Making a Floor that I Can't Paint Black

Kat9898

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Oct 21, 2019
Location
Evanston
Hey everyone! Thanks so much in advance for reading and your help.

I am working on a student (University) production and we are trying to make the floor of this production black. The floor is a trapezoid that is approx 40x30 ft at its largest and 40x20 ft at its smallest.
It's a problem that seems easy enough to fix but there is the unfortunate problem that we are not allowed to paint the floor of this space, nor are we allowed to drill into it. It's an immaculate wooden floor and if we mess it up we will be fined a lot of money. Additionally, we will be having 4x8' flats moving on the floor (on casters) at points during the show. This means that the floor has to be secured.

We have about $250-300 extra in our budget that is unaccounted for in the set that I am thinking of directing towards this project. So far the ideas that I have are as follows:
1. Buy some type of sheet good, paint it black, attach to the floor so that it stays in place using velcro
2. Buy some type of rubber floor mat that is used in ballet schools. The only problem that I foresee with this is that someone told me that a different production used rubber flooring like this and casters tore them up.

Please let me know if you have any other ideas, I'm trying to pitch everything that I can to the designer and I'm a little bit at a loss.

Thanks in advance! - Kat
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Hey everyone! Thanks so much in advance for reading and your help.

I am working on a student (University) production and we are trying to make the floor of this production black. The floor is a trapezoid that is approx 40x30 ft at its largest and 40x20 ft at its smallest.
It's a problem that seems easy enough to fix but there is the unfortunate problem that we are not allowed to paint the floor of this space, nor are we allowed to drill into it. It's an immaculate wooden floor and if we mess it up we will be fined a lot of money. Additionally, we will be having 4x8' flats moving on the floor (on casters) at points during the show. This means that the floor has to be secured.

We have about $250-300 extra in our budget that is unaccounted for in the set that I am thinking of directing towards this project. So far the ideas that I have are as follows:
1. Buy some type of sheet good, paint it black, attach to the floor so that it stays in place using velcro
2. Buy some type of rubber floor mat that is used in ballet schools. The only problem that I foresee with this is that someone told me that a different production used rubber flooring like this and casters tore them up.

Please let me know if you have any other ideas, I'm trying to pitch everything that I can to the designer and I'm a little bit at a loss.

Thanks in advance! - Kat
@Kat9898 Thoughts: Securing the edges of sectional sheet goods, while keeping them smooth and trip-hazard free, will be a problem and double-sided tape, if strong enough to be up to the task, will most likely damage the pristine floor of your venue.

Dance floors are normally formulated to provide a sprung surface to slightly soften the floor and reduce impact injuries to dancers; in temporary usage, keeping them flat, securely in place and under lateral tension will be problematic for you and then there are your rolling, castered, dollies. Decent dance floors are expensive.

Possibly consider black or charcoal grey linoleum flooring which may be available 12 or 16 feet wide by any reasonable length sold off a roll.
Likewise, consider black, or charcoal grey indoor / outdoor carpeting often available in similar widths and sold off a roll.

If screws are verbotten, I suppose straight, non-spiral, non rosin coated nails are out of the question as well. My thinking is dressed 1" x 2" by 16' pine strips could be laid around the perimeter of whichever, off the roll, surface you lay then secured against lateral movement with a quantity of narrow gauge finishing nails or pneumatically fired brads leaving only tiny 19 gauge holes behind in your venue's pristine stage.

A few thoughts worth every devalued Canadian penny I've not charged.
EDITTED: To add an inadvertently omitted space between two words.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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BillConnerFASTC

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Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
It's a very difficult problem and very low budget. I think a strippable floor coating that is then painted may be your best hope. I'd sure want to test it - especially with casters - before committing to it - but several claim to be fine for fork trucks - so maybe not a risk.

Probably a tough sell to the sacred floor keeper powers that be.

I thought this one might be good, as its black to begin with: http://generalchemicalcorp.mybigcommerce.com/products/Floorpeel-4000.html Says it's good on wood floors (if they are sealed).

I googled "peelable floor coating" and got a lot.

PS - try "paintable peelable floor coating" I found: https://www.aicoatings.com.au/sealnpeel which mentions film and tv use - kind of what you are doing.
 
