See Thru

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Re: See Thru

Postby Chris » 10 Feb 2011, 23:39

Well the baize I use for my magic tables is definitely a felt. But there are many kinds of baize, snooker baize for example, also that used on card tables - quite different. In Victorian times it was stuck on doors as a sound proofer.

Sharks tooth is a weave, not particular to gauze, I've used several kinds over the years. The theatrical catalogues at one time would list at least a dozen different gauzes. Some were used to paint on, others were just to add haze. Sometimes multiple gauzes were hung one behind the other and then rapidly flown one after the other as the lighting change, giving an effect of a fog dispersing. Far more magical, to my mind, than today's obsession with smoke machines and carbon dioxide fog.

I have used gauze transformation effects on the marionette stage - but only few times. We used it with an underwater ballet, and also in a production of Macbeth. Then we used it in an illusion show on strings - not very successfully. Also we tried a gauze effect for the growing hedge of thorns in The Sleeping Princess - although we cut that scene out of later productions.


Because of the shallowness of the marionette stage it is extremely difficult to get the lighting right. Also it isn't easy to fly it after the melt through and you don't want to be stuck with it once it has served its purpose. Generally I found that on the puppet stage it was more trouble than it was worth.

But in the live theatre, in ballet and pantomime I have seen it used to wondrous effect.

Incidentally shark's tooth woven linen tape was said to be the best for swazzle use. I don't really think the weave made any difference to the sound. The weave might have an effect with a gauze though, in the way it refracted the light perhaps, or it might have been easier to paint? Did your source say why they preferred it for gauzes?
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Re: See Thru

Postby johnstoate » 11 Feb 2011, 00:39

This bit about the weaves is interesting in that it is so often overlooked these days. Back when I was a lad, and there were 20 shillings to a 240 penny pound, and farthings were still legal tender and spendable! If, like me, you were brought up in a textile area of Lancashire, such things were part of everyday life. People knew the picks and patterns of weave in cloth from their working life, and consequently knew their properties for particular uses. This is why I prefer a 'Bolton twill' at about 24 pick for tilts on outdoor booths, being a nice tight weave that is almost waterproof before you waterproof it!! :D True, it is a might heavy, but durability is it's second name. True baize as I understand it, is, as Chris VDC says, 'A napped woven fabric'- By 'napped' I take him to mean 'Fulled' Which is a finishing process whereby the woven fabric is pummelled by wooden hammers whilst wet, which closes the weave and results in a smooth felt -like finish. This material was, as Chris S.quite rightly states often used as a soundproofing medium untill well into the 20th century. As to the 'front-and-back' lighting issue, I have always advocated the use of a 'skylight' above the playboard area to allow as much natural light as possible in front of the backcloth, specifically because it helps with the 'invisibility' aspect of the booth blackout.
On a slightly different front, I would be interested in anyone's input with regard to night shows using a plain backdrop, I find that I have trouble with these because when the playboard is illuminated, one loses the ability to see the audience clearly because of the 'curtain' effect created by being in the dark, behind the light source, the light from the playboard area allows one to see dolls & props well enough, but the audience are almost invisible in the shadow. I have tried having a light shining onto the audience, but found that they felt that it spoilt their enjoyment of the show when raised high enough to negate the 'curtain' effect mentioned earlier, and is therefore obviously not a practical solution. Any ideas??
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Re: See Thru

Postby CvdC » 11 Feb 2011, 01:03

My understanding of how sharks tooth gauze works is that when the light is on it from the front it is opaque and that when the light is behind you can see through it. The weave is 3mm x 1mm.(perhaps too open for puppet shows?) To be quite honest I have never seen it but thought it may have been used for backdrops.
http://shop.nstage.co.uk/white-sharksto ... -723-p.asp
One metre of this would make two or three backdrops as it is quite wide.
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Re: See Thru

Postby Peter » 11 Feb 2011, 09:52

I agree with Chris that as long as there is more light in front of the booth that behind it will all be fine. Out side in the sunshine a simple sheet of black thick cotton makes the difference. I have never checked the weave of it but it seems to work. Indoors you just have to make sure you don't set up with your back to somebody's French windows.

John, I know what you mean about not being able to see the audience for the night shows.
We did a summer on Walton pier a few years ago. They had built a small stage area specially. The whole pier was covered over and quite gloomy. The pier owners thought they were being helpful by setting up two fixed spot lights aimed at the stage (they were put there using scaffold so couldn't be moved). It was so bright that it hurt. Every show was a mixture of working with your eyes shut and trying to keep a puppet between you and the lights to make it less painful. The audience were completely invisible. To make it worse the background noise of the pier rides was so loud that we couldn't hear the audience either. So we had to do all shows to ourselves without relying on audience participation because you never knew if anyone was out there.
We were glad when the contract was over and didn't go back. The agent couldn't understand why we turned the booking down the following year as the pier management said we'd been a great success. So somebody must have been out there!
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Re: See Thru

Postby Chris » 11 Feb 2011, 19:52

Chris vdC wrote
My understanding of how sharks tooth gauze works is that when the light is on it from the front it is opaque and that when the light is behind you can see through it.


