Effects and Interactivity
Motion, sound, video, lighting, fire, infrastructure

Motion Effects:
Vibration effects (Pods 10-13):
The small Seedpods at the beginning of the spiral arm move with a rocking motion of new life bursting forth. Each Pod moves via a motor drive, causing a rocking motion. The motors are effected by the proximity of participants. Input for distance is generated via sonar sensors. The motion of the Seedpods increases as people move closer and decreases as they move away.

People powered (Pods 1-3):

The largest of mutopian life forms interact directly with the public by having rotatable root extensions that cause Pod structure movement via mechanical linkages. Five different motions and linkages have been specified; Flapping, Wiggling, Extension, Revealing, and Unfurling. Multiple versions of these mechanisms are located on Pods 1-3 and create movement of under canopy elements, both at head height and at ground root levels.

Sound Effects:
Ambient Soundscape (Pods 1, 3, 5, 7-13):
Sounds of metal work, gears, tinkering, clanging, etc. emanate throughout the piece. A composition is being made for the installation out of sounds recorded in the shop of Mutopias creation. As one approaches the Seedpods they will respond via sonar sensors, layering the composition with more streams of metallic growth. This system will also be used as a PA system for shows.

Sonar Activated Recording and streaming system (Pods 9-13):
These intelligent Pods can record and parrot back noise from the playa. Enabled with microphones these devices pick-up noises above a threshold, record and then play them back with distortion. Some of these recordings will be incorporated into the ambient soundscape throughout the week.

Sound Distribution:
Sound will be delivered over Ethernet via Session Initiation Protocol, the current standard for voice over IP, through off-the shelf units commercially available. A free, open source software switchboard will enable us to interconnect voice units. Also, utilizing the sound input and output of the video device we intend to use, we’ll be able to create layering.

Video Effects:
Embedded Video (Pods 9 and 13):
As Mutopia grows and expands, it is learning and taking in its surroundings, and trying to communicate. This is manifested by small 2.5″ LCD screens that start to appear in the younger more intelligent Pods. An aluminium casting is created to house the screen, which serves to incorporate the screens visually and to dissipate heat. Viewers will see images through cracks in the Seedpods, as clusters on the nodes of roots, or as fruits hanging from the organism. The images seen on the screens range from fractal growth patterns to pupils of eyes that appear to follow the viewer.

Proximity Activated Video Recording System (Pods 8-10):
Mutopia is an evolving life form taking in information. Through sonar sensors and small embedded video cameras Mutopia records the movements of participants that move within the space. Recording is activated when these devices pick-up noises above a threshold. The result will be a montage small bits of what Mutopia sees throughout the week.

Video Distribution:
We intend to utilize digital standards to store, record and distribute video throughout the installation. We are currently evaluating a Neuros unit recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that will record and playback in standard MPEG-4 formats, as well as communicate with other devices over Ethernet. The device runs Linux, enabling us to customize it to our specific applications, as well as incorporate other open source software packages into the sound and video installation.

Lighting Effects:
LED (Pods 1-13):
Illuminating LED lights emanate from all of the Pods starting with simple light patterns to complex swirls. The smaller Pods have numerous LED lights that pulse and change colors as if the Pod is attempting to communicate via lights. Each Pod has 48 smart LEDs that can display a wide range of colors. We hope to use the LEDs developed by the Cubatron project (Triklits); if unavailable, we will develop our own using a Microchip 16F627A microcontroller and a high-brightness LED. The LEDs will be controlled by software running on the central control laptop.

Propane Fire Effects:

Ambient Flame Effects (Pods 1-10):
Mutopia has ambient propane flame effects in its Pods, roots, and sprouts. These ambient flames run from dusk until early morning, illuminating the undulating form of the installation. Visible from every corner of the playa, the flames invite participants to explore deeper inside Mutopia’s spiral, creating a warm gathering place.

Promatics1 (Pods 7, 8 and 9):
The leaves of some of the younger, smaller Pods will move using specially adapted pneumatic cylinders that will be driven by propane, instead of air. The cylinder’s exhaust will be ignited by an ambient flame, creating a fiery poof as the leaf moves. Non-sparking cylinders with viton o-rings will ensure the safety of the system. Participants will be able to control the fiery movement of these leaves using interactive controllers, with Flaming Lotus Girl supervision. In addition to the participant controlled element to this effect, there is also a computer controlled sequencer for choreographed fire performances.

1) Promatics: Flaming Lotus Girls terminology for participant activated propane pneumatics fire effects.

Multi-Directional Propane “Poofers” (Pods 4, 5 and 6):
Nestled inside some of Mutopia’s beautifully sculptured buds are participant controlled multi-directional propane “poofers”. These poofers are made of 3 electronically controlled solenoid valves pointing 120 degrees apart that create a “poofing” effect when triggered. Participants look up into the overhanging bud and control the 3 valves individually with buttons, causing the sprouts to swing backward and forward, side to side, depending on what combinations of buttons are pressed. In addition to the participant controlled element to this effect, there is also a computer controlled sequencer for choreographed fire performances.

