Rigging a bird to drop

domiii said:
We are doing Kiss Me Kate and I have to rig a bird to drop after one of the gansters shoots it. Any ideas?

There are probably devices designed just for this purpose, but they are probably expensive. Assuming that your bird is not too heavy, could you tie a knot so that when you pull a trip wire, it releases the bird. Then get a stagehand to pull the trip wire at the appropriate time. If this is not suitable, then it would probably be possible to design something using a solenoid, but then you need to be mindful of safety considerations.

You would likely be able to get more detailed answers if you ask your questions more specifically, eg. I want to know how to tie it so that I can pull a string and have it release.
We have a a pipes chained to the ceiling lights and teaser curtains are attached to this, no fly.

A knot and trip wire would work. Can you give more details? The bird is very light made out of Styrofoam.
OK. I have just been playing with a few knots and this seems to work. I am guessing that others might have a better option, but this should work.
I would recommend playing around with it before you decide to use it. The basic principle which causes knots to be able to release is a loop at some point.

If you take a piece of rope, make a loop such that the rope continues in the same direction as it was going. Take the longer piece and push a loop of it through the first loop. Tighten the first loop. You should now have a loop tied into the rope and able to slide up and down the rope without much opposition. Now you take the rope and knot and loop it over the pipe and through a screw eye or the like in the bird. Alternatively, thread it first the n tie the first knot.

Take a loop on the long piece left and thread this through the loop remaining form the original . Tighten the original loop as much as you can. Pulling on the long piece should disengage the knot.

I hope this helps. Let me know which bits aren't clear and I'll try and clarify them.
another option is to build a small box out of wood with a trap door that opens when you let go of a rope.
I can email you a quick, crude picture if you need

PM for help with knots, i can recomend a few,
stuf reqired,
a sturdy box (wood but you could get away w/ carboard)
pulley (sorta optional)

they also make quick release shackles which could be looked into. both option could be rigged so the entire contraption coulb be lower so tehre's no need to drag a ladder out for every show


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Is the bird seen flying around and then is shot or is it assumed to be in the just out of sight?

If it is the later, just have a crew member toss one in from off stage. The key will be to have him toss it in such a way that the audience doesn't see it come from the wing.
Anyone in your crew that is a crack shot with a spitball gun?

Seriously, where is the bird during the shot? If it is stationary and then shot anything that is simple and out of sight would work. If it is sitting on a set piece is it possible to have someone behind it that could push it over. If so, get them to throw up a hand full of feathers as well.

If it is flying, then a quick release may work but then you are going to have the bird move aggressively towards the direction from which the quick release is triggered.

More info from you will allow us to think more inline with your needs than with our imaginations.
As a variation on a slipping knot: I had to remotely release a rolled up “banner” in the middle of the stage. I used a heavy duty “pin” to hold the rope that kept the banner rolled up (accordion-rolled actually). I think I got the idea from a stage craft book by Ionazzi.

I mounted the pin and guide assembly on a board (1x4x18) that was then attached to a pipe. The pin was about 3-4 inches long with an eyelet at one end and slid horizontally into two heavy duty eyelets (the guides) spaced about 1 inch apart. The pin also passed through a steel ring with the load of the banner, and the ring is between the eyelets. The weight of the banner bearing down on the pin via the steel ring provided the friction force to keep the pin in place. (This was a relatively light weight, not more than 10 lb.)

A heavy nylon cord was tied to the end of the pin, then was supported along the pipe every 4 to 6 feet with loosely attached cable ties. At the end of the pipe, in the wing, was a pulley, and then at the end of the cord was a handle. The handle (a short piece of wood dowel) was light enough to keep the cord where I wanted it, provide tension to keep the cord from drooping, but not so heavy as to pull the pin by its own weight. The handle was up out of the way about 7 feet above the floor. In addition, I attached a fishing bob to the cord about 1 foot from the end of the pin to keep the pin from slipping down to the floor after the release. A smaller eyelet was located at the end of the board; the cord passed through this two, and then the bob was attached.

