Torus visual music installation

By Russell Barnes. Posted

Amsterdam club nights look incredible thanks to this TORUS, a Raspberry Pi-controlled visual art sculpture

Amsterdam is famous for its party scene, but The Netherlands is also a high-tech hub with lots of creative people working in science and computer technology.

At the end of the week the Dutch like to party, and Amsterdam’s clubs are full of high-tech audiovisual treats.

TORUS is a music installation piece created by Dutch visual artists Ridwan Nasruddin and Guust van Uden. It’s a large sculpture based on the torus geometric shape, covered in hundreds of LEDs all controlled by a Raspberry Pi.

“TORUS started as a research project,” explains Ridwan. “We were already doing visuals during club nights on a flat white screen, but we wanted to create a sculpture.

“We are interested in origami shapes and modular forms,” he continues. “We stumbled upon the paper art of Yoshinobu Miyamoto [a Japanese architect]. Inspired by his art, we created the TORUS.”

Built from 6mm MDF plywood, TORUS comprises 18 blades assembled in a circular pattern. The blades are covered in NeoPixel LED strips, and the whole unit mounted in a dance club alongside a projector.

The LEDs are controlled using an Adafruit board called Fadecandy. This is a NeoPixel driver with built-in dithering, that can be controlled over USB. “We tried different ways to control the LEDs,” says Ridwan, “and found out Fadecandy was the best way to send the signal from Resolume to the Raspberry Pi and then to the LEDs.”

The Raspberry Pi is connected by a 50-metre Ethernet cable, used to send the signal from Resolume (running on a laptop) to the Pi.

 Nineteen interlocking blades are cut from MDF to create the unique shape

“Because we didn’t knew a lot about how to connect LEDs to Resolume, we researched and experimented a with different boards and types of LEDs. We thought we could learn it quickly, but when we couldn’t figure it out we asked around and found Nathan Marcus, a local programmer.” Nathan wrote the major part of the code and with his help, they learned how to create the image they had originally envisaged.

The Raspberry Pi was added to get the LED data over a long distance, of about 50 metres. “We had already settled on using a Fadecandy because of it capabilities and ease of use,” explains Nathan. The Raspberry Pi functions like a server connected over Ethernet with the laptop. It interprets the messages from the laptop and sends them to the Fadecandy.

“We had a lot of help from the guys of the club [De Marktkantine in Amsterdam] where we showed the TORUS.” To hang the TORUS where everyone could see it, they used steel cables to make a hanging truss above the stage.

“The reactions of the crowd are great. We always wanted to make the experience of the music as intense as possible and it works. By creating one focus point, people really get into the vibe of the club night.”

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