Sep 292010

Having a bike is almost a necessity at Burning Man.  The festival spans over 5 sq miles, so having a set of wheels is a big help getting you from place to place.  Its actually amazing to see just how many bicycles are there, literally ten’s of thousands of them scattered across the playa.  Even more amazing is that most of the bikes are decorated in some form or fashion.  Decorating my playa bike was probably the most fun projected I worked on this year for my first burn.  I regret not documenting the entire process better with more photos.

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After a little bit of brain storming and research on what others had done, I decided upon a purple furry bike, lit with blue EL wire.  I began with a standard bike, and started with some simple modifications at my local bike shop:

  • Switching the standard seat to a banana seat
  • Adding a sissy bar to the back
  • Adding a basket
  • Swapping my standard black tires with purple tires

I wanted the banana seat and sissy bar so I could fit a second person on the back of the bike.  I also liked the sissy bar because it made the bike appear bigger and gave it a fun look.  Unfortunately the banana seat turned out to be horribly uncomfortable (even after I added 3 layers of egg crate padding to the top), in hindsight I would have gone without it.   The basket I needed to carry things around, and also to house the batteries/drivers for the el wire.  I didn’t even think/know about the purple tires until I saw them at the bike shop, but as soon as I saw them I knew I wanted them.

Once the bike had all the pieces in place I began covering it with this long purple fur that I bought on ebay.  The process is fairly simple, and doesn’t require much more than the fur and a glue gun.  I learned how to do it in this excellent video provided by Halcyon.

After furring the bike I added three Hokey Spokes to each wheel.  Hokey Spokes are LED blades you attach to the spokes of your wheels.  They blades wirelessly sync with each other to display different patterns that create POV images when the wheels are in motion.  The effect is pretty cool, and can be seen in the video of my bike.  There are a few different companies offering LED blades for your bicycle that create POV images.  Each has their ups and downs.  Having never seen any of the products in person I went with Hokey Spokes because of their low cost, and ability to sync.  However, out on the playa I saw someone with Monkey Lights which were much much brighter, I might try them next year.  For those interested, I’ve listed the different companies that provide LED blades at the bottom of this post.

The next step was adding the EL Wire.  I ended up using quite a bit more than I expected, roughly 65 feet of wire on the main part of the bike, and 20 feet for the front forks and handle bars.   To attach the wire I simply wrapped it around the bike, holding it into place in a few key places using zip ties.  In hindsight I probably would have used purple duct tape instead of the zip ties, as the zip ties are a bit unsightly.  I used separate strands of el wire for the handle bars and front forks so the wire wouldn’t tug while I was turning. This ended up working out well because the main driver I was using (even though rated for 100 ft) started to dim the wire a bit when powering more than 50-60 ft.   So I ended up using 2 drivers paired with 2 battery packs each holding 8 AAs.   I made a little compartment to hold the drivers/batteries using a tiny cooler that zipped open and close, and attached the compartment to the inside of the basket.

The last addition I made to the bike was the star laser head lights (I obviously had to get lasers involved here somewhere).  I had originally planned on ripping out the modules and hooking them up to a battery pack, but after frying two modules, I realized I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t have time to figure it out, so I decided to just attach the entire pointer to the bike.  I  used two pointers which I attached to the inside of the bike using zip ties.  I the cut holes in the front of the basket and allowed the tip of the lens to poke out.  I then used a another zip tie around the pointers which would slide over/off the push button to turn the pointer on and off.  This worked, and looked great, but made changing the batteries a hassle.  If I do this again in the future I definitely plan to hook the lasers and all the wire to a single battery pack.

Altogether I was pretty pleased with how the bike turns out.  My buddy made one as well which he designed to look like a giant grover doll.  They were a lot of fun to ride around the playa, but didn’t really get too much attention, they just blended into the sea of other bikes that were decorated and lit up in countless different ways.  Some of my favorite bikes used LED ribbon as apposed to the EL wire.  The LED ribbon was much much brighter and stood out a whole lot more, if/when I make a new bike for next year, I’m pretty sure it will be LED lit.

As always if you have any questions about the bike, or anything you’d like to share, please leave a comment here, or shoot me an email, I’d love to hear from you.


