How Do Sound Absorbing Fabrics Work?

Nothing is worse than a loud and unexpected noise interrupting a live play or recording session. You can’t control the noise that people in your immediate surroundings make, but you can put certain tools in place to prevent these sounds from interfering with your performance.

Sound absorbing fabrics are often used to drown out noise on theater sets, stages, and in music studios. Sometimes, these fabrics are even used to separate small living spaces within a single room so residents feel like they have some level of privacy. There’s no doubt that these fabrics offer a number of benefits in many settings. Despite their popularity, many people are not familiar with how sound absorbing fabrics work. How can a fabric silence outside noise? Here’s what you need to know:

How Sound Travels Through Space

Sound travels through space in the form of sound waves, which are bursts of energy emitted from the source of the sound. Sound waves start off strong, but they lose energy as they travel, which explains why you cannot hear a sound if you are far away from its source.

When sound waves enter a room, they reflect off of surfaces such as the walls, ceiling, furniture, and floors. Some of the sound waves bounce off of the surfaces and reflect into the room, whereas others are absorbed by the surfaces. A fraction of the sound waves in the latter group will penetrate the surface and continue traveling through space. But, the other portion of the sound waves absorbed by surfaces are converted into heat energy. When a sound wave is converted into heat energy, it means the surface has essentially muffled the sound and prevented it from traveling any further.

Now that you know how sound travels, it should be fairly easy to understand why there are two ways to drown out noise. The first involves creating more distance between the audience and the source of the noise. This is because sound waves lose energy as they travel. However, it is not always possible to rely on this method when you are in a finite space such as a theater or music studio. In these situations, the second method is used. The second method involves absorbing or reflecting sound waves using some sort of barrier. In many cases, the barrier that is used is sound absorbing fabric.

How Sound Absorbing Fabrics Block Sound

Sound absorbing fabric acts as a surface that absorbs sound waves and converts them into heat energy. Although every fabric is capable of converting some percentage of sound waves into heat energy, sound absorbing fabric is designed to absorb and convert all or most of the sound waves that come into contact with it. The conversion prevents the sound waves from traveling any further, meaning it drowns out the sound. Therefore, the higher the percentage of sound waves that a fabric can convert into heat energy, the more “sound proof” a fabric becomes.

The Best Sound Absorbing Materials

A number of materials are often marketed as sound absorbing or sound proof, but some are more effective than others. The best sound absorbing materials are thick and porous. It’s harder for sound waves to penetrate thick fabrics, so a thick material will be more effective in drowning out sound instead of letting the waves simply pass through. Porous fabrics are preferred because the pores act as tiny sound traps that are capable of capturing the sound waves as they make contact with the surface of the material. Fabrics that are not porous are more likely to reflect the sound waves back into the room instead of absorbing them to initiate the conversion to heat energy.

Another characteristic that is important when it comes to sound absorbing fabrics is texture. Smooth fabrics reflect sound waves, but textured fabrics are better at absorbing them. Why? The texture creates a slightly uneven surface, so sound waves that make contact with the fabric will lose energy by bouncing between different parts of the fabric’s surface instead of simply being thrown back into the room.

So, which fabric is best? Most experts would agree that suede and velvet are two of the best choices when it comes to sound absorbing fabrics. These fabrics are heavy and porous with textured surfaces, so they are capable of absorbing a significant amount of sound waves. Since velvet is less expensive than suede and just as effective, many set designers prefer this option. Velvet also has a luxurious look that makes it the perfect fabric to incorporate into an intricate set design.

The stage is not the only place where velvet is used to drown out noise. Many people hang velvet curtains in their bedrooms so they can block out noise and fall asleep with ease. Velvet is also thick enough to block sunlight, so these curtains are often referred to as “blackout curtains” since they prevent natural light from entering the room.

If your heart is set on a thinner fabric that does not absorb much sound, try using multiple layers of the fabric instead of relying on just one. Using multiple layers will add thickness so the fabric is more capable of absorbing sound waves and drowning out noise.

If you’re interested in purchasing sound absorbing fabrics, contact Chicago Canvas & Supply. We pride ourselves on providing high quality fabrics for photography sessions and theater sets. Chicago Canvas is your leading source for backdrops, textiles, theatre fabrics, tarps, drop cloths, and more. We are more than happy to provide clients with free samples so they can ensure they are choosing the right fabric for their needs. To place a request for samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing email@chicagocanvas.com.

