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Cost advantage for Broadway vs Hollywood Flats?

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by Mara, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. Mara

    Mara Member

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    What are the best building methods to control for costs? We typically build Hollywood style flats, but costs of lumber are exponential. We also don't have much storage space, so we tend to re-build flats often.

    Is there a cost advantage to using Broadway style flats? Another type?

    Any other cost saving ideas for set building/construction? I.e. a way to get discounts or styles that we haven't thought of?
     
  2. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    My preference between the two has never really been driven by Cost, but by need, and function. If Storage is an issue Broadways are certainly thinner, However Broadways tend to require more bracing and and stiffeners than Studios <holllywoods>. Remember anything you cut, structurally, from a flat to save money will cost you in the engineering integrity, and over all flimsiness of the end product. The best bet is to keep your eyes open for Lumber sales, Find a good, local, distributor who is willing to work with you or has a soft spot for Theater who will help you with costs either 'cause they are nice or for ad space in a playbill. If possible always buy in bulk.

    Oh and it's been discussed here before but it bears repeating, Since labor, in Theatre, is so often not a consideration to the Bottom line; Purchasing 1x8 and ripping to 2 1/8" can sometimes yeild good cost results when building Studio flats. I would not go that small for Broadways but it works for studios.
     
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  3. StradivariusBone

    StradivariusBone Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    The framing costs between broadway and hollywood flats are almost negligible. Near where we are the cost of 1x is no small concern, but I've taken to picking through the ferring strip pile for 1x3's that are straight enough for our needs. I know some carps will turn up their noses at the stuff, but I've built a number of flats with them without much fuss. What Van said about the bracing is something to take into account as that can affect cost. We use hollywoods if it's static on the ground but I greatly prefer flying broadways over hollywood.

    The surfaces would be where I expect cost saving to play in more. I've been using hardboard to save money and finally am getting tired of that, so I'm considering switching back to luan, but I'm guessing that soft flats (though more time-consuming to assemble) would be cheaper to manufacture. Though you lose a lot of the structural rigidity a hard flat gives you.
     
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  4. Mara

    Mara Member

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    Thanks! Most of the sets we build lately are static so less concerned about bracing than typical. We are struggling with costs at my theater and I'm trying to come up with some alternatives or ideas on ways we can still build our beautiful sets without breaking the bank and hopefully breaking even on the show.

    Here's an example of what we are currently building for Barefoot. It's a beautiful set, with several levels and plexi. My board of trustees is unhappy with the costs.
     

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  5. microstar

    microstar Well-Known Member

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    Nice set. My question would be who sets and approves the budget for each show or the season? Surely your board of trustees has input or at least approval of the production budget. If building this set is within that budget, you could point that out. If you're over budget, then they obviously have something to complain about.
     
  6. DRU

    DRU Active Member

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    Flats, in my experience, have always been where most of my costs go. Every show required custom flats. If you keep stock flats of both Broadway and Hollywood styles, you can substitute large, flat areas with stock and just custom cut the edges. You can look at steel or aluminum framed flats, but I haven't done a cost/benefit analysis with steel or aluminum for myself yet.

    Unless you pay REALLY close attention to knots, doing this technically de-grades your wood. Lumber grades (#1, #2, #3) are determined by a ratio of knot size to width of board. A 1x4 #2 and a 1x8 #2 are the same grade, but the maximum required knot size for that grade is bigger for the 1x8 than the 1x4. So, when you rip down a 1x8 to a smaller size, you put a larger knot size into a smaller width, so while you save money, you might get the equivalent of #3 or worse with your cuts.

    I did a cost analysis of Broadway vs. Hollywood construction at my old job, and hard Broadways barely cost less, but as said, almost negligilbe.

    That was the same conclusion I came to. Hollywoods have a wider base that allows you to screw into the ground, and Broadways have a lower profile which works for flying and tracking.
     
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  7. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    I usually assume Folks have a general working knowledge of craft unless they specifically state otherwise. Someone capable of creating the set pictured above would be one that, I feel, falls into that category. One would hope that one would have presence of mind enough to not use a piece of ripped down lumber that was negatively impacted by the inclusion of Larger knots because of ripping. If one does not have said presence on mind one might not want to spend too much time around power tools.
     
