D.I.Y. Star Curtain

Swade White

Member
Hello ControlBooth, I have been having growing interest in the look that a star curtain produces and I want to make one for our theater (because I have pretty much no budget to buy one). I think the best option would be to hang it from a batten that is as far upstage as I can get it and just fly it in during a scene change. How would one go about making one of these?

The dimensions would need to be roughly 10 ft x 30 ft and the depth doesn't really matter a whole lot. For the illuminator, I would prefer to go with a Martin RUSH FiberSource 1 because of the DMX control and the twinkle effect. I would probably have to buy 2 of these units because of the number of fiber lines being run at a time. For the material that it is hung with, I'm thinking a sheet of black fabric with a bar running along the bottom to keep it nice and tight. I really have no idea what I should be looking for in fiber optic cabling so I need some help there also. I know I probably forgot some details but thanks for everyone's help!
 

TNasty

Active Member
It's interesting that you mention this, my school's theatre company just rented one for Jesus Christ Superstar about a month ago.

I'm not entirely sure that fiber optics is the best way to go, since you'd probably have some tight bends, and then some kinks down the line. The one we just worked with just used a bunch of LED's of the "Cool Frosty White" variety, which went to a DMX decoder.

You could pick up some light gauge wire in bulk (paired or unpaired would work), get a load of LED's to go with it, and some heatshrink tubing to cover up the leads and stripped sections of wire. Not sure where you'd get your cloth from, perhaps Jo-Ann's, just be prepared to do a lot of sewing. You could easily drive this with an RGB DMX decoder, and just set groups of LEDs to different connections on the decoder. Just remember that typically RGB works by using a common connection for power going into the LED's, and then each channel is controlled by restricting the flow out of the LED on that specific channel.
 

Van

CBMod
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Premium Member
Fiber optics is the way to go for a star drop imho. LED's work wonder when working large scale with a minimum 40' distance. Fiber optics allow you to simply piece the fabric with the fiber, touch the fiber with a soldering iron and you're done.
I've built several. I haven't used the particular illuminator you suggested, mine have been low budget using fiber illuminators intended for commercial use that I found on Ebay. ( the twinkle and multi-color effect are really cool.)
Using a 16oz or lighter Commando is a great way to go. I done several where we've built the curtain, run the fibers and sewn them to the face fabric then covered the fibers with either a sewn on liner of lightweight black muslin or a velcro'ed on liner of the same. having a line on the back makes it much easier to take down and store, then re-install.
For fiber, you want "end illuminating" not side lighting style. as far as different qualities they will all have a rating of loss over a given run, this is very handy for calculating how many illuminators you need and how bright they need to be.
I will say that the process is SO much simpler today than when you had to rely on illuminators with MR16's in them I pulled many a melted together bundle out of the collectors of those things.
 

TNasty

Active Member
@Van You've got a good point, I think I missed the
roughly 10 ft x 30 ft
which does make the fiber route seem more viable.

Also, a big determining factor would be how the curtain is brought on to stage. The one we rented worked just like a regular curtain that split and folded out that had velcro to hold it together while it was closed. If you're doing a side or drop/lift entry where the curtain wouldn't fold, then fiber would be the better option.

Just my IT department work has hardwired me to think that fiber optics are just really fragile and aren't resilient enough for active use.
 

Van

CBMod
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Premium Member
@Van You've got a good point, I think I missed the which does make the fiber route seem more viable.

Also, a big determining factor would be how the curtain is brought on to stage. The one we rented worked just like a regular curtain that split and folded out that had velcro to hold it together while it was closed. If you're doing a side or drop/lift entry where the curtain wouldn't fold, then fiber would be the better option.

Just my IT department work has hardwired me to think that fiber optics are just really fragile and aren't resilient enough for active use.
Yeah, the fiber used for stage and commercial lighting purposes is not the same as fiber used for IT purposes.
 

Van

CBMod
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Premium Member
Oh, and I am NOT advocating the importation of cheap crap but if you are in a theatre on a budget you should REALLY spend time on Ebay looking at off-brand offerings. Will these units perform with the same long term stability as a unit from Rosco or a reputable name-brand company? No. but they sure will get you through a show when you have three weeks till opening, your budget is spent, and the Designer and Director tell you, " Oh, I want a star drop completely surrounding the outside of the set.. like a false pro."

http://www.ebay.com/itm/DMX-16W-RGB...341570?hash=item3d23e6ed02:g:ucEAAOSwIgNXwA6C
 