5 Uses For Chroma Key (Green Screen) Fabric

Chroma key is a cotton fabric that is known for its unique green color. This color does more than just brighten the room–it also serves as what is known as a “green screen.”

A green screen is a type of backdrop that is often used in the entertainment industry. Actors frequently film scenes in front of green screens, but the chroma key fabric won’t end up in the final cut of the movie. Instead, the media technicians remove the green screen from the shot and replace it with whatever background they’d like. This allows movie directors to shoot scenes in fantastical settings without ever leaving the studio.

People outside of Hollywood use green screens, too. In fact, there are plenty of uses for this fascinating fabric. Here are five creative ways to use green screens:

Film A Music Video

Showcase your musical talents by filming a music video in front of a green screen. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars so you can film the video in a unique location as long as you are standing in front of a green screen. Sing or play your heart out, then edit the video so you can remove the green screen and replace it with an eye-catching background. You can even use multiple backgrounds so it seems as if you are traveling to different locations during the music video. This is a great way to put your creativity to the test and promote your musical act.

Unleash Your Super Powers

You can also use a green screen to unleash your secret super powers. Have you ever dreamed of being invisible? If so, make this dream a reality with the help of a green screen. Instead of posing in front of the green screen, wrap the chroma key fabric around your body. The parts of your body that are covered by fabric will appear to be invisible after the film has been edited.

It’s also possible to create the illusion that you are a superhero capable of flying or leaping across tall buildings. To do this, place the chroma key fabric on the floor. You should be standing in front of another chroma key green screen as well. Now, you can edit out your surroundings and make it look as if you are jumping from building-to-building or mountain-to-mountain without breaking a sweat! Make it even more believable by setting up a fan to blow your hair and superhero cape in the wind.

You can unleash the power of time travel with a green screen as well. Insert yourself into historical scenes so it appears that you have traveled back in time. Be sure that every inch of your surroundings is covered by chroma key fabric so everything can be removed in the editing room. If an inch of your surroundings is visible, your audience may question your super powers!

Step Into Your Favorite Story

Many people wonder what it would be like to interact with their favorite fictional characters. This may seem impossible, but a green screen can make it happen. Pick out a scene from your favorite movie or TV show and memorize the physical location of the characters on the screen and the way they interact with one another. Then, film yourself in front of a green screen and pretend that you are a part of the scene you just watched. In the editing room, the green screen can be removed and replaced with the scene from your favorite TV show or movie. So, if you’ve done it right, it should seem as if you are interacting directly with your favorite fictional characters.

Feel free to choose any movie or TV show you desire. Don’t be afraid to choose a cartoon, either. It’s exciting to see yourself step into an animated world and interact with cartoon characters.

Take Beautiful Photographs

Filmmakers are not the only ones who use green screens on a regular basis–photographers do, too. A green screen gives you the opportunity to take beautiful photographs in front of practically any backdrop. You can take a picture of yourself laying on the sandy beaches in Hawaii, enjoying the crisp mountain air in Colorado, or standing in front of national landmarks such as the Washington Monument or Statue of Liberty. Use your imagination to come up with the perfect backdrop for your photographs. Then, strike a pose in front of the green screen so you can remove the background in the editing room.

Teach Students

Green screens are used in classrooms across the country, too. Students that are studying filmmaking or editing are expected to use green screens on a regular basis, but they’re not the only ones. Many students outside of this field also learn how to use green screens inside the classroom. For example, students in a broadcasting class can stand in front of a green screen to record interviews, read the headline news, or even forecast the weather. This is an invaluable opportunity that can help students see what it would be like to work in the newsroom.

Teachers also encourage their students to use green screens when they are involved in mock court cases or completing history projects. Students love using green screens to make their presentations and projects more interesting and enjoyable to watch for everyone in the classroom.

As you can see, there are countless ways to use green screens. If you’re interested in purchasing chroma key fabric, contact Chicago Canvas & Supply. We are your leading source for green screens, textiles, theatre fabrics, tarps, drop cloths, and more. We are happy to send free material samples to our clients. To place a request for samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing email@chicagocanvas.com.