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Aug 232010

Flowerhorn and I had another pool party a couple weeks ago and decided we wanted to make something new to add to the event.  We quickly decided on Drinko Plinko, a spin on the classic Price is Right game.  There are already a few Drinko Plinko tutorials out there on the internet so I won’t get into the details of how we built it, but ours was constructed very similarly to the one described here in this video.  The whole process only took a couple hours, and cost less than $50 in materials.  We were pretty pleased with the way it turned out.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to take a video of people using it at the party, so instead you get this lame sauce video (cheesy music and all) of me playing by myself.

Are you disappointed I didn’t dance for you???  As you can see we what put cards at the bottom with instructions on what to do if your ball lands in a particular slot.  We made some before the party but also left out a marker and some blanks so people could make them on the fly.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Sweet video of you playing plinko by yourself, you probably didn’t even have a party, who would want to hang out with you nerds?”   Which is a valid concern, I’d probably be thinking the same thing, I’m still trying to figure out why anyone would want to be around me .  However we do have some evidence.   We brought back the photo booth that Flowerhorn posted about a few months back.  Pretty much the same setup as before, but this time we replaced the tie dye backdrop with a wall covered in poster board.   In addition to all the props, we left out a bunch of markers for people to draw on the wall and create the backdrop as the party progressed.  It turned out to be a really fun idea.  To capture it all, I made this video montage of all the photos (uncut, every photo taken, in order).

It was a great way to sum up the vibe of the party, I have a feeling the photo booth will be making its way back into our next one.

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Jun 032010

For whatever reason, I’ve always been intrigued by Jellyfish.  There is something about the way they gently swash through the ocean, their different sizes and vibrant colors.  Did you know that the turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish is the only immortal animal known to man?

So with this longstanding interest, you could imagine my excitement a couple years back find this instructable for an LED Jellyfish Costume.

Jellyfish Helmet

The instructable was written by a member named deadinsect, and remains my favorite instructable to date.  I originally made my own Jellyfish helmet for Halloween in 2008, but later decided it would be fun to start taking it with with me festivals and shows.  I’ve probably worn it to around a dozen or so shows and as you can imagine it always garners a great deal of attention.   I even met another Jellyfish who had implemented the same instructable at Phish’s Festival 8.  I also made a little miniature jellyfish following the same process described in the instructable, just using a smaller bowl and EL Wire.

If anyone plans on building their own Jellyfish helmet and needs some advice, please feel free to contact me.  I can tell you where I found certain materials, or help with any questions you might have regarding the construction process.  Just leave a comment here, or shoot me an email.  And if anyone else out there has already built their own jellyfish costume or has seen one at a show/festival, please contact me, I’d love to hear from you :)

Links

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Apr 292010

I saw a pretty cool piece of art at Coachella a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to share with you guys.   It was a rotating circle, half of which contained a mirror, and the other half of which was left empty.  The name of the installation was Metamorphosis and was created by Alex Andre.  I wasn’t able to snap a photo of the piece at a standstill, but to better illustrate what I’m describing I’ve created this very accurate rendering of what I recall it looking like

Rotating Mirror

At a standstill this wasn’t anything special, but when the circle was spun it had the effect of showing whoever was staring into it rapid flashes of their own reflection followed by whatever was on the other side of the circle.  Again not so easy to explain, luckily I shot a quick video on my iPhone of Flowerhorn and I each standing on either side of the circle and messing around.  Check it out.

Its hard to fully appreciate the effect on video but you get the idea.  I’m thinking about making a miniature one to keep around the house…

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Mar 012010

Photo Booth

Doc and I decided to throw a party for both our birthdays. Actually we were going to throw a party either way but why not say it was for our birthdays since they fell pretty close…Sorry for Partying. We are always trying to come up with some fun stuff for our parties and we had a good list brewing: kegs, ice luge, jungle juice, beer pong, flip cup, disco ball with lasers, and jello shots. We were at a bar and they had a photo booth that you would see at a mall and it was fun. It gave me the idea to build our own photo booth for our party. The result was a great party with some AMAZING pics…. Check out my Instructable on how to make it

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Jan 272010

For New Years Eve my friends and I decided to head up to San Francisco for a party called Sea of Dreams.  It was the type of event where everyone dresses up, so a few weeks before the new year we all went to work on our costumes.  I decided to go classy and wear a full tuxedo, so I just needed to come up with a way to dress it up a bit.

