Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks for making installations of all sizes or making smaller pieces and jewelry.
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kowtow
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Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Mon Oct 03, 2016 8:14 pm

I'm finally taking my Burn to the next level. Having taken last year off it left me feeling absent and neglectful, so now I'm trying to make up for my selfish and inconsiderate behavior (resultant from not attending) by offering more than just schwag in 2017. Not that there is anything wrong with schwag, I keep my schwag collection near and dear, because every piece I've ever received has a story behind it. Sorry, I digress...

So this year I'm planning a somewhat large and costly art installation ($25k+). I only say costly only to communicate that I'm serious about this endeavor and it's not going to be a "from the seat of my pants" art effort. It's also my attempt to keep the eplaya snark tank somewhat at bay with the responses (love you guys!).

My installation is currently planned to be an interactive, electronic and unfortunately large square cube adorning the open playa. I don't want to divulge too much before I learn more and get some ducks in a row for a crowd funding campaign. "Yes, I've read the great posts on resources for crowd funding. - priceless inputs." This project is currently a 10'x10'x10' cube, with interactive electronic elements adorning nearly the entire surface of each side of the cube.

My immediate concerns are this:
  • ° How to keep the structure sound from winds without adding unsightly ratchet straps
    ° How to keep the electronics protected from the harsh conditions (ex. Do low voltage DC circuits hold up pretty well for the week for the most part, or do they suffer poorly from the dust and possible moisture)?
    ° Will my interactions with the Placers assist with this?
These questions are for others who've placed art on the open playa, both successfully and unsuccessfully - please share your experiences. These answers will mainly impact the spend adders on infrastructure unrelated to the project experience itself that I have to account for.

NOTE: I'm no stranger to structural challenges on the playa. In 2015 I was camped "alone" on the corner of 3:30 and H and I had a 150+ sqft projector screen and three 10x10x10 screen rooms for my theater area that I set up entirely alone. I worked out amazingly well, but I had a vast number of ratchet straps securing everything. I have always been amazed by the engineering behind the art projects and how they are able to withstand the elements without having it detract from the artists intent. I'm requesting the groups experience in how to make this a reality so that I can bring my art for the enjoyment of everyone.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by maladroit » Mon Oct 03, 2016 8:48 pm

Is this cube accessible from the inside? Opaque? Ratchet straps work equally well on the inside of a cubical structure as they do on the outside. You only need to look at a lot of conduit shade structures or surplus military tent setups to see what I mean. You can put an X of straps in the middle of each side, put the top bars in compression (just not TOO much). If the ratchet are in the way too much, you could use thinner tape (like mule tape) or switch to aircraft wire rope cinched down tight and made taut with turnbuckles.

For ground anchors, lag screws all the way. A 10 foot wall on the open playa will catch a bit of wind, so the common 14" screws may not be enough. You could upgrade to 18" screws and use a bunch, or work with the Artery to have a Bobcat come out and auger in some really badass screw anchors for you (we've had that done for a couple art projects before). These things are multiple feet long and they use a hydraulic motor to spin them down into the playa.

Electronics will probably survive the week, but have plenty of spares. The real damage doesn't start until you take them back someplace with moister air. You're taking it back to Portland and it rains 5 months of the year here, you'll need to clean off the electronics quickly.

Dealing with the Artery is a little weird. They want to help, but they also don't want to do everything for you. Nobody involved does this all year, so there will be some false starts and awkwardness. They'll put a marker on a map, and you have to go out on the playa and find another marker (I've seen them as recycled CD's with an orange tuft and some Sharpie scribbles). When you go to the Artery and need help with anything, think first about whether you could possibly do it yourself. If the answer is no, then go to Artery and spit out what you need as quickly as possible. "I'm a placed artist and need to find a jig lift..." Don't be surprised if you get handed off to several different people and have to repeat your story each time. Don't be surprised if you have to stand around waiting for someone to answer their radio for a while. Everything is chaos, try to be the calm center of the storm and everything will be fine.

Unless you need decomposed granite because you're doing a burn. Then you can panic and worry as much as you want, nothing will go right.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:06 pm

Thanks maladroit! I have 23" x 5/8" lag screws that I used for the "theater room" in 2015. This was directly from previous advice from Figjam and the impact driver was a piece of cake to install and de-install these bolts. I was definitely wondering if an "inner" lag system would be the key for this. I guess I should also throw out there, that I will likely need a genie for the entire week. I'm not too concerned, because the honda I've taken to BRC has lasted 24x7 (more like 24x10days) over two years time. I'll likely buy another honda dedicated to place "inside" the cube because solar won't suffice for the ~15amps of draw that will be required.

