Monday, December 30, 2013

End of the year

As another year comes to an end, I hope it has been a good one for all of you out there. And I hope it has been safe.
The NFPA reminds us that 110 years ago today, the worst theatre fire in the country occurred. The positive thing that arose out of these ashes were many improvements in fire safety. As you start of the upcoming year, take a look around your theatre, office and home and so forth fix or update anything needed for safety.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

JPJ Rock Construction Videos

Way back when, I contacted Superior Rock Solutions for a quote on faux rock panels. While we did not end up using this resource, I have received emails from them from time to time. Today I took a few minutes to watch their U-Tube videos on making Easter Island heads. It was well worth it. There are definitely some theatrical techniques used, and building out of card board could be something we consider a little more closely. These look far more durable that what I would have imagined. Take a look for yourself:

Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bed Rail Hangers

I ran across some of these bed rail hangers in the shop today. We often use Z-clip or french cleats to hang things, but I could easily see where these would be useful, particularly on a small item (think prop) or on rails as designed.

Backer Rod

A friend was looking for 1" diameter ethafoam & was having a difficult time finding it, and it made me think that perhaps there are others that would not know to search for backer rod. Backer rod is essentially the same material, though it comes in closed cell and open celled versions. It is used to put into gaps prior to applying sealant or caulk, as a way to minimize the amount of caulk used, but it also allows expansion and contraction between building materials. Lowes, Home Depot, Amazon sells it, as well as a variety of locations. It also can come in a variety of sizes. Depending on diameter, pool noodles and pipe insulation can also come in handy, particularly pipe insulation as it can have adhesive installed.

The difference between the closed cell and open cell forms are as follows (exerpted from wideGEEK)
There are significant differences in the characteristics between open-cell and closed-cell foam backer rod. The closed-cell version repels moisture, provides a firm finish to the gap, and can be set into place with a spray adhesive. It is commonly used for smaller joints in the 1/4 to 3/8 inch (6.35 to 9.52 mm) range, and it possesses a higher insulative value than open-cell forms. Caulking or other chinking materials will not stick to it, which allows free and independent movement in the building materials and the chinking material.

Open-cell backer rod products are very easy to install because they are softer and more pliable than closed-cell versions. Large diameter pieces can be compressed to fit into gaps that vary in thickness in some areas. This type is designed to be used only indoors, and does not possess insulative characteristics that are as good as its closed-cell counterpart.

generally the smaller diameters are sold by the roll, and thicker diameters are sold cut into standard lengths.

For gluing look to contact cement, 3M spray 74, or other foam adhesives.
For painting, it can help to coat first, rubber undercoating, plastic dip, and flex coat are options. I have also wrapped it in muslin, super 88, and other scenic coatings, so it isn't bad to work with as long as you keep in mind that the paint will flake off if applied directly.

If you want more information check out this PDF. It talks about teh history, open versus closed cell, and how to use it (as an expansion joint filler, not theatrically).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Free Online Photo Editor - Pic Monkey

While browsing some sites related to things to do with my daughter I came across this photo site. While it is obviously geared more to casual users (those that don't need photo shop, it is somewhat amazing how the development of smart phones has lead to a subsequent explosion of low cost or free services, one genre of which is photo editing. Leave a comment & let me know what your favorite is.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How well do you see color?

I saw this color test and had to pass it on. The test (based on pantone colors) gives you 4 scales, each with a color gradient between 2 colors, and it is up to you to arrange them in the correct order. The test results indicate the colors that you had trouble seeing the difference between. I thought this tool was interesting and potentially very helpful!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Freelance Opportunities

There are more opportunities than before for finding work while freelancing. While these sites certainly do not cater to theatrical skills, many skills are transferable (CAD). I have seen a variety of blogs talk about these sites in terms of how to put together bids and getting work, so if something like this interested you check around for more information. Below are a couple of places that I have heard recommended that work best for drafting opportunities.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Getting Organized in the Google Age