Church Stage Design Tips

The right stage design is key to presenting your story and connecting with your audience. They create emotion and cause excitement. That’s why a Church’s stage design is so important! No matter your stage size, we have some design tips that you can use today to improve your set design and reduce your production budget.

Stage Backdrops

There’s so many options when it comes to church stage backdrops. Some people think of church stage design as heavy metal and wooden panels with a lot of lighting—and yes, these do look great. But, they are also hard to move around, and not the easiest to install. Pairing some heavy stage materials with quality fabrics could be a great way to reduce your budget and improve your set-up schedule.

Church Stage Fabrics

Choosing the right fabrics is your next step. Below are the fabrics we recommend for churches.

Masking Fabrics – These fabrics are meant to create a dark background to allow focus on the actual set. They are meant to absorb light and hone in big spaces, and are commonly used for stage skirting.

Set Design Fabrics – If you’re really looking to get creative with your set, here are some fabrics you can use:

  • Small to medium budget
    • Canvas – Canvas is a great fabric for beginners. It’s easy to work with, so it’s great for backdrops.
  • Medium to large budget
    • Muslin – Cotton muslin fabric is lighter and thinner than canvas, and used by most professional set designers to paint and craft amazing stage drops, scene flats and cycloramas. Muslin is great for larger backdrops and cycs.

Lighting Fabrics – Lighting is the perfect way to amp your stage design “wow” factor without breaking the bank. When you pair the right fabrics with your lighting, you can get some amazing effects.

  • Scrim – This fabric is light, and has a translucent quality that creates different special effects when objects are placed in front or behind it.
  • Gauze – Another great cost effective fabric for dramatic lighting effect!

Note: Always use your fabrics safely. Use flame-retardant fabrics in public spaces and have the proper certification of compliance per your city fire department.

Have questions about your church stage design? Our team of knowledgeable fabric experts are at your service.

Curtain Care 101

When you invest money in your curtains, you certainly want to maintain their quality for as long as possible. Whether you just purchased a divider curtain for your home, warehouse, office or business or are looking for ways to keep your stage curtains  in pristine condition, use this curtain care guide to find out how to make them last.

Professional Grade Curtains


Dry Cleaning Curtains

Dry cleaning is the best option for professional non-synthetic stage curtains or any other treated curtains. Let your dry cleaner know if your fabric is flame retardant and ensure they’re using a solution that won’t affect it, as this could pose a future fire hazard.

Common flame retardant fabric used in theatre are: muslin, commando cloth, chroma key, marvel velour, sound absorbing fabric, and shark tooth scrim.

A Note on Flame Resistance

Flame retardant curtains are necessary for public spaces. A lot of factors, including curtain care, venue humidity and more, could affect flame resistance over time. To ensure your curtain maintains its flame retardancy over time, always make sure to:

  1. Test the fabric before and after dry cleaning.
  2. Retreat with flame retardant sealant solution as needed.

Dusting Curtains

Napped velour curtains will gather dust in the nap; you can lightly vacuum or beat like a rug before dry cleaning. Smooth fabric curtains will have dust on the surface, so you can brush and shake the dust/dirt off.

How to Hand Wash Curtains

If you are using synthetic fabrics (like encore velour), you can hand wash your curtains in a tub using mild detergent only (no fabric softener). Tumble dry on low, then hang immediately; never hang while wet. If you find that your fabric is simply too big to wash on your own, you may just want to opt for professional cleaning for convenience.

A Note on Synthetic Fabrics

The great news about synthetic fabrics is that, although they can get dirty, they’re easy to clean! Here’s what to do in case you encounter a common care issue with your synthetic fabric curtain:

  1. Paint marks and other stains can be spot cleaned with warm water (no bleach or harsh cleaners or detergents). Be sure to always use a soft bristled brush and test a small area with your cleaning solution first.
  2. Synthetic fabric curtains are known to attract dust. A lot of theaters choose to sweep or vacuum to get the dust off, or use a compressor hose to blow the dust and other debris off.

How to Fold Curtains for Storage

Curtains should always be stored in a cool, dry place both before and after using. You want to avoid moisture and dust to maintain the quality and life of your curtains.

