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In the course „After Dark,“ we had the opportunity to work in a free project around the thematic of fire, seen from a cultural and sociological perspective. While the three other elements, i.e., earth, water, and air, are gaining the center of our attention, the fire has been overlooked, although it is a part of collective human memory.

„Trans-porta“ is a Visual- Acoustic installation and machine that mimics the act of feeding fire. With the use of vibration, a laser, and a mirror, the visitor can sense a hypnotizing experience generated by a laser projection symbolizing burning fire. This installation exhibits a metaphor for the connection between ancient technologies as fire and modern technologies as lasers made by electricity. Both have a significant influence on the evolution in human history either as a ritual or as technological development.

This interactive installation plays with the attraction of human beings concerning to shiny and illuminated objects, which commonly transport them to alternate states of mind.


To use this machine, the user feeds the device with snippets of paper, a camera located under a feeding surface captures the fluctuations of brightness depending on the amount of paper.

The visual information is transferred to two software on the computer. Max/MSP is capable of getting the visual information and converting it to data, which later is transferred to a music software, Ableton Live. Inside this software is located a synthesizer which its parameters fluctuate depending on the information received from Max MSP. The frequencies generated by the synthesizer are afterward transduced to an audio output and directed to an external soundcard. This last is connected to a vibration speaker, which unlike the standard speakers it has in it a vibration coil that generates strong physical vibrations.

The vibration speaker has been attached to a mirror, which oscillates depending on the frequency generated by the synthesizer. A laser located near to the mirror shoots a beam and make the physical oscillation visible through the reflection.


Prototype 1 – Dummy 1

In the early stage of the project, it was necessary to experiment with the phenomena of vibration and reflection. For that goal, I designed a rough dummy with a subwoofer, a balloon acting as a membrane attached to half of a plastic bottle, a mirror glued on that balloon, and a laser shooting in the direction of the mirror. The vibrations coming from the subwoofer can move the membrane, and then the mirror fixed on it. A low power laser was attached to a mast next to the mirror, shooting in its direction.

To manipulate the frequencies, I started with the gestural controller Leap Motion, with which I was able to control the frequencies in the computer software with the movements of the hands.

The first results were positive, the frequencies coming from the subwoofer did move the mirror generating projections. But the interaction wasn't significant enough. I decided to work around that matter and move to the next prototype.

Prototype 2 – Dummy 2

For the second prototype, the project started to take more shape. I came up with the idea of feeding the machine with snippets of paper, which would mimic the action of combustion while feeding fire.

For that, I placed a camera inside a box, this box would be the part where the snippets of paper would be thrown and detected by the camera. On top of that box, a transparent sheet with a central hole would collect the papers and then slowly (by vibration) make them fall through an opening in the front of the box.

The first obstacle I had to face was that the camera had to be able to „see in the dark“ since my installation would work in a dark environment, I attached Infrared LEDs inside the box pointing to the top.

These infrared LEDs would illuminate the incoming snippets. To make the webcam sensitive to the infrared light, I had to remove its Infrared filter that commonly digital cameras have.

On the other side, I replaced the balloon membrane with a vibration speaker. The vibration speaker allowed to execute the vibration in a much more controlled way. The vibration speaker has been attached to a mast, which moved an aluminum sheet with a mirror attached to it.


With the results from the last two prototypes, I could finally start to build the device to its final shape.

For the structure, I used 5mm plastic sheets, which are better to work as with wood and offer a cleaner finishing. Also, because of its dark grey color was suitable to make the structure aesthetically more attractive.

The wood masts were replaced by iron masts with holes on it. These holes let to place the mirror and the laser in different positions, this allowed the system to be more flexible when it comes to adjusting the laser and the mirror.

Besides the structure, a couple of adjustments were made in the software as well. It was necessary to block the auto-brightness of the camera, which was having problems while capturing the fluctuation of light. This was solved using an extra software called „CamSettings.“

For producing the sound, the camera was attached to a patch made in Max/MSP. This software is based on nodes and allows us to create and control a wide range of audio and visual parameters.

Max/MSP Patch

Ableton live provides the integration of Max/MSP, and it can control a virtual synthesizer. For this occasion, I used Operator VST. In this synthesizer, the data from the fluctuation of light was attached to two-oscillator, which generates sound frequencies.

Ableton Live configuration


This work is one of the most challenging projects I have worked with, starting from the ideation process, which was developed in iterative steps.

Although I had a rough idea about the device I wanted to create, I never knew where the process would bring the final work at the end. Cause of this, it was essential to experiment, allowing my self to try out different technics and work based on the results that every prototype provided me.

Vital for me was to focus on the main idea, and it was the fact that I always wanted to work with lasers, which I still found pretty fascinating.

On the other hand, and due to the complexity of the whole system, I had the chance to apply all the knowledge that I have collected in the last years, from electronics, physics, programming, music production and sound theory to product design, interaction design, and art.

This project encourages me to work further in the area of art installations, and I will look forward to applying my knowledge in similar projects in this field, either by doing my own projects or even helping artists to develop their own works.

COVID-19 – update

The installation, along with the other works of my classmates was supposed to be shown in the art gallery „gr_und“ on April 4th, but since the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Germany all the public gatherings have been suspended. I really hope we have the chance to show our works in the future, and we can gather together again.

Ein Projekt von




Prof. Sven Völker

Zugehöriger Workspace

After Dark


Wintersemester 2019 / 2020