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Ground cloth

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by jessamarie6, Jun 10, 2009.

  1. jessamarie6

    jessamarie6 Member

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    So I'm looking for some tips and tricks for using a groundcloth as a stage floor. We are taking a show into an outside venue, and instead of painting our floor directly as we usually do, we've been asked to create a ground cloth for the floor. The painting on it will be simple (just wood graining), but it's going to need to be pulled up and put back down multiple times during the run. The size needs to be approx 17'x32'. Anyone have any ideas? Are there paint treatments I should be aware of to prevent cracking and chipping? Anyone know a good supplier in the Chicago area? Anything I can do to minimize the appearance of and tripping hazard of seams?

    Thanks
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I did this a few years back using an old cyc. The big thing is, make sure it is all one piece. if you tack it down in the corners and pull it taught, you don't need to worry about it slipping. As far as the painting goes, I would assume using more of a dye based paint rather then a latex would be preferable. When I did this, I was not the one painting so I am not totally clear on that one.
     
  3. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    Are there any "winter guard" competition units in your area? (Winter guard is indoor color guard routine - lyrical-theatrical over-the-top dance routines that also twirl color guard flags and fake rifles.) Around here, they use some sort of heavy groundcloth big enough to cover a basketball court. Never any trouble with tripping etc, and these kids (high school age, most of them female) do a lot of dancing, leaping etc. The groundcloth is typically painted with some design. (Not sure of the material, but they all use the cloth. Each team lays out then folds up their own cloth for each preformance.)


    Joe
     
  4. Clifford

    Clifford Active Member

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    Joe, that's what I was going to suggest. However the guard at our school seems to use something that looks like it was a design printed on some sort of 3mm or 4mm plastic. It looks like something that would cost more than painting or dying an old cyc. It would, however, appear to be more robust. They get a whole year out of it sometimes.

    -Clifford
     
  5. FatherMurphy

    FatherMurphy Active Member

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    Rose Brand has heavy canvas suitable for groundcloths, other suppliers probably have similar fabrics.

    132" Canvas, 10.5 oz., Natural, NFR from Rose Brand

    The one linked is 11' wide, so two lengths of it would cover your desired width, or perhaps three widths will cover the desired length. Find a canvas sewing shop (like a tent and awning company) and have them do the center seams. They can simply do a 1" overlap and double needle stitch it, and it'll lay flat and nearly unnoticeable.

    I used to do scenery for a short-run outdoor summer theater, a couple of years we did groundcloths over the platforms to get a smooth surface for painting. I'd cover the deck with plastic (rain barrier), lay out the canvas somewhat loose, staple down the edges, and paint it with exterior latex. The paint would size the fabric, the exterior aspect of the paint would repel rain, and all was well. I don't know how well this would hold up under repeated foldings, but the new fabric with one heavy base coat with spatters and glazes didn't degrade much either in use, or from being pulled up and taken back to the shop.

    One year, I let the local canvas shop talk me into a vinyl impregnated canvas (it was cheap). This didn't work as well - the vinyl coating had a much greater thermal expansion/contraction problem than raw canvas, and it kept pulling up the staples on cold nights. I finally had to glue and screw 1/4" plywood strips along the ends, partially wrecking the smoothness we were desiring.

    Operas often do groundcloths, especially for rep seasons. I've seen them laid out and then just tacked down with small, wide headed nails. As long as there's no wrinkles, trip hazard is minimal. Wagons rolling across a cloth might be a 'wave' issue, though, as they tend to press loose fabric ahead of them.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2009
  6. Checkov

    Checkov Member

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    I'm working on a touring production that we'd like to lay down a marley-like floor, or some floor that is able to roll out, and thus on strike roll back up to truck.

    The tricky part is - is that we'd like to paint the floor.

    Does anyone know any material that would serve such a purpose? The painted floor would need to last approximately two years of touring with about 150 performances per year.

    Or perhaps there a company that would take a digital image that we would provide and they would imprint that image on a linoleum-like surface.

    The surface is not being used for dance so marley surface is not important. It is a rather conventional theatre piece where the actors are wearing shoes. So the texture of the floor is not really that important. Durability, and flexibility and the ability to tour easily is most important.

    The floor area is approximately 30 feet wide by 20 feet deep. (or 9 meters X 6 meters)

    Any advise much appreciated.
     
  7. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Canvas ground cloth? Has worked pretty well for a long time.
     
