Creating a Custom LED Drop Using Kenny Net and LED Pixels

by RB 11. April 2016 09:44


Take a look behind the scenes at how Jeremy Roth and his team made the LED backdrop and how it looked on stage:

Wilco, an alternative rock band, kicked off their 2016 Star Wars Tour in front of a custom made LED drop featuring 1,850 individually controlled LEDs, 10,000 zip ties, and 1/2 mile of interconnect cable all arranged on Rose Brand Kenny Net

The tour’s lighting design was driven by designer Jeremy Roth’s desire to combine 3D effects with LED lighting. “I had seen many other products and productions using flat LED screens or star drops, but not many that were able to use the depth of the stage to create multiple transparent layers with those products.”

Jeremy set out to find a material that could support thousands of LED emitters and cables while remaining transparent enough to allow for upstage layers of LED and lighting to be seen. The perfect material was critical to the execution of the design. 

Jeremy looked at what he describes as “a myriad of samples” before choosing Kenny Net. “This was the first time I had worked with Kenny Net. The material had the perfect balance of strength and softness to hold the weight of the LEDs and wiring while still being able to be easily folded and stored in a hamper every night. The fact that it is IFR was icing on the cake.” The 1/2 grid of Kenny Net and its strong yet narrow gauge filament make it almost completely transparent when viewed from the audience.

The finished design shows itself in different ways depending on where viewers are seated. When you are up close or off to the side on the floor, you are looking up into the layers and the 3D nature is more pronounced while the LED content is more textural. The farther away you are from the stage, the flatter the image becomes and the LED content resolves more into the actual imagery that is being fed into it from the media server. Everyone is seeing the same show, but the experience takes on slightly different form and feeling depending on where you are seated. 

Jeremy has worked with Rose Brand materials on many projects in the past. He explains his approach to stage design, “I often rely on soft goods in my designs as the right materials can add lots of texture and volume to a show without taking up too much space on the truck. I love that Rose Brand has such a deep selection of materials.”

Behind the scenes photos of LED drop being fabricated by Stageworks Seattle. Final product in use during Wilco concert.

Fabrication by Stageworks Seattle (Jeremy Roth, Simon Clark, Melissa Brynn)


Community Spotlight | LEDs | Spotlight on Design | Star Drop Curtains

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Brings a New Look to the Ed Sullivan Theater

by RB 14. March 2016 10:48

A Rose Brand Chameleon ShowLED drop is located behind The Late Show logo above center stage.


When Stephen Colbert started his tenure on The Late Show, it began a new era in his career and initiated a face lift for the show’s home, the Ed Sullivan Theater. The Ed Sullivan Theater began as a Broadway house and Colbert is a fan of its architecture and history. 

Jim Fenhagen, Executive Vice President of Design at Jack Morton/PDG and Scenic Designer for the project, worked very closely with Colbert to design the set. Fenhagen was quoted in Lighting and Sound America saying, “Stephen wanted to celebrate this gorgeous old theatre that had been covered over through the years with sound-proofing and lighting grids." He added, "We really didn’t feel the theatre until we renovated it. We integrated the set with the theatre in a way that created this sort of modern vs. classical architecture, which is a fun tension." 

Fenhagen also said, “Some of our design choices are about using architecture to make it feel more intimate – bringing the focus down, controlling the eye, and getting people to look toward the center. We have a giant proscenium arch to fill, because we wanted to expose it all, so I hung a [Chameleon ShowLED] star curtain from Rose Brand in the big giant arch above my canopy ceiling. It’s a great solution and adds a little bit of pizzazz.”

The set was built by the Emmy-Award Winning fabricator, blackwalnut, who asked Rose Brand to build the star drop curtain. Frank Bradley, blackwalnut Director, Estimating & Project Management, described the intricate details of the star drop. Bradley explains, “The drop had to be made according to the curve in the theater proscenium, which was fairly difficult to survey. Fortunately, during the renovation we discovered an old Broadway-style flat that looked like it dated to the 1950’s that was the shape of the proscenium arch. The house crew pulled it down and sent it to us so we could make templates.” The drawings from blackwalnut were then used to create sewing plans for the curtain. The finished drop used 512 LEDs to fill its 23’-10” high by 39’ wide dimensions. While the drop may look small on camera against the large stage (the stage measures 72’ wide and 60’ deep), the height of the curtain is equal to 4x the height of an average American man.

The LED nodes of the star drop curtain are bright and bold so they attract the viewer’s eye, accomplishing Fenhagen’s goal of attracting viewers to the center. The brightness of the LEDs was diffused with a black sheer drape to create the perfect starry, “Corona Effect”, which added elegance to the set. 

