As part of my practice based research I have been using my time during the MA to work on a variety of different lighting, projection and digital projects. Working with Squidsoup on one of their new lighting projects in Kew Gardens allowed me to explore the realm of large immersive environment creation.
Squidsoup are renown for immersive lighting environments developed off the basis of audience participation and interaction. With an extremely successful LED grid that’s recognised for its elegant immersion and beautiful tactile experience, the group are looking to take forward the conceptual ideas into a new area of development and research. The grid is connected to practical research into the exploded pixels and burst out of screen and into the physical environment. The grid uses colour systems, particle physics and flocking patterns to display a natural flow of imagery and shapes within 3 dimensions with the ability to interact audiences in a 3d space which they can move through to become further immersed.
The new project as part of the Kew Garden’s Christmas Lights is a conceptual rethinking in terms of distributing the grid across a single plane that can produce a similar effect to what’s achieved within the grids physical presence. The first iteration of the project was displayed in Cardiff port, which has been developed a step further in the current iterations. The latest version adds far more features such as WIFI, GPS data, sound control and accelerometer data. All of these data inputs can now be used to generate a range of new dynamic light designs distributed across a vast plane of 1000 LED lights.
The new project has many connections to the well-explored grid as it works of similar ideas in relation to the redistribution of pixels into a physical landscape. However, the flattening of the grid introduces a new aspect and consideration of perspective of view. This leads to discussions of pattern, collection and correlation between natural forms across a far less digital 3-dimensional surface. This different kind of restructuring provides the SquidSoup researchers with an entirely new perspective of the distribution and dissemination in the form of lit immersive spaces
The LED system is based off the use of a hi-tech wireless system controlling and distributing to the 1000 individual devices. Power cords connect the devices however the main control comes form OSC commands sent via the network. These commands come in relation to what colours need to be displayed or sounds played from the tinny speaker. Arduino is used as the primary control of the devices, this can then be distributed to the devices through a web server. Processing is then used to control and send out OSC messages to the devices in order to command them in specific patterns and alignments. The technology provides many issues when trying to sync a vast number of devices onto a single network including the huge amount of data that is returned from that.
Having been given the chance to work on a project like this was a great pleasure and opened my eyes to the possibilities of immersive environments and the scale, production, time, complexity and planning which goes into developing such a project. Including this its added many new ideas into my own practices such as the element of distributed pixels across surfaces. This idea has been toyed with regarding projection as a step further than augmented reality with a direct link to the new aesthetic also