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Differences in border fabrics


Johnno

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Leaving aside price differences what are the pros and cons of Otley Drill, Bolton Twill and Wool Serge? I've the go-ahead to renew the borders and get some legs for our school hall stage - currently framed by pleated fabric the colour of old underwear, but not as alluring.

 

As the stage is often used with the houselights on, the first border is highly visible (legs too, when we get some) and I was thinking that this one should be of the best visual quality, if there is such a thing.

 

If any one here reps for a pukka stage supplies company and wants to tender for supply and installation of borders, legs, and various other bits and pieces of the same ilk, please PM your contact details. The school is in Blackpool and the job needs completion by mid-November.

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Black wool serge is the best fabric for soft (and hard) masking.

It looks best, absorbs light well, is durable and flame retardant - go for the slightly heavier version if you can afford it (variously called Super Serge).

Go for flat panels, not pleated, with ties at the top and a conduit pocket at the bottom. (and buy some conduit to put in them).

 

If the first border is a fairly fixed item ( a house header), why not consider making a timber frame for it - effectively a big flat on its side. This will keep it looking neat and give you a crisp line to the front of your stage.

 

Legs should be the same - Flat panels with ties and a pocket and/or chain - depending on how you use them.

 

Try J D McDougall on 020 8534 2921. They will advise and quote.

 

 

T

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Bolton Twill has a nasty habit of tearing in a big way once caught by something sharp, whereas serge will often make a small tear which can usually be pretty invisibly repaired. Bolton will also suffer from fading to grey.

 

I would recommend wool serge every time.

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well we have some portals covered in blue wool serge, and they are probably over 10 years old - today an un-noticed par can managed to turn the portal into a pretty good smoke and smell generator (comments were along the lines of "do we have a smoke machine stage left?" - "no", "ah, we do have now!".) The minute the can was removed, smoke stopped, no flames at all, and just charing. Recommend the stuff to anyone.
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Black wool serge is the best fabric for soft (and hard) masking......

 

...Legs should be the same....

 

Black borders I can just about accept, black legs and worse, black half tabs or rear tabs ARGH!

 

You can't light them as they absorb all light, they make a stage look small and opressing, I always like to see a neutral colour like grey or off white or even blue then you can use a PARcan or fresnel wash and make them any colour you wish.

 

We do a fair few dance shows and when you get dancers in black leotards performing in front of black tabs it looks poo.

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It has to be black, the aim is to make the wings dissappear after all. Not stand out. If your venue is used a lot for conferences, seminaars etc. you might consider having your first portal in a coloured serge that befits the decor of your venue (or corporate colours). Other than that, go for black. It's what visiting companies expect, it's also what the majority of LD's desire, reason being you can have a very small lighting state on stage (say a single special) without your lovely 'pale mushroom' coloured legs reflecting every available speck of light back at the audience. Nothing worse then being able to see your BLACK-clad crew moving in front of a pale leg in a semi-black-out.

And oh yes, wool serge all the way. Here's a tip though; if you are going to order non-pleated drapes so you can achieve a nice crisp look, order them slightly wider than you need, so that if a designer comes in who wants a pleated curtain, all you have to do is slide the ties closer together. Voila, a pleated curtain which STILL MASKS> :rolleyes:

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Black borders I can just about accept, black legs and worse, black half tabs or rear tabs ARGH!

 

Speaking as someone who works in a professional theatre taking get-in shows on a daily or weekly basis, I have to say that about 70% of the shows we get ask for a "black box" (i.e. exactly what you're saying "ARCH" to).

 

You can't light them as they absorb all light,

 

Yup. That's the whole point.

 

We do a fair few dance shows and when you get dancers in black leotards performing in front of black tabs it looks poo.

 

1. Not if it's lit properly!

2. If black leotards is all they're wearing then it would be silly to specify a black box. Just a little bit of colour or white in the outfit and you've got something you can work with. Or just put a cyc or backdrop in for that number and it'll make a world of difference. For the next number a black box may well be perfect.

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Or just put a cyc or backdrop in for that number and it'll make a world of difference. For the next number a black box may well be perfect.

