Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Booth Configuration

After much hemming and hawing, I've decided to invest in another booth expense - a lighting rig. Well, really, it's just a pipe-and-joint frame that will give me a place to attach lights to shine on the front of the booth.

At most of my indoor shows this year, I've lamented that I could not properly light the side of the booth that customers see first - the front. At one show in November and at the next one, the booth size was strange: 8'x4'. This just gives me room to set up my racks, but does not give me any way to suspend lighting, until now...

I decided to go with a classic solution: pipe and joints. This is the way people built booths in the days before popups. It's like a life-size erector set - slide the joints onto the pipe, tighten a little bolt, and you're good to go.

There are several features to this design:
- There is a horizontal lighting bar suspended in front of the booth to let me light the front of my garment racks.
- There is another horizontal above the entrance to let me aim more light toward the back wall.
- There is an adjustable rail set at 7' high on 3 sides. This will let me attach the gridwall for displaying scarves and hanging the mirror.
- There is a frame from which to hang the drapes.

So, even though my space is tiny, It'll have all of the features of a full-sized booth: carpet, drapes, gridwall, lighting, racks and mirror.

One benefit to a modular solution like this is that it's reusable in multiple situations. The show after this is another indoor show, but with a standard 10'x10' booth space. For that show, I'll use the canopy, but reconfigure this pipe setup as a sturdy wrap-around lighting rig. To do that, I'll need two 10' pipes, but no other new parts. I'll zip-tie the front uprights to the canopy, but put no weight stress on the canopy itself. (This is important because the canopy cost twice as much as the lighting rig. I don't want to break it by trying to cantilever lights off of it.)

Since the system I've chosen uses standard 1" electrical conduit that's available from any hardware store, I will be able to design and implement new uses for these parts on the fly if I get to show and find that there's something else that I could use them for.

If you're wondering what software I used to calculate these drawings, it's a little java program that I've been using for years. It's really meant to teach and explore geometry, but it's perfect for this sort of thing once you get used to it. It's called Zirkel or C.a.R., which is an abbreviation for "Compass and Ruler". You can use it in your web browser or download a desktop version HERE. It's completely free and much more powerful than what I'm using it for.

It does something that no other program will do for me - maintain live linkages with the geometry. Any "arbitrary" points are moveable and the rest of the construction will modify itself when they are moved.

For a design like this, I start with two arbitrary points, constrained to be 8' from each other, and a line segment between them. Then I use geometric primitives for everything else - the horizon is perpendicular to that first segment, passing through the lower of the two points. All of the uprights will be perpendicular to the horizon. The locations are determined by using circles to carry distance, etc.

In the end, I can set the distances and angles that I know and then take accurate measurements from the drawing itself for the distances that I don't know. There's no "eyeballing" or "guessing". And when I'm done calculating, I can hide the things that I used for calculation and create a clean finished drawing. Here's what this drawing looks like with the calculation objects visible:

Those little dots and circles across the bottom are really the secret. The 3/4 view is an oblique view, meaning that the heights are accurate and the widths are accurate, but offset from each other to give the illusion of 3D. Those little dots let me move the whole drawing or change how much the planes are offset from each other to create the oblique view. Some of them are constrained to the correct measurements. Once you get the hang of it, there are lots of problems for which this simple program is the easiest and most elegant solution.

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