NYE Outfit

What I ended up doing was buying an old tux from a thrift store and outlining the jacket with blue EL Wire.  At the same store I was able to find a pretty snazzy blue ruffled shirt to wear with it.  I had already ordered an LED walking cane online, so the final touch was my
hat.

The disco ball hat was an idea I’d been toying around with for a while.  It was a pretty simple idea.  I basically just attached a tiny motorized disco ball to the top of a hat.  To make things a little more interesting added an EL Badge to the front with musical notes, and I covered the hat with silver glitter.   Check out the video below.

Note that the lasers aren’t part of the hat; I just added them to show some of the cool things you could do with it.  I had thought about permanently adding lasers or LEDs but in the end, I liked the simplicity.  If you are interested in detailed instructions on how to make one, check out this insctructable I wrote for it.

Sea of Dream turned out to be a lot of fun.  Really great music and good vibes all around.  I’ll probably go back next year, and would definitely recommend checking it out to anyone who has the opportunity.

If anyone’s got a question about the outfit or Sea of Dreams, be sure to leave a comment, or send me an email, doc@docstoyland.com.

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Jan 272010

Firework glasses are a fun way to change the way you see everything around you.  They use defractive lenses to to split light before it reaches your eyes.  This creates the effect of turning a single light source into what appears to be light coming from many directions.  This will be easier for me to explain in the video below.

So you now you can see the effect they create, pretty cool huh?  Whenever I go to a show I usually toss a couple hundred of them in my backpack to give out.  Particularly shows with a lot of lasers or lights, it really adds to the experience.  Check out this video I took of Ghostland Observatory at Sea of Dreams, I put the glasses in front of the camera so you can see what it would be like to wear them at the show.

So the last question is where to get them.  You can find them various places online ranging from fifty cents to a couple of bucks.  If you are just buying a couple, it probably won’t matter where you get them.  However if you are like me, and want extras for your friends or just to give away, then saving even 10 cents a pair will really start to add up (I’ve already gone through thousands of them). By far the best prices I’ve found are at rainbow symphony.  You can find firework glasses there starting at 40 cents if you buy 50+.  Or if you really plan to buy a lot, you can buy overstocked glasses starting at 15 cents..  I typically buy 1000 overstocks at a time for 10 cents a pair, which allows me to go to shows and brighten people’s night at 10 cents a pop.   Is it weird when I hand people glasses that have an advertisement for some random fair in Oregon that happened a year ago?  Maybe a little, but I think most people rarely notice and are more concerned with the fact that when they put these things on their face starts melting.  Either way, I love seeing peoples reactions when they try them on for the first time.

So make sure to grab a pair for your next show, and maybe a few extras for all the new friends you are bound to make.

As always feel free to email me doc@docstoyland.com with any questions, or even better, ask them in the comment field below.

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Jan 152010

Whenever I’m at a show or festival I usually try to wear one of my EL Shirts at least one night.  They’ve been around for a few years now, yet most people have still never seen one and are always fascinated when they see my shirt light up.

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EL T-Shirts rely on the same electroluminescent technology that allows EL-Wire to glow.  They were popularized a few years ago by the “T-Qualizer” pictured below.

T-Qualizer

However now these shirts are available with a wide variety of different symbols and patterns.  Just like EL-Wire, they require a battery pack/driver to power (typically powered by 4 AAA batteries).  Depending on the driver the lights on the shirt may blink or react to sound.  The sound sensitive shirts are my favorite as its fun to see them light up to music.

Washing these shirts needs to be done by hand, and can be a bit of a hassle, I’ve broken a shirt before by being careless with the washing.  Some shirts come with a Velcro detachable panel on the front, so you can detach the EL portion of the shirt and wash the fabric in a machine.  While this makes the washing process easier, I really prefer the sewn in look as the velcro panels stick out some and just don’t look as good.

I’ve listed some sites below where you can find EL Shirts, but I encourage you to shop around.  There are dozens of online stores that sell them, so it’s worth spending a little time looking around and finding the one that’s right for you.  Typically they run around $30-$35 so don’t pay too much more than that.

