Music Man- Moving scenery in train windows??


Hi, at my school we are currently in the design stage for on musical "The Music Man". One scene is that there are people sitting on a train car which is supposta be moving, I was trying to figure out if it would be possible to create a moving landscape behind the windows of the train car to give the illusion that the train car was actually moving. One idea I had was to use some sort of painted fabric sewn like a belt for a belt sander turning continuosly via a low speed motor. Any Ideas?


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That sounds like a good idea. You could even skip the motor and use stage crew. Put a couple of lights up with different angles and slightly different gels to help change the look.

If you wanted to go high tech you could project a video onto a screen outside the window. More work but it could be a good project for the AV club.

By using lights outside the car you can give the appearance of motion. The ligts would go on and off like when you pass obstacles. Longer off times could indicate tunnels.

Although my preference is for your first idea which is simpler.
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The rolls of painted canvas on a belt system is the classic way to do that, and fairly inexpensive.


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Yep your dead on target scrolling a back drop is one of the oldest and easiest tricks in the book, and thankfully it doesn't have to be too big for that scene since you're only scrolling past the windows. remember that the length of your scroll will determine how many times the scene repeats, and it's nice to really nail the art on that seam.


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Even though I usually favor projection, in this case I agree, a rolling system will be much better, what you want to do is to keep the degree of realism of the train and the background at the same level, So if you were using a real train, then to keep things "right" you would use video projection, but if you are using a stage set "train" set design, then keeping the background at that same level of realism avoids a mental "disconnect" in the image.

A combination of lighting/flashing and the rolling works great


Benevolent Dictator
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A neat trick to pull off is to have the platform that represents the train car be on curved pipes that are bowed out slightly towards the stage floor running front to back of the stage which will allow a hidden stage crew member to rock the platform back and forth like the train was actually moving... I saw this done at a showing of Music Man Jr and it looked quite good.


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i just finished a run of music man. We put a small transparent cyc behind train windows with a projector running a clip i found online that was shot out a trains window, then hung a robin egg blue scrim behind the whole deal so you didnt see the black back wall of the stage. Looked real good i must say and worked like a real set up invoved either.


Any other little tricks/hitches I should know about Music Man? We're doing it in the spring.


Hey thanks too all for the help so far, awsome ideas.
saxman0317Could you explain where the projector was shot from, and maybe some more info about your setup like a picture or somthing ? Thanks


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I think your original idea and an idea suggested by Catlunch is spot on. A moving 'roll' of backdrop works great. The lighting will also help to add emphasis on not only motion but help distract the audience to a certain extent about the repetitious nature of the scroll. But combined they'd work great together!

Let us know how it works out.


This is pretty random, but the roll of painted canvas idea is what Verdi used in the first staging of Otello- or at least, that's what Ricordi's Deposizione Scenica says. It was a moving cyc in act I, from stormy seas to placid sunset or something. Pretty advanced for 1887 if you ask me.


I agree entirely with TechiGoz. The rolling drop is a great idea, but without additional lighting from downstage, it might actually distract from the scene. But by controlling the lighting you can keep the focus on the action rather than the moving scenery. Some neat tricks I've seen:
  • If you have moving lights, you can program a quick, easy pattern that simply scrolls light from side to side across the train car at periodic intervals.
  • Focus a small series of four or five lights (never done this one, but I hear PAR 56 NSP works well) with basic front wash colors on various areas of the "train" (ie. SL, CL, C, CR, SR) and program them to chase, again so that the light scrolls from one side to the other.
  • And if you don't have many lights to spare, you can hang two ellipsoidals (S4-36deg. work, if available; fresnel+barndoor works too, but light output is lower quality) from extreme side angles, shutter them off to the "train," then periodically flash them in sequence (in the same direction that your drop is scrolling). This is kind of the ghetto version, but it's worked for me when my budget didn't allow anything else.
Best of luck!

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