The structure will be mainly opaque. Over 400 square feet of circuit boards (nightmare). I plan on covering access to the direct "interactive components with large sheets of plexiglass, also 10'x10' for each side of the cube. I just didn't know if I should try to encapsulate completely the electronics in Plexiglas in an effort to prevent vast amounts of moisture and dust intrusion. If some of the PCBAs succumb to the elements it's not the end of the installation, but if I lose entire sections it could become rather embarrassing.

I was wondering about the electronics. I'm not worried if they never work again, once I leave the playa, although it would be nice to donate a working installation to any organization that found in worthwhile. I really just want it to survive a rain squall and DIP sockets getting filled with dust and moisture. I'll likely take precautions like hot glue over the IC sockets, but I also don't want to encapsulate moisture that might find it's way in either.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by Jackass » Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:18 pm

Dielectric grease/ paste. 3M makes a good one...
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:18 pm

I also work with a long-time burner who has been a part of various art installations (Groovik's Cube) and temple builds. He wasn't a lead on these projects, but he also suggested the inner ratchet system like you have. He also told me about the recycled CDs. That cracks me up.

BTW, you're being nice when you say that we only have 5 months of moisture. It's more like 9, but who's counting... That reminds me, the rains will be settling in her in the next few weeks for the long, dark fall/winter/spring lol....

Great inputs on the Artery crew. I also wondered if volunteering would be another source of information for me. I've volunteered multiple years for the Census and it was very valuable in learning the ins and outs of what's going on and the Artery may provide me with the same insights. My main concern this year is that this project will take a tremendous amount of time and effort. I may actually not have the time to dedicate to a volunteer position or even assist much with a theme camp, but I think as the project progresses that will become more apparent to me.

What projects have you been involved with or created out on the playa?

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:25 pm

Great input Jackass. I totally didn't think about the dielectric grease. That's an excellent choice for the ICs and capacitors especially.

The PCBA's aren't super component intensive, but there are over 680 individual circuit boards that will be involved in the project and that ends up being a couple thousand ICs and even more caps and the grease will keep the moisture out and embrace the dust.

In this project the infrared transistor/receiver LEDs will be the key components to keep "healthy" and unobscured from the elements.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by Jackass » Mon Oct 03, 2016 9:59 pm

Once greased and coupled, nothing else can really get in. If you have barrel connectors on power supplies, those things will give you trouble. Either pack with grease or hard-wire to eliminate issues, in that area at least.
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by BBadger » Mon Oct 03, 2016 11:32 pm

Can you enclose electronics inside electronic enclosure boxes and use the knock-out holes to feed wires, etc. outside? I've used those and they work nicely, and some are air-tight if you need that. Just put some silicone at the location of the holes and have connectors. You can even use conduits to keep the wires safe.

I also used some ammo boxes for housing electronics inside. They're also water proof and pretty rugged.

The biggest overall pain with the electronics this year was the dust that clung to the silicone sheathing around some LED strips. That dust just loves that stuff and nothing less than vinegar and scrubbing takes it off. I might encase them in some packing tape or something next year to not have to deal with that again. PCBs didn't seem to keep dust on them though, which was pretty nice. Just canned-aired some out.

For holding up your structure, you could use some steel cabling, especially if you can secure it from the inside of the cube to avoid a tripping hazard.
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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by sadie » Tue Oct 04, 2016 5:12 am

Hi Kowtow!!!!! So great to see you back in here! You have been missed.
I don't have any advice on how to do what you are doing but I couldn't resist saying
hello. Can't wait to see you and give you a hug. The art piece sounds great and knowing
your skill and determination it will be secure and functioning flawlessly.
Ok...sorry for the off topic post...

And now we return to our scheduled program...
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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by GreyCoyote » Tue Oct 04, 2016 5:55 am

Kowtow is BACK!!!!! Yippee!!!!

