A very common question with a potentially different answer for everyone.

Before you can calculate how much fiber optic filament or cable you need to create your own star ceiling, you’ll need to account for several variables.

- How large is the room?
- What is the desired star density?
- Where is the illumination source located?
- How many fibers can your illumination source accommodate?
- What is your budget?

The answers to these questions will determine how much fiber optic filament or cable you’ll need to accomplish your star ceiling project.

To help you understand how to calculate the amount of fiber optic filament you’ll need to do your star ceiling, we’re going to step you through the calculation, using a 10 x 10 foot room.

Let’s begin our calculation. (Thumbnails: Click on image to enlarge)

LAYOUT: First we recommend the you do a sketch of your future “star room”. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. A piece if graph paper, and a rough sketch to some type of scale is all you need. Be sure to show the locations on the doors and windows. I like 1/4 inch graph paper and a 1/4 = 6″ scale. (1/2 inch = 1 foot) Our example will use a simple 10 x 10 foot room.

DIVIDE: Next we divide the room into 2 by 2 foot squares. TIP: For those of you with suspended ceiling this could represent your future ceiling panel placement. In our example we have twenty-five 2×2 squares.

IDENTIFY: Assign each square a unique “name” or identifier. We use the letters of the alphabet. In addition to helping us determine the amount of fiber, this letter grid will come into play later in our project during the actual fiber installation, management and troubleshooting.

Now we begin the fiber calculation.

BEGIN SIMPLE: To help you better understand the technique of calculating the amount of fiber you’ll need to do your star ceiling, we are going to begin simple. For our example imagine ONE star placed in the center of each square. This will give us 25 individual stars. We have decided to place our illuminator behind the door. We’ve represented this on our diagram by the red square in “Square Y”.

Next we draw a straight lines line from each “star” to the illuminator. Now, if you’ve drawn the room to scale, you can determine the approximate distance from each star to the illuminator by measuring each line. For our example, the line drawn from “Star A” to the illuminator is 6.5 inches. On a 1/2″=1 foot scale, that’s approximately 13 feet. After measuring each line and converting for our scale we’ve determined that it would require 191 feet of fiber optic filament to have one star in the center of each square.

- Click here to see our calculation of the 191 feet (A separate window will open)

OUR FIBER TOTAL SO FAR: 191 Feet (But this is only for 25 stars, let’s continue…)

Star Density (Star Density = how many stars per square foot.)

Assuming that you would like to have more than one star per 2×2 foot square we need to determine the star density. From there we will and adjust our fiber calculation accordingly. How many stars per square foot is a matter of personal preference. Let’s take a look at the three most popular star densities:

Ratios: We use a ratio to describe the star density. When we say the star field is on a 4:1 ratio, we have 4 stars per square foot. 16:1 = 16 stars per square foot.

4:1 Star field (4 Stars per Foot): Here is a simulation of a 2×2 foot panel at 4 stars per foot. That’s 16 stars per 2×2 panel. This creates a very nice, quiet pattern, and in our opinion this is the lowest ratio we would use.

Click here to see a pop-up page that uses the 4 stars per foot image as a repeating pattern.

8:1 Star Field (8 Stars per Foot): This is our favorite star density, 8 stars to 1 foot. In our 2×2 square there are 4 square feet. At 8 stars per foot, that equals 32 stars per 2×2 panel. (4×8=32) Here is a simulation of one 2×2 foot panel at 8 stars per foot.

Click here to see a pop-up page that uses the 8 stars per foot image as a repeating pattern.

16:1 Star Field (16 Stars per Foot): Here is a simulation of a 2×2 foot panel at 16 stars per foot. This works out to 64 stars per 2×2 panel. This is a very busy star field.

Click here to see a pop-up page that uses the 16 stars per foot image as a repeating pattern.

The above 3 examples should give you an idea of the increasing densities of different star ratios.

Star Ratios and our 10×10 Room: Now let’s take a look at the different star ratios from the perspective of our 10×10 room. Click on the respective thumbnails to see the different Star Ratios. (You’ll notice that some of the stars are brighter than others. This is a technique that we will share with you later, in the installation area of our guide.)