But Chris that's how all gauzes, scrims, dress velvet or whatever work. It has nothing to do with shark's teeth or monkey's other bits. It even works with mirrored glass, as in surveillance mirrors, or even plain glass, as in Pepper's Ghost.

John and Miraiker: Your difficulty seeing an audience when you are brightly lit is something you need to live with. Anyone who has worked live theatre will tell you that is the norm. Stand on well lit stage with the house lights down and you won't see the audience beyond the front row. This is generally a good thing most actors believe.

John, no the nap is not the result of being fulled. Quite the opposite I would think if the process is as you descripbe. The nap is the hairy surface, unlike smooth felt. Baize used for billiard tables is woven with a nap which grips the ball. Don't they brush up the nap? And you brush the nap on suede shoes to avoid them being shiny. Of course it may be different in Lancashire, my knowledge comes from an upbringing midst the woolen mills of Yorkshire.

A great influence on my early exploration of puppetry were Ron and Kath. They were both weavers and I spent quite a lot of time in the factory where I would meet one or other of them after school and wait till their shift finished and go home with them. They were amateur puppeteers and I learned a great deal from them. Ron used to weave heavy stuff, the great thick canvas that goes to make a fireman's hoses for example. Kath was an expert of the Jaquard loom and was a master at the complex setting up to produce the intricate patterns. She only had one eye and had lost the other through an accident with a flying shuttle. She told me many a tale of people losing fingers. Apparently looms are very hazardous pieces of equipment. We then went home to the relative safety of Ron's razor sharp carving chisels in his cellar workshop. It was with him I learned to carve. And his was the papie mache recipe I have always used. His great influence was Waldo Lanchester.
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Re: See Thru

Postby johnstoate » 11 Feb 2011, 22:07

Err, just a small point, (This is 'workshop') I did state that 'nap' was My understanding of Chris vdc's meaning in his post. And fulling is rather more a wool finish than cotton. However, I should just point out that I originally trained as a 'Unifil' mechanic, and worked for several years in textiles both on weaving and 'doubling' machines, and as a result do understand the weaving process at 'First hand' :)
As for the lighting issue, I am fully aware of the theatre situation in this regard, I know that by lighting the audience they become visible,(As stated in my earlier post) and was therefore seeking any constructive comment as to how this might be achieved without spoiling their enjoyment of the show. Whilst most actors may feel that it's a good thing for the audience to be invisible, it does rather make interraction a tad difficult. And how many times have we heard that Punch isn't theatre??
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Re: See Thru

Postby Chris » 12 Feb 2011, 00:21

I've never heard that Punch isn't theatre! What a peculiar idea.

As for interaction between actor and audience being difficult due to lighting the actor rather than the audience, well countless thousands of actors, variety artistes, comedians, singers etc over the years have managed it very well it would seem. And if you really want to see beyond the front row, well just turn up the auditorium lights.

You may well have worked in textiles. It doesn't stop you being wrong about nap does it?
You sez:
a finishing process whereby the woven fabric is pummelled by wooden hammers whilst wet, which closes the weave and results in a smooth felt -like finish.

The dictionary sez:
nap is the raised (fuzzy) surface on certain kinds of cloth, such as velvet.
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Re: See Thru

Postby johnstoate » 13 Feb 2011, 01:14

WORKSHOP!!! - As so oft mooted, 'Read what was written' - Meeting closed.
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Re: See Thru

Postby Richard Coombs » 21 Jan 2012, 15:49

Almost a year after this thread had its last post , I found some pictures ...so thought Id add some.
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Re: See Thru

Postby Richard Coombs » 23 Feb 2015, 15:07

Hello
I am reviving this old thread with hopefully a helpful answer.
(Not to those seasoned old profs already working : but for newcomers wondering what it is like to work behind either see-through scenery or a gauze )

As James wrote :
You can get away with using a very see through back cloth or gauze if you have a good blackout in the booth behind you. If your head has no light shining on it then it wont be seen.


Chris has some wonderful 2D illustrations showing the subtle differences when choosing exactly which height to perform at when "Hands in Front"

http://www.punchandjudy.com/handsinfront.html
Choosing the right height FOR YOU is important , and only practise will determine this.

But a picture is worth a thousand words .
So here is a YouTube clip showing exactly what life is like behind the gauze !

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBQuDcIxlGA

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Re: See Thru

Postby Chris » 23 Feb 2015, 18:46

Very interesting indeed Richard. Thanks.
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Re: See Thru

Postby lesclarke » 23 Feb 2015, 23:02

Yes, interesting stuff Richard, watched it earlier today as I had a cup of tea, and enjoyed your time lapse booth set up yesterday.

You have probably said already, but I can't spot any info on what kind of fabric you use.

