The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

Thunder and Lightning on Stage

Discussion in 'Special Effects' started by LCTLight, Oct 9, 2003.

  1. LCTLight

    LCTLight Member

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    I working on a show that calls for a LOT of thunder and lightning on stage. We currently have a "Thunder board" (a piece of metal attached to the wall with a rope to move it) that is made of 1/8" galvanized metal that is 3' X 9'. However, the director does not think it is big enough or the correct material to create a long rumbling thunder. We are trying to create thunder that is LOUD, it's a box set, and continues to rumble for several seconds afterwards.

    Does anybody have any suggestions on accomplishing this? We're really trying to avoid recorded efx as we would rather have something live. What size is normally a good size for a thunder board? Is there any particular material that works better than any other? Your help, thoughts, and suggestions would be most appreciated.
     
  2. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

    Messages:
    6,209
    Likes Received:
    473
    Location:
    Illinois
    Seems rather thick and narrow in size for me for the classic sound effect but the right general idea. Can your sound effect steel be miked and attached to some sub-wofers that I'm sure others could advise on? That way the audience would not only hear and feel the effect coming from the stage, but feel them in their bodies.

    After that, you have not mentioned what you are doing for the lightning. I assume you are doing some type of strobe or flash bulb and a corresponding light board cue or mercury switch control? Two kind of seperate issues of doing the flash in coordinating it with the sound cue.
     
  3. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

    Messages:
    1,155
    Likes Received:
    93
    Location:
    Eastcoast USA

    Hiya,
    wow been a long while since I had to make one of those...but from your description the sheet metal you have seems to me to be too thick and is not flexible. You want it thinner and very flexible. The size is about right--the bigger the sheet the larger resonances you can get from it. I don't remember using galvanized sheet metal--but I do recall I have used aluminum sheeting I got from a hardware store that is used in duct work--its thin and flexible. You can also use a pre-rolled and cut square for duct work--something in the 3' x 3' size. The box, if closed on one end or padded, can help make it seem lower, and the thunder is created by flexing the top or sides of the box...but thats another method. Typically tho for one of these you will screw a wood slat in the top and bottom as it free-hangs, but leave the sides open so it can flex when you shake it or slightly curve it when you hit it with a padded beater. Its like playing a saw--the angle you curve it and where you hit it changes the resonance.

    Ideally you will also, for the best results, wish to mic this item, EQ it a bit to thicken it, and pipe it thru your sound system. When doing that I would suggest you use a large diaphram mic that is good for low frequency's--like an RE 20 or Sennheiser 421. To add to this--when you do this it would also be a good idea to insert a compressor and slow gate on the channel so you don't overdrive/clip your input pre-amp, and don't blow people out of their seats or burst your speakers. My suggestion--use a hard knee compression threshold, and set the ratio to infinity or at least 10:1, and a VERY SLOW release so you get the "breathe" type effect from the compressor to thicken this. Works great. Best EQ for this type of thing--use a Low Pass Filter cut off around 800hz-1khz. This will allow the low frequency's only and not the higher metallic frequency's to go thru. Give a boost in the 60hz-120hz range, and cut out some of the nasty 250 and 400 hz range that will make it sound fake. If you can route this signal to your subs and mids only--more the better. While not needing to record FX to do this effect--what you CAN do if you want to add more things to this, is also route the signal of this thru a reverb or delay unit...something to give it some more thickness in verb, or a 300-400ms delay to "double" the sound so it sounds like its echoing in the distances. You can even try a pitch shifter dropped about 8-10 octaves. Its fun to play around with. "Flexing" and shaking the thunder board will give you one type of sound, hitting on it with a padded beater (like the kind used for Timpani's) will give you another....again you have to play around with it to get the sounds you want. If you use the "box" idea, just pressing into it or beating the outside works great. Also, for psychoacoustic orientation since the audience WILL hear you doing this effect, is it helps to have this very much off-stage, or in another area, and most important--higher up--like on the lock rail or in the catwalks since thunder comes from the sky. Know what I mean?

    Any other info I can share to help you with this effect--just post back. I'm sure others will have some great input and views too that they will share.

    best of luck...
    -wolf
     
  4. LCTLight

    LCTLight Member

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Those are some great ideas and definitely something I will take into account when I get this thing all said and done. A couple of items. First of all, I'm not positive that we will have the ability to mic it. I am going to look into that this weekend. The reverb and fx that I can supplement with the board is a great idea. I hadn't really thought of that.

    Ship-
    On the lightning issue. The director has indicated to me that he is not terribly concerned that everything correspond exactly. i.e. thunder immediately following the lightning. Our set is a pretty closed up box set and the only place to actually see lightning is going to be a couple of small windows near an outside door down stage left. He thinks that with only one side of the set with outside windows, you might not see all the lightning that happens anyway, so the thunder can continue to rumble with or without lightning.

    Definitely some good thoughts and ideas to keep in mind. I'll look into the different materials and see what I can come up with. If there are any more ideas out there, I'd love to have them.

    Thanks!!!
     
  5. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

    Messages:
    6,209
    Likes Received:
    473
    Location:
    Illinois
    Having thunder without lightning is a good solid design idea and based in reality. I was just wondering because you had mentioned it but did not detail it.

    It would be really cool if it were miked and even canned well as posted. Possible to do the thunder originating from different locations about the audience and stage? As a storm rolls in and the play progresses, even if you can't see the flashes, that might be workable later in the storm and don't have to be linked directly to the sound, the thunder at least might change where it's coming from. Guess it depends upon how much time in the show the thunder plays a role. If it's storming for 2 hours, than perhaps miking the sound might out of interest and variation become more of a thing to watch than if it's just a 15 minute scene that could be done well back stage.

    Just some thoughts. If you stage has the proper accoustical properties to it, the thunder should (I'm not a sound person) resinate around the theater even if not miked when done as you seem to be in the old school. Sould be a good learning experience. Gonna write up up as a do this, don't do that users's guide later?
     
  6. cruiser

    cruiser Active Member

    Messages:
    243
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Wahoo.. go the sheet of metal..... it sounds great during a show, specially if you have really low speakers...

    Our old drama teacher used to like to think he was creating lighting by flicking on and off the fluro's in the room... it did somewhat look like lighting but bah!
     
  7. Garen

    Garen Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0
    From the Lightning aspect, you can grab a couple of strobes, just the cheap ones that a lot of teens have (they go for 10$ and up) and just aim them where you want (some tape might be necessary, they arn't designed to be hung on a truss most of the time). When you need to do the realistic lightning thing, then just flash the channel, either by manually pushing the bump button on the board, or program it. Each strobe will have a rate knob on the back, make all different when you hang them....so when you flash them, they look realistic. Also, instead of flashing stage lights, which most of the time have a vague spot, strobes hit EVERYTHING...thats realistic...

    hope this helps
    ~Garen
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice