s q u i d s o u p . o r g


art, research and play in creative interaction design

3D stage lighting design

The Ocean of Light project, whose aim is to explore the creative potential of large 3D arrays of controllable LEDs, has in the past mainly focused on art gallery and public spaces as venues for experimentation. We have recently had some opportunities to play in a new setting, however, as we have been working with some wonderful and adventurous musicians on lighting for live stage performance. It’s been a thrilling ride. It has provided us with a very different set of opportunities and constraints, pushed us into developing new visual ideas, and also resulted in a set of software tools that we hope will be useful in future work. Untitled
Setup for Four Tet, Manchester International festival (July 2015)

DSC02370Purity Ring, World tour 2015

The tool is very much a work-in-progress; the sections that have been built have been designed for the specific requirements of the two performers we have worked with. However, they work in very different ways – one band triggers lighting behaviours themselves, with the other we are controlling the lighting in real time using a set of interfaces we built for the purpose.

Ocean of Light control interface. Four Tet, MIF, Manchester.

The process has presented many dilemmas, to do with being forced to select and rationalise a coherent approach from an eight year library of experiments (in at least three different development platforms). There is plenty more to do, but this is at least a start.

Stage lighting control is not a new industry, but we are new to it. It certainly feels like we are the new kids on the block, unaware of the terminology, techniques and protocols in place. People and colleagues have been very interested in what we are doing, and happy to offer general advice and act as fallback, covering such details as actually, err, lighting the performer…

Lighting design has come on a long way recently, to the point where the gobos and lights used in large numbers today can be coordinated, with beam shape and multiple hues from a single source choreographed in real time. Combined with haze, these do create volumetric experiences; cones or lines that scan the space, defining volumes that stretch far beyond the confines of the stage. But from an outsider’s perspective they are still limited in what they can do – essentially a series of cones emanating from fixed points.

We were never-the-less technologically outgunned. These people have very powerful state-of-the-art LEDs as standard, whereas our LEDs are cheap, they are rated at 0.6W each and they are omni-directional. The only thing we have going in our favour is quantity. A pro lighting rig will currently have maybe 40 or so lights to control – we have 5,000 or more.

And used together, those thousands of suspended LEDs are capable of producing 3D form and movement in physical space – which is the whole point of the exercise.

At the most recent gig with Four Tet (at the ICA, London) the performance was in-the-round. The ICA is an intimate setting, with a small audience, and the aim here was to blur the boundaries between stage/performer and audience. Four Tet was on a low stage in the middle of the lights, and the audience was also allowed within the lights – to within reach of the performer.

ica039Four Tet, ICA. 25 August 2015. Photo Future Sun

We are now looking for opportunities to blur more boundaries. One that we have in mind is the boundary between performance and installation. These projects began as responsive installation pieces, and are moving into performance. There is no reason the two can’t be combined, either simply as having the space act as a responsive installation at times, and a performance space at others… but the possibility of creating a true, and new, dialogue between audience and performance is beginning to emerge…

ica023Four Tet, ICA. 25 August 2015. Photo Future Sun

Currently, Purity Ring are touring with the system in the US, Australia and Europe. We will be performing with Four Tet again at the Roundhouse (London, UK), in February 2016. Working with both musicians has been a pleasure, an honour and a great source of inspiration – and we look forward to further collaborations with them.


Purity Ring: www.purityringthing.com/

Four Tet: www.fourtet.net






We are delighted to be part of this year’s Cinekid Festival (see http://www.cinekid.nl/ for more info) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In among a host of awesome content and highly engaging interactive kid-oriented experiences, we have installed our Living Timeline project. It feels great to give the piece its first international audience, and to be in this cool exhibition. Bring on the kids!

The original is on permanent exhibition at At-Bristol in the UK.

There’s a video of the project below, and more info here.



Living Timeline

Living Timeline, a project we started in June last year, has finally launched as part of At-Bristol’s new exhibit “Our World – No More Waste”, sponsored by Sita Trust.

Living Timeline brings the last 460 million years of evolutionary development to life, with creatures ranging from spiders, beetles and snails, through ammonites and trilobites to sharks and dinosaurs inhabiting a Mixed Reality ecosystem.

The creatures are projected onto a physical 3D landscape measuring 4.6m. Like Glowing Pathfinder Bugs, creatures sense their landscape, and the presence of visitors, through the use of Kinect stereo camera sensors, and they respond accordingly by flying off, panicking and running away, crawling up your arm or being splattered to death by rampant children.


Also, see this on the At-Bristol site; it includes a brief video description/interview about the project.

The project is part of a group of projects that have explored and extended the ideas behind Glowing Pathfinder Bugs (2008), an artwork that projects caterpillars onto a sandpit. Other related projects include Pest Control I and Pest Ctrl II – a full body experience recently shown at Phoenix Square, Leicester UK.

These projects all use simple projection mapping techniques to create convincing forms of spatially coherent Mixed Reality experience; making the digital world feel as though it exists within our own physical reality, rather than looking through a window/screen into a parallel yet untouchable universe.

Living Walls is a permanent exhibition, and the first exhibit you come to just through the entrance at At-Bristol. It is estimated that the project will be seen by over a million people in the next few years.


Also, our LIVING WALLS project at the RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon is still running; a trio of pieces that aim to show the spirit and words of Shakespeare coming alive within the walls of the theatre. More info HERE; the pieces run until 9th September.


Infestation at Phoenix Square

We have received these disturbing images of an outbreak of beetles, spiders and centipedes at Phoenix Square, an otherwise wonderful cinema, café and media centre in Leicester. Digital artists Squidsoup have been on-site trying to contain the infestation but they may need your help…

Pest Control 2, a new interactive installation by Squidsoup, opens at the DMU Cube, Phoenix Square on Monday 14th April 2012, and is on show until June 10th. Please see the venue for more details.

The project builds on a series of related research and projects that place responsive and vaguely aware digital creatures in physical space, exploring the boundaries and relationships between digital and physical environments. Related projects include Glowing Pathfinder Bugs (2008, updated 2011), Pest Control (2010) and Living Timelines (2012). Pest Control 2 uses ceiling mounted Kinect sensors (Microsoft X-Box game controllers) to detect movement and interactions in 3D within the gallery space. Creatures respond to physical presence in different ways – some insects are wary of people, others far more inquisitive…

Video documentation available soon.

Living Timeline

We have been commissioned by At-Bristol to produce an interactive evolutionary timeline, based on the ideas behind our Glowing Pathfinder Bugs project. This is an exciting opportunity to use some of the techniques we’ve developed in a new setting.

The project brings the last 460 million years of evolutionary development to life, with creatures ranging from spiders, beetles and snails, through ammonites and trilobites to sharks and dinosaurs inhabiting a Mixed Reality ecosystem. It is part of an upcoming permanent exhibition, “Our world – no more waste”.

The creatures are projected onto a physical 3D landscape measuring 4.6m. Like Glowing Pathfinder Bugs, creatures sense the presence of visitors through the use of Kinect stereo camera sensors, and they respond accordingly by disappearing, running away, or crawling up your arm.

The exhibition is to open in late May 2012.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Bugs invade France and beyond (updated)

Squidsoup’s Glowing Pathfinder Bugs get two trips to Brittany (France) this year. We showed them in St Brieuc in June (at ART ROCK) and we will be showing a new version of the piece (using a Kinect camera) at this year’s SCOPITONE festival in Nantes, in October.

The Bugs have also been travelling further afield than France. In January they were in Utah for the Sundance Film Festival, followed by a stay at the Salt Lake City Art Center. In June they were also spotted at Oslo’s Art-on-Wires festival, and last December they were in Wellington, New Zealand. There are rumours that they liked New Zealand and are planning to return…

Finally, the article we wrote for LeonardoGlowing Pathfinder Bugs: A natural haptic 3D interface for interacting intuitively with virtual environments, can now be found here.


We had fun at this year’s SIGGRAPH in Downtown LA. We showed Glowing Pathfinder Bugs in the Art Gallery – it was interesting to present a sandpit at a heavily tech-led event, and seemed to go down well. We also presented a conference paper on the project, published in a special issue of Leonardo (vol 43, issue 4). And we did an artists’ talk.

More images here, and the project was also covered here by Core77.

Glastonbury setup

Pest Control came into being at dawn today in the Shangri-La area at Glastonbury, on the eve of the festival starting.

Above, graffiti inspired by the project, and below, a piece of found graffiti that we rather liked…

Glastonbury at dawn on the eve of the festival.

More images here.

PEST CONTROL at Glastonbury


We are developing a new iteration of our Glowing Pathfinder Bugs project for this year’s Festival season, called Pest Control. Like the original piece, Pest Control consists of autonomous multi-legged virtual creatures that respond to each other, and any physical objects and real people in their way. But this time, the bugs get nasty…

Pest Control will be on show at the GLASTONBURY Festival, in the Shangri-La area, and also at the SECRET GARDEN PARTY Festival and WALTHAMSTOW Festival – with thanks to Up Projects and Arts Council England.

ALSO, the original Glowing Pathfinder Bugs is being shown in a few venues this Summer, including the SITE Festival (Stroud, late May, see previous post), SIGGRAPH (LA, in late July) and Le Cube (Paris, September). A fun Summer!

Glowing Pathfinder Bugs and Freq2 in Stroud

The SITE Festival, “a festival of artist led projects in stroud gloucestershire”, will be showing two of our pieces as part of a long list of interesting local, national and international artists’ work.

Glowing Pathfinder Bugs will be on show at SVA (Stroud Valley Arts), Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th May.

Freq2 will be on show on the 5th June (11-6) in Union Street. You might also catch it at Bar Nine a bit later in the week.

More details at www.sitefestival.org.uk