A weblog about theatrical drapery and stage curtains for Production Managers, Set Designers, Custom Drapery Resellers, and local/school/church Productions
Picture this. The audience has filed into the theatre or arena, excitedly waiting for the show to start. They look at the stage and see only a backdrop. Their curiosity builds – what is behind that backdrop? Suddenly, the lights dim, the music builds and BAM! The backdrop suddenly disappears to reveal the band behind.
What is this piece of stage magic? It’s a Kabuki – a combination of an easy-to-install kabuki solenoid system and a kabuki backdrop. Solenoid heads are attached to a truss, connected together with cables, and then connected to a controller. The backdrop is then hung from the solenoid heads via removable D-rings attached to the top of the backdrop with Velcro. When it is time to reveal the band, the solenoids are “fired,” which releases the D-rings so that the backdrop quickly drops to the stage floor.
The sky’s the limit for the backdrop – perhaps a custom digitally printed scenic backdrop, or a simple black rental backdrop, or even a white poly silk backdrop that tantalizes the audience with a shadow effect (as shown above) – and with the availability of rental solenoid systems, a kabuki is a gag that works for nearly any tour design.
Back in late August, we made a gorgeous custom backdrop for Panic! at the Disco. We all knew it looked beautiful in our sewing shop, but after looking at the amazing concert photos of Panic at the Disco that that our graphics coordinator Andrea Rennard found on Flickr and built a Gallery around, I knew I had to post on the project.
The process started with an apparently simple brief – make a black backdrop that prominently displayed the band’s logo in a reflective material. Sew What Senior Sales and Creative Director Shane Nelsen dove in head first. The solution to the underlying black backdrop was readily apparent – IFR Black 22oz Encore. Selecting the best applique material was a little more challenging, but Shane was up to the task, working with our purchasing agent Greg Bowles to come up with a variety of samples of reflective materials for production to choose from. The final choice? A pearlescent mylar cloth that looked beautiful as-is while also taking on colored lighting like a dream.
Our sewing shop began the project with building the flat black 24′ h x 40′ w backdrop. Then, our graphics coordinator Andrea Rennard utilized the band’s logo file to print a vinyl pattern of the 17′ h x 23′ w logo on our grand format digital printer. This vinyl pattern was used by our sewing shop staff to cut out the appliqué from the pearlescent mylar. Then came the painstaking work of carefully sewing the appliqué onto the backdrop. Sounds easy, but as the logo is nearly all curves, meticulous sewing was required to minimize shirring and puckering of the fabric.
The final project turned out to be gorgeous, as I’m sure you will agree after seeing these amazing photographs taken by Marion Mirou-Sirot at the band’s concert in Toronto in September.
Photo Courtesy © Marion Mirou-Sirot
Photo Courtesy © Marion Mirou-Sirot
I love the way that the contrast of the black and white photo highlights the appliqué, while the color photo shows the versatility of the fabric when lit with colored lights.
There are many more beautiful photos of this backdrop. If you’d like to see more, check out our Panic! at the Disco Gallery on Flickr.
As our regular readers know from earlier posts, we have been honored for the last several years to be selected to provide custom digital backdrops and stage drapes for the tours of award-winning country vocal group, Little Big Town. When we were contacted again earlier this year in advance of the group’s Tornado Tour (after their current album), we were of course excited, but when we saw the amazing stage design, we were blown away and couldn’t wait to start.
The phenomonal design by Raj Kapoor of Raj Kapoor Productions is truly unique. Upstage appears to be a very ornate, traditional theatre with a glass ceiling being “blown away” by a tornado. In reality, this is a single 24′ h x 40′ w backdrop digitally printed onto Heavy Knit, with incredible perspective within the artwork, adding the trompe l’oeil effect. The addition of Pewter Textura legs and swags downstage adds to the drama and makes the upstage scene appear even more realistic.
Photo Courtesy of Sandbox Management; Design by Raj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor Productions
It truly is a draw-dropping design, and one we particularly enjoyed working on. If you want to see more, check out our Portfolio page. Or see it in person – Little Big Town is scheduled to tour through the end of the year.
As you know, Sew What? Inc. has enjoyed a long relationship of building custom stage curtains for Rod Stewart. Remember the gorgeous “in the round” pleated curtain and stage skirts in the Stewart Family Tartan from 2007? What about the beautiful Voile curtains of 2008?
Well, as Rod Stewart continues his wildly successful two-year residency, “The Hits,” at the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, I thought our readers would be interested in learning about the beautiful backdrop that we made for this show. This huge main stage backdrop (45′ h x 140′ w) is really dramatic. Constructed of Hot Pink Poly Muslin, the backdrop has a beautiful translucent quality when backlit. The addition of handpainted words and images makes the backdrop even more striking.
