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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Grand illusion » » Trap Doors (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

magicalmilton
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Hopefully this doesn't count as a reveal as I'm nearly certain most spectators know of the term and I shall only be talking about the actual door in isolation to any effects (if this does count as a reveal them I apologise profusely). Are there any resources on TD designs and how to keep them hidden?

Many Thanks

Sam
EsnRedshirt
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Check out theater books or talk to a stage tech for starters; stage traps are fairly standard, and have been used since ancient Greece for all sorts of productions.

They're actually fairly out of favor with illusionists right now, though, due to portability considerations.
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MCM
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http://www.hulu.com/watch/282478

Beware of bad trap doors.
DavidThomas
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Are you looking for an install into a specific theater or one for touring?
David Thomas
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magicalmilton
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I'm looking to install one into my portable staging, but I don't want to just start hacking away at £11,000 worth of equipment without some guidance as to what I should be doing ha
socalmagic
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I also would be curious as to how you can install and use a TD in a portable stage. In my research, they can be quite simple to very complex and dangerous. One issue can be clearance below the stage. My stage is 3 feet high, and it has a framework of metal legs. Getting out from under it quickly could be a challenge, as well as having room to open, close, and secure the trap. I would be interested to see if anyone else is using a TD on a portable stage.
Kevin Ridgeway
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When Kristen was performing her Jet Turbine illusion we were often on portable stages. 99% of the time we are on Stage Right decks. We purchased a 4'x8' Stage Right deck of our own and carried it with us. We installed a trap door in that deck and when we would get to a venue that had portable staging we would replace one of their decks with ours, just upstage of where the Jet Turbine played.

Regarding legs. On Stage Right decks there are two main styles of legs or supports...Z800 'Z Legs'and ME-500 supports. Most production companies use the ME-500 supports. There is a big advantage to these legs. The have connectors on top of each support that ties in the corners of 4 decks. What this does is allows 'bridging'. Basically there are only supports under every other deck, versus under every deck. This makes for a clear pathway under the stage, without having to pass thru supports. You just need to advance the show and make sure the clear path under the stage is in the direction you need. Hopefully that all made sense.
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magicalmilton
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Ok I think my staging is slightly higher (its a meter tall so provided you are crouched you actually have quite a lot of space to move) and was built custom for a big-top circus that sold it on when they were refurbishing. It works from only 8-32 legs and covers a maximum area up to about 20m x 20m (its got a clever lattice of 4-16, depending on how big we need the stage to be, steel rsj's that supports all of the long decks. The only downside is that they have a maximum weight bearing which may at some point in the future limit the number of people and size of props that we can use in a show). Because it can cover such a large space we have the added advantage of being able to arrange "studio" theatre spaces and placing the audience chairs on the actual staging which has helped us eliminate the suspicion of trap doors (that and the fact that we haven't actually got a trap door yet...) because the audience, at the end of the show, can walk around the entire stage area.

What I am really seeking is some resource for stage patterns or techniques for keeping the door itself hidden and hard to notice when closed.
socalmagic
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I think that it would be the same principal as hiding a **ll on a table. Paint the stage flat black and have a grid of bright yellow lines to help disguise it. I know of another magician that did this and it worked well.
jeffl
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You could certainly get a lot more creative than that! Now I haven't put these into practice but I've been thinking a lot about the general topic. What you wind up with depends strongly on where the rest of your design is going. For starters you ought to consider whether the size fof the hole is going to weaken the platform's holding capacity, in which case you need to consider reinforcing around the hole with angle iron or aluminum angle (if that's not part of the door assembly, ie if you're rolling your own). After that you've got several possibilities, I'd strongly suggest you consider covering the area with a carpet with dense but fairly shallow pile, it could be just a solid color, or patterned can be even more deceptive (sorry I don't have pattern names or order #s, like I said this was mostly just brainstorming). You could also go with something like a large rubber floor mat with a strong pattern so the "boundary" hides in the pattern, or there are even possibilities to hide in the pattern found in textured stainless steel, for either of the latter you might want to take a look at one of my favorite "idea generator" websites (no it wasn't INTENDED for that but it works for me), namely http://www.mcmaster.com.

You also need to consider whether you want something under the door. If you're a full meter or more above the lower surface you might consider a stool or short stepladder. At one point I was looking into modifying a lift cart like a Harbor Freight #94822, say swapping in a pneumatic cylinder (easier to control) so you could appear or vanish something fairly heavy. Gives you almost perfect vertical lift motion and (with a little help) precise enough to bring the load AND DOOR back lined up closely (and quietly!) enough to avoid suspicion. Of course for THAT you'd want a one-piece door without a hinge, another option to consider. There's a lot if possibilities and directions to take once you get started thinking about it.
magicalmilton
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My friend just gave me quite a nice idea. There are self-healing cutting boards that are made out of a material which, if painted black, would have the same matted texture and colour as the decking of my stage (probably most stages tbh)... this way, once the show is over, the door will be completely impossible to spot because, in a sense, it wont actually be there any more (or at least the edge of the uppermost veneer of the door and frame will be seamless). I maybe over stretching the possibilities of this technology however I shall be experimenting...
Frank Simpson
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Save your money. A self-healing mat will do absolutely nothing to hide its edge. Especially if it's painted.

There are so many considerations involved in what you're trying to accomplish. It begs far more questions than viable answers, given our extremely limited knowledge of your specific circumstances.

Fundamentally, this is a design issue from a stagecraft perspective as much, if not more than, a magic perspective. The best thing to do, broadly speaking, is to create a camouflage pattern in the entire stage floor for your "business" to be disguised amongst.

I would recommend seeking out George Ledo here at the Café. He is a professional scenic designer with as solid a knowledge of magic of anyone I can think of. He would be the most likely to give you the most useful advice.
AGMagic
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I am not a stage designer or builder but I am a woodworker. As a woodworker, two things come to mind immediately. First, you should not use the piece that you cut out of the stage as the trap door. A standard circular saw blade is 1/8" thick and cuts a kerf slightly larger than that. One pass on each side of the trap and you now have to hide a 1/4" difference in the size of the door in respect to the hole.

The second idea is that the door and the hole should be cut at an angle of perhaps 45 degrees with the larger part of the opening being on the underside of the stage. The door should be cut to fit the hole as closely as possible without binding. The angled cut will allow the trap to open freely and not bind in any type of weather. If the door is in two pieces, where they overlap should also be cut at an angle and closely fit to one another before the door is cut to the final size. executed properly, this should give an almost invisible joint where the trap and the door come together.
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David Charvet
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I will echo Frank's comments. A trap door is a lot more than just a hole cut in the stage with a door built into it. The old-timers who worked with traps carried their own trap and elevator systems with them (See the Thurston Workbooks for an example.) Once at the venue the hole only had to be cut in the stage and their own rig fitted. For subsequent return appearances, the hole was already there. Most masked the trap with an oriental rug or carpet with a repeating pattern to hide the cut lines. But, I can't imagine any of the venues where I've ever worked in the last 30 years letting me take out a Skil Saw and start cutting up their stage!

While it is certainly possible to make and hide a trap in a portable stage (as Kevin explained - obviously from real experience), the most important thing to ask yourself is: What is the EFFECT I am trying to achieve and is there a better (i.e. more practical) way of doing it than with a trap? Such classics as the Disembodied Princess, Dante's "Black and White" and "Backstage" illusions, the Cannon and Nest of Trunks and even the Kellar Levitation, all of which were originally designed around traps can now be done without them.

So, is the EFFECT worth the hassle?
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