A student canvas for innovative lighting design
In 2009, the University of Abertay Dundee in Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom, fitted out the newly established UK Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education with a comprehensive Color Kinetics LED exterior lighting solution intended to highlight the building's unique architecture. Though University personnel knew that this new lighting system could be used for more than the simple colored wall washing for which it was initially programmed, they decided to wait for the right creative application to test the system's capabilities.
The perfect test opportunity came in 2012, when Ian Simpson, the University Director of Operations, approached graduate members of the UAD computer games program with a proposal to design an interactive display fusing digital art, music, and science for a collaboration between Scotland's Northeast of North Digital Arts Festival and the regional Dundee Science Festival. Though the project was ambitious, the University owners permitted the use of the Centre's Color Kinetics LED lighting system, knowing that it was powerful and flexible enough to handle such a task.
The design objective of the 2009 installation was to make the newly established Centre a highly visible focal point by highlighting the façade's architectural details with color-changing, saturated light. Project architect Joe Narsapur of Archial Architects turned to LED consultant Ken Colvin of Solus Lighting Solutions, who specified Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12 luminaires for the installation. These exterior LED wash lights provided the dynamic color, durability, and low energy consumption required for this application.
The Centre's façade is split by a series of vertical perforated aluminum brise soleil panels, a type of permanent architectural sun shade. A single ColorBlast 12 luminaire was installed on the walkway between each panel, lighting them from below. The luminaires are controlled by an iPlayer 3 controller and displays authored using integrated ColorPlay 3 light show authoring and configuration software.
The design objective of the exhibit, titled 100,000 Lux, was to transform solar data gathered from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite into an immersive multimedia experience that would bring the science of the solar system to life for viewers. As part of the project's design, changes in the sun's temperature, magnetic field strength, and electromagnetic radiation over a 28-day solar cycle would be visualized via modifications in the color, intensity, and lighting effects of the Centre's façade lights.
Programmers Erin Michno and Ian Reynolds of local game development company Quartic Llama used ColorPlay 3 to transform the solar data into color-changing lighting displays, while mathematics lecturers Dr. Antonia Wilmot-Smith from Dundee University and Dr. David MacTaggart from Abertay University assisted with concept development and scientific accuracy. To make the exhibit truly immersive, local sound designer and Abertay University staff member Raz Ullah created a generative audio track programmed to react to changes in the visual display through changes in pitch and dynamics.
Michno commented on the success of this collaborative lighting project. "We wanted to visually present science as entertainment. The ColorPlay 3 software was flexible enough to allow us to put in video input and create our interpretation of the sun's activity, all projected with LED lighting up the side of the building. We've benefited hugely from the proximity to highly experienced computer scientists and visual artists, which all allowed this incredible one-off performance, powered by the Color Kinetics lighting system."
100,000 Lux debuted on November 7, 2012 to tremendous audience acclaim, Michno said. "We're already planning other displays, as we've had such an incredibly positive reaction to 100,000 Lux," said Michno.