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kicknargel

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Aug 10, 2009
Location
Denver, CO
The "rubber floor mat that is used in ballet schools" is known as marley, and may be a good option if you can rent it. Some larger production suppliers may have it for rent, or maybe a dance school / company. You'd have to make sure the stage floor can handle gaff tape. Or, vinyl dance floor tape, which is harder to use but may release better. Marley will be able to handle moderate scenery on casters.
 

TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
And if you gouge, rip, tear or otherwise damage a Marley (Bob or Jacob?) floor you'll find out how expensive they are.

I best like the idea of a ground cloth or simply tell the director that the financial risk, with the fund balance left for the show, means something else needs to be considered (including not doing shows on this stage in the future).
 

Coldfinger

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Oct 24, 2018
Location
Fraser Valley British Coloumbia Canada
And if you gouge, rip, tear or otherwise damage a Marley (Bob or Jacob?) floor you'll find out how expensive they are.

I best like the idea of a ground cloth or simply tell the director that the financial risk, with the fund balance left for the show, means something else needs to be considered (including not doing shows on this stage in the future).
Another less expensive option for a less demanding floor covering is cheap linoleum, the kind from a discount flooring shop.
Flip it over , cut to size and paint the backside. Most inexpensive types will lay flat if given a chance to warm up and will actually take paint well .
Clear tape the seams and tape down the edges. Presto !
At the end of the show, pull the tape , roll up on to a card board tube and store till the next time you need cover this particular floor.
2 cents
CF
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Another less expensive option for a less demanding floor covering is cheap linoleum, the kind from a discount flooring shop.
Flip it over , cut to size and paint the backside. Most inexpensive types will lay flat if given a chance to warm up and will actually take paint well .
Clear tape the seams and tape down the edges. Presto !
At the end of the show, pull the tape , roll up on to a card board tube and store till the next time you need cover this particular floor.
2 cents
CF
@Kat9898 Mark your cut and fitted lino' floor (on the underside where your marks won't be visible when laid) to ensure you re-lay it in the same position every time. If you're fortunate, you may be able to leave the pieces seamed together and only pull the tape from the perimeter; this would save tape, time, labor and minimize abutting edge damage. Roll and unroll at room temperature. Store it wherever's most convenient but handle it gently if / when cold and allow to warm to room temperature BEFORE unrolling and re-laying.
Ask politely at a carpet store and you may be able to acquire a suitable, heavy-weight, cardboard tube gratis. Wherever you purchase your lino' from may save you a tube as well.
Most carpet stores I've dealt with, if they lay carpet as well as sell it, save their old tubes for their installers to deliver cut lengths to end-users homes. When I wanted ~100 2' tubes for gel storage, my local carpet supplier saved his damaged tubes for me, he kept full length tubes for deliveries and installation but was pleased to give me all his damaged tubes, especially if they were fractured at lengths that were garbage for him.
Edited: To remove inadvertent second salutation. (Slaps his forehead)
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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Lextech

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Dec 2, 2013
Location
Virginia
Why does it have to be black? Seems like a if people are paying attention to the fact that the floor is a color or heaven forbid, is wood, then I suggest your performance has other problems. Embrace or ignore the floor and just go with it.
 

RonHebbard

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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Why does it have to be black? Seems like a if people are paying attention to the fact that the floor is a color or heaven forbid, is wood, then I suggest your performance has other problems. Embrace or ignore the floor and just go with it.
@Lextech ( CC @Kat9898 ) Ours is not to reason why, ours is only to provide answers or remain in the woodwork.
If/when a director envisions their creative efforts showcased on a black floor, so be it; done, finished, end of message, further discussion neither requested nor required. From a lighting designers POV; gleaming, polished, wooden stages can be glaring for patrons in the second balcony. (They can also be used for bounce to fill in eye socket shadows)
Possibly the performers are wearing ice or roller skates and the cuts and scrapes in the polished floor would be less distracting were the floor black.
Possibly the production is a black comedy.
Who knows, who cares? Ours is neither to critique nor second guess a director or scenic designer's vision. Please step back in line like a polite little techie.
Toodleoo!
Ron (No, I haven't been told yet today.) Hebbard
 