I have been reading “Getting Organized in the Google Age by Douglas Merrill and James Martin. I picked it up because it seemed like the tools for staying informed and organized today is different from what it used to be, and Google is certainly one of the reasons or indicators of that change.
The start of the book talks about how our brains work, what are real constraints are and how to work with those, and the importance of goals. I enjoyed this section because I do think that we often try to uphold systems or an idea of what we should be capable of doing that just doesn't match with how our brains work. Primarily that we can only hold small bits of information in our short term memory, and that information can be challenging to remember. The section on constraints is interesting because he asks you to really consider if the constraints you identify are legitimate and real or imposed. These are important because these will help you chose methods that will work for you, working around your limitations. I think the section of goals is intriguing because I don’t think that organization is often thought of from the perspective of having a goal. The goal is the organization itself. Yet, the purpose of organizing information is so that it can be retrieved later.
This blog for example, exists to share information with others about tools, techniques, and ideas. But I also use it to store thoughts I have, which I think will be of later use, with the assumption that it may help others. And when I am looking for a prop or material that I have encountered here I often search here first. Obviously sometimes a Google search is all you need to do, but often times I want to remember more particulars about an item, or the differences between websites. The down side to this blog is that as it is about 6 years old, some of the links don’t work, and terms that I think of to search under are not what I originally indicated in the title or text, and the keywords have many entries within each one. For example, the other day I needed a 5” radius wood column. I finally found what I was looking for in my blog, but I had called it a cylinder. Had I recognized search difficulties in the beginning, I might have included additional tags in each blog that would later help me find that entry. The last drawback of this blog versus a private forum that does the same is that a private depository of info would not need to have fully formed (or written) ideas. I do posts with links and minimal texts, but there are often ideas I think about while commuting that would really be good to post, but thinking while driving and finding time to write out those thoughts don’t always go together.
The point being that understanding the goals might lead you to a different process – and I think it is a question that we often don’t think about before forging forward with a system.
The book talks a lot about specific technologies and how to use those technologies. Something that is probably out of date now that it is a few years old. However, the basic ideas that he puts for is using “search” to find things, using the cloud for storage, ways to store information in email, and sharing information. He also talks about filtering, getting things out of your head, and contexts.
I will start with filtering, because the author proposed a high level of filtering out information. Since the brain can’t focus on too much at once, the more that you filter out, and don’t really think about in the first place, the less your brain has to work. To do this effectively you need to know what is important and what isn't. We all do this naturally when driving, as an example. If your goals are off, you may inadvertently filter out the wrong information. While I agree with this concept, my concern is that just because you may not want the irrelevant information now, it could be useful later.
This book would propose that you stop using file folders, sorting your email, and so forth and dump everything into a central place and search for the info that you need. Yet he talks a lot about sharing information, which I feel is somewhat incompatible. Where I work we have a very defined system of organizing project related information that allows anyone to go into any job and find particular information. It doesn't matter what the job is, or if it is titled something odd, it should be easy to find. Conversely, on a job where there are literally a 1000 emails, using search to find what you need is helpful.
Using email was also talked about quite extensively as a way to basically keep a private archive that is personal and searchable. Obviously, he talked about Google and tools within Gmail to do this, but most web based email with large amounts of free storage would work. If I wasn't interested in sharing the information I blog about – I could write it up and email it to myself, with key words and categories. I would have a searchable index of technical theatre information. He proposes emailing himself copies of documents, perhaps indicating where the printed version is filed. He can then copy anyone that might also need that particular document. He uses emails as a to do, but he codes them differently. Once the emails are all coded, he can use filters to only see things that he wants to see. I see ways that this works, but doesn't seem any less time consuming than other methods.
Perhaps the benefit of this is “free” cloud storage, though he talks about using drop box and other cloud storage programs that can keep your information readily available on a range of devices. In addition many of these services allow collaboration and document sharing. A good way to share information, but a whole different beast in terms or organization and making sure that people have the information that need to have and understand that info.
Sharing information is obviously very important. Obviously having information on a shared drive makes that easier. On the other hand it is hard to know when new or updated information appears on the drive. In my drop box, a little message pops up, but I only see it if I am sitting at the computer. When dealing with lots of info, it’s unrealistic to get a notification for every change. Yet when info is publicly available some people will assume that you know about the changes because they are available, but this is also unrealistic without some sort of notification.
Getting things out of your head is definitely something that interested me about the book. Not sure that I learned much here. Paper is fast, but how do you find that info later? It’s also unorganized. Redoing notes is time consuming. And perhaps I could use a voice to text app to let me record thoughts on the run. Digital technology is great, as is search, but many of the PDFs of research that I have do not have readable text within the pdf – so it’s all about either folder organization or documents title.
Contexts were particularly interesting to me. We all shift contexts regularly. It did bug me that he actually shifted contexts within the book frequently – particularly with song quotes. But it did emphasize that when you shift contexts you forget parts of the first context to think about the new context.
Ultimately I think he is a little too specific about technology in terms of products instead of product categories, but there is obviously a lot of food for thought within the book.

