Light Painting Animations Directly From Blender

Light painting: there’s something that never gets old about waving lights around in a long exposure photo. Whilst most light paintings are single shots, some artists painstakingly create frame-by-frame animations. This is pretty hard to do when moving a light around by hand: it’s mostly guesswork, as it’s difficult to see the results of your efforts until after the photo has been taken. But what if you could make the patterns really precise? What if you could model them in 3D?

[Josh Sheldon] has done just that, by creating a process which allows animations formed in Blender to be traced out in 3D as light paintings. An animation is created in Blender then each frame is automatically exported and traced out by an RGB LED on a 3D gantry. This project is the culmination of a lot of software, electronic and mechanical work, all coming together under tight tolerances, and [Josh]’s skill really shines.

The first step was to export the animations out of Blender. Thanks to its open source nature, Python Blender add-ons were written to create light paths and convert them into an efficient sequence that could be executed by the hardware. To accommodate smooth sliding camera movements during the animation, a motion controller add-on was also written.

The gantry which carried the main LED was hand-made. We’d have been tempted to buy a 3D printer and hack it for this purpose, but [Josh] did a fantastic job on the mechanical build, gaining a solidly constructed gantry with a large range. The driver electronics were also slickly executed, with custom rack-mount units created to integrate with the DragonFrame controller used for the animation.

The video ends on a call to action: due to moving out, [Josh] was unable to continue the project but has done much of the necessary legwork. We’d love to see this project continued, and it has been documented for anyone who wishes to do so. If you want to check out more of [Josh]’s work, we’ve previously written about that time he made an automatic hole puncher for music box spools.

Thanks for the tip, [Nick].

15 thoughts on “Light Painting Animations Directly From Blender

  1. Amazing build and cool concept. Fantastic job. If you get back into this, what might be amazingly cool, you have a much better perspective on this than I do, but but would cool to use a drone with a super bright RGB LED instead of the gantry. You could enact the effects around much larger physical objects for one thing, and it also would not need to take over your entire sleeping space (smile).

    1. HEY someone commented on my video linking to your music video! Cool to see that you’re real.

      I didn’t know about the BTS video, from the end of the music video I had the impression that you did the whole thing in studio. It’s insane how you designed your setup to be run in the field. Your product is the fully realized version of what I wanted to make, kudos!

      1. We tried to film the whole project outside, but it was so slow to setup that in 5 nights we end up with less than 50 seconds of footage. Everything went much better indoors. In our case, we used a modified version of a spline to gcode free plugin called CNCtoolkit for gmax and 3dsmax. Then we ran the code using repetier. Glad you liked it! Gracias!

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