# Star Cloth

#### disc2slick

##### Active Member
Alright, so I read once in a book, Technical Theatre for Non-technical people (great book, any new techies should check it out), anyway I read about thing the author called a Star Cloth. What it is, is basically is black, either drape or whatnot, with christmas light sewn into the back and with hole cut for the lights to poke through, thus when lit up...voila night sky.

As you see I have a basic idea of how to make one, but I was wondering if anyone has a more indepth knowledge, or a better LOW COST way of accomplishing the same effect. Also, I'm not sure how to hang it. If you read my post about Temporary Lighting in a Small Space, you'll remember I have no fly system/pipes/anything permanent at ym disposal.

thanks for the input

#### zac850

##### Well-Known Member
I'm doing a similar thing for the current play. We will be getting a pice of black scrim, as well as netting. Tie the Christmas lights to the netting, hook them up, and vola, you have it. The lights will shine through the scrim, so no need to cut holes in the scrim. Hang it with the lights aprox 6 inches or so from the black scrim, which is in-front of the lights....

should be fairly easy to do, maybe an afternoon or so (i haven't built it yet, in the next few weeks we will...)

I hope this helps
Zac

#### Mayhem

##### Senior Team Emeritus
I have seen star cloth done in a couple of different ways with each one having its pros and cons.

Probably the best one I have seen uses fibre optic cables that terminates back into a collar, which fits into a Martin Pro400. Great effect but very expensive but if looked after will last for ages and as there are no individual lamps is fairly maintenance free.

The other methods are variations of your Christmas tree lights idea. Although I have seen it done with LED’s. More expensive than the Christmas tree lights and much more time consuming to construct. Also, not very robust but LED life is better than the lamps.

The only question that I would have is “how warm do these lights get” and will be a problem if poked through your backdrop? Probably not, considering fairy lights are used in close proximity to tulle but something to consider. Some of the Christmas lights now come with built in chases, so you may get a nice effect if you choose to do so.

The other methods that I have seen used do not involve attaching light sources to the material but instead, using either UV paint, reflective tape, glow in the dark stars etc. If you were using UV paint, I would buy some calico or similar as you will probably not be very popular painting a woollen backdrop.

As for hanging the star cloth, can you access some push-up stands and poles? Who owns the venue? They may allow you to fasten some eyelets into the walls if they are done out of the way. You wouldn’t be able to hang anything heavy on them but could probably string a line sufficient to support the weight of your cloth.

Hope this is useful,

#### ship

##### Senior Team Emeritus
Zac's method would be about the lest expensive method for doing this. Say a black drape background, a net, than a scrim to mask it all. I would even go with the scrim were it the lamps punched thru the drape. Distance is also your friend. I believe the star drop thing has been discussed before heare. Also it's a frequent thing on stagecraft do a serach on past topics. But in the end, I don't know for your situation if I would build one. After it's built you have to store it. Such a drop while great is of less importance than other scenic things such as and especially a black drape wide enough to cover the stage. There was also a LED idea presented on stagecraft that might be of use. My advice is that a lamp lasts longest when on a dimmer even by 5% dimming. Christmas lights don't last that long already so anything you can do to help that lifespan would be advantagious. Especially if you use Christmass light netting which would be the easiest method. But once one circuit goes out from any one bad bulb, you loose a section if not all the effect of the net in that area. Otherwise if using strings of them, keep them as dispersed in circuit as possible. One chain should not cover a single section. This way should one chain go out you will not loose the effect in that area.
http://stagecraft.theprices.net/sta...te&dateGMT=02/1/2002&-max=50&-skip=613&-find=

As for rigging the thing, you can, but once it's up, I would be hesitant to take it back down again. My school had a great thater that was recently ripped down and replaced by something better yet. Too bad all schools are not so equipped.

First do you have boom bases you can spare for on stage usage? Six of them or at least two? You can do without but had at best tie the rigging off to the back wall. Picture this. Six booms with on the cheap side plumbing type floor flanges screwed to a plywood base with rubber or vinyl stair runner backing. Minimum size either 30" square or 30" x how ever deep you can go with the effect plus 30". Than if possible screw the plywood with floor flanges to the stage for safety, or at least to the back wall. Up from there three sets of booms/pipes about 2" shorter than your ceiling height assuming it's not much. Another set of plumbing flanges, this time with female velcro applied to them given you can't lag bolt to the ceiling. Find the ceiling joists if possible and use the flanges and pipe as if a construction jack by unscrewing the pipe enough to create tension between deck and ceiling. Otherwise if you don't have a joist above, unscrew the booms enough so they are fairly well self supporting. Next use cheeseboroughs or Rota Loc's and more pipe to span the stage horizontally in three linesets for the scrim, net and drape. Next do three to five sets of upstage to downstage sway braces in pipe spanning between the linesets. At least three pipes worth at the hang positions, or better yet two more added at about the floor level to ensure the booms have stability as legs beyond what bolting to plywood will do. You now have a grid that's not perminantly installed or going to mess up the stage as long as you don't have to take it down every night.

