Scenery Elevator Thoughts

HomeGrown

Member
Hey All.

So I am designing this production which is going to take place on a large 3' stage in the center of the room.

I was wondering what the feasibility is/ how would i go about designing small elevators in the platform so that all of the furniture in various scenes could live inside the platform on elevators at floor height and when needed come up to deck level either manually or automated.

There has to be a way for the deck to drop away or open up (worst case scenario I think we'd be ok with actors opening up the traps, but we'd probably prefer a more elegant solution) and for a matiching floor piece to rise up.

I'm thinking the easiest way would be some kind track/ winch system but have no idea how to design it, I've never worked with elevators before. We will probably end up hiring an engineer to build it for us eventually, but I'm just trying to get some idea of if its even feasible in our budget.

Actors would never need to ride on them while they are moving or lowered, but they need to be able to walk on pieces at floor height. I don't think there will be a way for operators to be underneath during a performance, but we're open to it if thats the only way.

Thank you all for your advice.
 

soundman

Well-Known Member
If your stage is only 3' tall without making a trap room below the stage you would be limited to about 2' in prop height.

Something like this would be a good starting point. As is I don't think it would be very quick, but the cylinder could be swapped out with a better one for your speed.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
As Soundman points out, 3' is not much.

Could you imagine a flip or rotating top, with furniture fixed to one side? Some careful design to make sure it all clears.
 

bobgaggle

Well-Known Member
As Soundman points out, 3' is not much.

Could you imagine a flip or rotating top, with furniture fixed to one side? Some careful design to make sure it all clears.

I second this.

But to your original question. For a complete professionally built system where all you have to do is push a button and the magic happens (with all best practice safety systems), I'd guess in the 10s of thousands.

For a semi-manual operation, (operator grabs the "sunroof" trap covering and slides it away, then holds the button on the lift system and releases it when the move is complete) I'd say under 10k depending on how many traps you want.

I'd go for the flip top things, seems like a fun challenge getting the balance right so it can rotate smoothly...
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
The whole time I’m reading this I’m just thinking about a 3’ kitchen table and countertops and thinking about a play with Umpaloompas (spelling) behind the scenes in Willy Wonka in their break room.

3 feet is really short. If you have to adjust or fix something you will be crawling around or removing decking to fix/adjust/etc. automated would be nice but I think you are looking at a ridiculous number to get the desired effect. I would quote it at 25.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
I'd go for the flip top things, seems like a fun challenge getting the balance right so it can rotate smoothly...

I thought so to. I imagined a sandwich panel with a 3/4 or 1" pipe axle. Frame with wood, 1" foam core. 1/4" ply skins. Figure out a way to add steel weights in core to balance. Could be the axle "bearing" is just a sawn hole in the frame. A chair would be a wide arc though.

Not sure about latches but I could imagine this being easy to "automate" with rope and pulleys and technician off stage.
 

JohnD

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
OK, my thoughts on this. It depends on how many changes, are the furniture unit's used several times? How about a fixed in place scissor lift with tops that could slide off to one side or the other. Perhaps the blank floor panel when down could have furnishings installed for a later scene. This would require stage hands to be in place the entire show.

EDIT: In regard to the earlier thread about lifting a grand piano, Tait would be someone to contact about this.
 

HomeGrown

Member
Hi All!

Thank you for all the wonderful replies! I've very much enjoyed getting to read them. I should probably have been a little more specific up front, because we are open to solutions other then the purely mechanical one I listed up top. The play is a political thriller with around 40 scenes in it over 2/2.5 hours. So what we are looking for a very sleek way of getting from scene to scene.

The main unit set is going to be a gigantic semi circular table placed so that the flat edge is the proscenium line (about 40') and it curves up around a 20' radius. The table is going to have 12 cushioned desk chairs for the major power players to sit at around it on the ground level on the upstage side facing the audience (think a version of the war room in Dr. Strangelove), with stair steps placed between every two chairs going up to table height so that the top of this massive table is at stage height and they can play witness to scenes and easily enter and exit the scenes playing out on top of this table. There is going to be a matching semi-circular ceiling piece with can light pockets, recessed lighting, and ceiling tiles over head.

We want to find an elegant and sleek way of getting furniture on and off that doesn't involve actors who are playing high power politicians lugging large pieces up and down stairs and doesn't stop the momentum of the play with transitions happening every 3 minutes or so. With that speed of the play, clearly these scenes are going to not have much furniture and I'm sure some wont have any, but there are a few locations we keep coming back to that we'd like to have a few scenic pieces to anchor them. Some carrying of furniture is fine (i.e. bringing chairs up is fine, bringing the desk or small table those chairs are placed at not so much).

Probably the main piece that would be coming up and down is a smaller, more traditionally sized conference table. My initial idea was that the top of the table would be part of the deck when its down and it could come up to stage level as we need them. If we end up deciding to use the lift method, at max were talking 5 elevators, but probably 2 or 3 more realistically. say the conference table, an office desk and maybe one other thing.

I'm not opposed at all to the swinging floor idea at all by the way. Thank you to the person that came up with that!
 

Amiers

Renting to Corporate One Fixture at a Time.
Wow. I would say in this situation that a revolve would be your best bet. Nothing says Dr. Doom snobs like a revolve with them already sitting yelling about how their billion dollar company is losing a few million on health care sort of thing.

This is one of those plays where Money plays it sounds like.
 

icewolf08

CBMod
CB Mods
Based on your description, it sounds like the playwright wrote a movie script, not a play.... If all the props that come up are tables, then you may be able to accomplish them as lifts. Of course the table tops would double as the stage floor. However, at the speed which you are talking about transitions (every 3-5 mins), you are going to want lifts that move at fairly significant speed or you would be sitting there watching lifts move for what would feel like an eternity and probably kill the energy of the story. At which point you may as well have people carry the props on and off.

You might consider building a mobile "prop dock" or wagon that is the height of the stage that you could roll up to the stage during a scene change, roll your props on stage, and then back the wagon away. Then just reverse the process to change out of the scene. Faster than stairs and more graceful, and doesn't require machines and automation.
 

DGotlieb

Active Member
They aren't fast but you could look into motorized standing desk bases.
if you just want something simple like, the floor raising up about 18" and being a sit-able pedestal it might work out.
not sure good for revealing actual furniture as they are the height of a desk at the low point and only raise about 12-18"
 

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