1:1 Star Field |
2:1 Star Field |
3:1 Star Field |

4:1 Star Field |
5:1 Star Field |
6:1 Star Field |

7:1 Star Field |
8:1 Star Field |

( These are all thumbnails: Click on the image to enlarge in separate window)

The Star Density for our 10×10 Example: For our 10×10 example we are going to use an 8:1 Star Ratio. Remember, that’s 8 stars per foot. This will give us 800 stars. At an 8:1 ratio, our 2×2 panels will have 32 stars per panel.

How to adjust your fiber calculation based on your Star Density.

QUESTION: Go back to our 10×10 foot room and the 2×2 foot squares. Currently we have just one star located in the center of the square. (It required 191 feet of fiber to place one star in each square’s center) Let’s say that, for our example, you would like to have 32 stars in each of the 2×2 squares. (That’s an 8:1 star ratio). Because the stars will be distributed throughout the 2×2 square they would all be at different distances from the light source, How would you calculate for the additional fiber needed?

ANSWER: The answer is different depending which type of fiber you use: Single Strand filament or Fiber Optic Cable.

Single Strand Filament Explanation: Take one of the 2×2 squares with the single star in the center. Randomly add 32 stars. Draw an imaginary line through the original center star dividing the square into two halves. If you’ve randomly spaced the stars throughout the 2×2 square, you’ll have 1/2 of the stars above the line, and the other 1/2 of the stars below the line. Based on the distance from the light source, the stars ABOVE the line require MORE fiber, the stars BELOW the line will require LESS fiber. These two halves tend to offset each other, therefore we do not need to make any major adjustments for additional fiber. (We’ll talk about the 3rd dimension adjustment a bit later.)

Fiber Optic Cable Explanation: With 32 stars per panel, you will be able to use our 32 strand fiber optic cable. This 32 strand cable, is brought (intact) to the center of the 2×2 foot square. After reaching the center, the fibers are released from the cable and distributed over the 4 square feet, to create the 32 stars. The longest distance that any single strand would travel, from the center, would be an additional 1.5 feet.When using fiber optic cable, we adjust our fiber calculation by adding an additional 1.5 feet for each 2×2 panel. This is because the cable length needs to equal the maximum length required to reach the farthest corner of the panel. While using cable will result in a bit more waste, however, we feel it’s a fair trade off when you consider that cable is much easier to manage.

So what is our fiber calculation adjustment for the 8:1 Star Density? (32 stars per 2×2 panel)

Single Strand: At 32 stars per panel, we take the original 191 feet and multiply it by 32 giving us: 6,112 feet.

Cable: Take (25 panels) x (1.5 feet) = 37.5 feet. Add this to the original 191 feet = 228.5 feet of 32 strand cable.

OUR FIBER TOTAL SO FAR: 6,112 feet of Single Strand OR 228.5 feet of 32 Strand Cable.

The 3rd Dimension: We have just one more step in the calculation equation: The 3rd Dimension. So far all of our calculations have been on a flat 2 dimensional plane. We need to adjust for the stars being threaded through the panels AND for the illuminator being placed anywhere OTHER than in the ceiling panels.

Threading Adjustment: This is a small adjustment that can add up quickly! If we have 800 stars and we need to thread them through the panels, this adds an additional 3-4 inches to each strand or cable.

Single Strand we would use: 800 x 3 inches = 200 additional feet.

Cable we would use: 25 panels x 3 inches = 6 feet (+/-)

Illuminator Adjustment: If your illuminator is placed on the same plane as the stars (in the ceiling panels) you do not need to make an adjustment for this dimension. However if you need to bring your illuminator down a few feet, you’ll need to add additional fiber. For our example, lets say the the illuminator needs to be brought down to a shelf 1.5 feet below the ceiling.

Single Strand we would use: 800 x 1.5 feet = 1,200 additional feet.

Cable we would use: 25 panels x 1.5 feet = 37.5 feet

OUR FINAL FIBER TOTAL: 7,512 feet of Single Strand OR 272 feet of 32 Strnd Cbl.

(10×10 room with 25 2×2 panels: includes a 3″ threading adjustment and a 1.5 foot illuminator adjustment.)

A TABLE TO HELP GUIDE YOU: CLICK HERE: For a table showing the different lengths of Fiber Optic Filament necessary to create different Star Densities in different sized rooms.