Christopher Bauder: electric moOns

  • ©, Christopher Bauder, electric moOns




electric moOns


SIGGRAPH 2006: Intersections


Interactive balloon ballet, 3D display installation, physical display


12' x 25' x 25'



Artist Statement:

A hundred white balloons in a totally dark room are floating in space like the atoms of a molecule. They are moving up and down slowly and gracefully. The balloons appear as floating spheres, forming three-dimensional pixels arranged in a 10×10 grid. The pixels combine together to make a larger form. The weightless objects are representing three-dimensional digital data sets in a dynamic display sculpture composed of physical particles.

The interactive balloon ballet is built out of synchronized movement and lighting. A screen-based interface telecommands the balloon ballet in sync to a chosen musical piece. The user can control the movement and lighting of each balloon independently. Morphing 3D shapes and patterns are blended with an overlay of supporting or counteracting light animations. The electric moons installation is probably the world’s largest physical 3D display.

Technical Information:

The electric moons installation consists of 100 helium-filled balloons. Each balloon is attached to a thin cable. The length of the cable, and thus the floating height of every balloon, can be adjusted continuously with a cable winch from 0-5 meters. Additionally, each balloon is lit from inside with dimmable super­bright LEDs. The 100 balloon voxels (volume pixels) are arranged in a 10×10 square (covering 8×8 meters).

The balloon ballet is controlled by custom software with a graphical user interface running on a PC system. The PC communicates via midi signals to a midi-to-analog interface. The analog outputs of the interface are connected to a custom-made control board on each balloon’s winch. The winch reacts to the incoming signal and adjusts the balloons floating height and the brightness of the dimmable LED inside the balloon. The user can choose, manipulate, and animate bitmaps and movies from the graphical user interface and synchro­nize them to a chosen musical piece via a beat counter. This allows for almost infinite combinations of shape, movement and light anima­tions. The balloon ballet can be presented as a live performance piece or exhibited as a stand-alone interactive sculpture.