TNasty

Active Member
Oh, and I am NOT advocating the importation of cheap crap but if you are in a theatre on a budget you should REALLY spend time on Ebay looking at off-brand offerings. Will these units perform with the same long term stability as a unit from Rosco or a reputable name-brand company? No. but they sure will get you through a show when you have three weeks till opening, your budget is spent, and the Designer and Director tell you, " Oh, I want a star drop completely surrounding the outside of the set.. like a false pro."

http://www.ebay.com/itm/DMX-16W-RGB...341570?hash=item3d23e6ed02:g:ucEAAOSwIgNXwA6C
100% agreed on that. Sometimes I've even seen knockoffs perform just as well (and oddly enough, better in some occasions) in several product areas. Not sure how much of that translates to lighting, but there certainly are some deals to be had lying in the depths of eBay and AliExpress.
 

Grog12

CBMod
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Premium Member
When I think star drop on a budget I think fishing line, aluminum foil and the can of assorted nuts/washers in the scene shop no one has ever sorted. This with a couple of side light Elipsoidals and a black scrim if you have one works pretty dang well.
 

EdSavoie

Well-Known Member
100% agreed on that. Sometimes I've even seen knockoffs perform just as well (and oddly enough, better in some occasions) in several product areas. Not sure how much of that translates to lighting, but there certainly are some deals to be had lying in the depths of eBay and AliExpress.

Well, as for lighting I've still got two pocket spot clones off of AliExpress that work really well.
They're really quite something.

Then you get to the fact they don't have CSA or UL approvals...
 

JVV

Member
When I think star drop on a budget I think fishing line, aluminum foil and the can of assorted nuts/washers in the scene shop no one has ever sorted. This with a couple of side light Elipsoidals and a black scrim if you have one works pretty dang well.
I have done this before with a black scrim, however the theater I am at now does not own one and renting is not an option. How awful will it look without the scrim? Id hate to have the students do all the work of making it only to cut it because it wasn't as magical.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
I have done this before with a black scrim, however the theater I am at now does not own one and renting is not an option. How awful will it look without the scrim? Id hate to have the students do all the work of making it only to cut it because it wasn't as magical.
@JVV
@Grog12 Assumptions, queries and comments:
Assumptions;
Matte black fishing line for (optimistically invisible) support.
Tiny little 'Bow tie' twists of highly reflective foil for assorted sizes of stars.
Heavy-ish nuts / washers as weights at the end of the fishing lines AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO THE STAGE FLOOR to keep them as out of the patrons' sight-lines as possible. Even better if they're behind your deck supported ground row masking.
Lighting is two or three great quality ellipsoidals shooting directly across stage from each side into the other supported at three differing heights via vertical booms anchored to the deck to prevent swinging and / rotation.
Matte black "donuts in the gel slots to minimize hilation. Top hats as a possible alternative, donuts cut from matte black foil / "Black wrap" are cheaper and you can custom cut the hole to optimize.
Color temperature of your sources is important.
Color corrector gel (Remember gel in this age of LED's) can be your friend.
Queries;
What's behind your "stars"?
A matte black velour drop or traveller?
A matte black, totally non-reflective, painted flat wall? Not a concrete block wall with mortar joints to be accented by your cross-lights.
Will you have the facility to GENTLY waft a breeze across stage from off-stage of your cross-lights to avoid shadows from the fan / person waving a piece of Masonite / Foam core / Corplast / cardboard?
Comments: Can work. There're a great many "ifs"
The goal of the gentle breeze is to have the "bow tie stars" gently rotating /twirling in plan view WITHOUT having the supporting lines swinging in the breeze. The plan is to have the stars "glisten / sparkle" NOT to become shooting stars dancing back and forth across the night sky.
You're welcome to my thoughts, they're worth every penny I'm not charging for them.
Optimistically I'm your first reply. This blind guy types so slowly, five other posters have likely replied already before I can hit "Post Reply"
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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TupeloTechie

Active Member
This might be a fun project to learn about addressable LEDs, often referred to as pixels. You could go with white leds (SK6812 WWA, APA-102cw) for a more traditional star-drop, or even RGB (WS2811, WS2812b, APA-102, etc.) for some interesting effects. You basically just daisy chain each LED (usually 3 or 4 wire) and inject power as necessary. It's not near as cheap as fishing line and washers, but honestly about the same price as fiber optics, even less if you go full DIY and build your drivers with Arduinos. If your console doesn't have a lot of parameter outputs you may want to run it over a pixel mapping software such as Jinx! (Free) or Enttec LED Mapper (Affordable) or Madrix ($$$); all three can be controlled via your console just like any multi-parameter light. On top of basic star twinkle, you can also do neat things like fading through constellations or singular falling stars, as you have control over each "star."
 

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