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Studio Flats

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by OtisCampbell, Jul 17, 2007.

  1. OtisCampbell

    OtisCampbell Member

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    I am having to design a set for an upcoming production that takes place in an apartment. In the past, I've used flats made with 2" X 4"s and 4' X 8' sheets of Luan and they seem to work well once painted. The only problem I have is hiding the seams between the flats. I've had some college classes in Stagecraft but I've never taken an official Scene Design class at the college level. I know all about using a strip of fabric (dutchman?) to hide seams in muslin flats but that doesn't seem to work for Luan. I've even tried using Joint Compound with no luck and have since settled on a thick strip of masking tape that, once painted, has the tendancy to bubble and make the problem worse.

    Help!

    Thanks,

    OC
     
  2. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    First off, Welcome Aboard! Saw your other post, Be sure to throw something up in the New Memebers Forum. We're a nosy bunch and like to know everything about whom we're sharing informations with. :mrgreen:

    Ok, Secondly, Your'e over building. Studio flats don't need to be out of 2x4. You can frame them with 1x4, or if you want to have a lot of fun, go buy 1x8 rip it into 2.5" strips and use that for the framing. If you can find a decent supply of 1x3 "firring strips" those work well to. As for cover 1/4" luaun is my panel of choice. You can get away with 1/8" but the tend to buckle a bit more when painted.

    As for dutchman-ing the seams. Your'e right traditional dutchman techniques don't work so well on studio flats. First, when you construct the flats, be sure to put a slight < very slight > bevel on the outside edge of the flat, make sure to knock of any "edge crumbs". When you assemble the flats on stage start from the bottom work your way up with two people screw the together every 24", the person on front is responsible for geting the most even seam possible. Once all is done, grab a tube of "good ol' Alex" , Latex Painters caulk. Don't use silicone, only latex. Apply the caulk just like you would if you using joint compound. Viola' Instant flexible seam. The bevel you put on earlier will allow for enough material to inflitrate the joint. When striking the set you can just run a matte knife down the seam to pull them apart. The nice this about this technique is that if you pre-assemble your set in the shop you can pretty much do all the final paint etc. then carefully slice the flats apart, move them onto the stage and get a very nice seam by matching cut lines, without having to repaint. Alex can also be tinted with standard latex colorants, and it can be mixed with paints.


    If all else fails close one eye walk away 15 feet and say, " Yeah, they'll never see it from the Audience."
    If the director says, "Yes they will." then you say," If they're looking at the seams, then somebody else isn't doing their job."
    No wait, on't say that it really pisses off the director. :mrgreen:
     
    cvanp likes this.
  3. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    If you still can not get the seams clean with the caulk, do a bit of a scumble on the walls. It will give a bit more depth and give the set a bit of "noise" and will help hide the seams. Getting rid of seams starts with the construction, if the flat is perfecetly square and well built you will be in good shape.
     
  4. OtisCampbell

    OtisCampbell Member

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    I realize the construction might be a lot of my past problems. In the past, we've done things "on the cheap" (or, the politically correct term: "within our budget") and have used 1" X 3"s and the back of cheap paneling or that brown stuff that isn't really wood--the name escapes me. Since I have a little time, I'm going to pre-build the flats using good materials and this time make sure they are exactly square. I'm sure I'll still need to hide the seams so latex caulk will probably do the trick.

    With that said, I'm no construction expert but I can hold my own. What materials do you think are optimum for creating a studio flat that can be reused? I've used anything from 1" X 3"s to 2" X 6"s and fastened them with anything from glue and screws to a nail gun. (Obviously hiding the seams with screws in the paneling/luan will be a problem.)

    Let me know your thoughts...

    OC
     
  5. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Wide crown 1 1/2 staples make framing go really quick. Narrow crow 3/4 works great for the facing. 1x3 is pretty much the standard for the framing. Build a jig on your floor (if you have access to a wooden floor...) that you can just set the pieces in and go. At least that way if something is just a smiggen out of square, they are all out of square the same. I usually put the luan facing on in the jig, where some people prefer to square up the flat to the luan (which usually is not perfectly square anyway....). Use a router to trim the access then put a small bevel on and you should be set.

    If you do decide to glue and screw instead of glue and staple pre-drill everything. Otherwise, you will get splits at every joint.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2007
  6. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    We built three studio flats several years ago that have held up well, although the demands on them are not that great (dance studio, and the flats get used a couple times a year, though they survive the transportation very well.) I used the “plans” in The Stagecraft Handbook by Daniel Ionazzi. We used 1x4s – couldn’t find 1x3s that looked straight. We also used the corner blocks for joints, but used 3/8” or ½” plywood for the corner blocks because the “shortest” available drywall screws would poke through the 1x4 if ¼” was used for corner blocks. (Another note, we originally and frequently use the flats uncovered with a drop suspended in front of them. If you have a lauan, then it doesn’t matter as much.) The corner blocks were glued and screwed in place.

    (The only thing that I’m still kicking myself about is that we didn’t have a good way to accurately and consistently cut down the 8-foot long 1x4s, so we used them as-is. The flats are 8’9” which work fine with the drops, but there is added work and materials to cover them completely with wood or any covering that comes in a standard 4’ x 8’ size.)

    Joe
     
  7. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    First off let me suggest you purchase "The Stock Scenery Construction Handbook." It's got answers and sketches to help you design all the basic scenery elements.


    As for my trick with hiding seems.

    First, dutchman technique is really only for use on muslin covered flats, and done correctly it works perfectly. I also don't like the look of paint on luan covered flats as well as muslin covered flats. So I build hybrid flats. I take a 1/4 inch luan covered hard flat and then cover it with muslin like a soft flat. I get the strength and durability of a hard flat combined with the ease of muslin. Don't like the surface of your flats, just peel the muslin off and replace it.
    I think it looks great.

    The only trick is you have to get your muslin really well and evenly saturated when your are first sizing it. If not it dries unevenly and sticks to the luan in someplaces and bubles up in others... so thin out your sizing material a little bit extra.
     

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