For a job this important, blackwalnut chose Rose Brand in part because of our work ethic. Bradley jokes, “We have a long standing relationship with Rose Brand and our rep, Jennifer Perez, has made a habit of pulling off both major and minor miracles for us. There was no question as to who would nail the details of the project in such a tight turnaround. “

The design process for The Late Show brought together a number of creative teams that had worked through the years to make The Colbert Report a success. Bradley explains, “It was exciting to see so many players getting a shot at the big stage and high stakes of late night TV. Accordingly, we brought in our ringers—Rose Brand. They were one of our key vendors back when we built the Colbert sets for Comedy Central and we knew we could count on them to have our back on this one.”

While the curtain may be made of Encore Velour, it’s Stephen Colbert who keeps getting asked for an encore on stage. 

Product: ShowLED Chameleon
Scenic Design: Jack Morton/PDG
Scene Shop: blackwalnut
Photo: Raeford Dwyer, courtesy of Jack Morton/PDG
Parts reprinted with permission from Lighting and Sound America, "The Talk of the Town", January 2016


Custom Sewing | Special Effects | Star Drop Curtains

Project Management and Custom Sewing for the American Repertory Theater

by RB 15. February 2016 15:08

Stephen Setterlun, Technical Director at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University, was staring down a fast approaching opening for Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. His production specs called for over 60 Marvel Velour fabric panels in Rouge, each in a unique size, many with different hanging finishes. He needed the reassurance that his project would be completed on time with precision, technical skill, and closely matched dye lots of fabric. 

With the pressure of the short deadline looming, Setterlun turned to Rose Brand’s project management team. He was impressed with Rose Brand’s large stock of fabrics and sewing capacity. When discussing the project, he felt reassured when “a number of individuals from Rose Brand responded very quickly with a plan and a commitment to make it work on time.”

While the actors were busy rehearsing, our project managers were busy reformatting drawings and the production team began sewing individual panels. Tom Sullivan of Rose Brand was responsible for preparing the drawings Rose Brand received. Sullivan says, “Setterlun’s team provided us with specs for the space and the fabric panels. We quickly reformatted the drawings for our production department and shared the new ones with A.R.T.” From there, the quantities and sizes for fabrication were confirmed. The shared plans for the production were described as “very, very helpful” by Setterlun and “served to eliminate surprises and streamlined communication challenges.” 

A key in getting this project sewn and installed for opening night was time management. Production was staggered so the assembly team at A.R.T. could begin installation while the remaining panels were produced. As installation of one set of panels was completed, another set was received. 

Aside from time management and man-power to finish all of these panels in a two week period, fabric was just as important. Setterlun admits, “When time is short, inventory alone can be a savior and in this case it was.”

This was a fast-paced job with a high quantity of panels. What made it even more challenging was that nearly each piece was unique in size to accommodate architectural and seating impediments. This project involved a great deal of collaboration with production teams to ensure everything was sewn correctly and in time for dress rehearsals. 


Throughout its history, the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University has been honored with many distinguished awards, including four Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Jujamcyn Prize, and numerous Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards.

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Scenic Design: Mimi Lien, 2015 MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ Winner
Director: Rachel Chavkin
Technical Director: Stephen SetterlunPhotos: Evgenia Eliseeva


Community Spotlight: NewArts: Newtown Musicals

by RB 10. December 2015 03:47

Art has long been a form of healing. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, community members turned to the arts once again to help students cope with the tragedy. Community members knew the power of the performing arts in providing a powerful avenue for self-expression. And thus 12.14 Foundation and its performing arts division, NewArts: Newtown Musicals was born. The organization’s goal is to use performance pieces to help students gain confidence in a safe and nurturing environment and increase their overall understanding of themselves and how they interact with the world. 

12.14 Foundation has completed five large scale musicals, three of which involved the assistance of Broadway talent and Rose Brand materials and supplies. There are many local community theatre groups in the Newtown area, but according to Michael Unger, NY-Based Opera and Theatre Director and the organization’s Artistic Director, “We try to bring the highest possible level of production because these kids deserve it.” Their latest season of musicals had 20 theatre professionals from New York City who helped design, produce, and choreograph the production. 

Unger and his team, turned to Rose Brand to provide the products they needed in order to really impress the crowd. A favorite product has been the Kabuki drop system. Unger is a fan of the system, saying, "The simple magic of a Kabuki drop will never cease to thrill me. It's a simple device that's easy to assemble, but it adds so much impact to a production.  It brought the show to the next level.” In the latest production, the Kabuki system was used to drop a flag background for the finale. 

Here’s a glimpse of some of the students performing in the foundation’s latest production, Liberty Smith:

Rose Brand has worked with 12.14 Foundation by providing the Kabuki drop system along with various track systems for this production. We have also supplied various fabrics.

