Truss has very practical uses, from supporting rigging and lighting to critical support infrastructure and specific engineering needs.
On top of that, trusses 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 add dynamic lighting to your environmental design. In addition, a 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 your event design.
Here are a few ways we love to use trusses in the design of events, meetings and conferences, along with some practice tips to keep in mind.
First, some things you should remember about how the truss is built and what factors to remember. The truss is modular. In most cases, in North America, a truss is built in 2-foot increments. 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 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 a truss in your design, involve a technical professional to review your truss design.
On top of a straight truss, a circular truss can be used to create circular set pieces, a large overhead halo or, in some cases, 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 measured on OD or Outer Diameter. Most manufacturers use 18-foot, 24-foot and 30-foot OD. Just be mindful that most circular trusses were custom manufactured for a specific purpose, and there is no overarching standard measurement. A circular truss is usually broken into 4 or 8 sections to complete a full circle. A circular truss is also more expensive than a straight truss on a linear length basis.
If you are looking for a 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 that bare truss will create. Most suppliers can make 8 or 10-foot spandex covers that slip over the outside of a 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’s view.
The most common use of trusses in stage design for events is simple straight towers. However, 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 and be lit internally or externally to add visual interest to your design. One thing to remember about truss towers is that you must leave room for the baseplate, a large metal plate between 24 to 36 inches square. Also, depending on how much additional material you attach to the truss tower, you may need additional weight ballast in the form of sandbags.
You can also use a 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 is a myriad of specific products and systems that have been created in markets across the globe. Unfortunately, there is no overall standard for the size, shape or inventory. Some custom setups can be created out of modular pieces, but you should be aware that these setups are typically sold as entire packages. These also need additional engineering and permitting, especially when using these outdoors.
A lighting truss can be a great way to add texture and colour to your stage design. Using light to highlight the truss lines is known as a truss warmer. You can light the 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 a way to rig your lighting instruments in interesting ways as well. Although you certainly should use truss to rig lighting overhead, using truss towers or trusses around your set to add decorative or integrated lighting adds a lot of excitement and visual interest to your design.
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