Where in the HELL have you been? We missed yer azzz something fierce!!!! Welcome back!!
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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by maladroit » Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:26 am

kowtow wrote:What projects have you been involved with or created out on the playa?
My art assists were in 2012 and 2013 with Rob Bell and the Zonotopia Crew. First was the Two Trees...the LEDs were all addressable but Rob liked the system-wide color effect and wouldn't let me disco them out :) http://www.loupiote.com/photos/7994301905.shtml
Image

The second one was the Quasicrystalline Conjunction. It did have addressable panels (far fewer than planned...) and I got to run some patterns on them. It used some custom hardware based around a Teensy 3, differential signaling to extend WS2811 control, and custom WS2811 boards with drivers for RGB strips. None of the electronics were sealed, I dug the controller out of a solid drift of dust and it worked fine :)
Image

I haven't managed to work with Rob any more since moving up to the Portland area, the last-minute-rush style of art production is fun but you have to be ready to jump in any given weekend and the distance makes that really tough. He had a project on the playa this year that looked pretty cool.

Other on-playa electronics: an art car with custom drive-by-wire electronics that has been going to the playa since 2008. The original steering pinion feedback potentiometer is unsealed and caked with dust, but still works great. I think we explode the electronics and have to replace them by accident more than the dust affects them.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:03 pm

sadie wrote:Hi Kowtow!!!!! So great to see you back in here!
GreyCoyote wrote: Where in the HELL have you been? We missed yer azzz something fierce!!!! Welcome back!!
So 2016 was a distracted year. Distracted by Defaultia and I bought a park model in a 55+ resort in AZ. I know, call me the enigma...
  • I'm one of the only republicans who goes to burning man and pays taxes.
    I'm probably one of the only under 50 people in the country who owns a house in a 55+ resort that isn't for his folks.
    I'm probably one of the only people who totally forgot he had a camera in his sheer cheetah underwear, placed there in a drunken stupor at Burning Man and apologizes to the 19 year old owner that he lost her camera...
Glad to be back in the company of The Normal people.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:25 pm

maladroit wrote:
kowtow wrote:What projects have you been involved with or created out on the playa?
My art assists were in 2012 and 2013 with Rob Bell and the Zonotopia Crew. First was the Two Trees...the LEDs were all addressable but Rob liked the system-wide color effect and wouldn't let me disco them out :)

The second one was the Quasicrystalline Conjunction. It did have addressable panels (far fewer than planned...) and I got to run some patterns on them. It used some custom hardware based around a Teensy 3, differential signaling to extend WS2811 control, and custom WS2811 boards with drivers for RGB strips. None of the electronics were sealed, I dug the controller out of a solid drift of dust and it worked fine :)

I haven't managed to work with Rob any more since moving up to the Portland area, the last-minute-rush style of art production is fun but you have to be ready to jump in any given weekend and the distance makes that really tough. He had a project on the playa this year that looked pretty cool.

Other on-playa electronics: an art car with custom drive-by-wire electronics that has been going to the playa since 2008. The original steering pinion feedback potentiometer is unsealed and caked with dust, but still works great. I think we explode the electronics and have to replace them by accident more than the dust affects them.
As my playa name implies I'm right now down on my knees kowtow'n to you. You have my full and upmost respect!!!

Your art contributions were some of the first art I saw when I learned about what Burning Man was. Some of the people on here know how much I love electronic art. My first year at Burning Man I strolled around in a fur coat with a red and green laser system that was music driven and powered by a 12vdc/7ah battery stuffed in my pocket. Shhh they've banned portable lasers (and drones) since, so that's part of my trouble with safety-third now becoming safety first. ....ugly tangent...

Anyhow... I've wanted to do an electronic art project and now I think I finally have the means of being able to do something. I still have a TON to learn about addressing and driving LEDs and that's what I'm working on learning right now. I finally grabbed an Arduino and have begun soaking up everything I can on the software side. I'm an electronics geek going way back, but the software side has always been my black box. I told myself that would have to change in order to move forward with my electronic art efforts.

You have all the knowledge that I'm trying to learn. I've been reading on the WS2811 and WS2812 controls and driving LED stips. I've thought about playing with doing a LED string video display, etc., but for now I think I need to focus on this art project. If I'm truly to have nearly 700 circuit boards then I need to put the Chinese in-laws to work stuffing boards, or the more likely scenario has me getting pretty busy. Even if I stuff and solder a couple boards a day, I'm still going long past next years burn.

If you're in the PDX area I'd love to connect and see if I can't steal some of your knowledge. I'm not in Portland proper, I'm on the "other" side of the river...

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by maladroit » Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:42 pm

kowtow wrote:You have all the knowledge that I'm trying to learn. I've been reading on the WS2811 and WS2812 controls and driving LED strips. I've thought about playing with doing a LED string video display, etc., but for now I think I need to focus on this art project. If I'm truly to have nearly 700 circuit boards then I need to put the Chinese in-laws to work stuffing boards, or the more likely scenario has me getting pretty busy. Even if I stuff and solder a couple boards a day, I'm still going long past next years burn.

