect). What would be interesting would be a side by side comparison with a variety of different methods, all covered with a similar paint treatment. Of course the issue here is that just as there are a hundred ways to cut out the bricks there are another 100 ways to seal / and paint it (foam coat, sculpt or coat, super 88, flex glue, and so forth).

Below are a few links with a variety of brick options. It is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a few sites that I have located in my current search to find flexible bricks that would hold up in an environment filled with water and little kids.
In case you would like to build your own vacuum form table.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

cirque photos

Check out behind the scenes pictures of "Ka" in Vegas at
From, they have some story about the mechanics, but not as much as I would have liked to have seen.

They also reported on "Love". It can be seen at


Rigging Reference Chart

I am a firm believer in having lots of information accessible (hence, of course, this blog). Thus, I like handy reference material like charts. I came across a chart today that is worth a look. You can find it at:
Its a rigging chart that shows information related to cable clamps, slings, turnbuckles and the like.

Additional resources can be found at the following links.

Free PDF.

Not a PDF, but does list common breaking strengths.

Formulas and other links. Has links for free rigging software.

You can't beat clancy's website. It has alot of great information available.

And for purchases, Bill Sapsis is on the top of the list for rigging supplies.