Misc tips:
Calling yourself to leave notes (like while driving), particularly if you subscribe to a service that transcribes these notes and sends it to your email.
Paper vs computer – sometimes it is easier / faster to get things on paper. He has ideas on when each is better, but I think there are personal choices involved. There are also pluses and minus of each. Obviously what is on paper can be scanned (word recognition preferred) and stored.
Within his reading / scanning, he proposes to read and mark. Star whatever stands out, and keep moving forward. Then come back to what is starred and read it – then sort it into whatever applicable categories that had previously been determined. (Perhaps, a color for something you don’t understand, one for quoting, etc.)
Lastly, I have thought a lot recently that in a 1000 or so years people will look back on today as a dark age. Why? Because they will be unable to read what we write, or see what we do. As people write real letters, publish paper books, and print less photos, there is less of a “permanent” record of what we do. I don’t have the software to open files from my undergraduate work in the early 90’s, I’m sure that will only get much, much worse. Obviously this last bit is just food for thought, but it does make me wonder.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Small Turntables for Props / Sign Rotators

As an update to a previous post on Dino Rentos Studios, we recently purchased a turntable (8 1/2" diameter) to spin a prop in a display case. They have a number of sizes. The place also has architectural pieces (columns, molding etc made from foam and coated). Their site is work a look.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Extrusions and Trim

It seems like I am always looking for a corner extrusion of some sort, so I thought I would start collecting some of that information.
Orange Aluminum has a variety of “Z” clips (or panel clips). I found them because they have corner channel mold pieces that they market for retaining panels on road cases. Its for ½” or 3/8” material though. They also have a “valance” profile that makes panels lock together like a tongue and groove panel would. The have divider bars – something that I could being used instead of quarks for where panels meet up together. They also have some edge trim that could be used for counters and desks. It looks like it might be better than t-molding, but would not be flexible.
Outwater, of course, has a variety of plastic and aluminum corner channels.
Wgsonline sells a variety of glass products and has corner extrusions for ¼” glass. Though glass is not critical, they could be used for other panels. However, you can buy vacuum cups / section lifters if you want to move a heavy glass panel around.
US Plastic Corp has a clear two way corner channel joiner. They also have just about everything from bags, bottles, buckets, fittings, pipe, tube and sheets… if its plastic, they might have it.
Extrude a trim (which calls the corner molding F-channel) has a variety of sizes and a couple finish options. They also have other trims as well. Also stock F channel, (and H, h, T and Z) is Brunner Enterprises. Brunner also carries square tubing connectors for ¾” and 1” tube.
Also check out Paramount Extrusions.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stagehand Training

In a safety meeting at my company a link was distributed for Creative Skillset, an organization in the UK that provides resources to people working in creative industries. They have a list of points that should be covered when doing training for doing theatrical work. The lists often include more than what we typically communicate, and I though t it was interesting to read through and think a little bit about how much and what information we provide the crew. I think that much of this information is overlooked, perhaps because we assume that it is magically known by a crew, or that there isn't time to talk about stuff that isn't, in a managers point of view, relevant.

Stagehand Tees

While obviously a site where you can find some great t-shirts, Stagehand Tees also supplied some good information. Next time you check out their tees, head over to the resources and check out the information as well.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Round Lightboxes

I found a new sources for light boxes today: DSA. Some of them are fairly affordable (less than $300), though others can run over a grand or more. There are a surprising number of items that go into making a light box with a nice even glow, particularly if it is thin. Obviously there are more high tech boxes available (edge lit boxes where the plexi is engraved with different depths of routing for even illumination for example), but these are often unnecessary for the bulk of the work we get into.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Drywall Finishing Spec's

A couple of the places I have worked in the past refer to scope in terms of the level of production value a certain show is going to be produced at. For instance a season may have 1 or 2 A scope shows (high budget), a couple B scope shows and a C scope show that will round out the season. Sometimes shows are an A for costumes, and a C for scenery. But this system was used as a way of giving the production team an indication of what was expected and what budgets were available for productions.On one hand it certain aid production planning as you can plan out time and resources according to a scope a year or so out without knowing the specific show, and when it comes time to production, it is well known about what is available.

Scope is also frequently talked about within projects. Scope often creeps as a project evolves, and goals shift slightly, slowly, and turn into something that they weren't originally. It is necessary to define scope of any given project because without an agreement of scope, you can't determine success or completion. Then, on top of the easy scope definitions (size, paint treatments, general construction and material notes) it gets even trickier. For instance we use flats to build sets, yet seams can get pretty ugly. While there aren't industry standard for every finish, drywall does have a finishing schedule. While different than what we typically do, it is insightful for calling out the differences. now, the next challenge is for people to understand the cost difference between levels of finish...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I was looking up profile gauges and came across Dieter Schmid. Granted, i'm not likely to order from this company anytime in the near future, but I thought some of their precision marking tools were cool, and they had a couple products that are new to me, and would likely be available a bit more locally.