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  • Writer's pictureMichael Horn

Star Chix

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Michael volunteered to create art/technology props and effects for the parody show “Star Chix” at the St. Petersburg City Theatre.  A couple weeks into work, he was also given the role of the villian, which put a bit of a time crunch on what technical effects could be completed, but the work completed is impressive nonetheless.

Have a look at the tech reel, which is an edit of the filmed show to include just the portions involving technical effects.  You will see the the backlit black hole screen, color-changing console, “time-altering life suspension laser ray”, infrared-activated phaser fire strobes, and the programmable ship’s engine.

The phasers were made from toy plastic guns, which were taken apart and retrofitted with circuitry to recognize when the the trigger is fired and set off a small infrared burst, just like hitting the power button on a TV remote.  The IR emitter was tucked into a black paper tube so that only a very narrow beam is emitted, allowing the shooter to target only one girl and not set off all phaser strobes at once.  The redshirt girls carry tricorder bags (shown in the title image), which have a 100W COB LED and IR sensor built into the strap and disguised with colored sheer fabric, and have 3 AA batteries and supporting circuitry inside that can generate a 100W pulse when the IR sensor picks up the right signal.


Here is a close-up of the life-suspension laser ray, with a slow motion replay at the end.  This prop is supposed to freeze all the characters on-stage (and unfreeze them).  It is made with mirrored cardboard, automotive vinyl wrap, computer fans, 30W green COB LEDs, EL wire, supporting circuitry, a huge capacitor bank, and a big green arcade button.


Part of the show was a lip synch battle in which two members of the audience were invited onto the stage to participate.  Michael made this sign to encourage participation and make sure that the audience would see the sign-up sheet while milling around in the lobby.  It’s made from black posterboard, EL wire, sheer fabric to mask the “turned off” EL wire, and supporting circuitry on the back.


Here is a close-up of the Data PADDs.  The redshirt chorus starts off the show from the back of the audience dancing their way up the aisles, and these tablets were an accessory that could be used in the dancing while the redshirt girls were out of the stage lights in the audience, and can be slid into the tricorder bags (in the title image above) when the dance is over.

They are made of 2 pieces of sturdy plexiglass, sanded lightly on the surface that was to glow, with LED strips and watch battery holders with an on/off switch between them, sandwiched between two peices of heavy cardboard with vinyl skin and sharpie.  The holographic strip is made from bird scare tape.  The light-up graphics are made of two back-to-back layers of printed transparency on top of the sanded backlit plexi.

starchix padds

There is one close-up of the starship engine that was taken during early construction, about a month before showtime.  The engine is made from a large piece of PVC pipe bent into a semicircle and attached to a metal L-brace in the back, drilled and fitted with wooden dowels, which are connected at each vertex with clear vinyl tubes bundled with a brass brad (the type with fold-able tines).  The skeleton is overlaid with cheap frosted shower curtains cut up into the correct shapes, and WS2812 addressable LED strips ere used for the animation.  The engine needed to be light and safe enough to lift up on top of the stage flats, you can see it completed in the tech demo reel above.

The engine animation patterns are controlled by a radio-enabled remote that can switch modes, with sliders to control speed and brightness.  This remote was operated by one of the actors on stage.

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