Layering shadow play elements with Scratch


Combining digital and analogue projections


We have been exploring ways to add programming and computation to our light play tinkering activity during the last couple of months. Our experiments have mainly been focused on controlling lights and motors through programming, but we always allow for plenty of time to follow different paths within a theme and explore tangential ideas.

One of my recent prototyping adventures was inspired by the idea to directly mesh computer sprites with the beautiful light patterns that we see visitors create with light play. I had learned a little about overlay projection techniques due to my interest in the beautiful artwork of Miwa Matreyeck, and knew that a combination of front and back projection might work to combine light play and Scratch on the same screen.

A first prototype came to life 10 days ago as part of our Scratch day event in the Tinkering Studio. We improvised a front/back projection set-up with a projector connected to a laptop and a white fabric sheet in a PVC tube frame as a screen. After we figured out alignment and blocked the unwanted part of the computer screen with a cardboard template, digital and analogue projection merged almost seamless.

the set-up: a fabric screen with lights in front and projection from the back side

combining sprites and shadows - a first test

visitor adding a flying manta ray to the lightplay landscape


visitors experimenting with different backdrops for a Scratch programmed rocket and butterfly

I am encouraged by this first experiment and feel like there is a lot of potential for this type of set-up. The combined projection amounts to much more than the sum of its parts and it feels really satisfying to create light and shadow worlds with moving Scratch sprites, I discovered that often what is hard to achieve with Scratch code is easy to do in the analogue world and vice versa. One of the more compelling ideas so far is to prompt visitors to create inspiring and aesthetically beautiful static environments with lights and shadows and bring the environments to life with movement and stories via programmed scratch sprites.

To be continued….

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