Folks are raving about the show, so if you are going to be in Vegas any time soon, make sure you check it out! Here is a video with a little taste.
One thing I do as an illustrator is mixed media. The thought occurred to me that this might be a great approach with soft goods. I mean, why not mix printed pieces with fabric that is lush or textural? Mixing things up opens creative doors and makes things possible that aren’t possible with just one fabric or process.
Thinking out of the box like an interior designer/decorator. Create an experience and mood with your far out ideas, mixing smooth printed pieces with textured lush fabric, cutouts or icons or logos tour theme art will give your backdrop dimension and set you apart.
Creating graphics the size of a building can be an intimidating prospect for some people. I deal with the issues of proper files set up all day. Questions like “should the art be vector or raster, what resolution do I need to provide and so on come up every day. I’ve found, over the last few months, that if you provide your artwork as a .tif file with an end resolution of at least 75 ppi, you should be golden. Most artwork doesn’t need more than that. If you are doing something complex in Illustrator, I find that it’s the file rips and works better if you rasterize your art before you send it to us. In other words, give us a .tif file. For the most part, a .tif is the least complex of digital files from a data standpoint and the simplicity rips and prints much easier. You can call me if you are in doubt but for the most part, this is the case.
Design of a printed backdrop starts by identifying a goal or desired end result. Depending on your needs and personal taste, this can take on many different forms. The process can start with a cocktail napkin sketch and a few key words that describe look and feel or, it can be a taken from existing brand pieces such as printed collateral, new CD artwork, your web site or whatever brings you inspiration. The key is in translating that vision into a grand format that sets the tone you are looking for.
Literal translations can work. Sometimes they don’t. That’s when its time to start thinking design.
Sometimes you really want to make elements in your backdrop seem huge. At the end of the day, we all have limits to the height we can go to in most venues.
One thing that can help create the illusion of great height is to illustrate the main elements of you backdrop in forced perspective. What this means in the clearest terms is to illustrate in a way that creates an optical illusion that an object is nearer or farther away, larger or smaller than it actually is. This may be most effective with a building, mountain etc. This creates a feeling of great space or confined quarters to help pull off the feeling you’re looking for with your stage.
I’d be happy to talk to you about how forced perspective can help you.
Last year, I posted about some beautiful digitally printed backdrops that we made for Little Big Town’s 2010 tour. Well, this year we were excited to be asked to provided additional scenic backdrops for their 2011 tour – and this time the project included not only two digital backdrops, but a gorgeous handpainted backdrop as well, all 24′ h x 40′ w. Of course, the artwork was created by, you guessed it, John Rios of GrafixJam.
Each of the two digitally printed backdrops had a unique image – one in black and white depicting a country church, and the other a graphic image of a black bird silhouette over a red, yellow and black geometric pattern.
Photo Courtesy of Bobby Simmons
Gorgeous, isn’t it? Even more impressive is the handpainted backdrop. Painted on NFR Muslin and then treated for flame retardancy afterwards, this drop features an image of a hand-stitched American flag.
Photo Courtesy of Bobby Simmons
It’s beautiful as is – but there is a surprise waiting when the lighting changes! You’d never realize it looking at the photo above, but there is a hidden message painted on it in invisible UV paint.
Photo Courtesy of Bobby Simmons
Pretty cool effect, don’t you think! I remember when we first hung this in our production shop, after the painting was complete, and everyone was amazed at how beautiful it was. It is so exciting to see it on stage, with all the lighting effects. Wow!
For those of you who are regular followers of this blog, you know how much we love the artwork of John Rios of Grafix Jam. Not only has he created the artwork for our annual Sew What? shirts for the last two years, but we have happily recommended him to a number of our music tour clients.
Today, I want to congratulate John on the achievement of a dream. For years, John dreamed of having his artwork published in Rolling Stone magazine. Despite his best (and worst!) attempts, that dream wan’t realized, and eventually that dream was put aside.
Well, in January, his dream finally came true, albeit in a roundabout way. Late last year, John was selected to produce the artwork for Kid Rock’s 40th Birthday Bash at Ford Field in Detriot as well as his Born Free Tour. This was a great honor for John, and of course his artwork (as always) is terrific. But John never imagined that this project would finally get his artwork into Rolling Stone, which included photos of Kid Rock at his 40th Birthday Bash, with a backdrop featuring John’s artwork prominently seen in several photos. Incredible work, John, and congratulations on having that long-forgotten dream come true.
Read more about it on John’s blog at http://www.grafixjam.com/wordpress/, and make sure to check out the link to the photos on Rolling Stone online.
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