Keep your eyes on the skies, fellow nerdlings, because we can now watch laser-generated movies on clouds.
Now, at first glance, the idea of projecting a movie onto something that appears white doesn’t seem like such a big deal. But these moving images aren’t shone from the ground, Wayne-style, but rather are blasted out of a moving plane using a “laser zoopraxiscope.”
Back in 1879, photography pioneer Eadweard Muybridge changed everything when he rolled out the original zoopraxiscope, a projector that spun a sequence of still photographs on a moving disc to create a motion-picture. By creating an updated version of the old machine, with a laser as the primary light source, UK artist Dave Lynch and the team at Project Nimbus have brought Muybridge’s vision into the 21st century.
“Laser gives a sharp focus at any distance which is critical to attempt projection on the nebulas media of clouds at such short range,” says Lynch, who teamed up with University of Leeds scientists Mike Nix and Ben Whitaker for the project. “We also adapted the zoopraxiscope with a series of specially made lenses, which make the 19th century technology more efficient so we can see the projection against the clouds.”
Interestingly, Lynch’s interest in a cloud projector was sparked by a military paper which detailed work on creative weaponry over the years. One of the projects, dubbed the “Holographic Prophet” involved projecting an ancient god onto the clouds above an enemy city in order to scare the living sh** out of the citizens below.
But it’s not actually that easy to do. Sure, the light source has to be just right, but to make the image visible to the naked eye, the weather conditions and cloud formations have to be right too. It took the team countless tweaks and three years to create the picture you see above. “[When we finally got it], It was amazing,” Lynch told NewScientist. “After an hour of flying and almost giving up, we had come up above a cloud layer into peaks, swirls and canyons stretching out like an ocean, giving us the conditions we never thought we would see.”
Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Will be ever be able to watch Airplane from an airplane?” Maybe, but it’s definitely going to be a while. Going forward the team hopes to experiment with different projections and projection points to stretch the scope of their laser movie-maker.
“The [idea] was to create an open source cloud projector to share with artists and activists as a means for creative expression. But three years on, it was something quite different. The project evolved into a story of genuine collaboration, sharing knowledge and creating new ways of thinking across many disciplines. We all have a relationship to the clouds, the sense of looking up and dreaming, we hope Project Nimbus inspires people to believe in big ideas and consider that through collaboration we can all push the boundaries of what we know.”
ALL IMAGES: PROJECT NIMBUS