Stage Designs

Poke Stage

Mark Manley from The River Church Community in San Jose, CA brings us this video game stage design.

From Mark:

Our church was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, and so we rented a space with a proper stage, and thus the ability to be more creative. We needed to create a program that would engage families for ~90 minutes. Knowing this would be hard for the younger ones, we designed a theme around a video game, with lots of animation, voice, lights, to keep it fun. In this presentation, we told the story of the church.

Set piece 1 – Game Controller
Intent: use rear projection within a video game controller (left side)
Constraint: had to be 8’ x 10’, and be easily transportable (lightweight and quick to break down) and be assembled very quickly on site (rented facility).

Constraint: had to be flown and anchored to prevent sway

The foam product I used was Owens Corning “Foamular 150”. It is a rigid insulation I bought from Home Depot. 4×8 foot sheet about $22.00. It cuts very smoothly with a table saw or circular saw with fine blade. Using a razor blade knife works pretty well, but can tear the foam a little. The good thing is that you can also sand it smooth with a block sander or probably even an electric sander. But wear a dust mask!

Don’t use aerosol paint on this foam as it can melt it some. That is why the finish is a little rough in spots, I used a roller or paint brush to paint after since the spray paint didn’t come out well.

I just used Liquid Nails to glue the 1X wood backing. Just use some kind of weight to hold it in place and let it dry overnight. You could probably hold it in place with tape on that side also since it would be out of view. You can also glue the 1″ thick pieces together to build up thickness. If you build up a lot of pieces together and don’t like the seams, you can use duct tape along the edge and then paint to glue strips of thin art board and paint.

Don’t lean on the foam while you are cutting because it dents easily.

A pair of eye bolts was attached at the top and bottom, for hooking to the fly bar and anchoring to the sandbags, respectively.

The screen surface shown in the photo was from IKEA, and as you can see, it has a seam running right through the middle, so we cut up an old projection surface we had laying around (from Rose Brand), and stapled that on site at the last minute.

Set piece 2 – Inventory:
Intent: use rear projection within a video game controller (right side)
LED strips would outline each of the 9 squares within the overall surface, Hollywood Squares-style.
Constraint: had to be 10’ x 10’, and be easily transportable and assembled very quickly on site (rented facility)
Constraint: had to be flown and anchored to prevent sway

2×2 frame, braced with steel braces (like metal strapping, but thicker/stiffer)
border is covered by colored coroplast; attached with construction adhesive
projection surface laid in, but not attached until build time.
– laid in the lighting grid (tight fit within the 2×2 frame) – this allowed tensioning the projection surface
– stapled the projection surface to the frame all around the outside of the lighting grid

Lighting Grid From Interlocking LED Bars:
Requirement: stable, rigid, self-squaring rig, that could fit inside a set piece, or be flown on its own. Must have thin, clean profile and easy/quick to assemble.
Must be able to sit behind a projection surface (clean routing of wires, no cross-braces, etc.)
Also important- must be able to break down into two or more smaller pieces for transport and rapidly assembled on site, including electrical connections.
– I considered PVC pipe for the frame, 2×2 lumber, but those didn’t seem either rigid enough, or easily able to be broken down and re-assembled. Also, those materials didn’t seem to me to be able to be easily reconfigured for future designs.

– 1×1 aluminum tube pieces, assembled into a grid, using interlocking quick-release connectors.
– each “bar” would be self-contained, including the LED strip, with a short stub connector.
– the bars were numbered, according to a plan
– specific lengths of cable were cut for each bar, and those cables were then labeled also. This would ensure rapid setup at load-in.

Parts List:
– 24 pieces of 1×1 aluminum tube, cut in 32.5” lengths (more about this particular size later)
– 1/4-20 pemnuts installed in 3 places
– drilled for snap connectors
– different snap connectors: corners, 3-way, 4-way
– lighting strip
– 4-pin J-connectors with pigtails; male and female
– LED strip end press-to-connect fittings
– lots of 4-conductor ribbon wire
– double-sided foam tape
– wire ties
diffusion – allowed lighting strip to be slid inside it, with even spacing between the led themselves and the diffusion material – very even light output.
used 24v lighting strip- very high output!
attached diffusion strip to aluminum tube with 1/2” wide foam tape, in 3 places, to make removal easier if need be.

Command and control:
– set of 4, 8-channel DMX controllers and beefy power supply
– strips don’t draw that much power at only 32” length

– first I had the aluminum tube cut to length and drilled/fitted with PemNuts, and pre-drilled for snap connectors. The reason I chose this length was to accommodate the cut-lines on the LED strip, to maximize the number of LEDs and minimize the “dark areas” of the aluminum. The LED strip had cut lines every ~4”, so I had to work in multiples of that dimension. Additionally, I left some space for the end connector and wire management.
– Once I had all pieces in house, I cut the LED strip at the right spot.
– I installed the diffusion tube with 3M double-sided foam tape. Regular double-sided tape is not strong enough and won’t allow for flex in the tube/diffusion before breaking away from the surface. Foam tape allows for that; plus the 3M stuff I chose has quite the adhesive strength.
– I attached the connectors to the pigtail wires. Note these connectors come in waterproof and non-waterproof varieties; match the LED strip to the connector or they won’t work.
– I attached the other end of the connector to the LED strip.
– I tested the LED strip on my test rig for red, green, blue (this ensures all of the ribbon wires are making contact with the LED strip
– I slid the LED strip into the diffusion channel
– I zip-tied the connector to the aluminum tubing. This ensures the LED strip won’t fall out and the connector won’t come loose


Now, I did it 23 more times.
I actually did most of the strips in batches, doing all the cutting first, then all the pigtail connectors

Next step – assembling the frame:
– I drew a grid, having numbered each of the strips (1-24)
– For each strip, I mapped the wiring down the grid, to create the shortest length of wire.
– For each strip, I determined the length of wire and put it in a spreadsheet. My cable lengths ended up being between 8’ and 21’. I added some at the end so I would have some connection length between the bottom of the grid and the controller box panel.
The controller assembly simply sat on the floor behind the set piece. A single DMX cable ran back to video world.

Throwback: Big Baller Those Hexagons are Lit!

One response to “Poke Stage”

  1. Mark Manley says:

    I loved this project!

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