No, this is not Processing.

Looking for inspiration only within our computer boxes is limiting. Want a fresh perspective? Check out the physical world. And yes, you’ll find even alien-looking patterns of particles out there.

I recently read a post by talented digital artist Golan Levin pointing to the non-digital work of Ward Fleming. According to Fleming, “you’re seeing 40,000 black acrylic spheres 0.125 in. dia. vibrating/contained on an off level glass plate horizontally mounted and back lit.” I also love the more poetic description from YouTube:

the agony of particle behavior. struggling to express consciousness in a world animated by mechanical vibration. a truly empathetic study of particle emotion expressed as fluid/crystal bipolarism.

You’ll find more examples. Be sure to look at these in HD for the full effect.

More information on the 3.5×8-foot pinscreen Frieze Machine by Ward Fleming is available in a separate video. You get to see him making the work, and then watch the beautiful image of a human silhouette against the screen. (Note: pinscreen-modeled nudity.)

Looks like it’s time to write a pinscreen shader.

You can actually buy this kind of work:

Areaware / Atomix

That site notes that this design by Francois Dallegret is not new:

Dating back to the 1960′s, the designer has re-introduced his artful plaything for a 21st century audience. Made from 6000 high precision stainless steel balls, Atomix creates an infinite number of fractal patterns when shaken, tilted, or rotated.

  • Darren Landrum

    The HD version of the first vid has been downloading for over an hour now, and is only 2/3rds done. This thing better be made of nothing but pure awesome.

  • Peter Kirn

    Ha, sorry — worth just seeing a few minutes of it. You should be able to skip around and catch a few key moments of what's going on, even in HD. No need to download all ten minutes.

  • Darren Landrum

    Oh, it's really no trouble. Youtube's been very slow for me lately in general. I need to get my frustration out somehow. ;-)

  • Darren Landrum

    Okay, that video was pretty freaking amazing, even with the video compression killing some of the detail. I'd think you'd have one hell of a time simulating all of that in Processing.

  • ericsoco

    hey peter — we have one of each of these (sorta) at the exploratorium.

    the pinscreen is horizontal, not vertical, but it's ~4' on a side. you can get some great effects at that scale that you don't on a little hand-held one.

    the spheres piece is also horizontal, not vertical, and was (i believe) inspired by ward's work (i've definitely seen this video before, in a conversation about our piece). it contains N thousands of plastic spheres sandwiched in a table about 18"x18"; visitors can shake the table, and see patterns much like the ones that appear in ward's piece.

    cool stuff, thanks for posting!

  • Kevin Cannon

    Another pin project here that's pretty cool, though a different implementation:

  • ericsoco

    addendum: found out yesterday that the pinscreen i mentioned (as well as another, vibrating pinscreen) is actually a ward fleming piece.

    (crappy low-res youtube doesn't really do it justice…)

    also of possible interest, related to the wizard of rods project, is danny rozin's work:

  • Andy Li

    How about this one? Not pins but metal chains.

    PS. I'm one of the members in the above project.

  • Andy Li

    I've just made a Flash program to generate stills of the "atoms in pain" effect.
    You may see it below:

  • Pedro

    you might want to look at a digital pinscreen version