Utterly Precise Light Painting, Thanks To CNC And Stop Motion

Light painting is the process of moving a light while taking a long-exposure photograph, which creates a sort of drawing from the path of the light source. It’s been done in one way or another since at least the early-to-mid 1900s, but modern hardware and methods have allowed for all kinds of new spins on this old idea. [Josh Sheldon] demonstrates just how true this is with the light painting he did for a gum ad, showing what’s possible with a single multicolor LED under CNC control combined with stop-motion animation techniques. The rest of the magic comes from the software. [Josh] designs the animations in Blender, and the paths are then exported and used as the instructions for his self-made Light Painting Machine. The machine therefore recreates the original animation with lights and camera and not a single computer-generated graphic.

[Josh] is no stranger to light painting in this way. We’ve seen his fantastic machine at work before and we’re glad he shared the details behind his latest work. Embedded below is a concise video that shows the whole process, but if you’re in a hurry and just want to see the end product, here’s a shortcut to the results.

For those of you who would like to know more, there are plenty of details on [Josh]’s Light Painting Machine on GitHub along with a more in-depth description of the workflow and software, so check it out.


13 thoughts on “Utterly Precise Light Painting, Thanks To CNC And Stop Motion

    1. I suppose in a general sense it is computer generated, but the big difference is photographic vs. rendered. As someone who works on the rendering side, I suspect more realism could be achieved from CGI if art directors wouldn’t demand the removal of all those little details that add realism. I think once an art director knows they can direct every little detail… they direct every little detail.

      This is a really cool effect, but given the complexity, I would think CGI would be a better fit. I have to think it took a decent amount of time to conceive, build, test and ultimately produce the images. It seems every job I get needs to be done yesterday, if not earlier. I’ve never worked on a job that afforded the time it’d take to build all that.

      Really cool though, love the use of CNC and the results look great!

  1. there’s nothing that tweaks my brain more than a hipster in a hipster “lab” looking all precision and cant even get a speed square within a freakin eighth of an inch within square

    why bother with the speed square, is your beard and blue led lighting interfering??? just eyeball the fucker its only for looks anyway

    1. I would guess yes. 99% of the people watching just the ad would assume it was computer generated, because there are very little contextual clues it isn’t. The only reason a company would pay someone the money it would cost to make something like that and not just use CGI, is to show off how it was made.

  2. Beautiful work and an excellent build. Me wants!

    The digital-to-analog technique reminds me of Geddy Lee’s playing of digital synths through speakers/mics in the studio to soften the edges of the waveforms.

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