Where can you learn more?


Discount Store | Event | Special Effects | Spotlight on Design | Community Spotlight

Understanding the Basics of Projection Screens

by RB 16. November 2015 11:30

The world of projection can be confusing at times. We’re here to shine some light on it (no pun intended). Here are answers to common questions you’ve asked us about selecting the right projection screen material. For the novice, consider some of the more basic info below. For the more technically advanced looking to buy a projection screen, take a look at Technical Information on Projection Surfaces


Projection Resources:
Projection Glossary: Terms That Everyone Should Know 
Learn what Ambient Light and Hot Spot mean as well as other basic terms

When To Use Each of 54 Different Types of Projection Screens 
Also includes the specifications you'll want to know before buying


What influences good projection results?
Projection is very subjective. Results are based on a balance of:
1. Screen Materials
2. Ambient Light
3. Brightness of the Projector


What’s the difference between Front & Rear Projection?
The difference between Front and Rear Projection is where the projector is related to the audience and screen. If the projector is IN FRONT of the screen, you’re viewing a Front Projection. If the projector is BEHIND the screen, you’re viewing a Rear Projection.


Which side of the projection materials should face the projector? Why?
Keep the matte side of the material towards the audience for both Front Projection and Rear Projection applications. This helps maximize diffusion and minimize hot spotting.


Why is ambient light important when you choose projection materials?
The more ambient light there is in a space, the brighter the projector has to be and/or the darker the projection surface needs to be in order to increase the perceived contrast ratio. Ambient light is any light in the viewing room created by a source other than the projector or screen (daylight, overhead lighting, etc.). Ambient light reflects off the screen and washes out the image. 


How do different types of content (text, video, etc.) influence choosing the material for the screen?
Text that needs to be read and understood requires a high quality screen and projector. The image has to be crisp and easy to read. Video and image projection can have a lower quality screen and projector and still get good results. 


What is the viewing angle?
The viewing angle, or viewing cone, is the maximum angle at which a display can be viewed with acceptable visual performance. The image may seem garbled, poorly saturated, of poor contrast, blurry or too faint outside the stated viewing angle range. Some projection materials have wide viewing angles while others have narrower viewing angles. 




If you need a custom made projection screen give us a call at 800-223-1624. Rose Brand offers a large selection of projection materials including Rose Brand Premium Projection Screens: Series 100 and Series 200, Projection Fabrics, Screen Goo Projection Screen Paint, and Rosco Projection Screens.


Projection | Special Effects

Glossary of Common Projection Terms

by RB 16. November 2015 11:09

To help you select and understand projection screen materials, here are some commonly used terms from the projection world.

Projection Resources: 
Basic Info for the Novice
Learn which side of the screen should face the audience and other valuable information

When To Use 54 Different Types of Projection Screens 
The Specifications You Want to Know Before Buying

Ambient Light
Ambient light is any light in the viewing room created by a source other than the projector or screen (daylight, overhead lighting, hallway lighting, etc.). Ambient light differs in each space and, depending on the space, can be controlled. Ambient light reflects off the screen and washes out the image. The more ambient light there is in a space, the brighter the projector has to be and/or the darker the projection surface needs to be in order to increase the contrast ratio.

Aspect Ratio
Aspect ratio of an image is the proportional relationship between its width and its height. The ratio can be calculated from the image’s resolution. For example, 640 x 480 resolution is a 4:3 aspect ratio; 1920 x 1080 resolution is a 16:9 aspect ratio, the international standard for HD. 

Color Shift
Color shift refers to the variation of reflected light across the spectrum based on a projection surface that doesn’t reflect light evenly. For example, pure white can be seen with a yellow tint when projected on certain surfaces.

Contrast Ratio
Contrast Ratio is the ratio between white and black. The larger the contrast ratio, the greater the ability of a projector to show subtle color details and tolerate ambient light. 

Gain measures screen brightness and directional reflectivity characteristics. This is a technical measurement using 1 as the standard. Higher numbers are higher gain, lower are less gain. Fabric screens have a gain between 0.6 and 1. High output projectors may be needed for lower gain screens. 

Hot Spot
A Hot Spot is a bright spot of light from the projector that is noticeable on the screen. Good Rear Projection materials minimize or eliminate hot spots. Some Front Projection materials can have hot spots as well, caused by a shiny or reflective surface. Most fabrics are not good Rear Projection materials because they are thin and show the hot spot from the projector. Aglo is an exception and works well as both Rear Projection and Front Projection with no hot spotting.

A Lumen is a measurement of light or bulb brightness of a projector.

