Archive for September, 2013
Everything seems to be ‘cloud this, cloud that’ these days. So it was inevitable that pixels would sooner or later get in on the action. In this post, we’re talking about literal pixel clouds. Clouds made of pixels. In the sky.
Let’s look at two examples. Like the examples in my previous post (“big pixels. labour intensive pixels“) , these are big, labour-intensive pixels too. But unlike the previous post, they are most definitely digital light. Read on.
As usual, this post is about pixels, but it’s about as far from gigapixels and digital light as one can get.
It’s no secret that I think pixels are important. After all, soon they will be everywhere —interactive ones, tiny ones, covering huge areas. We’ll have the people who are working diligently behind the scenes to develop the advanced technologies needed to make this practical, easy to use, and affordable to thank. But low tech pixels can be beautiful, too –big pixels, huge pixels, giant pixels. Beautiful because they can be expressive and beautiful because of the labour and imagination it takes to create images with them. We’ve written about examples of big pixels in earlier posts (pixels you can hug, pixels that float). Today, let’s look at some old-tech, (almost) low-tech, and no-tech examples of big and sometimes beautiful pixels. And just for fun, I’ve tried to estimate the image specs as best I can.
Christian Faur’s crayon pixels
Artist Christian Faur produces beautiful works of art using handmade crayons. But he doesn’t draw with the crayons –instead the crayon tips are used as colorful pixels. Quoting from his website, “Christian Faur’s crayon art exemplifies a unique and exciting new technique. Instead of utilizing traditional medium such as oil paint, pastels, or watercolors, Faur turns to a material from our childhood: the crayon. Faur works with this familiar object in a novel way. Using crayons like pixels, he arranges thousands upon thousands of colorful handmade crayons into beautiful and elaborate works of art that allude to aspects of Pointillism and digital photography.”
You can find many more examples of his beautiful work here.
specs (rough guess):
number of colors: 26
pixel density: 15,300 pixels per square meter (my estimate)
frame rate: under 1 frame/day
La Scala Illuminata candle pixels
The picture on the left is of La Scala Illuminata in Caltagirone, Italy. The staircase was built in 1608 and is 142 steps (and thus 142 pixels) high. My guess is that it’s about 70 pixels wide. The pixels, as you can see from the photo on the right, are really candles. The display is shown yearly for two days in July and two days in August — a maximum frame rate of 4 frames per year ! You can find more information here.
specs( rough guestimate):
resolution: 70 (H) x 142 (V)
pixel density: 13 pixels / sq. meter
frame rate: 4 frames / year
For quite a while now, I’ve been saying the pixels will be so ubiquitous that we’ll consider them to be a building material. It finally seems to be on the verge of happening and in a more literal way than I expected based on a link sent to me by Charles Fraresso.
Lucem, based in Stolberg, Germany, has developed a light transmitting concrete product ( Illumni.co describes Lucem’s product in more detail here). The picture on the left is a building facade built using their product. The pixels are big! The photo on the right is the same building in daylight.
Lucem’s blocks aren’t full thickness concrete blocks. They are thin sheets of concrete with optical fibers embedded in them to let light through. In effect, it appears that what Lucem offers is a concrete cladding that goes onto other surfaces. LED backlighting provides light source.
resolution: 0.67 pixels / meter (H) x 2 pixels / meter (V)
pixel density: 1.33 pixels / sq. meter
colors: 16 million
Others in Germany have been working along similar lines. Dominik Kommerell and Angela Renz of the University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart built a prototype of a pixelized concrete block, according to a post in designboom. Their prototype (shown on the right), is not a full sized concrete block but, instead, is intended to be used as a facade. In contrast to Lucem’s whole block illumination, Kommerel/Renz’s block has 64 individually addressable pixels. It was shown at the Media Facades exhibition way back in 2008.
specs (rough guesstimate; couldn’t find any details):
resolution: 16 pixels/ meter (V and H)
pixel density: 256 pixels / sq. meter
Participatory People Pixels
On February 2 this year, New York City’s Grand Central Station celebrated its hundredth birthday. Improv Everywhere staged Grand Central Lights for the occasion. 135 people, each with cameras and LED flashlights, stood on three rows of catwalks at one end of the station. They were choreographed to use camera flashes and flashlight movement to create a very interesting display. This definitely puts the labor in labor-intensive. It also takes the tech out of high-tech. There’s no denying it’s pretty, though. See the video below.
specs (my guesstimate):
resolution about 1.2 pixels per meter (H) by 0.3 pixels per meter (V)
pixel density: 0.36 pixels / sq. meter
Our friends at the DailyDOOH will soon be hosting their second Thought Leadership Summit. The first one was in London this past May and the second one is next month in New York City. The theme this time will be “Billboards Unplugged”. I’ve been asked to participate again, so I’m busy preparing. I decided I’d consider how one of my favorite topics –gigapixels– is going to affect the future of billboards.
Affordable, practical-sized, gigapixel displays will mean large area billboards will be able to be installed just about anywhere. When I mean anywhere, that includes billboards at arm’s length from viewers. That will be a game-changer.
Are you going to be in New York on October 21st? You really ought to attend this event. Hope to meet you there.
A little over two years ago, I wrote about Digital light… showing the way. The basic idea was that light could be modulated to provide intelligent, personalized, wayfinding. In my concept, street lighting would be used and I included an animation of how a jogger could use it. “Tall-drinks” has come up with a very similar idea — the difference is, in his concept, each person would have their own source of digital light. He’s even built a simple prototype –for jogging — using a picoprojector. Even better, he’s provided instructions on how to make one for yourself.
Fundamentally we need to understand that a projector is nothing more than a light source — a light source that can be modulated. It’s one good way of creating digital light, something that has been pointed out many times on this site.
Simply projection mapping, you say? This is so much more than projection mapping; it’s something that will make practical differences in everyone’s lives. For some examples, you might want to look at the posts listed below. Some of the applications will seem mundane and that’s exactly the point. Digital light will be part of our everyday lives.
We need to stop equating projectors with screens — “screens are prison cells for pixels“, as Natan Linder says. Once people realize that, a huge number of opportunities open up.
It’s very encouraging to see more and more people experimenting with this. I wonder when mainstream lighting manufacturers wake up to the real potential of digital light and turn it into practical products. Or, maybe it will take some unknown startup on Kickstarter to finally get the ball rolling.
Check out his video below to see Talldrink’s prototype in action. His website has more details– http://talldrinks.com/?p=329 . You can learn how to make your own on his Instructables page: http://www.instructables.com/id/Ground-Projected-Information-Display-for-night-jo/