Glowing Circles / Projected Circles.



One of the trickiest parts of set building in a non-theater environment is rigging.  Since the standard for a rig point (the part of the building that you hang stuff from, for the uninitiated) is 20:1 load factor, you can imagine the difficulties that arise when the space was not designed for visual enhancement.  Our room has suspended drywall over the stage.  This means that the drywallers hung cables from the steel, attached L channel hardware to it, and attached drywall to that.  This makes installing rigging impossible without removing the ceiling.  We overcome this in a variety of ways, but the best way for us is simply making lightweight sets.  If you are in a room where you can't hang from the ceiling, take heart!  You can still be creative without using the high steel. 


(All pics are lightboxes, so click on them for detail)


Your are going to need: 1 inch foam board, 1 gallon satin light gray paint, paint stuff, foam adhesive, 1/2 inch plywood, black spray paint, clear zip ties, 1.5 inch HDPE tubing, 10 ft of metal fish wire, construction tools - saws, drills, etc., LED tape, power supplies, modulators, 22/4 security wire, 4 hole phoenix connectors 10 12 ft 2x4's, 1 gallon flat black paint, tie line, 50 pound test fishing string, a projector or 2, ProPresenter 6, a triple head 2 go, and a general understanding ofDMX and video signal routing.

The first challenge is coming up with a drawing that is going to work primarily for church on Sunday, but also for other functions that happen throughout the period that the set will be up for, such as baptisms or weddings.  I go low tech on this.  I took a picture of our sanctuary stage with my phone, and opened it up in photoshop.  I measured the stage, and then sized the image in photoshop to scale.  This way, I can make scale drawings that fit in the physical space.  There are much more elegant ways to do this (sketchup, other CAD programs), but this works.

The second challenge is constructing the LED circles.  Our design was essentially a black 1/2" plywood circle to which we drilled holes and ziptied the poly pipe.  You want to leave one end untied, so you can fish your LED tap through.  Leave the adhesive strip on the LED tape alone.  Fish a wire through the hoop first, then electrical tape your LED tape to the wire and pull it through.  Drill a hole in the top of the hoop (1/2" should do.)  Pull your leads on the LED wire through the hole, and connect your leads and 22/4 wire into a phoenix connector. (The other end of this wire goes to your modulator.  Take a foot of fishing line, and make a slip knot around the LEAD end of the LED tape.  You are going to do the same on the other end of the tape, but first, you should know that the purpose of the fishing line is to keep the LED tape tight in the circle.   I had to bend the pipe close to the shape to see where the slipknot should be on the LED tape.  Once you have the slipknot around it, fish the fishing line out of the non-lead end of the pipe, so that you can pull it tight once you set your pipe in place. 

Once you set your pipe in place with zip ties, you are going to have to do a little work with drywall screws to get them to stay in a true circle shape.  As you can see, the circle above to to right is a little cock-eyed. 

The circle projector screens are painfully easy.  We cut foam in a circle.  We painted the front light gray to up the contrast and knock down reflection. We glued a 2x2 to the back to rig it.  The end.


Wait, we have to hang them?1?  Since, we don't have a truss that comes down from the ceiling on motors, we had to make a solution.  We constructed a 2x4 frame that has feet on both sides and is secured to the floor and walls.  We hung the circles from the frame with tie line, and then kept it straight with fishing line.  I attached some RGB par cans on the top edges of the 2x4 frame, and put some cardboard hoods over them, so that you can't see the light source.  I think this is a crucial design element in this set.  The brightness of the LED can only translates on the player, and because there is no focal point of brightness to look at, the rings and screens are that much more profound.  Also, cardboard is cheap, and so is gaff tape.  (Relatively, speaking)



The question we get a lot about this kind of set is, how do you get it to project only on the circles?  The answer is masking in ProPresenter 6. PP6 allows you to upload .png files from Photoshop and Illustrator, so if you can draw it, you can project it.  NOTE*  Our upstage is not flat, therefore our screens are hung at different depths, which did mess with the masking process.  Basically, our Worship director had to edit the circles until they looked right.  In the pictures above, the center oval screen file was an exact fit. 

We removed the center oval screen after Easter.  It won't work for Baptism, since it covers the Baptismal, plus it takes another computer and operator to make it work.  From our PP computer, we use one send of the Triple Head 2 Go to go to lyric screens, one send to the left projector which covers the left 3 circles, and the other to the right circles.  I have mentioned those projectors in my other posts;  they are amazing for $500.  Find them here.  The light programming was pretty straight forward.  Each circle connects to a phoenix connector that goes into the modulator.  The modulator sends the signal via DMX to the console.   My previous post has links to where to buy all the gear. 

That's it!  All in, this set cost about $500 in construction materials.  If you have questions, email me here, or facebook me here.  Thanks for reading.