Experiment With Lumia, The Cheap and Easy Way

Light is a wonderful medium for art, and there’s all manner of ways to approach it. We’ve always been huge fans of all that blinks and glows, but there’s a whole wide world of other methods and techniques in the lighting arena. Lumia is one that does not always get a lot of mainstream attention, and so [Adam Raugh] has created this video, sharing both the history of the effect, and various ways to create it yourself. 

Lumia was once used to refer to a broad swathe of artistic lighting, but these days, more commonly refers to effects that create an aurora-like appearance, as one would see near the poles of our fine Earth. [Adam] first covers the history of the effect, as pioneered by Thomas Wilfred with the Clavilux in the early part of the 20th Century.

The video then covers the basics of creating lumia effects using DIY methods. The key is to combine slow rotation with an organically deformed refractive medium. [Adam]’s rig of choice is a basic laser projector, rotating at just 1/3 of a rotation per minute. This is then combined with a variety of homebrewed refractive media – torture tubes made from glass, acrylic sheets coated with muddled epoxy, and even a crumpled water bottle.

It’s an excellent primer on how to get started with lumia, and [Adam] covers a wide variety of tips and tricks as well as potential pitfalls to avoid.

We see plenty of great lighting projects around these parts – check out the Kinetic Chandelier. Video after the break.

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Wonderful Sculptural Circuits hide Interactive Synthesizers

When it rains, it pours (wonderful electronic sculpture!). The last time we posted about freeform circuit sculptures there were a few eye-catching comments mentioning other fine examples of the craft. One such artist is [Eirik Brandal], who has a large selection of electronic sculptures. Frankly, we’re in love.

A common theme of [Eirik]’s work is that each piece is a functional synthesizer or a component piece of a larger one. For instance, when installed the ihscale series uses PIR sensors to react together to motion in different quadrants of a room. And the es #17 – #19 pieces use ESP8266’s to feed the output of their individual signal generators into each other to generate one connected sound.

Even when a single sculpture is part of a series there is still striking variety in [Eirik]’s work. Some pieces are neat and rectilinear and obviously functional, while others almost looks like a jumble of components. Whatever the style we’ve really enjoyed pouring through the pages of [Eirik]’s portfolio. Most pieces have demo videos, so give them a listen!

If you missed the last set of sculptural circuits we covered this month, head on over and take a look at the flywire circuits of Mohit Bhoite.

Thanks [james] for the tip!

Beautiful Moving Origami Light Made from Scrap

Whenever [MakerMan] hits our tip line with one of his creations, we know it’s going to be something special. His projects are almost exclusively built using scrap and salvaged components, and really serve as a reminder of what’s possible if you’re willing to open your mind a bit. Whether done out of thrift or necessity, he proves the old adage that one man’s trash is often another’s treasure.

We’ve come to expect mainly practical builds from [MakerMan], so the beautiful ceiling light which he refers to as a “Kinetic Chandelier”, is something of a change of pace. The computer controlled light is able to fold itself up like an umbrella while delivering a pleasing diffuse LED glow. He tells us it’s a prototype he’s building on commission for a client, and we’re going to go out on a limb and say he’s going to have a very satisfied customer with this one.

Like all of his builds, the Kinetic Chandelier is almost entirely built out of repurposed components. The support rods are rusty and bent when he found them, but after cutting them down to size and hitting them with a coat of spray paint you’d never suspect they weren’t purpose-made. The light’s “hub” is cut out of a chunk of steel with an angle grinder, and uses bits of bike chain for a flexible linkage.

Perhaps most impressive is his DIY capstan which is used to raise and lower the center of the light. [MakerMan] turns down an aluminum pulley on a lathe to fit the beefy gear motor, and then pairs that with a few idler pulleys held in place with bits of rebar welded together. It looks like something out of Mad Max, but it gets the job done.

Finally, he salvages the LED panels out of a couple of cheap work lights and welds up some more rebar to mount them to the capstan at the appropriate angle. This gives the light an impressive internal glow without a clear source when viewed from below, and really gives it an otherworldly appearance.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a hacker put together their own chandelier, or even the first time we’ve seen it done with scrap parts. But what [MakerMan] has put together here may well be the most objectively attractive one we’ve seen so far.

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Flywire Circuits at the Next Level

The technique of assembling circuits without substrate goes by many names; you may know it as flywiring, deadbugging, point to point wiring, or freeform circuits. Sometimes this technique is used for practical purposes like fixing design errors post-production or escaping tiny BGA components (ok, that one might be more cool than practical). Perhaps our favorite use is to create art, and [Mohit Bhoite] is an absolute genius of the form. He’s so prolific that it’s difficult to point to a particular one of his projects as an exemplar, though he has a dusty blog we might recommend digging through [Mohit]’s Twitter feed and marveling at the intricate works of LEDs and precision-bent brass he produces with impressive regularity.

