Scrim is a special loose-weave fabric used on stage for special effects…Scrim can be used to achieve the following theatrical effects
Reveal effects —A reveal effect occurs when a “wall” suddenly dissolves to show a scene behind it. The scrim is hung as the wall, and lighting is used to make the scrim opaque, transparent or translucent in the case of a special effects scrim. (Leno scrim is not effective for this)
Secret Entrances – Scrims can be hung in panels offset by a small distance allowing a person to appear from a previously blank “wall”. --only special effects scrim works for this, because the edge of the scrim must be razor cut, with no hour-glassing and no moire´ effects..
Front Projections —Scrims can be used as screens for projectors.
Rear Projections — Projections from behind the scrim are fainter and can be fuzzier than front projections.
Shadow Projections —Items can be lit in silhouette from in front of or behind the scrim.
Sky —Scrims and other seamless backgrounds can be used to mimic a sky. Both scrims and solid color backgrounds can have gelled lights projected on them producing a ‘sky’. However, scrims have a more translucent feel and a feeling of depth.
Cut drops —Scrims are sometimes used to support the pieces of cut drops. A typical use would be the cutout of a tree drop attached to a scrim. When front-lit the tree shows against a sky. When back-lit the tree is silhouetted.
Types of Scrim
There are basically four types of scrim: Sharkstooth, Chameleon™ (Special Effects) Scrim, Leno and Bobbinette. Each of these types have some unique aspects. The pluses and minuses are detailed below. Also detailed below are some scrim substitutes, and similar products.
What is it? Sharkstooth scrim is what most people think of as “ordinary scrim”, but that underplays the variety offered by this scrim. Sharkstooth is cotton loose-weave in a distinctive “sharkstooth pattern of 6-8 vertical threads per inch. It becomes almost transparent when back-lit and is somewhat hard to make completely opaque when front-lit. Typically sharkstooth is available is white, black, grey and sky blue. Special varieties are available in gold and silver. These special reflective varieties are particularly good for projections and laser light shows.
When to use it? Sharkstooth is a very good all around product. Use it for general use when you want full stage width. It’s not particularly good for use as panels or where there are multiple scrims used. When sharkstooth scrim is hung it hourglasses and so panel use is out. When two sharkstooth scrims are used together you frequently get a moire´ effect (looks like and interference pattern) as a noticeable pattern appears where the two scrims overlap. When projections are used from the front, they can appear faint or washed out. If you are using sharkstooth for projections only go to a silvered sharkstooth.
Considerations 35’ width of fabric. 3-4 colors. Cotton fabric rots when flametreated or exposed to moisture—special types for moist conditions can be bought. You can paint on sharkstooth. Approximately $71/ running yard 35’ wide.
Chameleon™ Special Effects/ Diffusive Scrim
What is it? Chameleon™ scrim is the newest type of scrim—a special effects scrim. Chameleon™ is a synthetic spunbonded fabric (looks like gossamer). It becomes translucent not transparent when back-lit and is easy to make opaque when front-lit. Chameleon™ has a characteristic “halo” effect, where a subject lit behind the scrim appears to be diffuse and glowing. Chameleon™ is available in more colors than you will ever need. Chameleon™ is best used in panels—which is new thinking for theater, but can save large amounts of money, because a full stage width is not needed. Chameleon™ is economical.
When to use it? Chameleon™’s “halo” effect is great for memory sequences, romantic scenes, ghostly or spiritual effects. Chameleon™ is best used in panels—either side by side or offset to allow for “secret entrances”. There is no hour-glassing, the fabric can be razor cut to size and surgical tape can be used to tape panels together for an almost invisible seam. If seamed this way, the seam can be later removed and the cloth reused. There is no moire´ effect.
Considerations 15’ 8” natural width of fabric. 14 colors. Fabric doesn’t rot, but can wear from abrasion. Chameleon™ can be painted. Approximately $40/running yard 15’ 8” wide. www.studio-productions-inc.com
What is it? Leno Scrim is a product primarily used for television—even having a color named for it (TV Grey). As a “filled” scrim, it has no holes, and so is not transparent or translucent when objects are lit behind it. However, Leno make a great painted drop whose painting is luminescent when lit from behind. Leno’s wrinkles stretch out, so this backdrop is excellent for traveling shows.
When to use it? Use Leno for painted backdrops, skys. Leno is useful for traveling shows. Leno is also useful for television, where the texture and luminescent properties make for dramatic color depth..
Considerations 30’ natural width of fabric. 2 colors (white and grey). Fabric doesn’t rot, but can wear from abrasion. Approximately $100/running yard 30’ wide—pretty expensive.
What is it? Bobbinette is a hexagonal weave cotton fabric. It is lightweight and can be fragile (there are different types). Bobbinette is very transparent when backlit, but not opaque when front-lit. The main uses are as support for appliqué and the sense of depth that it creates—especially used in front of sky drops.
When to use it? Use Bobbinette to support cut drops. It is not particularly useful for reveal effects or projections of any kind.
Considerations 30’ or 55’ natural width of fabric. 3 colors (natural,white and grey). Fabric is delicate. Approximately $65/running yard 30’ wide—pretty expensive.
What is it? Cheesecloth is a home-made solution to create scrim effects. It is a loose-weave fabric either cotton or synthetic. Originally the fabric was used to strain cheese curds.
When to use it? Cheesecloth is a viable alternative for small spaces (like framed windows, puppet shows, etc.)
Considerations 48” natural width of fabric. Many colors . Fabric rot, stretches and is fragile. Approximately $3/running yard 48” wide—very cheap.
What is it? StudioCloth™ is a smaller less expensive version of a special effects scrim (see Chameleon™ section above). StudioCloth™ is made for photography, comes in 12’ widths, and 14 colors. StudioCloth™ diffuses subjects lit behind it, but doesn’t produce the “halo” glow.
When to use it? Use StudioCloth™ for smaller sets where the scrim is “disposable”.
Considerations 12’ natural width of fabric. 14 colors. Fabric doesn’t rot, but can wear from abrasion. StudioCloth™ is more fragile than Chameleon™. Approximately $30/running yard 12’ wide—pretty inexpensive. www.studio-productions-inc.com