General Effect – Using digital prop covers and silks to enhance your show

Being a band director, I am always looking for economical ways to enhance my marching performances.  We all have seen great looking stage items from elaborate pirate ships, huge candelabras and portable stages.  Sometimes though, we can’t use these things because we do not have the budget to pay for supplies, we do not have a work force to build these things or we just do not have the time.  If this describes you, keep reading.

Tangent:  I love it when my students are excited about a performance idea or theme!  When they buy in, they have a greater desire to perform and rehearse.  I always tell my students that they may not remember what place they received, but they will remember the experience they had.  
Back on point:I love to design shows that the students, directors, fans, judges, alumni, and community can be excited about.  Here are some simple ways to tie it all together each year with digital imaging:
1.  Create sideline walls that you cover with a digital vinyl print that go with your program’s vision.

This past marching season, we used the music of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite as our concept.  We made frames that were 15′ long (5 yards) x 4 feet tall and then had an arm to angle them back that was 4′ tall.  These were then covered with a fire image.  (We also scattered some of these forms throughout the field).  This gave the easy image that the field was on fire!  It was so easy and the crowd talked about it at every performance.
2.  Design flags with a digital print that go along with your theme.  In the same show as described above, we created three different flags to match our theme:  a fire flag (that was the exact image as the  vinyl coverings), an ashen flag and a phoenix (firebird) flag.  No more worrying about what flags to use or how they fit your theme.  Your theme is your flag!
3.  Have large squares behind your group in performance that can tell your story.  One of my clients this past year did a show called JOY!  They had pictures that matched the different phases of life (and subsequently each movement).  Christmas presents, graduation, etc.  They created frames from pvc pipe and weighted them down and they added the thematic elements to the program easily.
So, how do you get these things made?  There are a number of vendors out there and I have dealt with several of them.  My favorite is  The great thing about these people is that they have YEARS of marching arts experience.  They can take the ordinary and make it EXTRAordinary!  Have a theme in mind, but not sure how to tie it all together?  Call them!

In conclusion, going back to my tangent…
When we pitched this show to our students we showed them how the props and silks tied the entire show together:  fire and devastation, to ashes to renewal through the phoenix.  It allowed for each audience member and participant to experience the show in their own unique way.  They (the students) were excited and did a marvelous job!  
So, how can you use these things to make the effect of your program greater next season?  

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