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Copyright/Reproducing Sets

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by willmanc, Oct 30, 2007.

  1. willmanc

    willmanc Member

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    I know, I know... We should each be individuals and design our own visions of the show we are producing. Please bare with me!
    1) What are the copyright laws with re-creating (stealing) a broadway set design?
    2) Was anything settled with the URINETOWN/Akron-Chicago shows?
    3) Is there anything to learn from recreating a broadway set on a high school budget?
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    There is a difference between steeling the set and reproducing what the script calls for. Lets take anything goes for instance... you are going to have two stair cases and a smokestack. Its going to be red, white, blue, gold. Thats what the audience expects. Same thing for chorus line. For les miz you are going to build a barricade that will in some way revolve. The old book musicals pretty much come with a set, the newer ones may or may not. Now their should be a line between ripping off the set of a broadway show and using that set to help figure out how you will do things and how that set relates to the script.
     
  3. jmabray

    jmabray Active Member

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    I am in no way a lawyer nor do I even play one on TV. But I think there is a difference between using someone else's idea and using someone else's idea for profit. In the case of the Urinetown production, I think that was the main legal grounds. They stole their idea without any credit given and it was a for profit opportunity.

    If you give them credit in the program(i.e. Design inspired by SoandSo) you should have even better legal standing, but again, I know about as much law as you do.....
     
  4. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    There is a reason that people like Dramatists Play Services stopped printing groundplans in the back of their scripts. Technically, if you were to copy the original groundplan for a show it could be considered copyright infringement. As Footer said, if you are just using the idea, it is probably ok, but to sit with say a photograph or groundplan of a Broadway show and try to recreate the set could get you into trouble.

    I am not sure there is as much to learn from copying a show as there is to coming up with your own design, except how to cut corners to fit in your budget. If you copy a show all you need to figure out is how to build it, whereas if you design it yourself you learn how to do research, come up with creative ideas, and create a design. That, I think, is a much more educational experience.

    Oh, and by the way, why not stop by the new member board and tell us a little about yourself.
     
  5. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    willmanc, please start a new thread in the "New Members Area" introducing yourself. We like to know to whom we are talking. Tell us who you are, where you are, what you're doing and what you'd like to do.

    To answer your questions, to which I suspect you already know the answers and are just looking for validation:

    1) Whether or not the designs are copyrighted, intellectual property laws apply, and in the US at least, anything is actionable. Almost every drawing issued by professional designers includes the boilerplate <let me find one so I can quote it exactly>
    All concepts, ideas, and design elements shown on this drawing and any other documentation are the exclusive intellectual property of the Designer and may only be used for this project. Any other use is prohibited, unless the Designer has granted express written permission. Review of this document implies acceptance of the above terms and conditions.

    2) What the OP is alluding to: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/15/theater/15urin.html. I suspect that since both productions closed, and there is/was no money to be had, the lawyers advised their clients to drop the pending litigation.

    3) While it's highly unlikely that a high school is going to fly Norma Desmond's mansion for Sunset Boulevard, I can't see doing Miss Saigon without a helicopter (or at least a rotating gobo) onstage. In high school and college, we often used the groundplans from the back of the Samuel French edition of the play when we were doing non-executed light plots for teaching purposes. One thing we were cautioned on, though, is that these plans are/were often drawn up by the original stage manager or prop person, and are generally not to any particular scale. If Neil Simon in his notes calls for a "door to the bedroom SL" and a "door to the hallway SR" and "a large picture window UC with a view of the New York skyline beyond," the scenic design is going to resemble the original Broadway production. So to answer your question, there is MUCH to learn from an original Broadway production, but often (always?) a high school is not going to have the resources to duplicate a design exactly, so that challenge and excitement comes from suggesting, or re-interpreting, an original design, i.e. the rotating gobo to suggest the helicopter, instead of the real thing onstage. While I can't imagine Cats taking place anywhere but in a junkyard, staging A Midsummer Night's Dream in a circus owes to Perter Brooks, but he does not deserve a royalty, in my opinion.

    Likewise, I feel there's a difference between seeing a Broadway show and "copying" some of the ideas, and re-building the show from the original drawings. This is part of the reason the original drawings are so difficult to obtain. Just my 2ยข. Hope this helps answer your question.

    Edit: Sorry to duplicate some of the above answers. I must type slower than some people.;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2007
  6. willmanc

    willmanc Member

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    I have no theatre background and was "thrown" into the situation as being the technical director and set designer for the high school I teach at. I have several students that are very interested in theatre and would like to continue their education in technical theatre.
    I've taught myself a lot through reading, and going to see local performances and professional shows. I just dont feel that I can keep the level of performance where they are expected to be by designing myself... and I am not comfortable in teaching my students elements of design. I would hate to teach them the wrong thing and find out in college that I was wrong.
    I would rather teach the engineering concepts used to produce the sets. Two years ago, we "reproduced" Beauty as close as we could. Students were able to work with "Flying by Foy," we researched and use pyro, made our west wing rotate (with home-made tracking), and had a great transformation scene (very similar to broadway).
    This year, we are doing Les Mis and I am planning on making the turntable (32' Dia) and would like to do the Barricade broadway style, where it comes in vertically and rotates down. We have to use rudementary electronics to accomplish this, learn about gearing, motors, and simple machines.
    Thanks for all of the input, and feel free to comment back.
    Where is the new members section?
     
