night lights from thesystemis on Vimeo.

Who says “art” can’t also involve the words “fun” and “play”? We’ve been watching a lot of outdoor projection, projection mapping, and visuals on architecture. The twist in “Night Lights” is that onlookers are active participants, making the side of a building into an interactive visual playground.

The best part? People start dancing. (Hmmm… perhaps we’ve stumbled upon the solution to the problems that plague visualists and electronic musicians alike in 2010. We just need outdoor, all-ages music events with interactive projections that make the kids – little kids – dance.)

The team that did this is a who’s who of some of our favorite interactive developers; I heard about the project from OpenFrameworks initiator Zach Lieberman. Sadly, Daito Manabe’s sound didn’t come out in this documentation, but if they work that out, I’ll do an update. The details:

In this installation YesYesNo teamed up with The Church, Inside Out Productions and Electric Canvas to turn the Auckland Ferry Building into an interactive playground. Our job was to create an installation that would go beyond merely projection on buildings and allow viewers to become performers, by taking their body movements and amplifying them 5 stories tall.

We used 3 different types of interaction – body interaction on the two stages, hand interaction above a light table, and phone interaction with the tracking of waving phones. There were 6 scenes, cycled every hour for the public.

We had a great deal of fun making this, hope you enjoy it too.


Interaction Design and Software: YesYesNo — Joel Gethin Lewis, Zach Lieberman, Pete Hellicar, Kyle McDonald, Todd Vanderlin w/ Daito Manabe sound design (

Projection / Staging: Electric Canvas, Inside Out Productions ( Production: The Church (, Simon Velvin. Production & Art Direction: Hellicar and Lewis (

Video features footage and edits by Simon Velvin, and music: 9th Wonder – Beautiful Morning (instrumental), Gin Wigmore – Under My Skin

Thanks to NZ Telecom and the Auckland City Council for supporting this, Peter Milne and all the Team, Simon Velvin and all at the Church, Mike Mizrahi, Marie Adams and all at Inside Out Productions, and Takayuki Ito.

The work was evidently done on a “mega-short deadline,” which meant wrangling hardware in New Zealand and matching bleeding-edge interactive designers with oldskool projectionists. But fire twelve, 20,000-lumen projectors at a 100-meter building, and you can make it work.

It does make me wonder, though: not to suck the fun out of it, but what would the optimal conditions be for outdoor projection, in terms of deadlines, equipment, and support?