Project Updates: July 2022

There are so many balls in the air right now, but I wanted to give you some updates on three projects that are currently underway.

Jerry the Shark

First, there’s the 20-foot long glass and steel Mako shark that artist Peter Hazel plans to display at Burning Man in late August. I described the basics of the shark’s construction and the lighting approach in this previous post. Peter has now finished sculpting the shark’s body from a huge block of styrofoam.

His name is Jerry

My understanding of the next steps is a bit hazy, so I won’t try to describe it in detail. But at some point soon, the lattice-like steel exoskeleton will be welded together over the foam, and the foam will be “melted” away leaving a hollow body. At that point I’ll install the interior floodlights that will backlight the translucent glass plates that will be attached to the exoskeleton. I haven’t yet finished my RGBW “Fido” lights, so I plan to use 4-5 of these 10W RGB addressable floodlights from HolidayCoro.com.

As previously described, the brushed-steel exoskeleton that shows in the gaps between the glass plates will be illuminated with neutral white COB strips. Similar to the WS2815 strips used for the Manta ray project, I had BTF-Lighting custom fabricate an IP68 version of their 528 LED/m 24v white COB strips (here’s the IP67 version). Since these strips don’t come with affixing tape, I plan to attach them to the acrylic spacers with 3M Scotch-Weld PR Gel adhesive. There will be a separate length. of strip for each of the ~100 glass plates, so I’ve allocated lots of time for cutting, wiring, and re-waterproofing the ends of the strips. But individual control of each section isn’t required, so they’ll all be wired in series, probably with a few parallel branches to avoid excessive voltage drop.

Bloom

I’ve previously dropped hints about a possible resurrection of Peter Hazel’s Bloom, a 40-foot glass and steel jellyfish that was displayed at Burning Man 2017 and 2018. The timeline and installation location have changed a couple of times, but the likelihood is still increasing. The structural parts are in “storage” in Nipton, CA, at the edge of the Mojave Desert, not far from the Fly By, the Manta ray. But the lighting components are all gone and need to be completely replaced with a new design that’s suitable for a long-term installation. I just finished creating a detailed proposal, and here are some of the specs:

  • 38,224 addressable RGB pixels (WS2815)
  • Eight 160W RGBW flood lights
  • One master controller (simplified version of the FLiCr board that supports multiple SlicBus outputs)
  • Eleven remote controllers (same SliC v2 board used for the Manta)
  • 8.3 kW maximum power consumption

Those of you who have been following me know that I’ve been thinking a lot about how to weatherproof my installations to maximize longevity in harsh conditions. Recently I was fortunate to make a connection with the person who’s responsible for maintenance of the famous Tree of Ténéré that was first displayed at Burning Man 2017. There are now six copies of the Tree on long-term display around the world. She gave me several great (non-obvious) tips that I’ll put to immediate use. And I’ll include these in my planned future article on weatherproofing. [Thanks, Calli!]

Dancing Monarchs

You’ve probably figured out that Peter loves to create sculptures of sea creatures. But he’s recently branched out to some land-based sculptures, including these “butterfly trees” that he calls Dancing Monarchs. The trees that he’s built so far don’t have lighting, but now one of his customers has asked for controllable white spotlights behind each of the seven glass butterflies.

I’ll use a FLiCr board configured with seven MOSFET-driven PWM outputs, running at 24v. We haven’t finalized the type of spot light, but it’s likely to be this 3W unit, which has a diameter of 40mm (1.6″).

I’m also not sure what type of lighting “effects” the customer wants, but it’s likely to be just a randomized sequence of on/off cycles with slow fades.

Here’s the cool part: through an amazing set of fortunate circumstances, Peter just won a commission to build a huge 15 foot tall, 18-butterfly tree for the Rosalyn Carter ButterFly Trail in Plains, Georgia. Due to the short timeline, I plan to use the same type of FLiCr controller and spotlights, but with some of the 18 lights wired in parallel to stay within the limit of 8 PWM outputs.

For both trees I plan to use this stainless steel IP66 enclosure, with a separate 20 AWG 2-conductor cable running inside the branches to each of the lights.

Whew!

A lot going on, plus a few things I didn’t mention. Like the deck I’m supposed to be building in the backyard…

Anyway, feel free to chime in with suggestions or questions. Thanks for reading!

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