Rubenesque Tube Flame Effect (Pods 1 and 2):
A large diameter pips will function as a fiery tap root from the base of Mutopia’s oldest, largest seed Pods. Longitudinal pressure waves generated by a speaker at one end of the pipe will travel through the propane filled defacto accumulator pipe creating a wave of fiery jets down the tube top, which is perforated with a row of small holes. These waves of fire are controlled by the amplitude and frequency of the generated sound signal which can be controlled interactively through a participants microphone.

Liquid Fuel Fire Effects:
Misters (Pods 1-5):
At the center of Mutopia’s spiral, participants will be entertained, as they look to the heavens, by a canopy of colored fire. The canopy, made from the leaves of the older and larger Pods, provides a secret haven during the day and a spectacular fire show throughout the evening. The leaves of the canopy will contain a fuel line with misters that spray methanol onto the copper and stainless steel mesh that encase the leaves. Metal salts will be added to the methanol, creating a multi-colored overhead fire show. The methanol will then be ignited by ignitors at both ends of the leaves, causing the colored fire to chase up and down the surface of the leaves. The methanol for the leaves will be pressurized to 100 psi by 3 CAT pumps, allowing us to shoot different colored fire from the leaves to create an intricate fire show. This effect will primarily be run by Flaming Lotus Girls, with an occasional interactive component with Flaming Lotus Girl supervision.

Actuated Liquid Shooters (Pods 1-3):
The night will culminate with the blooming of Mutopia’s flowers, a spectacle of fire, sound, light and color. At this point, we relocate the audience behind a safety perimeter. Hidden inside each of the flowers will be a first-of-its-kind, positional liquid fuel firing flame effect. The liquid fuel positioning uses computer controlled linear actuators to point the nozzles in a choreographed sequence for an unprecedented fire show. Each of the flowers will be running methanol, to which various metal salts can be added to create different colored fire. The methanol for each of the flowers will be pressurized to 350 psi by its own CAT pump, allowing us to shoot different colored fire from each. All the shooters will be individually computer-controlled, allowing us to carry out an intricate, choreographed performance. The Flaming Lotus Girls will run this effect 1 time each evening. During this part of the performance the solenoid valves in the multi-directional propane “poofer” buds and the pneumatic valves in the Promatic1 sprouts will be sequenced in coordination with the effects in the flowers.

Steam Effects:
Seeping Steam effects (Pods 10-12):
At night Steam will emanate from the younger Pods. The hissing puffs of steam will simulate life and growth as the sequence of Pods first start to germinate. Participants will be encouraged to help water the young Pods which will replenish the steam boilers inside the Pods. Water will be added with a hand powered pump dipped into a special watering can. A sight glass attached to the boiler inside the Pod will indicate the correct level of water in the boiler. The Boilers will be electric powered and operate at low pressure. A pressure shut off switch will prevent over-pressure of the boiler. An over pressure blow off valve will also be used as a fail safe to further prevent over pressure if the shut off switch were to fail. Electric steam valves will be used in conjunction to sensors so steam will be released as participants move around the Pod.

Pod Central (Main Computer Control System):
While our art has evolved over the years from hand-filled tanks to a central fuel depot for control and safety of flame effects, so have we found central control necessary for electrical power and sequenced coordination of our technical effects. We always include the interactivity of participants through manual override buttons as a focus of our work, but we enjoy the opportunity to create spectacular performances with a safety perimeter. We aid these visuals through the use of computers and additional small microprocessors to time propane and liquid effects from our main computer control system.

Pod Control Boxes:
Our development of sequenced flame effects for the Serpent Mother introduced a modular approach to our use of microprocessors and central control. Not only does this facilitate creative expression in new artwork, it is also an effective teaching tool for sharing electronics and mechatronics with Flaming Lotus Girls who might not have otherwise written software or soldered circuit boards. We are basing our Pod effects control on a proven design with enhancements to meet the needs of the new flame effects and interactivity with participants. Each Pod control box has three means of creating an effect: 1. a local button control which works even if all microprocessors have crashed, 2. a local sensor processor for responding to light or participant proximity, and 3. a connection to Pod Central where a coordinating system creates global control of the piece.

Ethernet network:
We have designed an Ethernet implementation for our flame effects network. It meets industry standards to ensure solid functionality and reliability. By isolating elements via patches and jacks, we enable the network to be robust and recover from problems caused by the harsh environment quickly; with minimal downtime. Our data network is based on independent wiring with an industrial control bus which we’ve used in the past, so we keep the timing and traffic for flame effects clear of the busier data used in the other systems.

Local Power Distribution:
The local power requirements of the many parts and pieces of this installation vary widely. We will be using a power redistribution system based on PC power supplies. This system is ideal, these supplies are manufactured to deliver all the necessary voltages to each of the elements of the installation. These can provide a cheap, safe and reliable means to transform power to meet all our various systems’ demands.

Overall AC Power Distribution:
For this installation we’ve used our experience from previous installations to plan a breakout power control panel to distribute all power needs. This system streamlines operation, creates protocols for safer operation and acts as an emergency shut-off system. Wiring heavy loads to a distribution panel allows coordinated from a single point with the fuel operators. This power panel and all associated cables will come from Pod Central to individual loads. All systems turn on and off from this point. Our budgetary requirements for this equipment include a single point of connection to the generator, a load center, heavy cabling to the pumps and steam generators, and data cables for connection to the Pod Control Boxes.