Resolution refers to the number of pixels making up an image. High resolution images can be projected quite large and still maintain detail. Projectors have a fixed resolution and aspect ratio. Resolution and aspect ratio are usually matched to the content being projected. 

Short Throw
Short throw projectors allow users to create big pictures in tight spaces without concerns about shadows obstructing the image or light shining in the presenter's face. These projectors have small throw ratios.

Throw Ratio
Throw ratio is the distance from projector to screen compared to the screen size. This ratio determines what size projection screen you can use and how far from the projector to place it in order to have a crisp image. 

Viewing Angle/Viewing Cone
The viewing angle is the maximum angle at which a display can be viewed with acceptable visual performance. People within the viewing angle will enjoy the best picture quality while viewers outside of the viewing angle will experience a change in brightness, and possibly color shifting. Some projection materials have wide viewing angles while others have narrower viewing angles. 




Rose Brand offers a large selection of projection materials including 
Rose Brand Premium Projection Screens: Series 100 and Series 200Projection Fabrics
Screen Goo Projection Screen Paint, and Rosco Projection Screens.


Projection | Special Effects

What You Need to Know About Acoustics (Part 3)

by RB 8. October 2015 03:05

Stage Curtain at Baruch College
Photo: Todd Kaplan


Rose Brand has partnered with our friends at Stages Consultants to create a blog series about the acoustical applications of fabrics. In this 3-part series, we discuss some of the more common approaches for using fabrics in performance spaces and also the things to consider when choosing a fabric for your project.

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.


In this third and final installment, we look at some acoustic data for Rose Brand’s fabrics and discuss how these differences might be applied in room acoustics optimization.

What’s It All About? 

We are looking at ways to use fabric primarily to provide sound absorption in rooms. Sound absorption reduces reverberation and loudness, and can also control reflections that may create strange sound images, echoes, or resonances. The quantity, concentration and distribution of sound absorptive materials in a room will vary depending on several factors; room size, the shape of the room, and the types of activities that will take place in the space. These factors all need to be considered to determine the quantity and distribution of absorptive materials around the room is desired. Some situations will require a concentrated amount of material in a small area and others will require an even distribution around the room. 

The process needed to determine how much absorption is needed and where to locate it in different rooms is a subject beyond the space available here, but there are a number of excellent room acoustics textbooks and expert help available through the National Council of Acoustical Consultants website (


Choosing Fabrics and Deciding How to Use Them

Once it has been determined much absorption is needed in a room, and roughly where it needs to be placed, it’s time to take a look at materials to see how much absorption they provide. The amount of sound absorbed by a material is measured and reported as an “absorption coefficient” represented by the Greek Letter alpha (α). Values for alpha range from zero to one and you can think of an alpha of zero (0% absorptive) as representing a perfectly reflective surface and an alpha of one (100% absorptive) as a perfect absorber – an open window that sound goes through and never comes back.  

Alpha is reported for standard 1/3-Octave or Octave Bands to help understand how materials perform differently at low, mid, and high frequencies. The Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) is a convenient one-number way to compare material performance, and is an average absorption for the four mid-frequency octave bands (250Hz, 500Hz, 1kHz, 2kHz) and rounded to the nearest 0.05. 

Acoustic absorption data across six octave bands are available for eight of Rose Brands popular velour fabrics.  To describe these fabrics in a bit more detail we’ve summarized their key absorption data below.  (Note that the samples at 100% fullness were box-pleated.   All samples were mounted four inches from the test chamber wall surface.)

The data below suggests that all of these fabrics are very effective sound absorbers, so it might be most important to choose the one that suits your visual preference and then figure out how much area of that fabric is needed.  If area is limited, the highest NRC fabrics will provide the most overall absorption at mid-frequencies.  In most cases, a lightweight velour will provide good high frequency performance, but much less absorption at low frequencies.  If absorption of low frequencies is required, choose heavier fabrics and add fullness via  box, knife, or pinch pleats. 



The Effect of Fullness on Absorption

With a little number crunching, we find that the change in absorption efficacy by hanging these Rose Brand fabrics with 100% fullness (using twice the fabric of a flat panel) yields an increase in absorption at all frequencies.  The improvement for each fabric and frequency band is summarized here:

As indicated below, the most substantial improvements in absorption are seen in lower frequencies and for fabrics that are lighter weight.  On average, we find about a 40% improvement in absorption by draping fabrics at 100% fullness — a useful improvement, if space to hang additional fabrics is limited. There are visual reasons for using fabrics with more fullness as well — drapes look richer and the visual depth of field and light absorption are enhanced as well.