If you're in the PDX area I'd love to connect and see if I can't steal some of your knowledge. I'm not in Portland proper, I'm on the "other" side of the river...
Coincidence, I am also on the cheaper side of the Columbia. It just rained for a few minutes pretty hard. Would definitely be cool to talk about a new art project and see what happens. If we don't, here is the best advice for playa electronics I have: do not plan to strip any wires or solder anything together on the playa, design connectors into your PCBs and have a lot of premade cables.

I often do the thing where people overseas assemble thousands of circuit boards, usually full of LEDs. Bad experience with my old China assembly house so we're working with Taiwan now with stellar results, but have a lead on a Portland-area assembler that can't be too expensive because it's what Paul uses for the Teensy boards.

Unfortunately software is not my strong suit either, but I get by. There are quite a few good off the shelf options for software that may make sense depending on the complexity and time remaining.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by some seeing eye » Tue Oct 04, 2016 1:45 pm

The Sonic Runway published information on their adventure: http://www.sonicrunway.net/making-of. You could always put your diagonal bracing entirely within the cube.

The Washoe Co building codes are easier to find than Pershing. By https://www.washoecounty.us/building/Fi ... 0Speed.pdf you should use 120 or 130 mph wind speed. Then Force, F = A x P x Cd A = The projected area of the item P, Wind pressure (Psf), = .00256 x V^2 (V= wind speed in Mph) Cd , Drag coefficient, = 2.0 for flat plates.

With that camp structure collapse this year, the BMORG will increasingly require structural calcs, so might be a good idea to have a structural engineer friend to do them.

If you are in PDX, see the Cymaspace http://www.cymaspace.org/ installation at the Portland Art Museum, meet the artists who did projects at the Winter Light Festival http://pdxwlf.com/, connect up with DorkbotPDX http://dorkbotpdx.org/ they are big on email lists for communication, and go to http://www.meetup.com/PDX-Creative-Coders/. It is a long shot, but Planar was bought by an LED wall maker in China, so it might be possible to get that wholesale rather than DIY. You might also make the acquaintance of Dusty Visions, they know all the PDX experienced playa art makers around.
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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Tue Oct 04, 2016 8:32 pm

Awesome resource links SomeSeeingEye! I'm delving deep into the throngs of all this content. I have no idea where you get this information, but holy cow you don't do it half-assed to you? Thanks again!!!

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by some seeing eye » Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:32 pm

I'm sure burners in a radius of PDX know Woosday, burners meeting every Tuesday at Another Roadside Attraction bar 6PM-11PMish 1000 SE 12th Ave. More than 10 years different locations and days.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by BBadger » Wed Oct 05, 2016 12:05 am

I've done work on programming and building systems employing lots of strips (72 strips x50) using LEDscape and some custom software. I'm also in the Portlandish area. I'd be cool to see what you're doing and help out if possible.
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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Wed Oct 05, 2016 5:39 am

BBadger wrote:I've done work on programming and building systems employing lots of strips (72 strips x50) using LEDscape and some custom software. I'm also in the Portlandish area. I'd be cool to see what you're doing and help out if possible.
Hey BBadger - I'll send you a PM. I want to see your work. I have really wanted to learn how to program strips. As part of my learning Arduino I built an 8x8x8 LED cube and had a real blast doing it. The code I used is canned with some simple mods I made while I continue learning how to code in Arduino.

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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by BBadger » Wed Oct 05, 2016 9:20 pm

Sounds good. The large array was driven by a computer, but I've used the Teensy 3.x MCUs for animated costume lighting and it's worked good. The latter uses an Arduino system and it's a good way to getting used to programming lights.
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Re: Electronic Art and Securing Structure

Post by kowtow » Wed Oct 26, 2016 6:26 pm

Sorry for the delay, I've been getting way too into propane and flames lately... I've told myself to ditch the propane and get back to my gifting...

Update. Here is the initial design. Unfortunately the CAD program isn't able to support the vast number of LEDs, so I can't show those details on this drawing, but it gives an idea.

The cube is 10' tall and the supporting structure has a height of 11' and extending out 15' from the cube at each point. Trip hazard? Yep. That's why I need some LED guru's to take free reign on lighting the support structure up.

Image

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