 

Oh if only we had the time to rig cycs or back cloths.

 

We have one dance production comming up where we get access to the venue at 5.00pm there are no house systems so we have to rig lights, sound and set up video recording, we will be given 20+ CDs which the performers have been rehearsing to and which we have to upload to the laptop in the correct play order, we'll have to do a lighting plot on the hoof based on the music titles and curtian up is 7.15pm.

 

Welcome to the world of Amateur theatre.

 

Most of what we do is musicals and pantos and in the smaller venues we work in the legs become an extension of the set, if we can light them it enhances the production, bright golden haze for Oklahoma, rainbow or emerald green for The Wizard ofOz etc etc.

 

This plethera of black fabric seemed to appear in the early 1980s perhaps it was the flavour of the time just as moving lights seem to be at the moment.

 

I watch a hell of a lot of light entertainment stuff on TV for reference purposes, X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, search for Maria, Joseph etc and retro stuff like Morcambe and Wise, Two Ronnies etc and you don't see acres of black fabric in those productions.

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This plethera of black fabric seemed to appear in the early 1980s perhaps it was the flavour of the time just as moving lights seem to be at the moment.

I don't have much experience pre early 1980s but by then black was certainly pretty standard. I could not agree more about the moving lights though.

 

I watch a hell of a lot of light entertainment stuff on TV for reference purposes, X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, search for Maria, Joseph etc and retro stuff like Morcambe and Wise, Two Ronnies etc and you don't see acres of black fabric in those productions.

That is because what you are looking at is the set, TV does not have to do masking (I know that is not always strictly true), they just don't show you the bits that they don't want you to see.

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I'm not saying that there isn't a place for black and if your a proffesional venue and able to fly out the legs or fly in wing flats etc to cover the blacks then ok.

 

At most the venues we get involved with, schools, Town halls, Am Drams own space, if they've got black legs you're stuck with black legs. They've been advised that is what they want so they install it but it's not condusive to the type of production they are producing.

You get wonderful painted back drops that suddenly come to an abrupt end against a black leg, transision scenes are often played in front of a half tab which is black, Cinderella walking through the wood or Dorothy alaong the yellow brick road, you can't project a gobo or do a wash it's just a totaly dead scene.

 

I got involved in theatre (amateur) in the late 1960s and began to work back stage in the1970s at that time as I recall most of the legs and stage tabs were a battle ship grey and then all of a sudden the cry went up "do it in front of black tabs" " we need black tabs" and acres of black fabric appeared.

 

As regards seeing you stage crew, be novel, one of the groups we know, for Oklahoma had stage crew dressed as cowboys, for Anything Goes they dressed as sailors, sets got dressed and struck in full light without anybody really percieving it, even by we who were there every night.

 

You know how anoying it is when you play a wide screen DVD on a normal TV and you have 3 inch of black top and bottom of the screen, well for me it's the same when you have a yard of black at either side of the stage

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..... transision scenes are often played in front of a half tab which is black, Cinderella walking through the wood or Dorothy alaong the yellow brick road, you can't project a gobo or do a wash it's just a totaly dead scene.

 

Well I'm sorry that's a bit irrelevent, the question was about legs and borders not cloths. To be fair in that situation the cloth is not at fault, the designer is, or more likely the director in most amdram cases. Obviously a black half tab is not the best solution for all problems, on the other hand I would hate to see a pale cloth hung as a blinder behind a black shark's tooth gauze. THE RIGHT CLOTH FOR THE RIGHT SITUATION, is the only correct answer.

 

As regards seeing you stage crew, be novel, one of the groups we know, for Oklahoma had stage crew dressed as cowboys, for Anything Goes they dressed as sailors, sets got dressed and struck in full light without anybody really percieving it, even by we who were there every night.

 

 

Hardly novel, that's been done and done for years, but again, is not ALWAYS applicable. How would you dress your crew for instance for a dance show? In tu-tu's? How would you dress a crew member doing a silent scene change behind an unblinded gauze? In a gauze suit? I'm sorry but the question asked for a recommendation for legs and borders to achieve the most universally useful end result. I think most of the people posting here agree;

Black wool serge.

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