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Welcome to the Drama Workshop resource forum at Rotation.org.  Don't forget our related "drama" resource forums: Puppets and the Lego & Storytable Workshop resources which are also forms of drama. This forum also ideas and resources for creating video and creative photography, "flat lay" techniques, and the like. For drama ideas and lessons for specific Bible stories visit the Lesson Forums.

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Immersive and sensory-rich environments make learning fun and memorable. They are essentially what "drama" is all about --pretending you are there in the story. Using lights, flashlights, and filters to illuminate your classroom ceiling and walls with stars, galactic colors, fire, or clouds, and other special effects is always a crowd-pleaser --and it gives non-actors a way to contribute and feel part of the story.

In this first post, we'll describe some "DiY" Do-It-Yourself techniques for creating fun nighttime "Galaxy and Nebula", "Starfield," "Fire" and similar such lighting effects for your classroom drama.

Since most of the following materials and ideas can be reused for other stories, we're going to leave the budget restrictions up to you. In a Rotation Model Drama Workshop, however, the following supplies can be considered part of your regular equipment kit.

[There are also some neat "galaxy and star projectors" on the market. See our notes below about our experiments using the Bliss Sky Lite 2.0 projector. It's cool. It was this $60 projector that sent us looking for DiY alternatives and the discovery of how "mermaid" fabric can create a fun similar effect if you own a bright flashlight or two.]

Introducing your New "DIY" Star and Nebula Projector!

Sequined "Mermaid" Fabric and a Strong Flashlight

The following Do-It-Yourself "galaxy" and "starfield" projection technique was originally developed by our Writing Team for the Drama and Music Workshop in its "Story of Creation" lesson set.  It uses easy-to-find and use materials, such as sequined "mermaid" fabric and flashlights (strong ones for best effect). We developed this DIY Galaxy and Star Projector technique as an alternative to the "galaxy and star" projectors you can buy online and can cost as much as $60.

DIY-Galaxy-Projector-Rotationnebula1

Ceiling shot of the "Story of Creation" nebula we made using a piece of blue/silver mermaid fabric and a 1300 lumens flashlight.

Here's the video of the effect. Our camera wasn't too good in the low light of the dark room. The colors and light are brighter in person. We shot this testshot during the day with the blinds closed.

HOW TO:

  1. Lay the sequined fabric on the floor or table at a short distance from the actors.
  2. "Flip" a few sequins to show their silver side if you want to create white spots or stars on the ceiling.
  3. Shine one or more strong flashlights at the fabric to reflect the color of the sequins onto the ceiling and wall.
  4. Move the flashlight to create movement on the ceiling.
  5. Play with the angle of the flashlight and different colors of the sequined fabric to see which results will suit your drama.  Add a second color of sequined fabric next to the first to mix and match colors/clouds/nebula/stars on the ceiling.
  6. You can also change the angle of the fabric by laying it on pillows. This can help "project" your effect across the room or onto a wall. Experiment! It's fun.

Note: Higher powered LED flashlights usually have two or three Light Emitting Diodes in them which will create multiple reflections.

Note: Make sure your special effect wizards move their flashlight SLOWLY --otherwise you can make everyone dizzy with your effects.

(((**As cool as those fancy projectors are, one of the problems of the better ones is that they use laser lights to create their stars --which are a health hazard. So depending on which one you get, it may have limited use. Sequined fabric and a strong flashlight is a worthy replacement, And Sequined fabric has many other uses. It can become part of a "royal" costume. You can also have your "angel" wear it and have someone shine a bright flashlight beam on them so they sparkle.))

Not all flashlights are created equal!

CautionFlashlightCheap or low-powered flashlights will barely illuminate across a distance. For best special effects over a distance, use flashlights that have over 1000 lumens more of power. Inexpensive 300 lumen flashlights are only good for hobbies and shining on a path.


Have $35 to $60 to spend?

Then consider buying one of the many Star Projectors sold online. I tested the "Bliss Sky Lite 2.0 - "Galaxy Projector" with kids and they absolutely loved it. And depending on where I sat the projector it DID INDEED FILL the walls and ceiling with bright stars and moving colors. I could control the colors, shapes, and starfield with an easy-to-use app too. Was plenty bright enough in the bedroom, living room, and classroom. Very cool piece of equipment that lived up to its advertising.

BlissSkyLite2.0-big

The only thing you have to watch out for is that the stars are projected by lasers so you need to place the projector ABOVE the eye-line of your students so they don't look into the laser light, or position it so the star projection is behind them and they can't see directly into it. It's not hard to do, just have to pay attention to your positioning. You can turn off the "star" lasers and just use the "nebula" effects.