  7. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    willmanc, fell free to PM or email me As I would be happy to talk to you about Mis. The theatre I work for closed last season with it, we were the first regional theatre in the US to produce the show. I would be happy to help you out with some ideas (to the point that I am allowed by the designers), and I (and many on these forums are happy to be sounding boards for ideas.
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    The new member forum is the 5th one from the top on the main list of forums.

    There are a lot of people here with great ideas. However, the general consensus is that it should be YOUR design, not ours. So I suggest you start presenting some of your ideas and then we'll toss them around a little bit and see if we can help you develop them further.

    Finally, if you are smart you will start a PM discussion with IceWolf immediately. Alex is a nice guy, knows his stuff, and just did the show.
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    I think you're selling yourself short. You've seen lots of shows, and read much about design/production. The fact that you've never taken a "college theatre design course" should not stop you from teaching what you've read and experienced. (For a list of books to consider, go here.) The New Member Board is here. You may actually be doing your students a disservice by concentrating on the technical rather than the artistic. Young, eager minds need to be encouraged to explore both. Perhaps you can recruit your school's art teacher to discuss such design elements as line, shape, form, color and motif. You can't really "teach them the wrong thing" as there are really no "right" answers. If you haven't already, I recommend reading and suggesting to your students the book Scene Design and Stage Lighting
    by W. Oren Parker, purchase here.

    Feel free to use ControlBooth as a resource. As you've seen we love to offer advice, and often the "debates" turn out to be more interesting and informative than the original question. Advise your students to join also. We promise not to tell them you don't know everything!;) I feel as a high school teacher who cares about the quality of education of his students you are to be revered, and we will offer any and all assistance we possibly can. By the way, what is your primary subject matter? Industrial Arts? Science? English?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2014
  10. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    How did the pyro go? What type of effects did you use? Did you have to, and was it a pain to, deactivate any necessary fire alarm systems, clear it with the fire marshall, and have a member of the FD on fire watch?
     
  11. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Be cautious with how you answer those questions, willmanc. Discussions of pyro, rigging, and other potentially injurious or deadly practices are usually ended with an answer of "Contact a licensed, insured professional" in the Control Booth.

    Perhap it would be better if you and charcoaldabs discussed this in private.
     
    willmanc likes this.
  12. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Derek, I believe that Charlie's post is within the rules.
    I simply see a request for a show summary.

    If you get into triggering, how to disarm that alarm or anything else specific that is crossing the line.
     
  13. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    Well I was more curious wether or not he took any of these steps with the pyro, and especially in regards to what type of pyro effect it was.

    Obviously I don't know a thing about pyro, but the steps I outlined seem to me to be the appropriate action for use of pyro.
     
  14. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    The whole intellectual property rights area is exceedingly complex.

    Basically you have three forms of protection
    Copywrite, Patent, Design.

    It is unlikely that Patent would apply unless it was for a system to allow the effect to be producted. Disney for instance has a series of patents on some of the methods for effects in the haunted mansion etc.

    If you had the plans and used those plans without permission, then it could be considered in infringment

    For the design to be protected it must be registered, and it must prove that it is unique.

    So unless you have vast resources, and a massive budget it is very unlikely that you would be able to reproduce a design to such an extent as to cause infringement. It is quite common to look at how a high end production was done and to then attempt to make something that can approximate the production, on a much lower scale

    Sharyn
     
  15. willmanc

    willmanc Member

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    My background is in Technology Education. Tech Ed used to be industrial arts, but instead of traditional woodshop and metal shop, it has become more pre-engineering based. Mostly dealing with technical design, 3-D modeling, Digital Electronics, and some CNC manufacturing.
    The pyro I used for "Beauty" wasnt anything huge or outrageous. A few Smoke Puffs and Flash Pots for transformation scenes. We researched all the pyro, obtained MSDS sheets, contacted local fire dept. personel, and had a member of the fire dept. on hand during shows and rehearsals. And of course... contact a licensed, insured professional.
    Working in a school, I know I need to protect myself against lawsuits, and most importantly, protect the safety of the students. I'm not one to assume I can do anything by myself without proper research.
    I think I have the construction, motors, and gearing finalized for production. My big question now is what would be the most efficient way to control the turntable... I would like to keep it simple so that my students can learn about electricity and electronics, wire it themselves, and not have to worry about writing computer programs.
    My 1st thought was just simple SPST switches, DPDT switches, and a potentiometer. This will obviously be easy, but not consistent with the RPM.
    Any thoughts?
    Icewolf08... I will be contacting you. Thanks for offering your help.
     
