Sometimes it's humbling when you enter into the domain of professionals and hobbyists who do things that both blow your mind and make you feel like a complete jackass for your inability to understand how they accomplish any of it. Humbling and intensely exasperating. That's how I feel now, taking in and trying (and mostly failing) to understand Bitbanger Labs' Pixelstick light painting system.
I look at the grand, LED-based image manipulations Pixelstick creates--from life-size screen saver geometrics to virtual graffiti--but since I can hardly even take a photo with discernible contents, the thought of turning one into a series of photoreal images, abstract designs, or animations seems nothing short of impossible. But Bitbanger maintains their spin on light painting is accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of long exposure and timelapse photography, and access to Photoshop or a similar graphics program. So, again, not me in any way, but maybe...probably...some of you.
The art of light painting has been around for over 100 years. The Bitbanger guys are hoping to improve its technology and possibilities, and artists' creative freedom, with the Pixelstick. Basic light painting involves setting a DSLR's or point-and-shoot's long exposure mode anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, and then moving a light source within the frame. Results are trippy, cool, uplifting, and majestic, but have definite limits. Pixelstick, a series of 198 full-color RGB LEDs situated within an aluminum housing, seeks to broaden these limits.
A small mounted box on the Pixelstick rod reads images created in Photoshop from an SD card, and displays them, one line at a time. Each LED corresponds to a single pixel in the image, which can have a range of from 1 to 198 pixels tall, and thousands of pixels wide. In addition to straight display, Pixelstick can also increment through a series of images over multiple exposures, enabling timelapse light painting, as well as the glowing animations show in the above video.
The Pixelstick's perpendicular handle sits in a separate sleeve than the main LED rod, so the latter can spin freely. The system runs on 8 AA batteries, and Bitbanger notes they have never needed more than 1 set during a long night's shooting.
Pixelstick runs as a Kickstarter campaign through December 13, 2013. At printing it was funded 4 times over. For those concerned about backing unrealized projects on crowdfunding sites, do note that Bitbanger not only has a history of Kickstarter success, but also fulfilling their promises to backers, plus launching a full-scale commercial production run, with the Remee lucid dreaming mask.