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scrim curtain showing upstage scene bleeding through the scrim

A scrim (or scrim curtain) is often used in live theatre to create a magical effect: the bleed-through. If the scrim is lit correctly, it can appear as a painted backdrop, completely opaque. Then, as the lighting is slowly changed, the scrim will “dissolve,” allowing the scene behind it to be revealed as the scene behind “bleeds through” the scrim. Continue the lighting change and the scrim will disappear completely, as if by magic.

How do lighting designers create this magical effect? Much of it comes down to the angle of the lighting that hits the scrim and the lighting of elements that are upstage of the scrim. It’s important to know that a scrim is comprised of a netting or gauze-like fabric. It’s essentially a bunch of rectangular holes that are held together. Its weave is sufficiently dense to provide a surface for paint, yet open enough to enable it to disappear completely when backlit.

In order to see the scene that’s painted onto the scrim and nothing behind it, the scrim must be lit from the front at a severe angle (e.g., from above with no light spill behind the scrim that reflects onto anything). In order to reveal the scene upstage of the scrim and make the scrim disappear, the elements behind the scrim are gradually lit while the angled lighting in front of the scrim is dimmed until completely turned off.

Rose Brand is the industry’s major supplier of scrim curtains and fabrics. We sell a wide variety of scrim fabrics, which vary by width, color, openness of the netting or tooth, flame retardancy, type of yarn, weight, and number of threads. Talk to one of our knowledgeable reps at 1-800-223-1624 if you need guidance on the purchase of a custom scrim curtain or scrim fabric by the yard. You can also request a quote for a custom scrim online.

You can read more on our blog about:
How To Specify a Stage Curtain
How to Use Netting and Gauze Fabrics in Scenic Design
How To Light A Scrim (3-part article).

Learn more

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