Lightefface

Lighefface_Arduino

Made with Arduino Uno

arduino Uno

Description

‘Lightefface’ is an Arduino-based interface/controller that takes values from light sensors and translates them into digital data. Values acquired this way can then be used to control any piece of software that can read data from serial port, so for example max msp, pure data, supercollider, processing etc.

Interview


What have you made?

I made an interface that allows to translate the amount of light into digital data. I use it in my live performance to control and manipulate sound with various light sources. The interface is quite simple and contains 24 light sensors in a wooden box. The difficult part was to expand the amount of analog inputs on Arduino board. As everyone knows, Arduino usually has only 6 or 8 analog ins, so you need some extra circuitry and code to add extra analog inputs and that was the most tricky part. Coming from musical background I built ‘Lightefface’ in order to use it in my live performance but it could easily be used by others for different purposes.

What gave you the initial inspiration?

Once upon a time, when I was starting to get interested in the world of electronic and exploratory music, I met an amazing person, Mr Marek Chołoniewski. He is a professor at the Music Academy in Cracow and a very inspiring character. I started attending his lectures, and he introduced me into this amazing world. During one of his lectures, I learned about his performance ‘WYSYG’, during which he used light sensors to control a midi synthesizer. That performance was made in the 80’s and used what would now be considered old technology but the idea of translating light into sound got stuck in my head and I knew I had to do something with it.

What is the original idea behind this project?

The idea is to use various light sources in order to control various sounds. When I was building the instrument I didn’t know what sounds it would make and what light sources I would use. These came later and were partially influenced by the possibilities that this instrument brought. Another important part is trying to address a problem of lack of connection between the live electronic music performance and the resulting sound, in case of my interface the connection becomes very clear.



How does it work?

You plug in the USB cable and you are ready to go ;-)
On a more serious note, you need a piece of software that reads serial messages. You plug the ‘Lightefface‘ and start up max msp or pure data (or any other piece of software that you want to use). Then you need to choose the right serial port (you need to have the drivers installed if they are required). Then you should be able to receive your data from instrument. 



How long did it take to make it real?

In case of ‘Lightefface’, the process of turning the idea into reality was a really long one. I wanted to make it for a long time but had to learn a lot in order to do that. The first attempts ware hacking a midi controller and making it light sensitive, but it was far from ideal, than during my studies in London, I learned about Arduino, and it made things much easier, I was able to send 6 values to software relatively easily. Then I wanted to have more then 6 analog values (which Arduino allows for). I had to expand using multiplexers, and it took another year to complete that. Finally, I managed to make it happen in 2010. In total, I think it took about 2 to 3 years, but it was totally worth it.

How did you build it?

This part was quite easy, as soon as you know how to connect one sensor, you know how to connect all of them. The tricky part is adding more sensors that the Arduino allows. For this purpose I used a bunch of multiplexers (4051) and Andrew Benson’s code (sensor box), which worked great. This allowed me to expand each analog input from 1 to 8.