Have fun wearing one at your next event.  I can guarantee you’ll be getting a lot of attention.  And as always if you have any questions, please free to email me doc@docstoyland.com or post a comment below.

Online Stores that Sell EL Shirts

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Dec 312009

When I’m at a show or festival, carrying a backpack is a must.  How else am I going to haul around my lasers, bubbles, camera, firework glasses, frisbee, glow sticks, gum, head lamp, batteries… you get the idea…

In my opinion, anything worth wearing that often is worth lighting up.  So I decided that lighting up my backpack was going to be my first EL Wire project.

EL Wire Backpack

To learn how best to sew the wire into my backpack I followed an instructable on sewing EL Wire into garments.   The most important thing I learned from the instructable was the importance of having a plan, and mapping out where the EL Wire would go before sewing it in.  I actually attached all of the wire to the backpack with pins before I began sewing.

All and all, I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out.  The back pack always receives a lot of compliments whenever I wear it and it also makes it easy for my friends to find me in a crowd.  If I were to do it over again (which I probably will), I would have added more wire to the center of the backpack, as apposed to just along the edges.  I also would have used two different colored wires side by aside, to make the effect more pronounced.

Please post any questions or comments you may have.  Or email me doc@docstoyland.com.  I’d love to hear about similar projects people have worked on.

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Dec 032009

Most of you are probably old enough to remember when the red lasers first hit the market.  Originally intended for use as a presentation tool, the laser soon became a prankster’s favorite toy.  Painting red dots on unsuspecting bystanders, annoying theater-goers by adding your own red dotted story line, confusing the hell out of the cat… the possibilities were endless.  But the joke got old pretty quick, the novelty wore off, and soon enough the red laser went the way of the dodo bird.

Laser Show

So here we are 15 years later, and to my delight, lasers are back.  No longer used as a prankster’s tool they have returned for a much more noble cause, Eye Candy.  Anyone who has ever been to a Ghostland Observatory show can testify to the amazing visual stimulation and immense entertainment that lasers are capable of providing.  New, more powerful lasers can do much more than just produce a tiny dot. Modern lasers produce incredible streams of light sure to captivate most anyone who sees them.

These new lasers aren’t just for performers looking to put on an elaborate light show.  The technology has become cheap enough for your average toy happy glow-junky to afford.  The most common ones sold these days are green lasers ranging from 5 to 30 mW, though lasers capable of emitting well over 100mW can be found for purchase online (Note: I do not recommend the personal use of lasers over 30mW, as they can be dangerous if used improperly).

My favorite laser to play with is the 30mW green star pointer.

star_laser

More than a standard laser pointer, this laser has 2 diffractive lenses sitting atop the pointer which split the beam into hundreds of tiny smaller beams.  This creates of the effect of projecting hundreds of tiny dots (or stars), on any surface the laser is pointed at.  The user can also rotate the top lens to change the alignment of all the dots, much like a kaleidoscope.  It’s not easy to explain this effect with words, so check out this video, it’ll give you a much better idea of what I’m talking about.

As you can see from the video, you can also turn the star pointer into a standard laser pointer by simply removing the diffractive top.  You now have a powerful 30mW laser whose beam is visible cutting through the night sky for up to 8 miles.

Another one of my favorite lasers is the handheld motorized laser pointer.

Motorized Laser Pointer

This laser has a single detractive lens which splits the beam, but also has an internal motor that moves the position of the laser using mirrors.   This has the effect of creating an array of different shapes as the motor moves the laser through a set of pre-programmed patterns.  Again, check out the video below to better see the effect produced by this laser.

Not to be a buzz kill, but I do want to finish by mentioning you should always use your lasers responsibly.  Many of these lasers are quite powerful and can cause damage if exposed to the eye for a prolonged period of time.  Also, please don’t shine a laser where it probably isn’t wanted, whether that is on a person, a stage, or a piece of art.  Irresponsible use of lasers (such as shining them on stage at shows) has already caused them to get a bad rap in certain circles.  Lets use them to add to everyone’s experience, not take away.

So there you have it, lasers are back, get involved.  If you are interested in purchasing one, check out the links below for the best prices I’ve been able to find anywhere online.  And stay tuned for some future DIY posts where I show some cool things you can create with your lasers.

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