Introduction: LED Stage Design

Picture of LED Stage Design

I was asked to build the stage design for a production of a swiss salon-quintet. The director had some very interesting and intriguing ideas of how to convey the feeling and mood he was looking for. Over the course of half a year, we finalized the optics and dimensions of the whole stage and I started to plan the build.

I was new to designing a project in which the main elements are LEDs, and I learned a lot in a very short period of time.

Since this project happened 2 years ago and I didn't think of taking all the photos for an instructable at the time, there will be some missing pictures - I apologize for that.

Step 1: The Concept

Picture of The Concept

The idea was to build a 'forrest' of sticks with a single lightbulb on top. Since the audience is situated within the stage, these sticks are to convey a feeling of inprisonment and unpleasantness, to which the lightbulbs and the music would be a counterpoint. These lightbulbs would be the only source of light (in the end we had to install some small spotlights to create a bit more ambient light and some color).

The project plays in Theresienstadt (a concentration camp during world war II) and has the focus on music written and performed in this period.

If you are interested in this very sombre but interesting and touching project, please visit this link:

https://www.salonisti.ch/en/als-ob/the-performance...

It became evident that it was impossible to build this stage with traditional 230V (I'm situated in Switzerland) lightbulbs. The sheer number of lightsources would require an enormous amount of power and very few locations could provide this requirement.

The next idea were 12V lightbulbs - this would be achievable in terms of power consumption. In terms of finances this was dismissed as well. The budget for the whole stage design was restricted.

LED technology turned out to be the solution.

Step 2: The Stage Design

Picture of The Stage Design

The whole stage consists of a large rectangular border with these rods and lightsources on top of them. The audience (grey rectangles on the first picture) as well as the performers are situated within this border. As you can see on the pictures, there are (what I call) islands with rods and lightsources inside the outer border.

The 140 lightsources on the border are controlled in two groups and are used mainly for illumination during the entrance of the audience. The 216 lightsources inside the border are controlled individually and play a significant part in the whole production. The light can move around from island to island, it can accompany the movement of musicians, it can create calm or twitchy atmospheres, it is part of the action.

One big challenge was to build this whole stage in a way that made it possible to be transported to different locations. Everything had to be modular, so it would fit inside a van. The stage can accomodate the different sizes of locations - some parts can be left out or added, depending on what is needed.

Step 3: The Construction of the Individual Rods and Light Sources

Picture of The Construction of the Individual Rods and Light Sources

Very early in the project I had the idea to use jack plugs and clips to make the connection of all these rods to the floor panels very quick and easy.

I start off with aluminium tubes inside which I mount two-poled speaker cable (the least expensive cable I could find). The jack plug is glued inside the tube so just the plug pokes out. For stability, the rods are inserted into a small foot which is bolted to the floor panels.

The lighsource itself is constructed of LED strips cut to length. The self-adhesive strips are attached to a bar of aluminium which is then inserted into the aluminium tube. The frictional connection allows for heat transfer from the LEDs to the bar and on to the tubes. The LED strip is connected to the cable inside the tube and is now ready to plug in.

The 'bulbs' are clear glass spheres I had manufactured in china. I couldn't afford these spheres in Switzerland so I had to branch out to aliexpress (1/11th the price!). A small company produced them - everything went smoothly and the order arrived in Switzerland with not a single sphere of the 500 broken. They were sandblasted to diffuse the light and create the effect we wanted.

Step 4: The Floor-Panels and Wiring

Picture of The Floor-Panels and Wiring

All the feet, rods and lightsources are distributed on 20 wooden floor-panels. The distinctive shapes allow for platforms which are built between the lights. The performers move around quite a lot and the whole stage is being played on. One giant part of this build was the wiring and controlling of all the individual lightsources.

The border around the stage was designed a bit differently, since every other light was connected. That means there are just 2 circuits, but each with about 70 lightsources, which in term draws quite a bit of power. It took a while to get it up and running, but it did work in the end.

I installed RGB-LED controllers on the underside of the panels which could control 27 LED's each. The wiring to every plug took a lot of time, but in the end it allows for a quick assembly of the whole stage. On top of the individual LED's, there was a lot of wiring for the 12V power supply to every controller.

The controllers are connected by DMX (an industry standard in stage lighting) and controlled from a console that can do almost everything. For the programming of the lights I had to get a professional involved.

Here is a short clip of almost everything working during the first installation of the whole stage:

Step 5: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

The whole build was very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot! At the same time, it was extremly stressful and annoying! The time I had allotted for this project was too short and the technical difficulties started to pile up at some point. Thanks to helping hands and friends who chipped in, everything was ready for the opening night, but only just.

I would do many small things and details in a different way if I was to build this stage again - but the main concepts and ideas did work out and I wouldn't alter them.

Thank you for reading this instructable. I'm aware that it is not as instructive as it could be, but I really wanted to present this project even though it is not likely to trigger a similar build.

If you have any questions regarding this project please do contact me.

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Bio: I'm a carpenter/brewer/woodworkshop-teacher/musician from switzerland. For as long as I can remember, I was making stuff. Due to my professional education ... More »
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