  16. willmanc

    willmanc Member

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  17. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    If you have a DC motor, sure you can run it that way... if you have an AC motor... completly different ball game. Winch systems that will run this type of turntable and that can do it controllably are not the easiest thing to build. Your going to have to get a motor, a variable frequency drive, and the necesary gear to control the VFD and to tie into the turn table. Van has posted plans for a pretty nice revolve, take a look at those.

    If you want to go the motor route, a cable or chain drive is the way to go. Friction (or tire drives) tend to be much more trouble then they are actually worth.
     
  18. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    I know that you may be contacting me by other means, but I figured I would give a head start here. First, I have to agree with Footer, friction drives just don't cut it. That was what was originally designed for our production of Mis, and it couldn't last 81 performances, and was always more trouble that it's worth.

    Now, it sounds to me from everything else you have done, that your "high school budget" is significantly more substantial than many high school budgets. In any event, Mis is a phenomenon and will sell out every night you perform it, so you should make plenty in ticket sales. So, that being said, I think that it is worth investing in the purchase or rental of a motion control system. Before last season, everything with automation here was done via dead-man's-switch, limit switches, and setting speed and acceleration on the power inverters. Running a major show is a very bad idea without motion control they learned. First off, it is almost impossible to be consistent in where everything lands every night. Second, if your switch gets stuck or you have a short in your switch box or potentiometer then your motors just go until something gets in their way. We actually had major problems during tech for Beauty where the revolve started going on it's own due to a short, and the couldn't get it to stop until it had ripped through a drop and tied up almost the entirety of the stage.

    I don't know how you are fixed in motor land, but to drive a turntable as big as yours, you are probably going to need a big honking motor, probably on the order of 5hp. So you are going to need some serious power to drive it, as most motors that would fit the bill to drive your revolve will want 208v or 230v.

    The very best way you could set up your drive system would be a direct gear drive, this is probably also the most expensive. You would need a ring gear that was the same diameter as your revolve. Then connect motor to gear reducer to revolve all direct (no chains or cables), this will allow for virtually no slipping in the drive system, give you very accurate encoder readings, and probably the least number of problems. This will also give you an infinite rotation.

    The next best way would be a winch and cable drive. This would require you to build your evolve with a sturdy outer ring, probably steel, that you can wrap the cable around. You probably want to make two wraps around the revolve for best grip and least slip. You also need a way to tension the cables once they are attached to both the winch and revolve. Due to this tension, you need a very secure revolve center so it doesn't shift. Since wire cables will stretch, you will need to keep an eye on it every night and re-tension the system. This system should give you minimal slippage, but you have a finite distance you can move the revolve if you are using a winch drum with canted grooves, though that is the best option for winch drums in this situation.

    Last option is friction drive. This is a doable solution, and possibly the least expensive. There are many ways to approach this drive system, each will have the same flaws in slipping and issues with tire pressure, etc. The best way to do any friction drive is to have at least 2 motors, to balance the system. You could set them up so that you have a vertical tire driving the revolve from below, or you can put a steel ring around the revolve and drive from the side. If you drive from a ring on the side you can use two tire to pinch the ring and drive it. These systems are going to show the most slipping, and be the least reliable.

    I have worked with all three systems, and I know people who have worked all three systems, and hands down the direct drive wins, with winches in second. You could do a cain drive, which would be a variant on both the direct and winch drive, that would work well, but you would need a lot of chain.

    Next of course you need a way to control all this. I would suggest, as I have before on these forums, that you look into the "Make it Move" system by Creative Conners Inc. This is a motion control system that is designed to be simple to use and fit in the budget of many small theaters. Their gear is also available for rental. The offer training, consulting, and system design help as well. Garreth Conner is a very nice guy, and is happy to help where he can.

    Hopefully some of that is useful. I haven't written a post like that in a while. Hopefully it doesn't break any of the TOS, but I didn't really tell you how to do anything, just the basic ideas, and it sounds like you have a pretty engineering oriented mind anyway, so you probably know half the things I just said. Anyway, feel free to contact me with more questions.
     
  19. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Though I have yet to use their gear, it looks like a great system. The price is also right! I have hand built winch systems before, you can do it for around 4-5 grand if you shop around for your VFD and get a euro drive motor. Add in the encoders, control lines, brakes, and software and you can get up to 10 grand pretty quick. Put in the extra time for the engineering, building, wiring.. etc it gets pretty time heavy very quickly. Spending 15 grand on more of a turnkey system feels like a steal, and you get better parts for it.

    I have learned a lot in building winch systems, but you learn by trial and error. This is kind of the "ultra geek" thing to do in the entertainment industry. There is a reason that there is a meeting every year at USITT where people show their designs for systems and all the math that goes along with it. This is a very diffacult thing to do, but can be a very rewarding project if done correctly.

    I would look at those winch systems for rental, I think for about 1.5k-2k you should be able to get a good system for about 2 weeks, plus the support to get it all together. I can just about guarantee you they can speck a turntable system to you in their sleep, just like Foy of ZFX can make peter pan fly in their sleep.
     

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