LEDs feature in close encounter on Independence Day

July 24, 2008
UFO spotters in Poland were disappointed when their close encounter turned out to be an aluminium structure covered with LED lights.
A UFO was seen hovering in the skies over Gdansk, Poland on the 4th of July. Flying up the coast, and then circling the town and dock areas, its dramatic lighting display of geometric colour patterns drew immediate attention.

It turned out not to be little green men from Mars, but an ambitious and inspired collaboration by New York artist Peter Coffin with London-based Cinimod Studios, and their design director Dominic Harris.

The complexity and logistics involved in realising the UFO vision are almost worthy of space flight; the mechanical, electrical and structural needs of bringing this flight together included a 6kW generator, mountain-rescue pilots and an Mi2 helicopter.

Suspended fifty metres below the helicopter was the seven-meter-diameter aluminium structure of the UFO, incorporating three thousand RGB LED nodes from sponsor Philips/Color Kinetics.

Nine thousand channels of control (over 17 DMX universes) warranted an LPC 20 from Pharos Architectural Controls, with the added benefit of reducing the amount of control equipment that the helio need to carry as the LPC X natively outputs CK's control protocol directly to the power supplies for the fixtures.

Harris, who has worked with Pharos on other projects, approached the control manufacturer for the "Untitled (UFO)" project knowing that the Pharos LPC X, their high-capacity lighting playback controller, could handle the requirements both in terms of the channel count and in realising the design brief for the playback of effects.

Also, the control unit and the LED lights were able to cope with all the vibration and movement being suspended from a helicopter travelling on sweeping and erratic flight paths.

Harris explains, "I modelled the show in the Designer software, and made use of the external control interfaces to make the UFO light display remote-controllable via SMS text messaging. The London-based Pharos team provided fantastic support throughout the project, and for the flights the Pharos controller performed flawlessly as the brain of the UFO!"

The inaugural flight of this audacious piece of art coincided with the Gdansk Festival of Stars, and it is planned to appear in the skies in other parts of the world in the coming months. For more information on the project, please visit www.cinimodstudio.com/ufo-project.