Design Inspiration – Truss
Truss is one of the most common things you will see in production for events.
There are very practical uses for truss, from supporting rigging and lighting, critical support infrastructure and specific engineering needs.
On top of that, truss can be used to enhance your stage design and create stunning visuals for your next event. Truss is modular and can be used to create sets, frame screens and and add dynamic lighting to your environmental design. Truss can be left uncovered to give a more industrial or mechanical feel or covered in fabric to allow you to create clean lines throughout the design.
Here are a few ways we love to use truss in the design of events, along with some practice tips to keep in mind.
First, some things you should remember about how truss is built and what factors to remember. Truss is modular. In most cases, in North America, truss is built in 2 foot increments. Standard and most common are 4 foot 8 foot and 10 foot are the most common and regularly available stock in most markets. Just be aware that some larger scale manufacturers have been moving to metric. Make sure you are aware of what measurements are used by your supplier. In Metric, standard straight pieces range from .5m up to 3m.
Truss is built to be a safe, engineered and critical infrastructure element. All truss has weight limits and specific orientations they need to be set up in to maintain their safety factor. IF you are going to use truss in your design, make sure to involve a technical professional to review your truss design.
On Top of straight truss, circular truss can be used to create circular set pieces, large overhead halo’s or in some case, when using a custom screen surface, can be used to create unique video surfaces for your stage design. Similar to straight truss, there are a few standard measurements you should be aware of. Most circular trusses are measures on OD or Outer Diameter. Most manufactures us 18 foot, 24 foot and 30 foot OD. Just be aware that moist circular truss was at some point custom manufactured for a specific purpose and there is no overarching standard measurement. Circular truss is usually broken up into 4 or 8 sections to complete a full circle. Circular truss is also more expensive than straight truss on a linear length basis.
If you are looking for a way to use truss to create lines, shapes and texture in your next design, but don’t want to have such an industrial look to your event, there are great ways to use fabric to create a cleaner more streamlined look. Spandex truss socks are a great way to hide the metal and sharp lines of truss. Most suppliers can create 8 or 10 foot spandex covers that slip over the outside of straight truss. The truss socks come in black or white and are easy to add to your design. Using a white sock allows you to create a glowing tower by placing a light inside the truss or you can light them from outside to add texture. Use black truss socks to help make the truss disappear from the audience view.
The most common use of truss in stage design for events is simple straight towers. Using the modular nature of truss lengths, you can create staggered towers of multiple heights throughout your design. These can also be used to rig decorative lighting, be lit internally or externally to add visual interest in your design. Some things to remember about using truss towers are the fact that you need to make sure you leave room for the baseplate, a large metal plate between 24 to 36 inches square. Depending on how much additional material you attach to the truss tower, you may need additional weight ballast in the form of sand bags.
You can also use truss to create entire sets. Most commonly used for outdoor applications, truss systems can be used to create large boxes or stage frames to create a large set. There are a myriad of specific products and systems that have been created in markets across the globe and unfortunately there is no overall standard for the size, shape or inventory. Some custom set ups can be created out of modular pieces, but you should be aware that these set ups are typically sold as entire packages. These also tend to need additional engineering and permitting, especially when using these outdoors.
Lighting truss can be a great way to add some texture and colour to your stage design. Using light to highlight the truss lines is known as a truss warmer. You can light truss from inside with a simple up light set in the inside centre of the truss or from the outside with strip LED lighting instruments.
Truss can be used as ways to rig your lighting instruments in interesting ways as well. Although you certainly should use truss to rig lighting overhead, using truss towers or truss around your set to add decorative or integrated lighting adds a lot of excitement and visual interest to your design.