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Snow?

Discussion in 'Special Effects' started by jwl868, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    Can anyone tell me some resources for making falling snow? Our dance school does an annual production of the Nutcracker, and for years, we’ve been trying to come up with ideas to make it snow (during, well, Waltz of the Snowflakes). I came across one diagram of a “snowbag” and references to non-flammable snow (?). The venue has very limited fly-space and the width is about 55 feet. I need a “snow” that can be broomed away during intermission. The “snow machine(s)” would also have to be something that could be assembled off-site, then brought to the venue and quickly attached to a pipe. (I’m still working on the detail of whether is snow upstage of or downstage of the dancers, but that’s a detail right now.)

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    Joe
     
  2. hollinj

    hollinj Member

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    Ok, heres how weve done it in the past, We take a piece of muslin hung on two battens. One side has holes cut in it. I forget what we used as snow but we fly it out and keep the side with the holes above the other side when its time to snow we lower the side with holes and shake it up and down and presto. Snow...
     
  3. jorno67

    jorno67 Member

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    To add to what hollinj said - if you want it look as if the snow is falling on the entire stage, put the bag as far down stage as possible. The further up stage, the more distant the snow will apear.
     
  4. SuperCow

    SuperCow Active Member

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    If you don't want top have such a big set-up, you could obtain an industrial shop fan (they're about the size of a car tire) and set it on high, and just scatter the fake snow in front of it, and it will blow on stage. Obviously, it's a little harder to control the area the snow hits with this one.
     
  5. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    You might also get by with cutting a slit in a say 4" or 6" set of sections in PVC tubing so you can re-load, than some holes of unknown but perhaps 3/4" size in the bottom of the tube at say 9:00 if the feed area is at 12:00. (Size of the hole is a question, start with 3/8" at say 6" centers and work your way up in size after that dependant upon the necessity for rate verses duration. A second tube of this will add volume and add to the fill as opposed to a single tube.) This allows you to fill the tube say ½ way and all it takes is rotating the tube by way of a attached shiv and rope to actuate the snow falling. This rotation of a attached together length of tubing also allows you to keep the snow falling at a rate you determine thought the entire show or scene.

    Should you get more complex, you can cover the feed slot and very the holes into something that will allow for a storm verses a small amount of snowfall.

    A fan within the tube might be interesting, otherwise a fan around the area of the snow projection might be of use in spreading it around.

    As for what product to use, while you might be able to get some metallic confetti that will simulate the snow, Rosco snow itself should be the best solution. Vacuum it up an re- use it with care given a really clean stage in doing so. Also no matter if confetti or snow, pre-spray the stage down with static guard and the snow won’t stick as badly to everything in and out of sight.

    Further observations on this above system. Don’t make the feed slots effect the structural integrity of the tube. In other words, it can’t be a “C” section, it must have parts of it in being round sufficient to support the tube’s structure. More long windows for feeding than any form of channeling. Above this, if you cant, use adhesive to permanently adhere one section to another by way of coupler, you must be using screws to keep tubes together. Also, given a typical span, some wire rope run between hinge points will no doubt be needed to be placed withing the wire rope to make a safety cable for the tube.
     
  6. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    Thanks for the input.

    I had seen that muslin idea before. The problems that I have with that are limited fly space and limited number of battens. Also, my time at the venue is so limited, I wouldn't be able to test it ahead of time to work the bugs out.

    ship: I was thinking about an approach like that. Figuring out a good way to make it move has been a problem. I also hadn't thought about the snow getting all over everything. (By the way, what's a shiv?)

    Thanks

    Joe
     
  7. Calc

    Calc Active Member

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    DON'T, and I repeat, DON'T use little styrofoam pellets as snow.

    My freshman year of high school, the football team was doing a fund raiser around christmas time. They thought it would be a great idea to drop the little pellets (the stuff that comes in sheets, but it breaks into pellets real easy) from the grid. They hauled a couple of garbage bags full of the stuff up to the grid (against our knowledge) and began to try and sprinkle it during the assembly. The sprinkling didn't go well, and it pretty much all fell at once, in two large clumps.

    Less than half of it reached the ground. The rest stuck to the curtains, the lights, empty pipes, the walls, pretty much whatever was on the way down.

