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How to make a laboratory come to life

Discussion in 'Special Effects' started by chrispo86, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. chrispo86

    chrispo86 Active Member

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    I'm going to be doing Jekyll & Hyde in a couple weeks and I've been trying to come up with a good way of making the laboratory come to life. It's such a big portion of the show I really want to make sure it comes out right.

    As of right now, I plan on lighting up some of the glassware from underneath the counter top with a handful of those little puck-shaped under-counter lights. I'll either gel the pucks or just use food coloring in the water to give some color (or both). I'd really like to get some of the equipment to bubble and whatnot, but I'm not sure the best way to do so. I can't bring actual bunsen burners into play, that has disaster written all over it. It's a high school production, so I'm trying to stay away from any real fire. I've been thinking about using those little air pumps used for fish tanks and just running some tubing into the equipment. Either that, or we have a compressed air tank (just the tank, no motor) that we can hide inside the lab bench itself. It's large enough to last the whole show and I figure that might be better so I don't have to deal with the noise generated by the pumps.

    I'm curious what other people have done for this, or similar situations. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    I used some Lava lamps and a mini spark generator, we also had one of those domestic balls with a spark inside. I managed to find one of thse irritating flying bats which was suspended from the centre piece of the truck the lab was on and flew round and round. We had a small smoke machine which was piped throughout the whole thing in transparent pipes with lights so the smoke was coming out of coloured glowing holes.
     
  3. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    Clear plastic tubing coiled into a spiral.

    Check a laboratory supply catalogue.

    Also, see what your chemistry and physics departments have. They may not throw anything out and may have all sorts of old lab stuff.

    Joe
     
  4. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Dry Ice can also be cool, if you are into that sort of thing.
     
  5. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    Thought about it a little more:

    If you can borrow from your friendly chemistry department: a magnetic stirring plate (the non-heating type) with a large size beaker or flask. A large size magnetic stirring rod in the beaker/flask will provide some movement.

    A seperatory funnel set over a large beaker. If you "crack" open the valve just right you can get a steady drip-drip out of it.


    Joe
     
  6. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Haven't done it for Jekyll &Hyde but for a frankenstein set I used a large fish aquarium pump and air distribution set up. It had plenty of ways to T off of air lines and little valve so you could vary the pressure to each different line. just running the tubing into flasks with no air stone on the end gives a good bubbling action. the pmp was acutally quite quiet as well.
    Doesn't evey mad scientist need a jacobs ladder in the background somewhere ?
     
  7. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    I was going to suggest that, too. But could a jacobs ladder be used safely on a stage? (Or more importantly, off-stage).

    Joe
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I built a Jacob's ladder as a high school science project. Got Zapped... and was lucky. Arms were numb for about a half hour afterward... I believe I was VERY lucky. Knowing what I know now about electricity I would strongly urge you to not use one for a high school show. The temptation to mess with it back stage is going to be huge and they really can kill.

    What about picking up one of the little mist foggers that are popular in fountains today. You should be able to get one through a nice garden supply place. Similar effect to dry ice... not as dense... but it can run the whole show.
     
  9. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    One important thing about jacobs ladders and one of the most oft forgotten is the glass tube surrounding the electrodes. It seems most people just like to get the electrodes sticking up there and forget the rest. You should have a large diameter clear tube surrounding the electrodes, this keeps things, like fingers, paper bits, moths from flying into the arc. If you suspend the bottom of the tube a couple of inches above the surface of the box, by using little spacers or stand-offs then you help create an updraft through the tube, this in turn helps keep the travel of the arc up the electrodes at a constant pace and reduces the chance of the arc getting stuck in one place. I also like to use brass rod obtained from a local hardware store as the electrode rather than straightened out 12ga solid wire, which I've see before.
    I've used them several times, on stage and off, for effects and they are great, you do have to remember, however, that they operate on average at 100,000. volts, the amperage is extremely low, but given the right circumstances it'll kill you dead.
     
  10. thebikingtechie

    thebikingtechie Active Member

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    I did Jekyll and Hyde this summer, it was a little bit of a low budget set (in some ways). We had a pretty simple lab table since it stayed there the whole time (we just shut the lid). We used primarily food coloring in a variety of beakers and tubes. We put I think a black light in a box underneath and cut holes to let light up under beakers.

    We did use some glow stick innards in one or two beakers, but I don't remember how well they worked, it was a pain getting them out of the glowsticks.

    We also vented some fog into the black light box, which we used in one of the dramatic lab scenes.

    Last but not least, we used a flash pot (I think this is the right term for it, it was flashpaper on a metal wire in a little pot) in one scene, he points to is and it goes off. I'm not sure if I would try that in a high school setting, this was a summer theatre group renting out the local theatre and all Pyro work was done by a highly experienced and licensed technician. (same guy did lights, he's probably the most knowledgeable person I've met in theatre). I know it wasn't really very dangerous pyro, but any pyro is dangerous if not used properly, especially close up.

    Good luck with the performance, PM me if you want photos of the set, I'll do my best to find some of the lab in action.
     
  11. chrispo86

    chrispo86 Active Member

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    Thanks for all the reponses! I'm definately going to recommend some flash paper for him to set off. We've used it before in productions so I know it's something we can do again.

    Still not done setting everything up yet, but just on a side note, those little hockey-puck shaped under-counter lights I was using under the glassware, they get hottttt. Had my plastic toolbox on top of one, ended up melting a 1 inch hole through the bottom and started melting a plastic tool case that was inside. :silenced:

    Needless to say, they needed some re-adjustment, so we built a shelf underneath the countertop to rest the lights on so that they are now recessed. Covered the whole thing with plexiglass with some air holes drilled above each of the lights. Should be good now. I'll let everyone know how it turns out!
     

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