Fiber Optic Star Curtain
Designed, created and written by Dan Norman
(At the time this was submitted, Dan was a Theater Major attending The University of Minnesota Morris)
In designing the set for a children’s show “a ” we needed to construct a proscenium arch. Only we wanted our arch to feature stars that could change colors to enhance the mood of the scene. After finding “The Fiber Optic Store.com” we learned how fiber optic filament could be used to create the exact effect we were looking for!The end result was a unique type of star curtain that received many “ohhhs and ahhhs” during the performance. I’d like to share with you how we created this awesome effect.
Many photos are thumbnails, click on them to view a larger version.
Begin with a Plan
I took the advice of The Fiber Optic Store and began by sketching out a scale drawing of the curtain. I used a 1/2″ = 1′ scale. I then drew a 1/2″ grid over the curtain to represent every square foot. When you look at the sketch, the portion that has the grid on it is the curtain. It frames the stage on two sides and across the top.
I was doing an estimate at one star per square foot. When estimating fiber length be sure to factor in where the placement of the light source. We have two light sources. Each off the upper corners of our curtain, 6 feet away. In the drawing I put a dot in the center of every square on the grid to represent the stars and then took measurements from every star to 6′ off the drawing. (all in 1/2″ scale.)
With the curtain taking up a space of 20 x 32 feet and roughly 200 stars. My estimate was for 3,000′ of fiber. I decided to use the .75mm single strand fiber optic filament. It was a large enough diameter fiber to give us the effect, and still very cost effective. This was important as we had a budget. The Fiber Optic Store was quick to fill my order. This was VERY important because we had a deadline!
“The Fabric of our Universe” (Making the actual curtain that will hold the stars)
The fabric is an old curtain made of black velour. I drew the pattern out on the curtain and cut it to match. From there we had the edges hemmed and surged to keep them from fraying. Once the fabric was cut and put together, I laid the fabric out (face down), and with chalk, randomly placed dots about every foot. This gave me an idea of where the stars would go.
Still another piece of fabric being cut. This particular piece was for the top part of the curtain.
Once we had all the pieces cut, we sewed them together and laid it out on the stage so we could put the fiber stars into the fabric. As you can see it is not a full curtain but an arch that will frame up the set on the stage.
Starting the Star Creation
Using chalk, I drew dots on the back side of the fabric to represented the placement of the stars. I randomly placed the dots about 1 foot apart. I wanted to map out where they would go to help keep me stay in line with my estimate. We figured on 200+ stars and the 3,000 feet of .75mm fiber.
To start, I took one end of the fiber and pushed it through the fabric till about one inch of fiber stuck through on the other side. The inch allows you to hold onto the fiber while gluing and also for flaring the stars once the drop is in place.
Using a low temperature hot glue gun, place small bead of glue that surrounds the base of the fiber. It is important to be holding the fiber on the underside of the fabric in the direction you want the stars to be pointing while the glue is cooling. otherwise the fiber will lay flat and not point out straight.
I noticed that once the fiber was glued and then run to the light source, it pulled on the fabric, and sometimes it would not point out straight. I wanted the stars to point out straight. To compensate for this ‘pull’. place two lines of hot glue out away from the bead at the base of the fiber. When the glue cools it will harden and act as a brace holding the fiber up straight.
Because the glue takes about a minute to cool, you have to sit there holding the fiber waiting for the glue to cool before you can move on to the next one. To speed up this process I devised an extra set of hands
.I took a roll of tape and a pair of pliers. Once the star was glued, I placed the tape roll under the fabric around the star. This held the fabric and the fiber, off the ground and thus did not place any pressure on the fiber. Then, on the top side, I placed the pliers right on the glue bead around the base of the fiber, holding it in place while the glue cooled.
(I also noted that the metal of the pliers cooled the glue faster)
This shot was taken in the beginning of the star installation. We started from the corner nearest the lights and worked out from there.
This photo is showing the end of the fiber that will be directed to the light source. After gluing the fiber, it is unwound from the spool and pulled pulled back to the corner. From there it is extended 6 feet to allow for the fiber to reach to the light.
Our entire star curtain laid out.
This was the best way to ensure a long life for our star curtain was to make sure none of the fibers are loose so that they don’t get tangled or pulled out.
(Comment added by The Fiber Optic Store: Some star curtains have a back layer of fabric. Protecting the fibers by ‘sandwiching’ the fiber between two layers of fabric.)
After hanging the star curtain, we took the bundle of fiber that extended 6 feet from the curtain and taped the end into a pair of color pro lighting units. The key is to have the tip of the fiber directly pointing into the beam of the light.
Here you can see the fiber going into the lights. Yes, we taped the fiber into the lights. Keep in mind this is a theater. The fiber only need to stay in place for a week. Which it did without a problem.
Our lights could produce many colors, thus giving us multi-color stars.
Here are some photos with the stars different colors. We were able to really enhance the mood of the scene with the different colors.
(The photos show the stars, but do not do the star curtain justice.)
WOW! Fantastic Work Dan! Good luck with your career!
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