Effects of Fullness Chart



The Effect of Spacing and Using Multiple Layers of Fabric 

There are additional ways to enhance the performance of fabrics.  All samples were measured at 4” from the test chamber wall, because less space greatly reduces performance. Fabric directly against a wall has some absorption at high frequencies if it is porous enough because the wavelength of sound at high frequencies is very small.  As we move away from the wall, we start to see the frequency of absorbed sound decrease as wavelengths get longer.

We start to see a substantial change at low frequencies (approximately 50% or more at 125Hz for a wool serge) as a result of increasing the spacing from four inches to eighteen inches, but there is little or no effect at higher frequencies.  The precise effect of spacing from the wall is not readily predictable because it depends on a number of factors including the exact materials for the fabric and wall surface, whether the gap is uniform, and wavelength of sound.   Even the way the fabric is mounted (limp or taut) can make a difference in this particular effect.  However, spacing fabric off the wall most certainly matters and measurements of specific arrangements can predict performance in use.   

We can also consider the effect of doubling up material.  After all, providing 100% fullness uses twice as much material.  So, why not use two flat panels next to each other?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out as well as we might hope. Measured results for doubling up flat panels show almost no change in performance despite a doubling of fabric quantity.  So, fullness pays but two flat panels don’t offer much benefit if they’re mounted back-to back near a wall.  

There are times when doubling-up two flat panels (or two fabric panels with some fullness) is worthwhile. If we separate two panels by twelve inches instead of keeping them tight together we can improve absorption, even for an already very absorptive fabric like wool serge, by around 5% in mid/high frequencies and 15% at 125Hz.  While this might not seem like a big change, it can have important impact on tonal balance and quality of reverberation for some performance conditions in a theater. This does take up a lot of space, especially in a small room, or a large room where maximizing occupancy is desired. Why use this approach then?  Every situation is different, but this is a pretty common condition in performance and recording spaces for variable acoustic curtains on double (or triple) tracks or banners that travel in and out of a space vertically by rolling or stacking. 


Fabric Covered Panel Options

When space is at a higher premium, it can be preferable to keep absorptive material tight to the walls. Acoustics designers often turn to glass fiberboard or mineral-wool substrates for their very good sound absorptive properties and then hide them behind a decorative fabric surface.  Many of Rose Brand’s lightweight fabrics are opaque while remaining porous, and can serve the purpose of protecting and decorating a glass fiberboard without adversely affecting its acoustical value.  

Fabric Covered Panels


One particularly interesting fabric is Rose Brand’s Rhapsody, which allows virtually any digital image to be printed on it at widths up to 120-inches.  The following table shows how Rhapsody performs when used to cover a two-inch thick six pound per cubic foot glass fiber panel.

Covering a plain glass fiber board to protect it is important in any location where people might come into contact with it, and choosing a fabric covering that maintains or enhances absorption is important.  Rhapsody provides a big increase in low-frequency performance with only small reductions at high frequencies. Absorption by the fiberboard across the frequency spectrum is more even when wrapped with the Rhapsody fabric and the visual possibilities of a printed panel are endless.


Fabrics with Acoustic Absorption Data Available from Rose Brand

Rose Brand offers Acoustically-rated Fabrics & Foam, including acoustic absorption data across six octave bands for some popular velour fabrics. View them on the main Rose Brand website


Stages Consultants provides world class acoustics and theatre design consulting for performing arts buildings. We bring to every project the knowledge, creativity, design skills and leadership offered by only the most experienced members of our profession - with the individual client oriented service that a small firm can deliver best. You can learn more about them and their services at


Acoustical Fabric | Acoustics

What You Need to Know About Acoustics (Part 2)

by RB 10. September 2015 06:19

Window Curtains at Baruch College
Photo: Todd Kaplan 


Rose Brand has partnered with our friends at Stages Consultants to create a blog series about the acoustical applications of fabrics. In this 3-part series, we’ll discuss some of the more common approaches for using fabrics in performance spaces and also the things to consider when choosing a fabric for your project.

In our last blog installment we gave an overview  on use of Rose Brand fabrics in performance space acoustics. In this second installment we take a closer look at the acoustically important differences between fabrics and identify some considerations in choosing the right fabric and integrating it into your design.

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 3 here.


The Acoustical Differences in Fabrics

Fundamentally, absorption of sound occurs when air molecules interact with the pores of a porous material. Acoustical energy, transmitted through air, is dissipated as a result of viscous effects and thermal conduction with the material. The effective absorption of a material is determined by a combination of characteristics: the porosity and thickness of the material, how deeply air penetrates it, whether it is mounted to a hard or soft backing, and whether there’s an airspace behind it. 

