Having figured out a reasonable method for the stars, I began pulling together my ideas for the control panels.? Originally,? I played around with the idea of installing several old computer monitors through out the room and driving the images from a main CPU.? While having ‘live’ computers would have given us greater flexibility, it would also add the potential for maintenance and additional expense.? I had to stay focused that this was a child’s playroom!
Images are mostly all Thumbnails:? Click to enlarge
I came up with a design that was taken directly from Star Trek.? Basically a light box with a removable top cover “frame”.? This frame would hold a LCARS like control panel image sandwiched between two pieces of Plexiglas.? The light source inside this box that would illuminate the LCARS control panel from underneath.? I needed to have the light box accessible to change the light bulbs.? To the left is the actual cross section diagram I used to design the first prototype.? (…misspellings and all ! )
This one diagram was the ‘fuel’ for the entire control panel process.??
Building A Control Panel Prototype? The last time I checked amazon.com, there was no “CONTROL PANELS for DUMMIES” guide available.? While I had an idea of how to build the control panels, I did not want to start down a particular path, only to find out that it had design flaws.? I decided it might be wise to build a Control Panel Prototype.? I would build this smaller version using the exact same techniques I planned on using in the full sized control panels.? That way I could adjust and modify my technique before building the full scale version.?
A Great ‘Night-Light”? Here’s the finished prototype.? Basically a light box with a “frame” opening that would hold the control panel image.? (My son did use this as an awesome “night-light”.)
Let’s look at the various components.
The LCARS panel “films”
For the control panel images, I experimented with several different ideas and designs.? Finally I came up with a DOUBLE layered film.? The two images are identical: The bottom image is laser printed on a white photo paper.? The top layer is laser printed on a transparency.? When the two layers are sandwiched together in perfect alignment, it has an awesome 3D effect.? I found it necessary to have TWO layers to obtain the richness of the colors and the ‘blackness’ of the black.?
How do I Secure the “images” into the light box frame?
I needed a way to illuminate the control panels, and at the same time, stand up to the normal playtime abuse.? The Plexiglas would be subject to kids leaning on it, hitting it and other normal ‘play activities’!?
THE KEY:? Removable HOLD STRIPS!? Sandwiching the ‘films’ between two pieces of Plexiglas, setting this into the frame recess and finally holding it all in place from beneath with a 3/4 inch hold strip proved to be the perfect equation!?? It may not be ‘pretty’ but remember… It’s OFF STAGE!
THE LIGHT BOX.? Compared to the control panel frames, finishing the light box was the easy part!? I needed to attach the top frame to the bottom box and be able to access the light source.? (You never know when you might need to change a bulb.)? This was accomplished by using very long (2-3 inches) bolts and a secure nut, held in place below the two triangular shaped supports.?
HIDE THE BOLTS? I used bolt caps to finish the look and hide the bolts.?
Here are a couple of shots of the ACTUAL space place control panels showing the bolt covers.
WHITE PAINT!? Be sure to paint the inside of the box white to maximize reflection.? I would recommend doing this BEFORE you add the florescent light source!??
Actual Space Place Control Panel: OFF STAGE? This is a shot the Main control panel from behind, through an access panel.? More photos can be found in the Star Field Off-Stage area.? I wanted to show you how close the actual design followed the prototype.
OK, So HOW did I create the ACTUAL Control Panel images??
The Actual LEFT & RIGHT Main Control Panel Images
(The images are scaled down considerably)
The ACTUAL Control Panel Image Design Process.
The above two images are the actual MAIN control panels (reduced in size and DPI).? Once I had the exact dimensions each of the 6 control panels would occupy, I began the time consuming task of designing and laying out each control panel.?I was fortunate to find an awesome computer CD: STAR TREK CAPTAIN’S CHAIR.? Here I was able to take virtual tours of five starship bridges.? Armed with my digital camera, I took hundreds of digital photos of the various control panels.
From there I did a lot of “cut and paste” and extensive “pixel work”!? I would literally design whole sections of a control panel, pixel by pixel, for hours at a sitting.? Very intense, but the end result was worth it!