Starry Nights at the Drive-In

Who says dedicated home theatres can’t be all about the great outdoors.  Some of us are old enough to remember the drive-in.  If you don’t, just catch a rerun of Happy Days or Grease to see what it was all about.  It’s about sitting under the stars with your date, munching popcorn, meeting friends up at the snack counter and yup, a little hand holding and then some may be in order.

While you may not be able to recreate the scene in the home, you sure can bring in that starry night to your home theatre.  One of the most popular ceiling treatments for home theatres are LED starry night ceiling panels and fiber optics.

Since home theatre walls and ceilings need to be deep, dark rich colors for optimum viewing, most homeowners are a little squeamish about painting their ceilings black.  Rightly so, ceilings are almost always painted a lighter color than walls, and it can be difficult to get out of that mindset.

Star ceilings can give the darkness you need in the home theatre, along with twinkles of light for a touch of romance or nostalgia.  If you are an extremely talented DIY’er you can get the look.  I won’t even pretend to understand fiber optics, but it involves using MDF with holes cut out for fiber optics and installing them into frames in the ceilings.  There’s no need to do the entire ceiling, two 4x8 panels will give you enough of an impact.  There are a few DIY projects floating around on the web for under $500.  More power to you if you can figure it out!

There are also ceiling star kits that are sold for a DIY installation, they start at $500 for an 8x8 field, and from there, the sky’s the limit!

Creating A Drive In


Some considerations that you would never think of for this look…

  • Shooting stars – starry ceilings have them,  they shouldn’t be too bright nor obvious just like the real ones.  The stars should travel quickly and go in different directions.
  • Constellations – Stars aren’t always just random patterns, but defined constellations, as in the Big Dipper and Little Dipper.
  • Twinkling – the stars can’t just turn off and on for a twinkling effect, they need to dim and brighten every 5-8 seconds to be realistic.
  • Brightness – Stars differ in brightness due to their distance from the Earth, star ceilings need to be able to mimic this variation.

A variation on the starry ceiling panels or tiles is a galaxy dome light.  It requires no assembly and uses LED lights with no wiring required.  They cost in the $2,000 and up range.

While you may not be able to recreate the whole drive in scene for your home theatre, you can recreate the setting with the starry sky.