Looking at fabric itself, porosity and thickness are mainly determined by its fiber, weave, and pile. Many theatrical fabrics are made of synthetic fiber, like polyester, which is inherently (and permanently) flame resistant. Others are made of natural fibers like cotton and silk, which can be treated for flame resistance. Those fibers are spun into thread and the thread is woven into fabric on a loom. The gauge of thread and density of the weave can change the porosity of the overall fabric structure as much as the choice of fiber. Warp or weft threads in the weave can be woven to protrude from the surface of the weave to create pile, which may be cut or left uncut depending on the desired finish appearance of the fabric.

All of these differences affect the acoustic properties of the fabric. Viscous effects, that cause sound absorption, occur at the sub-millimeter scale. Either a natural or synthetic fiber may provide great friction, depending on the weave structure, pile density, and height of the fabric. Fabrics with a denser weave have more fibers crammed into a smaller space, making the fabric more absorptive. The weave could potentially impede air flow entirely. Pile adds thickness and more fibers per square inch. It will also increase sound absorption just like a denser weave. Denser and thicker pile fabrics are easily spotted by their weight per yard.  Generally, a heavier-weight material provides greater absorption as long as it remains porous, but solely depending on the weight of the fabric when selecting a fabric for acoustical treatments has its pitfalls. A lightweight synthetic velour at 13 oz. per yard is more sound absorptive than a heavyweight muslin at 10 oz. per yard. The more complex, tighter weave of the velour offers more resistance to the air than the simple weave of the muslin

However, lightweight fabrics can be used very effectively for acoustics when combined with a porous backing. For example, a wall, upholstered with Rose Brand’s Sonic Stretch  fabric or Frazzle over a porous substrate made of glass fiber or mineral wool, could yield as much absorption as a double velour stage drapery. In these cases, the fabrics are not used to absorb the sound. The fabric just needs to be porous and great looking. The substrate does the real work of absorbing sound, while the fabric is a protective and attractive covering.

Placement and Construction of Fabric

The thickness of a porous absorber plays a role in how well it absorbs sound at mid and low frequencies. Thicker fabrics will usually absorb more sound at bass and mid-range frequencies than thin fabrics. Most times there is a direct correlation to the fabric weight. A general rule of thumb is that the thickness of an absorber needs to be 1/10th of the wavelength of the sound  to be a significant absorber and 1/4th of the wavelength to completely absorb sound at a particular frequency/wave length. High frequency sounds have very small wavelengths, while low frequency sounds have long wavelengths, as illustrated in the figure below.


For example: How thick does an absorber need to be in order to significantly absorb sound at 4000hz with a 3 ft wavelength. Using the Rule of thumb we multiply 3 ft by 1/10th. The material needs to be 0.3 ft or 3.6 inches.

How thick does an absorber need to be in order to significantly absorb sound at 125 Hz with a 9 ft wavelength. Using the Rule of thumb we multiply 9 ft by 1/10th. The material needs to be 0.9 ft or 10.8 inches thick. 

Clearly it’s impractical to use a single material thick enough to absorb sound at mid-range or low frequencies, so we employ a few “tricks” to make materials more effective. Additional thickness is developed by sewing fabrics into layers or creating “fullness” through use of pleats or folds. A comparison guide of standard approaches to curtain fullness is available here.

A word of caution — fullness increases acoustical absorption by increasing the amount of material there is to absorb the sound. The added material means there will be more weight on mounting points and more space will be required to store fabric curtains that are tracked or drawn like blinds into storage pockets. There are many other non-acoustical considerations when selecting the right pleating and fullness for any application. The standard bolt width of a fabric will determine the spacing of seams in a curtain which will influence the spacing of the pleats. It’s important to consider how the curtain will be used and handled once it is installed. Consider the effects that folding or rolling a curtain for storage will have on the fabric over time.  There are many more considerations that your Rose Brand representative can help you sort out.

One more note on fabric placement. The motion of air molecules (particle velocity) approaches zero at room boundaries. So, fabric placed directly against a hard wall is less effective as a sound absorber than a curtain hung an inch or two in front of the wall. The air trapped behind a porous fabric helps increase low-frequency absorption, while the separation from the wall maximizes viscous and thermal interaction between air molecules and the pores of the absorber. It’s not unusual for a curtain in a theatre to be sewn in box pleats or ripplefold at 100% fullness and hang twelve to eighteen inches from a wall.

Next month, in our last installment, we’ll review and compare test data for some of our favorite acoustic fabrics in the Rose Brand product line, and suggest ways of incorporating them in acoustical designs in ways that are predictable.