A potential substitute for all of this could be unistrut or Telestrut given materials and some adaption.

#### Garen

##### Member
If you still have some time, make sure you storm the stores on Dec. 26 for cheap xmas lights...I agree w/ most everyone else in this forum...except scrims run high prices...i dont see why any sturdy black fabrick would not work. Just get black thread, and if you can sew everything to the fabric....

maybe this will help
~Garen

#### soundman

##### Well-Known Member
for this years winter concerts we used some of the old big bulb lights and put them a line set or two behind the cyc and it looked good.

Rember to take out some bulbs otherwise it looks too much like a grid.

#### cmcdonald15

##### Member
It's peter pan time at our middle school, and i'm interested in making a star cloth too, well actually two of them. the fire inspector says we can use led lights but not christmas lights, they're too hot. my plan is to use cheap velour-ish black material i got at a thrift store, poke holes for the led nets or strings, and maybe hot glue?? or tape the strings to the back, and hopefully the lights won't burn out. led's seem to be new on the market, so i don't know if they are as finiciky as regular old xmas lights. I also want to hang these curtains right on top of my two (fire retardant) back black curtains, so when they're closed the star curtains are turned on, then I'd unplug them and open the back curtain to reveal the painted backdrop. Our theatre is not that sophisticated, no drop or roll-up curtain capability. any help or advice will be greatly appreciated

#### SHARYNF

##### Well-Known Member
Here is a link to a fiber optic solution, once the fire dept will not let you use Christmas tree lights, you are probably going to be in the range of the fiber optic low end solutions

http://www.del-lighting.com/Do_It_Yourself.pdf

Sharyn

#### BillESC

##### Well-Known Member
If you're buying fabric at a local store will it be flame retardant? If not it will have to be treated.

You can rent fibre optic star drops which may be the best solution for a one off production.

#### Van

##### CBMod
CB Mods
If you are dead set on building not renting and you are dead set on led as opposed to fiber optic, then let me dole out a couple of pieces of advice. < it's what I like to do > Remember LED are Light Emitting Diodes, they are polarized and will only pass D.C. current in one direction, unless of course you are using bi-colored leds in which case they'l pass either way and your stars can be two different colors but that's a completely different discussion.
There are basically two approaches when building a drop such as this;
1st
Build several "bundles" of wires and leds of varying lengths then either hot glue or hand sew then into place on the back of the curtain then poke them through holes in the curtain.

2nd
hand sew / hot glue leds in place then suspend curtain and then run wiring circuits to the leds.

either one works at honestly with a good crew both take about the same amount of time.
Leds come in a variety of voltages from 1.5 volts on up to 12, so you need to know how you are going to be powering them. you could run 120 volts d.c. < not recomended > and hook up directly to a series wired run of 10, 12 volt leds. Or you could run a 24 volt d.c. supply and hook it up to a bundle contain a bunch of 12 volt leds wired two in series, or 1.5 volt leds wired at 8 in series. I would not suggest trying to run a ton of 1.5 volt leds off of a 1.5v power supply by wiring them in parallel however, but you could. Look up all he formulas and do the math first.
I would be looking at picking up a ton of 1.5 volters though. they're extremely cheap when bought in bulk from a supply house. and the price for LEDs goes up drastically as you get into the higher voltages and wattages. since it's a star curtain you really don't need alot of individually really bright leds. so save yourself the money and go with the lower wattage leds. Hope that helps some. I'll be honest, I didn't read through the earlier part of this thread so some of what I just said might be really redundant, so I'll apologize for that. Post more and let us know what you do and how it works out.

cmcdonald15

#### Van

##### CBMod
CB Mods
It's peter pan time at our middle school, and i'm interested in making a star cloth too, well actually two of them. the fire inspector says we can use led lights but not christmas lights, they're too hot. my plan is to use cheap velour-ish black material i got at a thrift store, poke holes for the led nets or strings, and maybe hot glue?? or tape the strings to the back, and hopefully the lights won't burn out. led's seem to be new on the market, so i don't know if they are as finiciky as regular old xmas lights. I also want to hang these curtains right on top of my two (fire retardant) back black curtains, so when they're closed the star curtains are turned on, then I'd unplug them and open the back curtain to reveal the painted backdrop. Our theatre is not that sophisticated, no drop or roll-up curtain capability. any help or advice will be greatly appreciated
Oh and I forgot, Your fire inspector is wrong on the danger the temperature aspect of the christmas lights presents. There is absolutely no danger of a christmas light bulb igniting a combustable such as fabric. There is simply not enough heat generated to reach the temperature of combustion. There is, however, the risk of a spark being generated at either the plug,< where the string plugs in> , or socket <where each individual bulb plugs into the string> , in the case of an overload, or in the case of insulation failure as might happen when installing a home rated christmas light string on a flexible, moving surface, such as a soft good being flown. I would venture to say that even if a spark was generated it would not have the capability of igniting a properly flame treated soft-good however. All that being said I always like to err on the side of caution and always pay heed to the Fire Marshall.

