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An Exploration into Natural and Artificial Cloud Projection

Project Nimbus is the exploration of digital and analogue techniques to project moving images onto clouds from the ground, sea level and aircraft including: planes, paragliders & hot air balloons.  The project aims to deliver multiple projection installations onto clouds, cooling towers, steam trains and urban vents.

The experimental projection devices fuse old and new methods developed from ubiquitous technology.  The project is the realisation of 5 years research to experiment with some of the theoretical ideas and prototypes developed through conversation and collaboration with a host of contributors including a weapons expert, chemical physicists, cultural theorists, artists, makers, pilots, sailors and cloud appreciators.


Zoop Mk2 side



The analogue experiments are under way with the construction of a laser zoopraxiscope,  a 16mm projector based on a projection system from the 1800s by Edweard Muybridge repurposed with a LASER light source. The image and prototypes are being developed through conversations and collaborations with cultural specialist Dr. Vlad Strukov, the lovely people Oomlout, Prof. Ben Whitaker & Dr. Mike Nix of Leeds University School of Chemistry.  Upon proof of concept and final risk assessment, I will release the designs open source upon completion of the first cloud projections planned for early 2013.

PLEASE NOTE: The laser devices under research and development in this project are still going under going risk assessment and must not be attempted to be created without professional help.  Any attempt to do so is completely at your own risk.



Update 4.11.13 –

Its one day off a year since my last post and its been far from quiet, I wrote an email to Stephen Herbert, an Early Cinema specialist  about the updates since his vital information about the zoopraxiscope and it seemed the perfect way to update the site in the mean time. See below:

Hello Stephen,

I hope this finds you well, almost a year since our last conversation.

Please forgive my late response with the results of your critical information of the 1 to -1 ratio about the zoopraxiscope, it has been quite the journey since we last spoke and I’m here to tell you about it and invite you to an exhibition in London at Old Billingsgate at the start of November.

Speaking to you couldn’t have been more serendipitous at the time of the design, We (by we I mean Prof. Ben Whitaker and Dr. Mike Nix of Leeds Chemical Physics Department and a lovely company in Halifax called Oomlout with whom I have been prototyping.)  quickly implemented the 1 to -1 wheel rotation ratio you suggested.  It wasn’t long before myself and the scientists we were watching our Zoopraxiscope project images of the horse in motion caught on 14 frames of hand processed 16mm film with OKO Lab.

It must have been quite something when Muybridge saw his horse in motion projected for the first time, for us it was truly magical.  The one aspect we quickly came to realise is the amount of light that was needed to achieve a powerful image, as you mentioned when we increased the slits to make it brighter we lose definition. Our light source, the 2W blue laser from Ebay was just about visible.  Even when we even tried the Leeds Chemistry Department’s 5w Green Lab laser through it, we could see it well in the dark, but it was no way near the brightness for reaching a cloud.

Prof. Ben Whitaker pointed out that the blue 405nm laser is at the lowest part of the human spectrum of vision.  The lab 532nm green laser is at the top so for human vision we are most susceptible to the greens of 532nm so it was unlikely that it was ever going to work with this setup.  We called it a day and I seriously pondered if this was the end of this part in the adventure.

A few days later, I received a phone call from Dr. Mike Nix stating that he had an idea to make it work…

His idea was brilliant;

As the light passes through the slits in the first wheel, this is where we lose most of the light, so by replacing the slit wheel with wheel of 14 hemispherical lenses we could achieve a 90% brightness increase.  But to test this theory, we would need to spend a grand on laser grade specially cut lenses!

This pretty much coincided with a residency at the FON festival in Cumbria, they had supported the project before and wanted me to further explore Project Nimbus for a lecture or performance at the festival in July.  As it happens there was just enough money to pay for the new lenses and take myself, Dr. Nix and Dr. Vlad Strukov to talk about the the project from an art, academic and scientific viewpoint.

It worked! Mike’s ingenious new lens system bloody worked! Its way too complicated to explain quickly but he does so in the lecture at FON, I can send you an audio of the performance lecture if you would like?  It ends with the first public showing of the laser zoopraxiscope with the new lens system.

So from there, we have just acquired the means to be able to fly at night, so we will be chasing the clouds in a few weeks time.

PS ill have a few of the versions of the zoopraxiscope on exhibition at the Crystalize Exhibition @ Old Billingsgate fish market on Nov 4th – 6th if you happen to be in London, Please let me know as I’d love to show you in person the working machines.

 Best Dave


Check out the People I’m in conversation with, read the blog or on the right of this page you can see the category breakdown for the blog and the devices section.


Project Nimbus

The project came about by a residency  co-commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices & The Octopus Collective in 2012.

The project has received funding from Royal Society of Chemistry and the Spectroscopy & Dynamics group to further the collaboration with Leeds University Chemistry Department - Read about how the work of Edweard Muybridge provides a common language for the project.

Click to see the Blog and the story so far...

Crystallize : New Media Art Lab Korea & UK

27th November 2013 by Dave

Korean and UK artists collaborate through science, IT and art
Harnessing technology to empower a global culture

The legacy of Nam June Paik and the “electronic superhighway” is at the heart of a new exhibition being held in London from 4 – 6 November 2013 at the Old Billingsgate Building, City of London.

Very honoured to part of this exhibition I exhibited the Laser Zoopraxiscope and made the forth edition of the Laser Image projector mounted on a quad copter, whilst being in person during the exhibition to discuss the  project and the audiences relationship to the image.

Read more…

Full Of Noises [FON] Festival 2013

27th August 2013 by Dave

Following on from the Chasing Nimbus residency from 2012 commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices Festival and the Octopus Collective, The Octopus collective invited me back to to further the research and present the findings at this years Full Of Noises festival.  The serendipity of this residency came at a fortuitous time with Project Nimbus, specifically having a stumbling block of needing hard cash to test out a theory of Dr. Mike Nix of a new lens system on the Laser Zoopraxiscope to give us a 90% brighter image.  And Oh my word…

Read more…

Vlad Strukov / Leeds Creative Lab

5th November 2012 by Dave

I have been fortunate to be paired with Vlad Strukov as part of a technologist / academic creative lab run by Caper and The University of Leeds’ Cultural and Creative Exchange called Leeds Creative Labs.

Here is what we propose after our first meeting:

Read more…