Before taking theater curtains down, sweep the stage to ensure you won’t get any unwanted debris on the fabric. Use the whole stage to straighten out the curtain and fold it neatly, face to face. Store in a canvas bag (never plastic) so the fabric can breathe and prevent mildew.

Industrial and DIY Curtain Care


Plastic and Vinyl Curtains

Plastic and vinyl  curtains are both easy to clean. To avoid mold and mildew, simply wipe them down as needed. Use a non-abrasive cloth and a mild detergent/cleaner. Cleaners with bleach are recommended for clear PVC curtains being used in industrial settings.

Canvas and Drop Cloth Curtains

Woven fabrics like canvas attract dust, hair and even mold (ick!). We suggest removing all your curtain hardware seasonally to clean. In between then, use a dust brush while they’re hanging. You could also spray your curtains with some water-resistant spray to help control mildew.

Final Tips

If you’re ever in doubt of how to care for your curtain, contact a professional. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Need more tips? Check out our Complete Guide to Fabric Care, or drop your questions in the comments below.

GG Knows – A Dictionary of Textile Terms

Meet GG, one of the beloved founders of Chicago Canvas & Supply. Although she’s no longer with us, her vast knowledge of industry terminology lives on in this textile dictionary! Each month, we’ll pull from GG’s personal collection of terms—don’t miss out by subscribing to our blog over on the right-hand side of this webpage.

Ready to learn something new? Let’s get started!
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Quick Guide: What is Velour?

If you have an upcoming theater production coming up, you’re probably debating which theater fabrics you’ll need. We understand that every production, team and budget is different. But if there’s one fabric we recommend to any size theater, it’s velour. What is velour? Keep reading to find out.

 

What is Velour?

Velour is a knit, napped fabric that’s memorable for its lush feel. Velour gets its signature soft feel from what’s called a pile knit texture (which comes from a weaving process where the loops are cut off at the end).
In the theater industry, velour is beloved for its rich luster, fabric durability and clean appearance. Velour fabric can be made from cotton or synthetic material, and has a range of qualities depending on the weight and type chosen.

 

Difference Between Velvet and Velour

Velour is not to be confused with velvet. Although similar, velour is a pile knit fabric, whereas velvet is a pile weave fabric (yarns are looped into one direction). The difference? Velvet is a lot softer and more luxurious, but also more delicate and better suited for lighter applications like clothing.

Velour Stage Curtains

Velour is a tried-and-true theater fabric. Known for its light-absorbing qualities, velour is most commonly used as stage curtains.

Uses for Velour Stage Curtains

Velour fabric is super durable and versatile in use. Plus, the crush fabric looks great, making it a smart investment for small to large theaters.  Any high school, college, church, community or national theater can use flame-retardant velour fabric for:

  • Professional looking stage curtains
  • Acoustical sound absorption
  • Pole and drape applications
  • Mid-sized main settings
  • Cyclorama curtains
  • Theater backdrops
  • Stage borders
  • Stage skirting
  • Upholstery

Black Velour Fabric

Example of black velour curtains - customer photo
Black Velour Fabric (Customer Photo)

Choose from many weights, naps, colors and styles!

Comparing Stage Curtains

If you’re looking to get some stage curtains for your production, this chart will help you compare the many fabric options you have:

FR Fabric Weight Light absorbing Wrinkle-resistant Opacity Sound absorbing
Duvetyn FR Cotton 12 oz. X
Commando Cloth FR Cotton 16 oz. X
Encore Velour IFR Polyester 15 – 22 oz. X X X
Sound Absorbing Material FR Cotton 20 oz. X X X
Marvel Velour FR Cotton 21 oz. X X X

Tips on Creating a Stage Flat

Stage and set design is an art form. Whether it’s for a professional Broadway show, or your local high school production, it’s the job of the set design team to find a way to transport you from the stage to another land. The tricky part is creating scenery that captures your imagination and can also be moved easily and quickly—this is where stage flats (or theatre flat) comes into play. Read more

FR vs. IFR for Stage Curtain Fabric

What Is The Difference Between Flame Retardant And Inherently Flame Retardant Theatre Fabric?

Fabrics are an important element in theatre and arts. However, determining the proper type of fabric can sometimes be challenging, especially when it comes to differentiating between Flame Retardant and Inherently Flame Retardant.  While they only differ by a few letters, there is a definite difference between the two.

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