Costumes as Game Controllers: Lightning Bug Game Projection Testing

Costumes as Game Controllers, Face-to-face Games, tweeted!

I am a huge fan of cinema, and I like projection mapping and know of the magic projections can do, but I have never been on the development side of the experiences. To make the Lightning Bug game, I originally envisioned a large dome with the hope to make the experience more immersive for the players. Note in this sketch that the projectors are on the outside of the dome.


At the point in the project, I think half a dome, a quarter of a sphere, should be enough. Concentrating on the half dome will make it exponentially easier to make it a full dome later. I don’t know enough about projections and to take small steps is the saner route to take.

I will be fabricating the dome myself, keeping in mind portability and stability. I need to travel with the dome, and so it needs to be lightweight and collapsible. It needs to also be stable enough so that we can create some kind of consistency with the projection so that it can be set up anywhere. The dome will probably be some kind of stretch fabric with conduits for flexible plastic rods, kind of like a tent. I am not sure what the flexible plastic rod material would be, so right now let’s call them “bones”.

Fortunately, my good friend Kyle Li is working with me on the projection part of the game. He’s got experience working on projected installations and dome projections too. He’s amazing! Last week, at our first meeting Kyle suggested a few alternative ways to project on to the dome. One way is to project from the inside against a curved mirror. This is a good alternative, because the seams on the screen won’t block out the projection, because the “bones” would be on the outside. There is also the option to projection from the inside without mirrors, but the players could interfere with the projection, depending on where the projector is and how high the projected image would be on the dome surface.


Yesterday Kyle and I had our second meeting, and we tried a paper miniature version of the dome. Kyle took some amazing photos of the various options. The two tree models represent the 2 players.



I am so excited about where this is going. The next steps in the actual projection testing will take place inside the large space that Eyebeam is going to let me use for the last several days of this month. In the meantime, I need to do more research about the following to prepare to work in the large space:

  • Calculating and making 2D patterns for the gores, sections on the dome. I was using a parachute calculator on the internet, but I soon found out parachute domes are not exactly what I am looking for. *fail*
  • Researching fabric. Will probably go to the fabric stores in the garment district and look for a semi-opaque material that is tough, possibly stretchy and white.
  • Researching materials for “bones”