Lextech

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Dec 2, 2013
Location
Virginia
Please step back in line like a polite little techie.
Toodleoo!
Nope, not going to happen. As a designer I understand what I want, as a technical person I understand what is possible and as a manager I understand that cost and benefits are related. I am asking a legitimate question and offering a solution. I get in discussions with directors and designers all the time and sometimes they get a bit heated. But quite often they cannot see the forest through the trees. The show, assuming that we are talking theater here, is about what? I know designers that will say it's about their design. I hear directors say it's their vision. But in every play I have ever done, except that damn cat show, it is about the words spoken by the actors. Does it really matter what the floor looks like or if the set is 100% up to the "artistic vision" of some designer? If that light cue is a bit off or the actor misses her mark will it end the show? People come to see and hear the story. Good acting will trump a lot of problems and no one will notice what are in the grand scheme of theater minor things. I will repeat myself, if the people watching the show are fussing over the color of the stage floor you have a lot bigger problems with your show.
 

RonHebbard

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Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Nope, not going to happen. As a designer I understand what I want, as a technical person I understand what is possible and as a manager I understand that cost and benefits are related. I am asking a legitimate question and offering a solution. I get in discussions with directors and designers all the time and sometimes they get a bit heated. But quite often they cannot see the forest through the trees. The show, assuming that we are talking theater here, is about what? I know designers that will say it's about their design. I hear directors say it's their vision. But in every play I have ever done, except that damn cat show, it is about the words spoken by the actors. Does it really matter what the floor looks like or if the set is 100% up to the "artistic vision" of some designer? If that light cue is a bit off or the actor misses her mark will it end the show? People come to see and hear the story. Good acting will trump a lot of problems and no one will notice what are, in the grand scheme of theater, minor things. I will repeat myself, if the people watching the show are fussing over the color of the stage floor you have a lot bigger problems with your show.
@Lextech Are you telling me the patrons don't exit humming the makeup in your state? (And let's leave trump out of this PLEASE!)
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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TimMc

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Feb 15, 2017
I started in this business as a sound guy, I know what people hum on the way out :cool:
And look where it got you! Traitor! :naughty::D

I think Ron missed the tongue in cheek emoji. Not sure how those work with his page reader.

I'm glad that you're able to go nose to nose with designers and directors; they too seldom get the needed Anvil of Reality® dropped on/near them. Part of the pride of ones crafts is found in turning some else's pretty pictures into tangible elementks that help tell the story.... but part of pride in craft is knowing what is important to the story and what is the Mental Mass Debating of the obsessively re-creative. You've been on more than 1 side of the desks and that helps.

Good luck. You're well armed (and maybe well legged, too!).
 

RonHebbard

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Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I started in this business as a sound guy, I know what people hum on the way out :cool:
@Lextech
I was the IA Head of Sound in the Stratford Shakespearean Festival's main theatre from 1977 through 1982 before moving to a recording gig in the basement of their Avon prosc' venue. The theatres were running two 1/4" half-track stereo open reels and one 1/2" four track open reel per venue; Scully 280 and 280B's in the main stage and Studer's in the Avon. The equipment in the studio was plucked from the inventory of stand-by spares. The last year I was there was 1998 when our multi-track was a 1" sixteen track. We recorded original scores written and arranged by a variety of composers with a combination of musicians from the Festival's seasonal orchestra fleshed out with AFM studio players, primarily from Toronto.

When it comes to what you hum heading home.
After I'd left Stratford, I returned to catching calls and touring. I ran a truss spot on Mr. Webber's "Starlight Express". 'nough said. The only tune that stuck in my skull was: "Nobody Can Do It Like A Steam Train!" The venue was approximately 40 miles from home; all the way home, every night / morning, the only song I could whistle was: "Woo! Woo!! Woo! Woo!! Nobody Can Do It Like A Steam Train!!!" Over, and over, and OVER, and OVER!!! I was SO happy when that week ended, and so was my wife; I'd roll in whistling it every morning. 'nough said.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbad
 
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TimMc

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Joined
Feb 15, 2017
I'll see your Steam Train and raise you a "It's a Small World After All". I would quote the lyrics to start a brain worm but I'm afraid The Rat would sue me and CB.
 