    To this day low, loud sounds on the stage cause it to snow a little.
     
  8. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    A shiv is a pulley, acgually it's a moble pulley and frame for it assembly.

    Static Guard works wonders with them little foam pellets.
     
  9. techismylife

    techismylife Member

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    several companies also make snow machines. But if you take this route, beware, because some have reputations for being very very noisy. LeMaitre makes a Silent Storm DMX machine that is around $710 USD. i have never used this one, so you'd need to look into how much area it can cover. Lastly, the snow machines i have used leave a sticky residue on the floor depending on how much falls, which might not be good for dancers. The convient thing is that you don't have to go sweep up pieces of paper or anything.
    --Lincoln
     
  10. Radman

    Radman Well-Known Member

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    I think the most do-able options are either a snow machine, or a snow cradle.

    A snow cradle is the PVC thing ship talked about. There are small details in the construction that have to be seen to, however, to make it a sucessful cradle.
     
  11. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    Thanks for all the help, but I have to put this effect on hold. We had a last minute change in venue, and the new venue has no fly space or cable system of any sort, and the wing space is very limited.

    With any luck, I might be able to try the snow next year.



    Joe
     
  12. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Had a thought while the shop's "Confetti Storms" were being prepped for a show. (You know a plastic trash bag simply ain't going to hold the confetti inside. Easiest just to blow them off in a confined space and sweep up afterwards. Way too much mess to be fun to prep for a show. Much less, every time they are used, the confetti type is changed. Something like 12 different styles of confetti in stock in addition to confetti with name brands on it and never the same stuff blown out - pain in the rear to prep the things. Much to be avoided in digging out the sometimes fog soaked confetti and adding the new.)

    Be it cofetti cannon (one time use) or confetti storm, you could simply blow out the snow especially if in the case of the storm when on a dimmer. Motors are not good for dimmers but in this case it should be a low enough power. The storm uses if I remember right a Black and Decker leaf blower engine inside of a box that stores far too much confetti to ever be used. It's output tube is able to accept a 4" dryer hose or similar fittings for distribution of the outlets. There is more than enough power to remotely locate such things.

    Biggest problem with a storm which would certainly blow out snow is that it's very loud and second without either electronic circuit board static protection or more simply static guard, the snow will stick to everything. This beyond the concept of the snow when forced out going everywhere. Direct the snow well thus the other above ideas on sprinkled snow bags or tubes in making life easier. Given a extension tube to a remotely located unit this volume that goes everywhere on the confetti storm should be reduced some however sufficient for stage usage.


    On snow machines:
    Our shop also has some older models of CITC snow machines. Pain in the rear. Need a storage tub under them to catch the leaks from the machine in addition to it being vacuum cleaner loud. The things require new bubble bags, airraters and hoses just about every time they are used - no matter if you clean them or not short of a huge amount of PM directly after the production and even than the snow fluid is only good for about a year before it goes bad. Very expensive system to use. In renting such units expect that some snow machines will have a blizzard of snow out of them, others will trickle it out unless the prep crew spent a lot of effort in changing out for new parts. Even than you have to adjust the air flow which is not really that well designed to do in this unit.

    Hopefully their more improved "quiet" snow machines are more user friendly because it's a major chore to prep these units I as the only one qualified have to. Every year it's a question of throwing out the old stuff and buying new verses labor and parts. Avoid the older model of this fixture. Other brands and the new quiet CITC snow machines no doubt are much better but if who you rent the stuff from has the old snow machines, avoid them.

    Constantly replacing pump blowers for them also in addition to the soap blown out of them being first slippery on the stage, than sticky as if a can of coke exploded on stage - same sticky. Such snow machines in this no matter the brand are a factor. It's not snow, it's more minute bubbles from a bubble machine. Once the bag/sock drys up say on a month long production, you get less volume with the design I am familior with. Given old snow fluid etc. you are just as stuck.

    Hopefully snow machines in general have been improved, but given my experience with them, I would go with the fake snow flakes and avoid the snow machines.

    Vaccume up the flakes after the show. Somehow screen them to seperate the dirt and dust from the flake than re-use them or buy lots of new, but go with the flakes. As I remember my Rosco Samples, there is two types of flakes available.
     
