Intro: How to Build a Huge, Flashing Bill Board / Light Panel
I'm a party organiser from Amsterdam and I wanted something special and visual to decorate my events. I came up with the idea to have a huge, flashing billboard build by a lighting company. This was way too expensive, so I decided to build one myself in the backyard. I had no previous experience with something like this and no real technical/electrical skills, so basically everybody should be able to do this. It cost me about € 500,- and three days of work. I think it turned out pretty decent...
Check out the after movie for my Queensday Event in Amsterdam below to see the end result in action.
Step 1: 1. the Design
The parties I organise are called 'Cartel' and the logo is as shown above. The sign is 3,75m x 1,25m in total and each individual letter is 0,5m x 1m. The font of the logo was quite straight forward to resize. I advise using a fairly right-angled font/design. This will make placing the lights in a structural and pleasing way a lot easier.
Step 2: 2. Material & Equipment
- Four plates of 9 mm plywood (244cm x 122cm). Two plates are used as back plates and the other two to cut out the letters.
- 300 red E14 230V/10W carnaval/fair lights (I bought mine at www.multilightholland.nl. They sell complete light sets; including case, light bulb and socket. Also different voltages and LED, if you want.)
- 100 meter 1,5 mm electric cable
- 6 switch plugs (one for each letter)
- 1 can of red paint
- 1 can of black paint
- a jig saw
- a drill
- a Philips screwdriver
- two paint rollers
- common sense
Step 3: 3. Sawing the Design
Drawing and sawing out the design on the plywood is not really hard, but be sure to take your time and be as precise as you possible can. This step will be very important for the end result. Once drawn out, use clamps to hold down the plywood for sawing. Again, take your time to saw. And watch those fingers. ;)
Step 4: 4. Drilling Socket Holes & Painting
At first I wanted to think of a mathematical way to put the socket holes in order, but in practice I found that it was way easier to just put the cases on the letters and then mark the drill holes by hand (as shown in the first picture of this step).
I was a bit too eager to see what the end result was going to look like, so I painted the letters before drilling the socket holes. I advise to do this in reverse order. :)
Step 5: 5. Sockets, Cases and Wiring
Put the sockets through the holes. The sockets have screw-thread, so when you put on the cases (who also have screw-thread) the sockets and cases will tighten up with the plywood in between.
By sure to use parallel wiring/circuit, so not all lights fail when one light bulb breaks (=Christmas lighting/series wiring). Each letter gets it's own switch plug so it can be adressed separately from the others letters once in use.
Step 6: 6. Put Everything Together
To make all letters flash individually all switch plugs must be hooked up to a dimmer pack, which in turn have to be plugged into a light table through dmx cables and programmed (might sound complicated, actually is really simple). 4-channel dimmer packs cost about € 75,- a piece. I don't own dimmer packs myself. I usually rent them when needed.
Below a short clip (low resolution/bad sound quality) of the billboard fully functional.