Falling ceiling effect from a gun blast

G.P.I.

Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2016
Location
New York, NY
Hey all,

I am looking to make an effect where a chunk of ceiling falls onto the stage after an actor "shoots" into the air. I have a thought about a box with a bolt that gets released via string and pulleys, but I'm open to any better solutions. The grid height is only 12', and it is a 70 seat black box theater. Thank you in advance!
 

bobgaggle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
Philadelphia, PA
I imagine we're talking about little chunks of plaster? A box with a bottom that rides in dados is the better solution. I've had success in a basement theater with a height of 8' with drop effects built this way. I even manages to get the dress for into the woods crammed into such a box for the reveal. If you want to fancy it up you could put an electrical or pneumatic actuator to push the bottom out, rather than running a string, but pulling a string is pretty fool proof.
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I imagine we're talking about little chunks of plaster? A box with a bottom that rides in dados is the better solution. I've had success in a basement theater with a height of 8' with drop effects built this way. I even manages to get the dress for into the woods crammed into such a box for the reveal. If you want to fancy it up you could put an electrical or pneumatic actuator to push the bottom out, rather than running a string, but pulling a string is pretty fool proof.[/QUOTE
I imagine we're talking about little chunks of plaster? A box with a bottom that rides in dados is the better solution. I've had success in a basement theater with a height of 8' with drop effects built this way. I even managed to get the dress for into the woods crammed into such a box for the reveal. If you want to fancy it up you could put an electrical or pneumatic actuator to push the bottom out, rather than running a string, but pulling a string is pretty fool proof.
@G.P.I. If / when you go with @bobgaggle 's "sliding box bottom sliding within dados, don't forget to include travel stops to prevent pulling the sliding bottom panel completely out of the dados. I'm voting for simple and economical winning out over additional complexity and failure points.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 

G.P.I.

Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2016
Location
New York, NY
@G.P.I. If / when you go with @bobgaggle 's "sliding box bottom sliding within dados, don't forget to include travel stops to prevent pulling the sliding bottom panel completely out of the dados. I'm voting for simple and economical winning out over additional complexity and failure points.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
Thank you everyone for the feedback. I also think simplest is best, so I think I'm going to go with a simple wooden jewelry or pencil box that has a slotted lid. Appreciate the feedback everyone!
 

kendal69

Active Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2010
Location
USA
Handle it like a balloon drop at new years. ANET with a fishing line weaved in and out through two pieces. Fill the net with sponge, foam, baking flour. Timing needs to be perfect. One the shot someone pulls the fishing line and it opens up the net and downfalls the rubble.
 

Pyrotech

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Location
Shelton, WA
You can also use magnetic fire door holders. Fasten the electromagnet portion to the ceiling with a small plate on the 'debris'. While energized, the debris is held in place. On cue, cut the power and the magnet releases. You would need to be able to run power to it, with a switch in the circuit.
 

jm_in_tx

Member
Joined
May 16, 2017
Location
DFW, TX
I really like the magnetic latch idea.
I was asked by a local director to sketch up something for him to do just that (Moon over Buffalo?). I asked if he could do something electrical but he asked me to keep it simple.
So I sketched up the attachments, and sent them to him plus a couple of comments:
This can be built from plywood. Hinges allow the doors to fall open when the pin is pulled from the loose pin hinges. The string can be black tie-line ("stage cord") which every respectable theatre has a spool of. The cord runs offstage and is pulled by an unseen assistant, like the stage manager. The doors have that bevel to them so they don't touch when swinging open, which they would if they were just square edges.

Some things not on the sketches that might be useful:

1) A cloth flap on the inside of one of the doors to keep the plaster from leaking through any gap in the doors.
2) Something to keep the string that pulls the pin from just dropping on the stage. I can add something if you'd like.
3) Little bungie cords to pull the doors open quickly. I didn't take the time to add them to the sketches because drawing bungies in a 3D CAD program is difficult. Adding some weight to each door might work too.

It's a 90-seat community theatre in Grapevine, TX where I was technical director for 5 years.

Let us know what you end up doing.

Cheers,

Jeff in TX
 

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Van

CBMod
CB Mods
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Joined
Jul 27, 2006
Location
Portland, Or.
You can also use magnetic fire door holders. Fasten the electromagnet portion to the ceiling with a small plate on the 'debris'. While energized, the debris is held in place. On cue, cut the power and the magnet releases. You would need to be able to run power to it, with a switch in the circuit.
One issue with electro-magnets; they heat up the longer they remain on and have something attached to them < they heat more slowly when there is no magnetic interference.> The Second thing <oops two things> They can buzz with a 60hz hum if they are mated correctly with their load.

I have always preferred to to build a lightweight box with a hinged bottom. I would typically rig a 12 or 24v straight-pull solenoid so that it pulled a pin that I had run through three screw eyes; the one in the cent of the other two was attached to the box. For heavier items you can rig a solenoid to pull on a latch, like a gate latch. These set-ups usually require a heavier solenoid but still doable with a 24v unit.

The advantages of a Solenoid: low voltage, can be run off a transformer plugged into a dimmer so it's triggered from the LX board. Easily reusable and reconfigurable. No worry about broken strings, trick lines or having to snake those things through your grid or ceiling. Low noise.
I actually built an FX box that contained a transformer, selector switches, triggers and delay relays. It all fed out through a CJ connector so I could run 12 solenoids at various locations for triggering all the fall apart FX for "Inspecting Caroll" worked like a dream, including triggering the Pneumatic solenoid that dropped the front of the stage.
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
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Jul 27, 2006
Location
Portland, Or.
Oh, and Cardboard painted white, maybe with a bit of dope on it to give it texture and some Rye flour for Dust. Some fluffy dryer lint or costume shop fuzz treated with a bit of hairspray, so it doesn't shed, can make a pretty funny effect also. It tends to float down more slowly like insulation.
 

Leo Mauler

Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
Kansas, USA
Hey all,

I am looking to make an effect where a chunk of ceiling falls onto the stage after an actor "shoots" into the air. I have a thought about a box with a bolt that gets released via string and pulleys, but I'm open to any better solutions. The grid height is only 12', and it is a 70 seat black box theater. Thank you in advance!
I like the box with string and pulley system, it worked fine when we did it for Romeo and Juliet, when the Prince, to stop the warring factions, fired off a muzzle loader onstage and a piece of masonry "from a building" fell down to his right. Works great for confetti effects too, like the one we added at the end of "Queen of Bingo".

If the control booth is too far away and/or sealed, preventing string, and stagehands are few or nonexistent, a solenoid controlled from your booth will drop your box perfectly fine.
 

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