  13. jonhirsh

    jonhirsh Active Member

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    The answer is really simple. To creat a falling snow effect you have two options that are really viable. They are extremly expensive and are both very messy. The first You can Build or Rent a snow trough and what it is is a long box witha slat down the length of it, it has a motar which rotates it as it rotates the snow falls out of the slat. you have to fill it with as you said non flamable snow which is called poly snow it is very expensive. in canada where i live we bought 200 pounds of it for a production and that cost about $700.00. and it took weeks to get rid of it all i still find some in my pockets 4 months latter. Your second option is a snow machine as mentiond they are extremly noisy but if you have fly space thats not an issue but you dont so we will look at other options if you have wing space you can place it at either side of the stage on a lader they have built in fans so you can blow it on stage this is a fairly effective effect. as mentiond before the do leave a residue but it is not sticky it is extremly slipery so youu must be carfull not to use to much. both options suck but if you want the effect you only have these choices really. i mean there are others but these are the best but do not think you will sweap it up at intermission unless you are using a extreamly small amount and its falling on to a giant blue tarp.

    Jon Hirsh
     
  14. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Earlier yesterday I was reading into snow, haze, bubble and fog fluid. CITC it would seem at least has about six different formulas for snow fluid that allow the snow to do anything from shoot up to and beyond 100' to vaporize before it hits the stage deck.

    There are other snow machines recently listed on stagecraft that are supposed to be fairly silent if not even dripless maning that you don't need the plastic tub below them to catch drips.

    Given some variation in the snow effect by all manufacturers of the more modern gear, it should be possible to dial in the snow machine according to either snow type in projection distance or noise and control issues.
     
  15. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    I would say go with the snow machines. Go and rent a new one, get the fluid that doesn't stick to the stage (i've seen it advertised around places).

    I would say get 2, put them in the grid right at the proscenium arch SL and SR.

    I pulled down a touring show at a regional theater near me (Mooseltoe, some kids show...) and that is what they used. I didn't see the show, but after pulling them down they were put into boxes and put into a road case, so clearly they weren't worried about bad drips. It was a DMX thing, so they just ran a DMX cable across, and could control the snow machines.

    Depending on your run, it shouldn't cost that much to rent for a week or two, you can test them easily before you go into the venue by just hooking up a DMX board to it, and then all you have to do is get in the genie lift, c-clamp it on, run some power from a random outlet and run it a DMX cable. Depending on where the dimmers are in that theater, it shouldn't be to hard.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  16. Peter

    Peter Well-Known Member

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    Later in the year my AP Chem teacher keeps telling us he is going to make it snow purple iodine (at least i think that is the chemical he said) I dont know how exactly he is going to do it, or if something could be chemically tweaked to make it white, I'll try to remember to tell you guys about it when he actually does it. (hopefully he's not exadgerating again! :) )
     
  17. SketchyCroftPpl

    SketchyCroftPpl Active Member

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    For us to get it to snow one year we took a 2x4 and made a section of it as long as the pipe, we then took gutter material and screwed it onto the 2x4. We then took that whole setup (oh there was also a plank at the end that made the whole thing look like a very large "I". We took loops of rope and attatched it to one of the flies and put it up just out of site. We before of course had filled it with "snow" (we used white confetti). Then attatched to the two end "I" pieces we attatched longer ropes that went down to the wings. Then when we wanted it to snow we would tug on the ropes which would start to turn the thing over and it would come down across the whole length of it with little gaps and it was a really good effect.

    ~Nick
     
  18. Foxinabox10

    Foxinabox10 Active Member

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    I'm looking for snow for A Christmas Carol. We're going to rent probably two machines, so that's not the problem. What size flakes should I buy to coat the sets and the lobby in? I can get 1/2", 1/4" or 1/8"-1/16".
     
  19. PcPVulture

    PcPVulture Member

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    If you are going to rent check this site out and let me know what you think.
    http://www.theatrefx.com/funfacts75.html

    Depending on the machine you rent the flake size may be adjustable.
     
  20. propmonkey

    propmonkey Well-Known Member

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    remember to think about clean up
     

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