  8. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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  9. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I meant to add that besides being "taped, tacked, or stapled" as the wiki says, the Yale method (or was when I was there) was grommets at the edges and 5/16" X 1 flat head machine screws in knife edged threaded inserts. Very slick in rep, though it does require installing the inserts. Were I doing it today and not able to tack it in, I'd try to find a fastener like a drywall screw and a sleeve or "dimpled" washer so it would work on a no. 2 grommet. If you can't attach to the stage floor, first get the person who is responsible for that rule fired, and consider a 1/4" ply or luan if you cab find it and tape on the underside in the field and on top at the perimeter. I'm skeptical of taping a canvas ground cloth because they always seemed to need being stretched.
     
  10. Checkov

    Checkov Member

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    As for my touring production, theatres won't allow any sort of stapling, screwing etc. (and I can't get them fired, Bill, lol) So taping the floor is my only option - like laying a marley floor or a lineoleum floor, the tape would be just to keep the edges from tripping actors and taping the seams to keep the piece together.

    JW - I like the idea of Winter Guard floor -do they do custom printing? I found a company online and asked this question, waiting for a reply.

    FatherMurphy - any sources for this > "One year, I let the local canvas shop talk me into a vinyl impregnated canvas"? That's pretty much exaclty what I need, but it sounds like it won't lay flat with just tape?

    Can you tape down ground cloth?
     
  11. PeterV

    PeterV Member

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    I used to work one of the major theatrical soft goods companies in the U.S. and as a rule of thumb we didn't recommend any canvas lighter than 12oz (15oz or 18oz usually were better). The heavier you go the less likely the canvas will snag or rip. The main catch is the heavier weights usually only have narrow width so you have to have it seamed. If you seam it make sure the seams are flat-felled seams (like the seams on a pair of jeans). This allows the ground cloth to lay flat and scenery to roll smoothly over the seams. If you use the heavier weight canvas most scenic paints will work fine as long as you allow enough time for the paint to cure. Double sided carpet tape is a pretty common way to secure the ground cloth to the deck if you can't tack, staple, or screw.
     
  12. kicknargel

    kicknargel Well-Known Member

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    There are certainly places that will print vinyl flooring. Rose Brand does. Source One Digital may. Plenty others, I'm sure.

    You can paint marley, but I wouldn't be confident about it holding up for years.
     
  13. Checkov

    Checkov Member

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    What about purchasing a ground cloth and gluing it to the vinyl floor? In this way I have a dance floor that can roll out, and my painter can give it a better look than printing?

    The tricky part here is that marley vinyl floor needs to rest and when rolled out needs to be taped down well. How do avoid tape marks? I can't have the painter on the road repainting the tape/seams.
     
  14. Checkov

    Checkov Member

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    Creative Corners - with this method. How will the canvas feel when walking on it with shoes? As snug and tight as a wall to wall carpet? Or will it pull up? We do have large/heavy scenic elements on wheels.
     
  15. PeterV

    PeterV Member

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    Double sided tape works fine for performers moving on the ground cloth. You can usually get it pretty snug and flat. If you will have heavy scenery and wagons rolling on it, I'd recommend adding patches of webbing along the perimeter and tacking or stapling to the deck.
     
  16. lwinters630

    lwinters630 Well-Known Member

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    A bill-board sign company makes heavy printed reinforced vinyl signs that are attached outdoors to wall or buildings. I've seen sizes 20 X 60 ft. I actually use them to tarp off the stage during set builds. Sorry I don't have a source.
     
  17. Checkov

    Checkov Member

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    this is an option. Does this bill-board sign material roll up very well? I need to roll it and put in a truck, repeated times (400)?
     
  18. Checkov

    Checkov Member

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    On this method, is there a way I can build a frame around the floor that is not attached to the deck, yet allows me to grommet the ground floor to the frame and keep it stretched? The frame would be outside all scenery that is on wheels, and the frame would allow the ground cloth to be stretched and not taped - is this at all feasible?
     
  19. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm not seeing it. If this is a regular thing on one stage, you could try to sell it as a permanent and unobtrusive means to "protecting" the stage floor. A knife thread insert is pretty small and not a blight in the floor. But IIRC, this is a tour event.
     
  20. chausman

    chausman Chase Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    We have several old billboards that we use to protect the gym floor during a large craft fair. They've handled it all without noticeable issues. You'll just need to make sure you have a good way to keep them taught when unrolled, or they don't sit completely flat.
     

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