#### SHARYNF

##### Well-Known Member
I agree with Van considering that you are allowed to put Christmas tree lights on a dry highly combustible dead pine tree, using them on fire retardant fabric seems to pretty safe.

the problem with the LED's is the wiring, and the labor involved. If you put them in series, remember that any failure not only in the led but your wiring will cause them to fail, so you need to at minimum use a combination of parallel for in essence a buss, and then you can put them in series.

Personally I would try to go with Fiber. Plastic fiber is cheap, easy to attach to the back of the material, and then you just connect the bundle to a light source.

Sharyn

#### cmcdonald15

hi, thanks for your replies, i did look into renting a ShowLED star cloth and it was $6,050. so, i can't do that, i just want to make one on the cheap. can't i coat the black material with fire retardant, is it a dunk in some solution, or a spray?? i've also heard that only three led strands/nets can be plugged together? the fiber optics kits look a little complicated. #### len ##### Well-Known Member I have seen star cloth done in a couple of different ways with each one having its pros and cons. Probably the best one I have seen uses fibre optic cables that terminates back into a collar, which fits into a Martin Pro400 ... High End ColorPro FX will also do that. #### Van ##### CBMod CB Mods Premium Member hi, thanks for your replies, i did look into renting a ShowLED star cloth and it was$6,050. so, i can't do that, i just want to make one on the cheap. can't i coat the black material with fire retardant, is it a dunk in some solution, or a spray?? i've also heard that only three led strands/nets can be plugged together? the fiber optics kits look a little complicated.
Yes you can Flamex or fire retard almost any fabric. Rosco Flamex is one of my favorite products for this. It's actually not a dunking process, The best way to do it is, if possible, Hang the soft good, mix your flamex and spray it on with a Hudson, have someone else follow you with with a brush to work it lightly into the fabric. If you can avoid it's best to not coat the piece when it's flat on the floor, sometimes pooling can occur and when the pools dry they will leave a Whitish yellow crystal stain on the surface of the good, the stain can be removed by spraying with water and working it with a brush.
Typically what you're refereing to as a a three strand limit applies to chrismast lights, they typically can't be plugged more three times or you over load the first strand in the string. Now day most strings are fused to prevent such an over load, But it's better to be safe than sorry so always follow recomendations on the box. some strands, you can plug 5 in a row, some only 2 it depends on a lot of factors. My references in my earlier post were in dealing with individual LEDs 8, 1.5 volt leds wired in a series adds up to 12 volts. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of parallel and series wiring this is not a project I would consider undertaking. Perhaps you might be better off with the projection technicques.

Actually the fiber optic kits are very easy, either way you go there is a lot of work involved building a star drop. My earlier post was, as I stated, only in case you had you heart set on building an led star drop.

cmcdonald15

#### Chris15

##### CBMod
CB Mods
Departed Member
Van, just to add a bit, the 12 volt LEDs you refer to I believe are just a 1.5 volt LED with a series resistor of appropriate size. I saw a project in an eletronics magazine a couple of years ago (incidentally it was a big christmas display) whereby they connected 8 LEDs in 2 series strings of 4 with the two chains connected in "parallel" except that the strings were opposite polarity to each other From one end of this, a 180 ohm series resistor was also added. This was then all connected to a 12VAC supply (think halogen lighting transformer). Add as many strings as you want / the transformer can handle. Hope this makes some sense.

#### Van

##### CBMod
CB Mods
Van, just to add a bit, the 12 volt LEDs you refer to I believe are just a 1.5 volt LED with a series resistor of appropriate size. I saw a project in an eletronics magazine a couple of years ago (incidentally it was a big christmas display) whereby they connected 8 LEDs in 2 series strings of 4 with the two chains connected in "parallel" except that the strings were opposite polarity to each other From one end of this, a 180 ohm series resistor was also added. This was then all connected to a 12VAC supply (think halogen lighting transformer). Add as many strings as you want / the transformer can handle. Hope this makes some sense.
Yes you can accomplish a 12 volt that way however there are 12volt leds that do not need an additional resistor. Now whether those have a micro resistor built in the "package" or not I'm not sure but there are 12 volt leds that do not require the addition of a resistor in line to handle the 12 volt current. There are also what are refered to as "High - Bright" leds in each individual voltage type these tand to have a higher wattage but same voltage, mixing a few of these style into the construction of a star drop makes for some interesting texture, you get a star field with a few bright points of light. very convincing and realistic.

CB Mods