David L, Phil L, and Jay M from Life Teen International in Atchison, Kansas brings us this cool LED look for a conference.
From the team: We were tasked with creating an environment for the Life Teen Leadership Conference in Atchison, Kansas for juniors and seniors, on a very wide but not deep stage. After getting the stage and screen measurements, we had a design in mind and were ready to go, until we found out this set would also be used for upcoming events in Texas and California. We went back to the drawing board, and ended up with this versatile, affordable, and easy to operate set.
- 4 LED Tape Rolls
- 10 DMX decoder boxes
- 25 foot DMX cable & 10 pack of shorter DMX cable
- 25 foot cable was bought from Guitar Center
- Short DMX Cables
- Lots of wood (10 – 1×2, 6 – 1×4, 3 – 2×4)
- Box of Deck Screws
- 10 Carriage Bolts, Washers, and Wing Nuts
- Lots of Zip ties
- DMX Power: This and this.
- LED Connectors
- DMX Controller
- 3 power strips
- 4 pin LED extension cords
Our vision was an LED tape light set similar to LED by the Spirit but more versatile and portable, since we needed to be able to space out the lights differently for each stage the set would be on.
We started by cutting the wood into three main parts – 1) The long, skinny arm. 2 The 2×4 support 3) The base. We created three different lengths of arms for each side, along with a floating middle section. We measured the arms so that the top of the longest arm would come right up to the bottom corner of the screen we were working with in the meeting space. The ends of the arms that would be hitting the ground were sawed off at 45-degree angle, and we added an extra base support to prevent the whole thing from tipping over.
Holes were drilled in the middle of the arm and approximately 2 inches from the top of the 2×4, where the arms and support connected, with a simple washer and wing nut holding it tight. Then two deck screws connected the bottom of the 2×4 to the base, bringing the piece together.
After making all the cuts and painting everything a nice matte black, we measured and cut the LED tape (only at the cuttable parts, which is important) and stuck it on the arms. We started the tape at the bottom of the arms, and then ran it to the top, where we connected the cut tape with the LED Connector, which we ran down the back of the arm with LED extension cords, down the 2×4 and into the DMX decoder box which we drilled onto the base for extra weight. The adhesive on the tape wasn’t great, so we held it to the arms with black zip ties (which we pre-bent with pliers in order to get a good grip around the corners of the arm) and black gaffe tape.
The wiring into the decoder box was probably the toughest part of the job, as the power and color wires needed to be screwed into the right ports to get power and light up. We encountered a minor hiccup when we couldn’t get a solid connection with the LED connector on the exposed LED tape, until we realized the adhesive on the back of the LED tape was blocking a solid connection. After scraping the adhesive off with a fingernail, we had light.
Each decoder box required its own power supply, so this required a solid amount of power strips and extension cords. We set the dip switches on the decoders to two different numbers, so that every other light in the row was different, except the two floaters in the middle, creating a mirrored light effect. We could have potentially had each fixture selectable to a different color, but it would require a lot of dip switches and scene jumps on the controller.
Using a pretty bland DMX controller that was the cheapest one we could find on Amazon, we were able to get some pretty neat color combinations and with some quick fingers, some neat animations.
If we could do things over again, we would probably get a nicer DMX controller, as this one locked up on us occasionally, and had cool features that weren’t executed well, such as a super touchy “Sound Sensitive” mode with the sensor in the controller itself, which wasn’t reliable at all.
Overall, for the time constraints and budget we had, paired with the necessity of a flexible, movable set, this one got the job done. Three guys built this set in three days for under $700 . The set was driven in a car to Kansas, and then tossed on a bus to Texas at the end of the event. Toughest part was lots of painting and getting exposed LED wires into decoder boxes, but nothing some Jimmy Johns & YouTube videos couldn’t fix! 10/10 would recommend building this set.