Pixelstick takes your light paintings to the next level


posted Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 2:57 PM EDT


If your digital camera has a bulb or long exposure mode, chances are you've played around a little with light painting. (And if not, well -- consider your project for tonight assigned!) Tripping your camera's shutter and then messing around with flashlights, glow sticks, LEDs, or any other light source that takes your fancy can be a lot of fun, especially with a digital camera that lets you see and hone your results immediately. If you really want to take your light paintings to the next level, though, then the Pixelstick will be right up your street.

Currently in the cash-raising stage on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Pixelstick has already demolished its funding goal, and so commercialization will be going ahead in just 30 days time. As with most such projects, you still have the opportunity to get onboard before the funding deadline expires, and you'll get early access to the product at a discounted price by doing so. (Delivery is expected to begin next May.)


So what does Pixelstick bring to the table that other light painting tools can't? (At least, not without a staggering amount of effort on your part, anyway.) The demo images throughout this article from Bitbanger Labs, the company behind Pixelstick, tell the story far better than mere words can, but let's try anyway.

Pixelstick gives you the ability to project images or dynamic patterns into the air, rather than the simple solid colors, gradients, and fixed patterns you're likely used to. This is achieved courtesy of an array of 198 full-color RGB LEDs, each of which projects a single pixel read from an image on the Pixelstick's Secure Digital card slot. The device steps through the columns in the image over time, while you move Pixelstick in front of your camera, and in the process, you effectively paint those pixels into the air.


Move at a steady pace in a straight line, and the result is an ethereal, floating image that's perfect for the budding Banksy-wannabes out there, who'd prefer not to get in trouble for defacing somebody's property. Mix up the speed and wave Pixelstick around, and you can stretch and wrap the image around your scene, creating some really eyecatching results in the process. Add some animation of multiple captures, and you can create things that would otherwise be near-impossible without CGI trickery.

Since there are only 198 LEDs on the Pixelstick, resolution on that axis isn't spectacularly high: You can easily make out the individual LEDs in your shot, if they're sharply focused. On the other axis, though, you're much less limited -- although only 198 pixels can be displayed along the length of Pixelstick, your images can be "many thousands of pixels wide", according to Bitbanger.


Pixelstick draws power from eight standard AA batteries, and has a small mounted aluminium housing that houses its electronic guts, SD card slot, a small display, and its controls. The "stick" portion of the device spins freely from the handle, the better to help you get smooth arcs through the air. The handle has a foam grip, and a carry bag is included.

An introduction to the Pixelstick and its capabilities.

Through Friday, December 13, you can take part in the Kickstarter fundraiser and pick up a Pixelstick of your own for US$300, plus US$60 shipping if you live outside of the USA.

More details can be found on the Pixelstick Kickstarter page, and in the introductory video above.