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Translucent Surface for Tap Dance

Discussion in 'Scenery, Props, and Rigging' started by spotlightondance, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. spotlightondance

    spotlightondance Member

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    We are experimenting with creating translucent raised platforms for tap dancers to dance on. We'd like platforms to contain both dmx controlled lighting as well as cameras pointing up to live feed video of the bottom of the tap shoes as they hit the surface above the performers using projections.

    I'm looking for a source of advice on whether there's a surface (acrylic, lucite, etc) that would stand up to taps and the pounding of the dancers. We'll probably have about 30 in the cast but not all would need to be on the platforms at the same time. These would be used for touring so portability is desired. If we can figure out how to build them to be modular it would be very cool. Depending on what's technically possible we'd love to support multiple levels and irregular shapes that can be configured in different ways. Budget isn't a huge consideration at the moment.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    I would not be as concerned about the decks holding up as I would be about the safety of the performers. A thin sheet of lexan on top of a sheet of polycarbonate will probably do you just fine. You can swap out the lexan as it gets scuffed. No matter what though you will need to do something to the surface to roughen it up a bit. While lexan is plenty tacky with shoes on with taps it will be like ice skating. You'll probably have to either sand blast or etch the sheets to get it right. Might require some experimentation. Also this could frost the glass and mess up your camera shots.
     
  3. Ric

    Ric Active Member

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    For the camera shots it may be possible to use small digital cameras (such as Go Pro style) in areas.
    This would make it easier to only have small sections that would need to be perfectly clear.
    The wide angle & quality on those little cameras would certainly give a suitable shot.
     
  4. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    I was recently involved in designing a clear piano that the artist "danced enthusiastically" on top of. We used 3/4" glass because of the size and edge profile we wanted. It worked really well for us, but that doesn't sound like a necessary expense in this case.
    What is relevant to your project is that you need to plan your support system now and use that as part of your design requirements. Supports are ugly if lit (even clear ones) and lighting and camera positions need to be planned around them which can leave gaps that are very obvious from that audience. One support at center might seem like a good idea, but that might very well be where the lighting or a camera wants to go for instance. Once you have an idea what kind of span you need between supports and how many dancers may be tapping on a single unsupported section at one time I would find a local plastics distributor and see what they think. There is a good chance they have samples on hand so you and see exactly how translucent or opaque it is and feel how heavy it's going to be. Both were important factors in our deciding process.
    Also put some serious thought on how you plan on attaching the panels of clear material. Fasteners trough the top are strong, but visually break the smooth plane. Screws from the side are easier to hide, but that only works with some materials and may deform that flat surface. Since you mentioned touring it would probably be a good to put some forethought into what happens when one inevitably breaks as well.
    Weld-on 3 from TAP is a great acrylic cement and with the applicator bottle they sell it's the right tool for the job if you need to glue two pieces of acrylic together.
     
  5. lwinters630

    lwinters630 Well-Known Member

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    The material used in a hockey arena walls are really strong. It gets slammed by players and pucks.
     
  6. Skervald

    Skervald Active Member

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    I've never used it on a surface like lexan or acrylic but I wonder how a product like Slip NoMor would work. Might have to be in conjunction with some texture as @Footer suggests. I'm sure getting the right mix of slip and stick would take some experimentation.
     
  7. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Does the sound quality matter to the dancers at all? I have known many dance companies that travel with their own floors since so many theaters do not have hard wood stages, and that is what they prefer for the sound.
     
  8. bobgaggle

    bobgaggle Well-Known Member

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    We've used 3/4" acrylic sheets for decks and stair treads for years. When it comes to modular/portable stuff, we'll build the platforming out of 1x1 steel, and on the top, weld 1/4"x1" flat bar flush to the bottom of the 1x1. This leaves 3/4" for you to drop in your acrylic sheet. Since the deck is trapped inside the steel, no fasteners are needed, and the sheets can be packed in a road case for transport/safety. In platforms where the plastic is not trapped by steel we screw down through the top, I recommend getting some rubber washers and putting them between the acrylic and framing. Since our framing is steel and unforgiving, any flex or even a hard jump by a dancer can cause the acrylic to crack at the screw holes. The rubber washer and an oversized pre drilled hole lets the plastic and steel move independently.

    Can't speak about lexan as we don't use it for decks/treads. Clients like the ability to flame polish acrylic and the fact that it is harder to scuff.

    On a side note, acrylic also wears better than lexan. Many more available and effective products for removing scuffs/scratches.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017
    MarshallPope likes this.

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