So where to begin? Very recently [Mohit] put together a small wheeled vehicle for persistence of vision drawing (see photo above). We’re pretty excited to see some more photos and videos he takes as this adorable little guy gets some use! Going a little farther back in time there’s this microcontroller-free LED scroller cube which does a great job showing off his usual level of fit and finish (detail here). If you prefer more LEDs there’s also this hexagonal display he whipped up. Or another little creature with seven segment displays for eyes. Got those? That covers (most) of his last month of work. You may be starting to get a sense of the quality and quantity on offer here.

We’ve covered other examples of similar flywired circuits before. Here’s one of [Mohit]’s from a few years ago. And another on an exquisite headphone amp encased in a block of resin. What about a high voltage Nixie clock that’s all exposed? And check out a video of the little persistence of vision ‘bot after the break.

Thanks [Robot] for reminding us that we hadn’t paid enough attention to [Mohit]’s wonderful work!

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DIY Studio Lights To Improve Your Videos

It’s 2018, a full thirteen years since YouTube was founded. With an online sharing service up and running, and high-resolution cameras in just about every mobile phone, the production of video has been democratized. Sadly, for those citizens with eyes, the production of good video is not so widespread. What’s one thing you need for good video? Good lighting – and you can build it yourself.

This build from [DIY Perks] relies upon readily available components and uses simple build techniques accessible to the average maker. Using cheap LED strips (albeit photography-grade ones), along with off-the-shelf plastics and dimmer modules, it’s possible to build a light that preserves colour integrity while being lightweight, compact, and easy to use. The final product is remarkably elegant – at a glance it could be a commercial product. Nifty tricks like daisy chaining the power supplies and combining different spectrum LEDs for better control add to the functionality.

Overall, it’s a build that does take some time, but it could easily be completed in a weekend and the results are top notch. It’s not the first lightbox build we’ve seen here, either. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Keith O for the tip!]

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Unphotogenic Lighting As A Feature

Have you ever taken a picture indoors and had unsightly black bars interrupt your otherwise gorgeous photo? They are caused by lighting which flickers in and out in its normal operation. Some people can sense it easier than others without a camera. The inconsistent light goes out so briefly that we usually cannot perceive it but run-of-the-mill camera phones scan rows of pixels in sequence, and if there are no photons to detect while some rows are scanned, those black bars are the result. Annoying, right?

What if someone dressed that bug of light up as a feature? Instead of ruining good photos, researchers at the University of California-San Diego and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found out what different frequencies of flicker will do to a photograph. They have also experimented with cycling through red, green, and blue to give the effect of a poorly dubbed VHS.

There are ways an intelligent photographer could get around the photo-ruining effect with any smartphone. Meanwhile DSLR cameras are already immune and it won’t work in sunlight, so we are not talking about high security image protection. The neat thing is that this should be easy to replicate with some RGB strips and a controller. This exploits the row scanning of new cameras, so some older cameras are immune.

ESP8266 Internet Controlled LED Dimmer

There’s no shortage of debate about the “Internet of Things”, largely centered on security and questions about how much anyone really needs to be able to turn on their porch light from the other side of the planet. But while many of us are still wrestling with the realistic application of IoT gadgets, there’s undoubtedly those among us who have found ways to put this technology to work for them.

One such IoT devotee is [Sasa Karanovic], who writes in to tell us about his very impressive custom IoT LED dimmer based on the ESP8266. Rather than rely on a commercial lighting controller, he’s designed his own hardware and software to meet his specific needs. With the LED strips now controllable by any device on his network, he’s started working on Python scripts which can detect what he’s doing on his computer and react accordingly. For example, if he’s watching a movie the lights will automatically dim, and come back up when he’s done.

[Sasa] has provided all the files necessary to follow in his footsteps, from the Gerber files for his PCB to the Arduino code he’s running on the ESP. The source code is especially worth checking out, as he’s worked in a lot of niceties that we don’t always see with DIY projects. From making sure the ESP8266 gets a resolvable DNS hostname on the network to using websockets which update all connected clients with status info in real-time, he’s really put a lot of work into making the experience as complete as possible.

He’s explains in his blog post what needs to be edited to put this code to work in your own environment, and there’s even some descriptive comments in the code and a helpful debug mode so you can see how everything works. It’s always a good idea to consider that somebody else down the road might be using your code; taking a few minutes to make things clear can save them hours of stumbling around in the dark.

If you need more inspiration for your ESP8266 lighting project, check out this ambient lighting controller for a kid’s room, or this professional under-cabinet lighting controller.