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Lextech

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Joined
Dec 2, 2013
Location
Virginia
I’m designing “Midsummer” now, which means teaching students to run a show. I lost the fight regarding the fact fact that in a procinium space we were in front of the speakers with 21 Omni lavs. Made the Theater Department buy another Dugan card for the CL5 so my operators would have a fighting chance to get any gain before feedback. Did I win, nope. Am I teaching how I want to, no. But with only a couple tech and dress rehearsals I am making the show happen. Without the Dugan cards I was having a tough time with three mics getting enough level. How does this relate to the OP? I ignored the floor, or in my case art, for the show. I wish I could teach a student, who is getting all of 1 credit to mix a show the skill of memorizing a show and mixing line by line but in 7 rehearsals and two operators who are switching off the ain’t happening. As for the floor in my show the painting went out the window because of scheduling. Will the fact that there is no grass on the stage matter to anyone except faculty members? Nope.

I used to work at a large NE university where they would bring the tech Theater kids to my Road house to see how life was outside their little theatre. We would take a tour and then have a talk. I always made sure to discuss taking a show on the road and how every Theater was different. If you were the stage manager or production manager how would you bring in a show to my space with a 27 foot deep stage and make it work. You need an acting space for a show. That’s it. Set, lights, in a space small enough, sound, pyro or whatever else is a luxury. As a designer or a technician or a director, our job is to serve the show. It doesn’t mean we kill our selves over it or insist that the show has to have a black floor. Train the actors, figure out what is technically possible in the space and go from there. Rant off.
 

RonHebbard

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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I’m designing “Midsummer” now, which means teaching students to run a show. I lost the fight regarding the fact fact that in a procinium space we were in front of the speakers with 21 Omni lavs. Made the Theater Department buy another Dugan card for the CL5 so my operators would have a fighting chance to get any gain before feedback. Did I win, nope. Am I teaching how I want to, no. But with only a couple tech and dress rehearsals I am making the show happen. Without the Dugan cards I was having a tough time with three mics getting enough level. How does this relate to the OP? I ignored the floor, or in my case art, for the show. I wish I could teach a student, who is getting all of 1 credit to mix a show the skill of memorizing a show and mixing line by line but in 7 rehearsals and two operators who are switching off the ain’t happening. As for the floor in my show the painting went out the window because of scheduling. Will the fact that there is no grass on the stage matter to anyone except faculty members? Nope.

I used to work at a large NE university where they would bring the tech Theater kids to my Road house to see how life was outside their little theatre. We would take a tour and then have a talk. I always made sure to discuss taking a show on the road and how every Theater was different. If you were the stage manager or production manager how would you bring in a show to my space with a 27 foot deep stage and make it work. You need an acting space for a show. That’s it. Set, lights, in a space small enough, sound, pyro or whatever else is a luxury. As a designer or a technician or a director, our job is to serve the show. It doesn’t mean we kill our selves over it or insist that the show has to have a black floor. Train the actors, figure out what is technically possible in the space and go from there. Rant off.
@Lextech 'Veer on down the road.' I'll see your Rant, turn it back on, AND continue it: 21 Omni lavs, all wireless no doubt, along with wireless intercom and wireless DMX plus wireless hand-held mixing on their phones. Bah! Humbug! Whatever happened to actors and singers who were taught to project, unaided, to the rear of the second or third balcony???

Did you ever see the Who's rock opera 'Tommy' while it was in Broadway's St. James? The majority, if not all, Broadway theatres actually on Broadway accommodate a decent quantity of seats, but they were built for vaudeville and have extremely shallow stage depths from behind their prosc' to their U/S wall.
The local amateur company in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada were crying tears by the gallon when designing and building "Tommy" for their venue, a local secondary school with a 40' x 17' prosc', 45' to the grid, 27 single purchase line-sets and nearly 30' between the rear of the prosc' and the back wall. (and then there was the powered roll-up street level loading door where they could back the rear of their 40' trailer 10' inside the door into the SR wing in inclement weather.)
Clearly these people have never seen more of Broadway's Shubert (or its 'Seven Sisters' ) than its auditorium and lobby when it comes to back stage space and / or load-in access.
Tall grids and boat-loads of power, yes. Back stage space and easy load-ins, not so much. No contest when it comes to where theatre's done, standing room sold, and profits made. (As @TimMc would phrase it: "Rant OFF")
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard