Tribe — Xiangren Zheng(Gary), Harish Pillai, Yikai Zhang(Glen)

Tribe is an interactive projection and light installation. The project is divided into two parts. In the first part, audiences will enjoy a 2 minutes projection and light show. After that, in the second part, the show will become more interactive. Audiences are able to control the flashing patterns of the led lights and different video clips projected on the wall through a wireless joystick.


The concept of “Tribe” was started from an idea that we hope to create a new form of public entertainment. We noticed there are many recreational activities happening in the city of Toronto everyday. However, most of them are one-way communication, which lack some interaction between the performances and audiences. If we want to turn Toronto into an amusement park or opportunities for game-like encounters then we need to add more interaction elements in. In addition, through the observation to the Canadian’s life style we found many Canadians love socializing and nightlife. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs are some spaces they really like. Therefore, during the discussion we decided to create an interactive projection and light performance. Our expectation was to turn the city of Toronto into a large night amusement park and everyone can be the part of the show.


Step 1: Symbol

After determining the form of the show we started to look for the theme for our project. We all believed that integrating technology and culture to create a new kind of art form would be very interesting. During the discussion, we remembered there is a book called Zero written by a Japanese designer Matsuda Yukimasa. The book is about exploring major sources of symbols such as basic shapes, colours and numbers and placing symbols in context of mythologies and religions, the human life cycle, people and culture, and symbol systems. We found all these symbols are very simple, elegant and full of mystique. Therefore, we developed an idea that taking one symbol as our carrier and give new meaning to it through adding more content using new media technologies.
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Finally, we decided to use a symbol which is a hexagon consisted of two equilateral triangles. The reason we use this shape is we found this shape has a sense of stability and mystery simultaneously and also looks beautiful and elegant.

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Step 2: Fabrication

The size of project we made this time is comparatively large. The final size is 8 feet*8 feet. The hexagon is composed of four pieces of plywood and two equilateral triangles on the top are made of 10 pieces of 8 feet long wood strips. All cutting works were finished at the make lab on the 7th floor. Here we need to thank to our instructor Reza. We could not finish this part without his help. Then we carried all materials downstairs and finished remaining assembly works in the studio. After finishing all of these, for achieving better projection effect we painted it into the white colour.

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Step 3: Light system

This is the first time for us to do a light system on such a scale. In project Tribe, we used 23 meters led strips. This 23 meters led strips were cut into 24 segments depends on the length of each side of the shape. Meanwhile each led strips was soldered with two 0.75mm2 wire and numbered according to the sequence of each side of the shape. At the last, each led strip was stuck on the visible edges of the mesh to outline the geometric shapes of the structure.
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On the hardware side, we used one 12V 12A power supply to power all led strips. The power supply is connected with a 27 channel LED dimmer. The LED dimmer can take DMX512 signal as the input and then transmit that signal as PWM(pulse-width modulation) output.(DMX512 is a bus protocol used in theatres and live shows to send light intensity information to the light fixtures that are set up on stage.) For receiving DMX signal, the LED dimmer has to connected with another device called DMX512 interfaces, DMX512 interfaces allow to send or receive DMX512 from a computer. This is the bridge which allows computer to output the light intensity information to the LED dimmers. The standard connector used for DMX interface is the 5-pin XLR, but as they are less common than the 3-pin XLR used for audio, in this case, we also need a 5-pin XLR adaptor.

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On the software side, we used Madmapper to read the pixel information from videos or pictures. Then Madmapper will send out the DMX information according to the pixel information to the DMX ODE. In addtion, Madmapper also supports Syphon. This function creates a lot of new possibilities. Because Processing also has a library that allows Processing send the output directly into MadMapper. In this way, we can create various interactive light or projection works through integrating these two powerful tools.

The entire process runs like this. Light intensity will be determined by video fed to the software, sent through Art-Net over ethernet or USB to a DMX interface, and then to the LED dimmer. The LED dimmer will take the intensity value depending on their allowed addresses and dim the LED strip connected to the corresponding output by fast-switching the voltage provided by the power supply.

