Total Production

ENTTEC Feels the Burn

October 2015

ENTTEC has provided technical assistance to the ForestHouse art car project at the Burning Man festival, located in the Nevada Desert.


“A key aspect to Burning Man is that it’s a place for a very high level of creativity, and so in part because of that community that I experienced, and in part because I wanted to do something, I made this decision to build an art car,” said Chris Bouton of SystemHouse, the firm responsible for the ForestHouse art car. 


Working with Bouton and ENTTEC was Tom Stringham, the Engineering Lead on the project at SystemHouse.


Bouton began work on the art car around 10 months ago. “We bought a 2000 diesel Bluebird school bus, ripped everything off of it, took it down to chassis and then we built ForestHouse on top of it,” the designer explained. 


Initially, the design of the project was more literal; as Bouton and Stringham developed it, the project became more conceptual. “We basically took this recursive branching structure and if you put enough of them together and they look like trees but they have a modern look to them. As soon as we did that, we realised that they could be illuminated,” Bouton admitted.


Control of the LEDs was a concern. “We knew early on we were going to be driving many addressable LEDs, so we just started researching different programs and hardware online to do that. ENTTEC really had something different than most of what was out there, and they are capable of driving a lot of LEDs cleanly and quickly,” stated Stringham.


ForestHouse featured nine trees with various sized branches that were illuminated internally with ENTTEC 60 LEDS/METER 5V Pixel tape. Stringham said: “The trees were about 30ft tall, and each one of those had 16 universes in it. For the hardware, we used the ENTTEC Pixelator; each one can address 48 universes. We had three Pixelators, so there were 144 universes. It was ridiculous.” 


Bouton added: “The Pixelator is able to do things with the programming the LEDs that we just didn’t find in other products, so the Pixelator in particular was a really fantastic product for our project.” 


The ENTTEC Pixelator is the world's foremost Ethernet to pixel link converter that gives designers control of up to 8160 individual pixels. Jeremy Kumin of ENTTEC Americas, added: “We were very enthused to watch the evolution of ForestHouse and how well it takes advantage of the latest technology in mappable LED product. They figured out how to make the most of our Pixelator and tape, and that turned this abstract idea into a really wild ride. I've never been to Burning Man but I have had friends come back from it amazed. ForestHouse would have made them happy campers, I think, based on the video and photos Chris and Tom brought back “


Working with the Pixelators and the LED tape were ENTTEC PLink Injectors; a bridge between the LED tape and the Pixelator. Stringham said: “The Pixelator and the PLinks worked out of the box, and MadMapper picked them up right away and then it was just a matter of addressing them which was pretty quick within the Pixelators themselves.”


The Pixelators were driving video to the LEDs. “We wanted to do things like change the seasons of the forest, by feeding the trees various colour signals and video imagery,” explained Bouton. The LEDs were also audio reactive, thanks to the software program Bazik. 


As for ENTTEC’s involvement, Stringham concluded: “For the amount of lights we were driving and how we were driving them, the combination of the Pixelator, PLinks and the LED tape were, in my opinion, the best out there.” 


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