Night Sun is an interactive audiovisual installation which tells a story with the turn of a music box handle, powered by an ATmega32U4 MCU.
After originally being commissioned by Nottingham City Council to produce its Night Sun for Light Night — an event which transforms the city into a playground and gallery — Richard Birkin noticed that recorded music on its own wouldn’t work. “There’s so much noise in a city that you switch off, paying little or no attention to the sounds around you,” the Maker told The Guardian.
As a result, Birkin devised an idea which would require an observer to activate and interact with the music in some way to become involved with the piece. Outside a dark shop window, a toy music box was mounted on a wooden plinth.
In order to bring his idea to life, the Maker commissioned an Arduino Micro (ATmega32u4) to control the installation. The Arduino was instructed to send a ‘play’ command to a computer when it sensed the touch of a passerby. Once the wired music box handle was turned, the window would light up. A pre-recorded sound would then send a signal to the computer and begin playing… and just like that, the story unfolds.
The project was a collaboration of Birkin along with Arduino master Adrian McEwan, photographer Dan Wheeler, and writer Emma Lannie.
“Rather than combine the music, story and photos in video form, I used Jplayer and HTML to create a book-shaped projection. As the music plays in Jplayer, there are triggers at different points in time,” Birkin explained. “These triggers correspond to page elements that are made visible when their time comes, fading in or appearing suddenly depending on the urgency of the words. The photos are set as backgrounds that change with each stanza.”
The Maker says he preferred developing his creation this way, as it enables him to easily change the appearance of the installation depending on the aspect ratio of the projection surface. It also means that Night Sun works on the web and as an app (which you could read more about here).
Interested in learning more? You can find an entire breakdown of the Night Sun build on Birkin’s blog. Wanting to see more Atmel based audiovisual installations? You’re in luck. Browse through our archives on the topic here.