Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stand offs and Metal Turning

Metomic brass turning has a variety of brass turned finials.  They also have stand offs and picture lamps.  An odd assortment of stuff - but items that could be difficult to find again in the future.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Food Props

I came across this article about the props used on the Food Networks shows.  Its always kind of interesting to look into what other folks have.  I think real shame (or highlight if you have the honor to walk through and talk to Wendy Waxman the resident historian and design director) is that so many of the nuggets of information that could be learned will never be committed to paper and will become lost over time. The photos also reveal other interesting notes that designers could find useful - like saturated colors do best under stage lights on film.

I have to say that everything looked really clean - and there was no evidence that the items were stored under a dust cover...  it makes me wonder if they were cleaned for the shoot!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Off the shelf Turntables

Everynow and then you need a turntable - not for a car or for a major, but for something small and low tech - like to make an a small object spin.  While creating a small turntable isn't difficult, you don't always need to recreate the wheel either.  (My apologies, the bad pun was entirely intended!)

A few I have come across during my last look:
Vue-More has a variety of small turntables and sign rotators.
Dino Rentos Studios has a variety of display turntables as well.
Turntable 360 has, you guessed, it - turntables. Small, for displays.
Young Electro-Mechanical Company has "motiondiser" turntables, they are small but have a high loading capacity.

Of these I have used both the Vue-More and the the "motiondiser".  The vue more was not very functional, but it was undersized for the application (provided by the artist for a sculpture.  The motionsiser is a fairly small little robust piece that will probably work as long as you can plug in a standard plug.  The unit has to be at least 10 years old - maybe 15, and spins happily away.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Labor Power and Organization

I read an interesting article today called Labor Power and Organization in the Early U. S. Motion Picture Industry by Michael C. Nielson.  It is located in Film History, Vol 2, No 2.  It generally is more about how theatrical workers created IASTE and that stage mechanics typically either worked on the road or specialized in building the scenery for the combination tours.  Film is a more economical model than live theatre.  I assume that it is mostly true today.  After all million dollar movies still cost 8 bucks (or so) plus concessions at a movie theatre.  Any touring show has a range of price points, but you can barely see a high school play or community theatre production for the price of movie ticket today. 

Another quote from the article stands out to me:
It occurred to us that we could use Bill (Bill Bowers was a prop man that had toured in vaudeville attractions) at the studio to take charge of obtaining all the odds and ends needed to dress the sets.  I think Bill established the principle upon which the props departments function today, namely that a director gets whatever he asks for without argument, no matter how crazy or impossible the request.  …early film craft workers set a tone of “doing the impossible” for the sake of creating whatever illusion the director wanted to produce. 

I also thought it was interesting how the article brought up that the unions were based on industrial lines (film and theatre) versus the trades like carpenters and IBEW.  It’s a conflict that still played out in some projects that I have worked on, and we end up working along beside the trades on some jobs depending on jurisdiction.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bending PVC

I came across pvcbendit while looking at PVC stuff for home projects.  We frequently either bend steel, or have it bent for us to make a design work.  Sometimes it structural.  Sometimes it must be welded, and PVC fittings might not work -but being easily able to consistently bend PVC, especially at a low economic cost, could be a useful theatrical tool for scenery fabrication.

Monday, January 11, 2016

RGB Light Matching

On a project last year we installed RGB lighting within a visitor experience center.  The client wanted the lighting to reflect the colors in their logo.  It actually turned out to be a fairly simple things to do.  We used this site: pantone-to-rgb  and used the numerical number supplied to create the color.  The colors were a close (enough) match!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Universal Theatrical Hardware

An exaggeration in many ways, yet, it seems like the below two items are indispensable stage hardware.  The first for holding movies scenery together, the second for lifting decks up off of wheels, though I have used it in other situations as well.
Pull Action Latch Clamp #341
Straight Line Clamp #630R

Monday, January 4, 2016

On Being a Linchpin

First, to all Happy New Year.  My hope is to bring you many more posts this year!

I recently read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin Are You Indispensable.  I thought it was an interesting read.  It hit on a lot of items that bother me with today’s society – how people are replaceable, how schooling spits out compliant individuals that have lost their creativity and ability to think and create. When I was young I think there was still this idea that if you worked hard (doing what you were told) that you would be taken care of in return.  That isn’t true.  When I was young I worked at a lot of small theatres, many of which paid poorly. But they also operated almost like a family.  There was a community.  Once I hot larger theatres, and corporate theatre, the factory model became much more apparent. 
Godin claims that most people around us are “bureaucrats, note takes, literalists, manual readers, TGIF laborers, map followers and fearful employees.”  I want to think that I don’t see it in the places I have been in theatre, but I do.  It’s there lurking. Yes, certain individuals create – designers, directors.  Theoretically the rest of us have opportunities, but either we don’t exercise them, or they are minimized by the organization. 
When I left the world of theatre, I went to education then to corporate work.  Every place I went to I thought the grass would be greener in terms of experimentation, testing, and R&D.  What’s the difference between the 20 different ways that I know of to cover foam (foam coat, super 88, muslin cover, sculptor coat, urethane hardcoat, and so forth).  What is cheapest, what is most durable?  What is best for rocks versus trees?  Many there is no right answer.  But if you don’t look at things like this, then how do you discover something innovative, new and different?
I often hear discussions about shop standards.  I don’t necessarily disagree that these should not be developed.  I think sometime that once you have a functioning wheel, and you know how and when it works, then using it in the situations in which it applies should be done.  But that doesn’t mean that you should think about a better wheel.  But that costs money.  And it is easier for your folks to just follow instructions on using the first wheel.
At the same time as reading Seth Godin’s book, I read an article on facebook about suicides rates for kids in the Silicon Valley.  Their parents are rich.  They can afford to give the kids everything to give them a good life – lessons and schooling, and connections to give them a leg up.  But they can’t necessarily get them a job, or make sure that they are successful in the future.  So there is stress, and the kids are literally opting out at an alarming rate.
At this point, for decent paying work, you can’t just show up.  There is no miracle job.  You need to contribute and make a difference. Godin asks you to “be remarkable, be generous, create art, make judgement calls, connect people and ideas”.  I’m not good at doing this all the time, but I would like to.  I think that Godin has a lot of good things to say about stepping up.  I think there are parts where (and perhaps it is my own insecurity) that he indicates that the reader could be the next Steve Jobs, or some other similar famous entrepreneur.  But that’s beside the point. 
I also read an article on Forbes Called “Seth Godin’s Linchpin Theory: Sound advice or Career Suicide”.
It was an interesting comparison.  This article, to me over states the idea that to be a linchpin the entire company pivots around you – and that you are in a position in the company that is not at perhaps the CEO level (since at that point most entrepreneurial businesses often revolve around the creator, at least for a time).  The key, that this article makes that is very important (and very important theatrically) is that organizations need a way to manage knowledge.  When person A creates something, what happens with the knowledge that they have learned?  Without managing that knowledge, and somehow sharing it with others, that individual becomes valuable, but also problematic.  Historically that person doesn’t want to share information because that makes his job less stable.  But sharing that knowledge, is to me, pivotal with moving forward in our industry, as well as many other industries. 
Excel is a typical program to be using as a TD.  I am surrounded by users who have all used it for over a decade.  In the past month – I have had at least 4 moments where I or someone else learned a random things that you can do in excel by watching someone else.  All of us (in my example) thought of ourselves as pretty decent users of the program – but there is always something to learn.

Knowledge management, allowing people to share information, and providing space to experiment and test ideas, techniques, and so forth are critical things that I believe are necessary to cultivate in our world today.