Fabrics with Acoustic Absorption Data Available from Rose Brand

Rose Brand offers Acoustically-rated Fabrics & Foam, including acoustic absorption data across six octave bands for some popular velour fabrics. View them on the main Rose Brand website




Stages Consultants provides world class acoustics and theatre design consulting for performing arts buildings. We bring to every project the knowledge, creativity, design skills and leadership offered by only the most experienced members of our profession - with the individual client oriented service that a small firm can deliver best. You can learn more about them and their services at



Acoustical Fabric | Acoustics

What You Need to Know About Acoustics (Part 1)

by RB 4. August 2015 04:43

Main Curtain and Window Curtains at Baruch College 
Photo: Todd Kaplan 

Rose Brand has partnered with our friends at Stages Consultants to create a blog series about the acoustical applications of fabrics. In this 3-part series, we’ll discuss some of the more common approaches for using fabrics in performance spaces and also the things to consider when choosing a fabric for your project.

Read Part 2 here.
Read Part 3 here.

Why Are Acoustics Important?

One of the basic goals of room acoustics is controlling reverberation, or the persistence of sound in a room after the source is silenced.  While sometimes the goal is to create “live” spaces with longer reverberation times for a concert hall, more often you are looking for ways to make a room’s acoustics less reverberant, especially in theatre and studio spaces. Adding sound absorbing material to a room will reduce its reverberation time and the perceived loudness of sound. Shorter reverberation times enhance sound clarity, improve speech intelligibility, and reduce loudness.  This allows better communication between performers and audiences at comfortable volumes. It also improves source localization, including surround sound effects. 

Why Fabric?

Fabric is among the most versatile and effective sound absorption options available.  Each fabric has different characteristics, such as type of fiber and weave that determine how much sound it absorbs and whether it provides even sound absorption from low (bass) to high (treble) frequencies, or whether it is only effective over a limited range. The way a fabric is used can also change its acoustic performance.  A flat panel of fabric against a hard wall is different from a curtain with 50% or 100% fullness against the same wall.  A fabric panel with backing, or one that’s set off from a surface with an airspace, will also perform differently.  

Typical Use in Theatres 

Typical fixed fabric elements in theatres include audience seating, wall panels, wall coverings, and a portion of draperies.  Portions of draperies and dedicated acoustic elements are devices that may be extended in the room or removed depending on scenic needs and desired acoustical effect.

Acoustic Panels and Wall Coverings

When you think about acoustic wall panels, you may imagine a thick sound absorptive panel with an open-weave fabric covering like you see in many office conference rooms.  Acousticians love these panels — low-cost, reliable performance, and most clients can find panels they like.  However, in performance spaces you’re not always looking for maximum absorption or the same acoustic performance over every square foot of wall space.  A larger variety of fabrics and in different applications is helpful in tuning a performance space.

Using fabric to cover walls is a great way to increase the absorption in a room or even cover a reflective panel. Attaching lightweight materials like a tulle or muslin will make walls more absorptive than paint at high frequencies, but have little impact on mid and low-frequencies.   Heavier and thicker fabrics start to provide more substantial high frequency absorption and, depending on how they’re used, they can begin to affect mid and low frequencies, even without a porous backing.  

Section of Upholstered Wall

Curtains and Banners

While we’ve occasionally motorized a set of acoustic wall panels to allow them to be extended or retracted within an auditorium, most often we use fabric as tracked curtains or vertical banners to provide a range of absorption in a room and vary reverberation and loudness.  Velour and Wool Serge fabrics are most effective curtain and banner options, and can be doubled or combined with a backing fabric like Canvas or Commando Cloth to achieve the acoustic performance needed in a particular room.

Wall Curtains at Baruch College

Window Curtains at Baruch College 
Photo: Todd Kaplan 

Fabrics with Acoustic Absorption Data Available from Rose Brand

Rose Brand offers Acoustically-rated Fabrics & Foam, including acoustic absorption data across six octave bands for some popular velour fabrics. View them on the main Rose Brand website

In Part 2, we’ll take a more careful look at Rose Brand products and how they perform in different configurations.  


Stages Consultants provides world class acoustics and theatre design consulting for performing arts buildings. We bring to every project the knowledge, creativity, design skills and leadership offered by only the most experienced members of our profession - with the individual client oriented service that a small firm can deliver best. You can learn more about them and their services at



Acoustical Fabric | Acoustics | Custom Sewing | General

How To Use Various Netting and Gauze Fabrics in Scenic Design

by RB 1. July 2015 03:45


Scenic designers use Netting and Gauze fabrics in combination with other scenery and lighting to create visual illusions and spatial depth.  The transparency of netting and the translucency of gauze make these fabrics particularly well suited for these effects. The following describes the characteristics of various nettings and gauzes and how you might use them to best effect.