At the cue, I reached up, quickly pulled the handle, pulling the pin through the eyelets, which dropped the steel ring. The banner unfurled, the rope and steel ring hanging behind the banner, out of sight. When I slowly released the handle, the pin and cord were prevented from falling by the fishing bob and small eyelet, and handle kept the tension on the cord to keep it from drooping.

In your case, you may be able to attach something like this behind a teaser.

My td is a fan of the chip clip drop. It is as simple as it sounds, a chip clip (like what you use to keep a bag of chips fresh) is attached to the batten then tie line is run along the pipe and down to the deck. A simple pull on the tie line opens up the clip and drops what ever it is holding.
the pin suggestion reminds of that knot.errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... can't remember its name, this is going to bug me. MArlinspick hitch? yeah i think so. not sure it its helpful, i use it to basicall put a handle in a rope, but if the "marlinspike" was fexable a tug on teh rope would pop it out.
Thanks for all the great ideas I am going to bookmark this thread for future reference because all the ideas are great. I can use them all with different things.

I am going with the box idea because we can load the bird and some feathers in the box. That way the bird and some feathers will fall.

Just for FYI we are not making the bird fly. A piccolo in the pit is playing the sound of a bird everyone is looking around and up then the gangster is shooting up and the bird drops.

Thanks again and keep the suggestions coming!!
domiii said:
Thanks for all the great ideas I am going to bookmark this thread for future reference because all the ideas are great. I can use them all with different things.

Try saving the discussion as a web archive - click on file, select Save as and then choose "Web Archive, Single File [*.mht]" from the Save As Type box.

This will save the entire page and preserve all the links. Bonus is that you can read them off line if you wish to and they are easy to move from computer to computer etc.

I do this for several topics and then when flying or in transit, I will load them up and take notes for file before deleting the archive file.
Per my preceding post, the pin is a hitch pin that I bought at a hardware store. It was the type with a ring at one end (to pull) and an open hole at the other end (for a cotter pin). (I think some hitch pins have a spring loaded "catch" which creates a potential obstruction for my use, so if you go this route, get the cotter pin type.)

I like that chip clip release. I'll have to remember that.

Where is the bird going to on the set. On street pole, brick wall, wall. you probably can rigging with a rope or a cable the can be manual release or automatic. Please if you can drop some more details then I can give more details on how it help.
celtictechie said:
Where is the bird going to on the set. On street pole, brick wall, wall. you probably can rigging with a rope or a cable the can be manual release or automatic. Please if you can drop some more details then I can give more details on how it help.

I believe that the original poster has decided to use the drop it form a box idea, with the box attached to the ceiling grid.
Here's the solution I came up with for dropping a feather from the sky in the musical "HONK." I asked one of our maintenance electrcians if they had any spare electric magnetic door locks. He came up with one that holds the doors open & releases when the power is cut or the smoke/fire alarm goes off. The electromagnet side was attached to a regular double gang box & a C-Clamp attached to the top of the box to hang it on a batten. The wall mount plate was attached to the box with wire so it would not fall to the stage when the power was shut off. The wiring inside the box was connected to SO cable with wire nuts, exited the box & terminated with a standard Edison plug. We connected that to a $12 remote power controller that uses a keyfob-type remote control to turn the power on & off. When the power is on, the wall plate sticks to the electromagnet & releases when the power is cut. It worked like a charm! The downside is it will not support a lot of weight & whatever you mount between the plate & the magnet must be thin. There are stronger electromagnetic door locks (used as actual locks & require something like 2000lbs of force to break the magnetic force), but we used what we had & it did what we needed.
Use a sturdy all metal binder clip instead of the chip clip so it doesn't break when pulled a little too hard.
we rigged a falling bird in "beauty and the beast" when gaston shoots it...

we had a small wood box with a hinged lid (upside down, so hinged bottom, i guess) suspended in the loft... we simply "latched the box" with a small strip of velcro, sewn to a rope which was pulled across and down the wall of a wing... when the rope was tugged, the velcro released and the bird fell out... (our bird was a stuffed plush animal - we removed some stuffing and added marbles to its innards to get a louder "thunk" when it hit the floor)...


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