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  8. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    I'm curious as to how tall most folks are building these for a high school setting. I'll admit its been a while for me but use to consider 14' kind of standard for a box set. All "broadway" style, standard 5'-9" wide, but have built up to 8' wide. I guess no one thinks dutching the seams has a cost but seem like hollywood is limited to 4' and has more seams.

    Also I'm guessing no covering on the hollywood? I never built hollywood flats without covering with muslin, which would seem to negate the idea of being less expensive but YMMV.
     
  9. dbaxter

    dbaxter Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I don't know if the raised floor is permanent or not, but if not, long term savings might be had by developing a stock of 4x8, 4x4, 4x6 platforms to slide together for flooring. We build ours with 1x6's and 3/4 ply. We also make 1x3's from a sheet of 3/4 ply ripped in slices to avoid the warp and knot problem.
    For walls, we've used classic luan, but also indoor/outdoor carpeting (made an elegant apartment for Boeing, Boeing) and foam carpet padding for concrete/stucco walls in Hot L Baltimore. You need to do a 2x4 frame for the whole wall in those cases.
     
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  10. kicknargel

    kicknargel Well-Known Member

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    We tend to frame in plywood rather than 1x, mostly because in our dry climate 1x warps really fast in the rack. We do have to scab together butt joints for runs longer than 8'. At $45/sheet for paint grade birch, comes to about $.43 / ft @ 3.5". You could sacrifice strength/convenience to use cheaper ply as well.

    Revolution Ply (at Lowe's) is a sustainable product, and a bit cheaper than good-quality lauan.
     
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  11. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

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    My main employer builds most flats/walls out of 1.5" x 1.5" 16ga or 18ga box tube, covered in lauan, and then wrapped in muslin. When we do build all wood flats, they're studio style, and we never bother ripping down the 1x4 from nominal dimension.

    I won't even get in to the shops I know of that frame their flats in poplar.
     
  12. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Staples and glue on framing joints? While i see labor to rip ply as not insignificant i like the dimensional stability. Like modern cabinets.
     
  13. JChenault

    JChenault Well-Known Member

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    I work in a theatre that uses a framing method that I have never seen before. They frame using 2x2. IE they take 2x4 and rip into 2x2. They skin with Luan. 2x4 is plentiful and comparatively cheap. Works out as less than 1x4or 1x3. It's thinner than a typical Hollywood flat so storage is easier. There is enough edge so you cam drill flats together like true Hollywood flats.

    It seems strange to me when I first saw it, but it works well for them.
     
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  14. TheaterEd

    TheaterEd Renaissance Man Fight Leukemia

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    It seems strange to me as well, but I'm not really seeing a downside here. Anyone care to tell me why I shouldn't start doing this for my flats here at the school?

    (note, I wouldn't need new flats here at the school if the moms and dads would stop taking them apart during strike :wall:)
     
  15. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Warpage would be my first guess. Any square profiled lumber is going to be much more susceptible to curving and twisting than a rectangular profie. A squre profiled makes it harder to pull the warp out.

    A shop I used to be at used their CNC mill to cut all the parts of a flat from plywood, including adding little 1/16" rabbets for the toggles to sit in... I don't work there anymore.
     
  16. kicknargel

    kicknargel Well-Known Member

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    Yes, the birch is a pretty dense 7-ply veneer core, which takes glue and staples pretty well. For a stock flat, we add a toggle directly on top of the top and bottom rails to strengthen that connection, which takes the most abuse.

    In terms of 2x2, besides the warpage mentioned, downside is the extra width is not adding much stiffness, and you're losing some with the 1.5" depth. A 1x3 is stiffer in its wide dimension than a 2x2 is.
     
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  17. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Staples and glue on Framing joints of flats is an industry standard, AFAIK
     
  18. JohnD

    JohnD Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    :angryoldman:What!!! No clinch plates anymore!!!
     
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  19. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    With plywood framing?

    Hey, what happen to clout nails? That's my industry standard. 5/4 x 4 clear of course.
     
  20. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    And even with Pin nailing, sometimes.
     

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