Mirage 2.0 Lights Up The Desert With 4,024 LEDs

Registering a mutant vehicle at the Burning Man Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV) is rough. To be allowed to operate at night, wacky rolling creations have to have a certain degree of lighting presence. This keeps vehicles  from blending into the scenery. Unfortunately Mirage 1.0 was built specifically with this in mind,  using reflective surfaces to turn a van into a semi-invisible shiny slab. Not even EL wire, an illuminated dance floor, and spot lights could placate the DMV. The solution? Wrap the entire friggen vehicle in a netting of 4,000 LEDs! Take that officials!

Most of the hardware is Phillips display stuff, digital LED fixture controllers are used to interpret HDMI data and then pipe out color data to addressed chains. All this mapping and addressing means that the entire setup functions like a 168×24 pixel monitor.  Split chains of LEDs also happen to allow the crew to operate the doors and get in and out of the vehicle.

The underlying car was built on the same sort of principal that hid the wheels of  Skywalker’s landspeeder, only in this case the idea was to cover an entire car with mylar and mirror. An interesting side effect of this mirror wrapping is that a sheen of desert dust helps reflect the ambient LED light quite well, blurring pixel colors together. It sort of makes us wonder about picking up a bucket of Mylar for some of our spaced out displays.

The Mirage crew has plans for next year, and have videos of several ideas on the site (portions of the test videos are NSFW).  Check out the video of Mirage 2.0 in action after the jump! Thanks [erland]!


17 thoughts on “Mirage 2.0 Lights Up The Desert With 4,024 LEDs

    1. The Priscilla prop, which I saw on broadway, was a stationary prop made to look like a bus, but did not move by itself and played prerecorded content.
      This Mirage car, which I saw at the festival, is indeed an actual car that drives around, and creates content on the fly.

  1. … a bucket of Mylar? You can get Mylar in liquid form? Since when? Pretty sure it’s only available as a film, in which case ‘roll of Mylar’ would be more appropriate.

    …but if I can get it as a liquid then I’ll take it ‘fer sure.

  2. Uhhh. This isn’t a hack at all. They took off-the-shelf pro-lighting gear from Philips and used it for what it was designed for– exactly in line with the suggested uses and documentation. If they built the gear, it’d be a hack. They didn’t. It’s commercial, off-the-shelf stuff designed for light shows.

    Y’all are slipping on the quality control.

    1. Yes, it is the most ridiculous resolution I have ever worked with, and 4,032 is a more accurate pixel count! However, we were working with physical constraints which demanded that every column of lights was 24 nodes high, at least “on-screen”. Each column is technically 25 high, but the 25th is kindof a “pivot” node to the next column and hangs off the bottom. If you look really close at one of the daylight photos of this thing (if there is one that shows the full height of the vehicle), you’ll see what I mean. The mesh is composed of 14 panels, each of which had to be considered as a rectangle of 12×24 nodes (not including that extra one). I basically considered that bottom row of pixels as “unused” for the sake of simplicity as far as the math goes…

      As for the width, the dimensions of our panels and the dimensions of the vehicle demanded a 168-node-wide mesh. 128 at 4″ spacing would not have covered the necessary width from tail to nose to tail. In all, the specific pixel dimensions at 168×24 were no more difficult than 128×32. I had to work with a rectangle that was wider and shorter.

      Taking just one side of the vehicle, I scaled an 84×24 rectangle up to 512×146, and used that as the base dimensions for all video clips. QC patches scale automatically enough, same with Flash SWFs. Since the driver side is just a mirror of the passenger side, it was trivial to make VDMX mirror all sources left and right, and scale the output to 1024×146, vertically centered on a 1024×768 output frame. The VSMPro was programmed to map only pixels in that rectangle appropriately.

      Ok, I mean, from the software side of things, it might have been easier to use a more obvious, format-friendly ratio like 128×32, but hardware was the determining factor. 128×32 could not possibly scale to the dimensions of the vehicle, so I tailored the video sources and output to match the environment instead.

  3. Well- Mylar “was” indeed fluid before becoming a film but it’s rather non-trivial to home hack such things fluid>film, let alone vapor metallic coat the film.. If you could? That would warrant special hack mention indeed.

    As for the effect itself on the Art Car?

    Worthy Hack on it’s own merits and props for being a Hack category “Compliance” Also perhaps tagworthty for High Parts Count Hacks.

  4. wish i was there… that thing is beyond words, execpt “i like it”

    shoulda put a graphic of a cartoon car on it… with square wheels that “roll” at real car’s speed. lol

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