Step 4: Interaction

In this project, at first we wanted to use LeapMotion as our interaction tool. But after talking with Kate and Nick we got to know that we must to use radio connection as our main method to interact with our content. After that talk, we developed several ideas such as making a pair of gloves with accelerometers in it or sending midi signal wirelessly to let visual part interact with the sound. However, all of these interaction are either not natural enough or not interesting enough. Through reading the project’s requirements again and again finally we focused on the word “Game-like”. We thought it would be really fun if we use a joystick as the tool to control our lights and projections. Base on this idea we planned to write a Processing sketch that can read the signal send from Arduino and then switch different videos based on the data. After that, Processing will feed the video to Madmapper through Syphon. Then Madmapper can control both projections and lights according to the video it received.Though this way, audiences are able to interact with our project wireless and the interaction process is natural and interesting enough as well.

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Step 5: Animation

We started our animation part in less than two weeks, we knew that a detailed plan was required. Being knowledgeable about what kind of video will be need eventually, we decided to to the frame animation for the changing of patten on LEDs first. Since we are not using neopixels which could be programmed to lightened up accordingly to its shape, we have to divide the patten which audiences may have seen on the final presentation day into multiple segments and animate each segment’s the degree of transparency in which will be reflected in the voltage posed on each LED strip according to the beats of the music in frames.

Everything has to do with the tempo and the beats of the song. The more exactly on the point where the beats comes up, the more mesmerizing the final effect would be. And also the patten display on the polygon like object should be representative enough for the music note is playing. It took us 4 days to accomplished the light video.


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(Since Gary is the animator in our group, here are confessions of an animator)
As to the video we need to project on the way, honestly speaking I didn’t really have a concept at all, but for me it was ok for the fact that the final presentation would be something more like a installation in club than a conceptual artwork which people would critic about. As long as there motions would be intense and make sense according to the music, that final delivering would be enough to impress the audience.

However there is a serious problem that I’ve overlooked until I was done with the light video. I was too ambitious about making the whole 1’44’’ animations at the very beginning that I didn’t really think about how much work would that be for me for the fact that the measurement here we are talking about is not second but frame. Immediately after I accomplished the light patten video, I realized that it would be a mission impossible for me to task the animation all by myself before the deadline. Using some of the free vj clips and 2d and 3d works I’ve done before and resources I have would be the only solutions for me.

Even though, the amount of animation work I have to do personally reduced, the job wasn’t easy for me. The problem is that what we have to projected on the object, the shape of it wasn’t regular. So masking job was inevitable, and this has to be done by frame with the reference light video. And also, as a perfectionist, how to make every signal frame unified in art style with the fact that through using different styles material is tricky. I have to modified or redo some resources to make it logically understandable and not feeling awkward when people are watching.

As to the software side, I’ve mainly used after effect as the tool to create videos both for projections and the light control. Accompanied with Cinema 4D which covered some part of 3D animations whose files then imported into AE to do some refinement.

During this project I did benefit a lot whatever it is regarding the knowledge about software techniques or creativity constructing or even skills in group collaboration. It is a project that combine all the knowledge together not just what we have learned from C&C, but others like creative techniques and work it out in a very short time.





The final result:


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Case Study 1:

4D virtual reality theme park
4D virtual reality theme park

This was our earliest case study when we were thinking very much how about how we could make an interactive amusement park. It got us thinking about possibly building some sort of infrastructure that would allow us to make an interactive amusement park that was interactive. Along the way, we begin to thinking about feasibility in terms of time, cost and construction.

Our animator was inspired to use Cinema4D to make 3D projections but our animator found it to be quite a huge feat to accomplish in a short time frame. This video was part of the inspiration process that got us thinking about what we could do.

Case Study 2:


In this video, you will be able to see symmetrical projection mapping in which the visual designer
uses a scaffold of sort that serves as a grounding for the projection mapping. The designer uses madmapper to shape a cube life projection, this gives the illusion of a 3-D structure once the projection mapping is made.

Case Study 3:

Enigmatica Mars

Another good reference on projection mapping that plays with illusions of spatial perception and 3-D space. During our case study period, we hadn’t really gave much though on how we could X-Bee in our projection mapping project.

Case Study 4:


This video had impressed us with it’s use of symmetry and projections on the interior of the building structure. At this phase of our case study, we had begin our construction of our wood shaped star. We felt that we might be able to do something similar with our own project but on a smaller scale using