There are other slightly less expensive "star" projectors online (check Amazon), but read the reviews first and don't trust the product pictures for how "bright" the projection really is. I can only speak for the Blisslight product because I tested it and it worked great.

galaxylight$35 to $60 might seem like a lot, but consider this:

  • The projector can be used to create effects for MANY stories/dramas.
  • High powered flashlights and batteries are not cheap.

Whether you go the DIY or purchase route, you'll still want to have some "mermaid" sequin fabric on hand for special effects and shiny costumes (like the radiant angel at the empty tomb).

When could you use these special effects?

Here's a short list of Bible stories that take place at night, or feature stars, or clouds, or fire --all of which can be dramatized with fun lighting effects:

The Story of Creation
Jacob's Dream
Psalm 8 When I look to the heavens
Psalm 19 The heavens declare your glory
The Birth of Jesus
The Wisemen following the Star of Bethlehem
Nicodemus
Transfiguration cloud
Jesus walking on water (during the fourth watch of the night)
Gethsemane
Ascension
Pentecost fire
Pillar of fire and smoke
Star or nighttime effects can also help tell a story that happens over several days.

*You can also use lighting effects for water, waves, and storms.

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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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More ways to "project" stars and special effects in a darkened classroom

The bright idea of using sequined "mermaid" fabric to project our Story of Creation galaxy nebula and stars came after the following experiment with craft sequins and a flashlight. We had glued a bunch of shiny sequins on cardboard and hit it with a bright flashlight. The effect was fun and immediate -- a ceiling full of stars. We also discovered that it was important to put the sequins on a non-reflective surface like cardboard.

Keep one of these handheld "star reflectors" in your drama supply closet for some quick stars in the sky.

DIY-Star-Projector-Sequins-Rotation.org

While we glued our sequins in this experiment, they do sell "stick on" sequins which a student or teacher could easily stick to the cardboard and hold in their hand to shine stars up on the ceiling.

We also experimented with other ways to project "space things" on the ceiling. In this "projector" we painted a cut-glass jelly jar using red and blue translucent paints (the kind you find in a craft store next to those "paint your own plastic stained glass" kits).  Below is a photo of our "Red Giant Jar" which just happens to be sitting on some blue/silver mermaid fabric.

The student puts the jar over their flashlight and slowly turns it. See the video for the effect.

DIY-Star-Projector-Filter

Tip: We had to put a pretty thick coat of red and blue on the jar because otherwise, our1300 lumens flashlight washed it out on the ceiling.

We also wrapped some foil around the bottom of the jar --inside and outside, to reduce the noise of the glass jar against our metal flashlight.

1000lumensImagine making a couple of "glass jar" effects and adding them to the "galaxy/nebula/star" effect described in the first post. We did that for the Writing Team's Story of Creation Drama Workshop. We made the "beginning of Creation" effects to go with a special music video we were showing and interacting with at the same time.

Having a bright flashlight, and more than one of them, will be a big help in creating your drama's special effects.


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Mermaid sequin cloth is also a great special effect costume for characters in the story that calls for brightness, shining, or "dazzling."

mermaid-angel

All you need is some sequin cloth (aka "mermaid" cloth) and a strong flashlight aimed at the wearer. Brush the sequins so that the silver shiny side reflects the light.

"an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. -Matthew 28:2

"Let your light shine before others" - Matthew 5:15

There he was transfigured before them. Jesus' clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  Mark 9:2-4

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Here's a quick way to project a star or stars onto the ceiling for your story.

StarProjector

I looked at a number of "how to" videos on this, and here are my keys:

  1. Make sure the tube or roll of paper covers the entire flashlight, otherwise the light leakage will run the effect.

  2. If you have a large flashlight, you can roll cardstock into a cone shape, tape it, then tape the aluminum foil over the small end and use the large end of the cone to cover your flashlight.

  3. Use a high lumens flashlight to create bright stars at a distance. 600 lumens or higher. 

  4. LED flashlights with more than one light-emitting diode will unfortunately produce multiple stars for each hole you poke in the foil.  For best effect, use a flashlight with only ONE light bulb or one LED.

    Example:  Here's a star I projected onto our blue nebula effect (described in the post above). Notice it has three stars even though I only poked one hole in the foil. That's because my flashlight had three LEDs in it and each created its own projection. If you only want one star, use a flashlight with only one LED or bulb.

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