I may well have missed it as my brain is not at its best, I'm putting in hour after hour of tidying, sorting, slinging and recorganising some of the stuff I have gathered over many years, my hoarding has finally caught up with me. I find it is harder work than real work.
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Re: See Thru

Postby Richard Coombs » 23 Feb 2015, 23:55

Hello Les

No I didn't say what that fabric it is ...as I have absolutely no idea.
I do have enough of it put by to make another couple of backdrops.

Being a hoarder like yourself , I also have bits of other black fabrics that work - almost- as well as whatever that stuff was . And also some other fabric that works better even , but that has too 'shiny' a sheen to it ( I prefer it if the audience side appears as matt black as possible )

Whenever I am out buying other fabrics I usually have a quick look at what sort of thin black cloths my regular stores have in.

You need to unroll a fair bit and hold it up to strong sunlight in the shop ( with as little light as possible on 'your' side .
Only then do you get an idea of how 'see-through' the fabric really is.

It can be quite surprising how different cloths behave.
Even cloth that on first glance seems too thick or opaque , can be a surprise when put to the test.

The stuff thats in my Booth in the Video , is not actually very 'sheer' ...it has a very solid appearance from the front. Yet on the video it looks as see-through as sheer nylon stockings.

So I would say to any beginners out there , just experiment in the fabric stores until you find something that seems to work right.

if its cheap enough , buy plenty , because chances are it will not be there when you go back next time.

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Re: See Thru

Postby Timboo » 18 Apr 2015, 06:36

Just a couple of tips for newcomers to the use of gauzes
When people say 'light from the front", the ideal version is to have lighting hitting the cloth skimming across the front or back of it (yes it can be behind but for P&J work not necessarily the best)
If the light source is directly in front it shines straight through the holes (whatever they may be, Sharkstooth scrim or fine net etc) and lights up what is behind.
If the lighting is up to approx 15 degrees away from the surface then you pick up the weave with light and the weave stops a lot of light passing through, (it also picks up any creases so if it can be stretched it helps enormously) As has been mentioned blackout behind the gauze is the main key to as great a degree as possible. But always check it with someone standing inside as the skin when close to the gauze can be lit up and you could be easily seen.


As for scale of holes in fabric as has been mentioned theatrical sharkstooth scrim comes in a variety of weights and density. But generally for puppetry work it is a bit too coarse.
Don't double layer either as you are likely to get "moire -ing" where any movement will produce weird effects all over the backcloth.

Any of the loose weave fabrics can work, The point made of a skylight in the booth only over the front play area means it would be at an angle which would help light a gauze, Also any ambient light that can be achieved through the "canvas" covering the wings at the sides will also help, so these needn't be blacked out.

If painting the gauze / scrim then prime it first when stretched out on a frame with a thin prime to stop paint bleeding, (always use acrylics with acrylic prime and the natural glue based primes with pigments mixed with those glues - don't mix acrylics and natural glues)

Then mark it up with fine charcoal or pencil. any errors in painting can't easily be painted over, So plan your cloth before painting. Ideally do a design on paper and scale up.

Watered Acrylics can produce good saturation, Use a good quality decent paint (Rowney and Daler etc produce varying grades and the cheaper ones are usually useless), If you can find Rosco supersaturated paints in small quantities or can buy a small amount off a theatre etc then do so, the tubs are expensive but go a long long way) The Rosco paints don't have to have glaze mixed in even when watered whereas others usually do to keep adherence. Cheap acrylic paints when watered down can be a nightmare and react very differently from colour to colour making colour mixing a pain.

Dyes can be used and are richer and more saturated in colour yet thinner so the "gauze" can be much more flexible, so it wears well. But again you need to prime to stop bleeding of colours, Don't paint two colours with dye that have a definite divide, in succession. Let one dry while painting another area.

Never apply thick paint to a gauze as you will fill the holes, thicken the cloth and it will crack and flake off , Always squint when close up to get an idea of how it will look from a distance to an audience.



When designing the cloth remember the main feature are the puppets, so don't upstage them with a cloth that is so colourful and busy as to create a camouflaged environment for them. Imagine if you performed a red costumed Punch in front of the same red fabric backcloth, he would disappear. Also if painting a gauze the lighter pastel colours help the effect work much better then darker colours which can suddenly disappear under variable lighting conditions.

Of course there are other ways to create the same or similar effects and so many variable factors that can change how things look or work but this is a basic guideline from my experience.
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Re: See Thru

Postby Chris » 07 May 2015, 16:35

If painting a backcloth seems beyond you there is a way to cheat. First get some material with a small pattern, maybe floral, which resembles wallpaper. This does not need to be see-through. Cut a square hole to resemble a window in the centre of the cloth. Then get some white net curtaining (which is see-through) and stitch, or fabric glue this to fill in the window. Get some ribbon in a dark colour and stitch or glue this to form a window surround. You can also use iron on tape in lieu of ribbon. And there you have a backcloth with a dirty great see-through window in the middle.
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You might elaborate on this with a felt vase and flowers appliquéd on the windowsill. These can be edge stitched, fabric-glued, or use an iron on adhesive like "hemmy".
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