In general, the term Netting refers to materials that are used to add structure and add support to fabrics that are too flimsy on their own, or have been cut to a shape that will flop down without added support.  In this context it is desirable to have the supporting fabric transmit as much light as possible.  The supporting fabric needs to be, in effect, transparent and “invisible.” 

1x1 Scenery Netting  is used to hold the shape of cut drops with under cut profiled shapes, such as foliage on branches. The Scenery Netting is made with very light weight threads that, when used and lit in the proper context will not be apparent to the viewer.  

13’3” Scenery Netting has heavier threads and a tighter grid pattern. While not as transparent as the 1x1, it is more durable. This is a good option for a cut drop that will be handled many times on a tour or in repertory situation.

Tiger Gauze is a strong netting material with a relatively tight yet pliable pattern.  Even less transparent than scenery net, but great for cut drops with intricate patterns cut from heavy base fabrics. Also, Tiger Gauze has great durability to stand up to handling.

Kenny Net is excellent for out door use. Its ½” grid provides a very open, yet stable base to support a large variety of applied materials. It comes 14ft wide in Black. LED lights can be attached to produce an amazing see-through Animation Curtain or Star Drop. 

XNET is an IFR synthetic netting that is sturdy and stable. It’s a 1/8" square weave netting that is color fast and UV resistant making it great for lighting effects indoors or out. It has become a standard for trade show booth ceilings. It’s 16’5” wide, in White, Black and Contrast grey. This fabric is more translucent than transparent, but can be a good netting choice to support intricate patterns.



The term Gauze is generally used to describe fabrics that diffuse light. Gauze fabrics are translucent. When there is no light on the gauze, or in front of the gauze, lit objects behind the gauze are visible. The gauze obscures the lit objects slightly so the image is softened. The objects can appear to be more distant. 

Scrim and bobbinette fabrics are used as full stage, seamless light diffusers. Each type of scrim and bobbinette has its own unique characteristics that come from the size of the thread and the pattern of the weave.

Sharkstooth Scrim is a type of gauze. It’s woven to create a loose rectangular grid pattern. When steeply front lit with no light behind, a sharks tooth scrim will appear opaque. Lit objects behind are visible. Sharkstooth is woven very wide, up to 39 ft. wide. Read more on “How to Light a Sharkstooth Scrim” on the Rose Brand blog.

Bobbinette “A” and “B” can be used in a similar fashion as Scrim, but the weave is much more open and will not appear as opaque as Sharkstooth when front lit. Weave “A” and “B” have a hex shaped opening.  They are very transparent and are useful for adding atmosphere and depth to a scene. Weave “A” is lighter than Weave “B”. Both are prone to stretching due to the nature of the hex weave.

Bobbinette Weave “C” does not have the hex shaped opening of “A” and “B”. The pattern looks more like a series of alternating triangles in parallel rows. This pattern is less likely to stretch. The threads used in the construction of Weave “C” are heavier than “A” and “B”, so it performs better as an opaque, front lit drop.

Transnet is a new product that has a weave similar to Weave “C”, but the threads are lighter. Transnet is nearly as translucent as Weave “A’”, but it is much less prone to stretching and hour-glassing. It’s made from cotton and treated to be FR. Available in White and Black at 39’wide.

Square Gauze is also suitable for use as a full stage drop. It’s wide, 35ft. It can be used in close combination with Sharkstooth Scrim or Bobbinette without creating the moiré effect that can result when identical open-weave fabrics are doubled up.

XNET, described above in the netting section, is a viable gauze option as well. It’s not as wide as the others but it is strong and durable. It‘s very resistant to hour glassing and has similar translucency as Weave “A”. It is only available at 16’-5” wide

Fine Gauze is available in wide widths too, up to 32’-9”. The weave is much tighter than the other wide fabrics, and the threads are more delicate. The tight weave makes it good for use as a front lit opaque drop and a seamless back lit translucency. It is not transparent. 

Narrow gauze fabrics, such as Linen Gauze (55”w), Fine Gauze (from 9’9” to 32’9” w), Theatrical Gauze (72”w), and Cotton Scrim (54”w) are useful for curtains and draperies that can be built with multiple widths of fabric. The fabrics are seamed vertically and when built with fullness the seams are less apparent to the viewer. Gauze fabrics can be used to make sheer curtains that play in combination with heavier curtains in windows and French doors. Sheer curtains allow the transmission of soft light into a space while providing a level of privacy in the space.

Gauze fabrics can be layered on top of each other or heavier fabrics to create interesting combinations of color and texture. Different effects can be achieved by varying fullness as well. 

Gauze fabrics can be laid up flat over each other on hard surfaces to create patterns of color, translucency and texture.



Custom Sewing | General | Projection | Scenic Design | Sharkstooth Scrim

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