How to Make a LANscape





Introduction: How to Make a LANscape

LANscapes is an interactive art installation that I created with my art collective Floating Point. It takes the form of an abstract projected landscape. Ceiling-mounted Kinects capture the forms and movements of visitors in the space, reflecting them in the projection. Visitors can build upon and modify the form. At the end of each day, a snapshot of the virtual landscape is saved into computer memory, then 3D-printed as a unique physical sculptures generated by crowd-sourced performance.

In this Instructable, I'm going to walk you through how these sculptures are created. From the software that generates the 3D-model, to preparing the model for printing, then finally printing and finishing the work using special color-changing holographic paints.

Step 1: The Software

The LANscapes software is written using OpenFrameworks, and open-source library for creative coding in C++. You can view and download the software on GitHub here.

When LANscapes is installed, the Kinect camera is suspended overhead at about 12', pointing straight down. This way the software is able to get a depth map of the floor area below, this depth map is then applied to the previous frame using filter and blending techniques that build up over time.

Step 2: Preparing a LANscape for Printing.

The software automatically exports a PLY 3D model file once or more per day. I like to schedule the export to happen at the end of each day, that way we have a 3D model that is representative of the activity that happened in that space that day.

The PLY files get stored inside the data/exports folder of the application. You can find these on GitHub here:

I'll go through these and pick a file that looks nice to me and prepare it for printing.

These files right now are just flat meshes, with no thickness, so I need to extrude the model in order to give it some thickness for printing. I do this by importing the file into MeshMixer, which is a free software for 3D modeling and preparing models for printing. In MeshMixer, I rotate the file so that it is in the correct orientation (edit -> transform) and extrude it on the Y axis 3 millimeters (select all -> edit -> extrude).

Step 3: Print the LANscape

I printed my LANscape on the Stratasus Objet Connex 3000 at the Instructables HQ at Pier 9, however you can print yours on any 3D printer. I recommend printing in either white or some shade of gray, and as shiny material as possible. Since we will be painting it using glossy black paint, it's useful if the print itself isn't black, so that you can actually see where paint has and hasn't been applied as you paint it in the following step. Once the print is done clean it and remove all the support material.

Step 4: Prepare to Paint!

To finish the print, I use Spaz Stix paints, which are popular for use in the RC car community.

Spaz Stix paints are designed to be applied to clear-bodied car molds, so typically the paints are actually applied in reverse order from what I'm outlining here, and viewed from the inside-out, if that makes sense... (don't worry about it)

Finishing the prints will require the following paints:

Step 5: Painting the Sculpture Undercoat

To ensure proper paint-flow, you want to hold the can of paint upright when spraying, so I recommend propping the sculpture on its side while painting.

  1. Start with the Surface Pre-prep. This only requires one light dusting coat. This is not a paint, but a preparatory coating that helps to reduce oil, dust and smudges from sticking to the surface of the sculpture. I'm not sure if this is actually necessary in the case of this type of painting, but it is recommended by Spaz Stix, so I've been using it.
  2. Paint it black! Use the high-gloss black backer paint, apply several light coats and give it time to dry in between. It's best to prop up the sculpture on it's side and hold the paint can upright for proper flow of paint. Apply at least three coats of paint to cover the whole sculpture (top, bottom, and sides). Allow for 10 minutes drying time in between each coat, and flip the sculpture over to a different side in between each coat to get the most even coverage possible. Make sure to get paint deep down in all the crevices of the sculpture.

Step 6: Applying the Color-changing Paints

Since the original PLY file we used to make the print had color embedded in it, I want to try to recreate a similar color pattern using the color-changing spray paints. To do so, I printed out an image of the PLY file from Meshmixer to use as a reference. I then made a plan for which paints I want to use for with section of the sculpture, and labeled the print-out with the paint colors I plan to use for those regions.

Hold the can of magical color-changing paint upright about 5 inches from the sculpture and spray the paint on in light coats, trying to isolate it as much as possible to the particular region you're trying to color. I find using a simple paper mask held in the other hand while spraying really helps to isolate the paint to a particular region of the sculpture.

Step 7: Apply More Coats of Paint

The first few coats of color-changing paint will be barely visible, if at all. Don't give up! Keep applying more coats, allowing it to dry 10 minutes in between each coat. Soon, the layers of paint will build up and begin to sparkle and shine! I recommend at least 6 coats of the color-changing paint. The colors may start to look faded at this point, but do not fret, the final step will fix that.

Step 8: Clear Coat to Finish

Once you are pleased with the paint job, there is one more crucial step... apply a clear coat in order to seal and protect the sculpture. I have found that this final clear coat also tremendously helps the colors to pop. The type of clear coat you use will effect how vibrant the colors are. I find that using a high-gloss clear coat results in more saturated colors, but also a more glittery appearance. Whereas a matte clear coat gives the surface of the sculpture a more smooth appearance, but less vibrant colors. I recommend using something in between; not too matte, not too glossy. In this Instructable I use Krylon ColorMasterâ„¢ Acrylic Crystal Clear



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Amazing!. Thanks a lot for sharing this amazing piece of time based media art.

Not working on OSX 10.9.5 (Mavericks) and XCode 6. Some commands are deprecated along with other issues. What versions of OSX and XCode are you using?

I'm using Mavericks and XCode 5. What version of OpenFrameworks are you using? It should run fine on OpenFrameworks 8.3

Has anyone besides you gotten this to run?

Originally this was written in Processing, but we re-wrote it in OF because the Kinect library in Processing is unstable. Yes, other people have run it. Could you describe to me the problem you're having? What error messages are you seeing?

Also, what about porting over to Processing. Would be much easier for everyone else to run.

Tried with XCode 5 and OF8.3 but still not working.

This looks so cool! I wish I had a 3d printer, does the paint change color? I think you should do 3d printed minecraft world's

Is this something I can do as a rookie? I've been scanning using the Kinect for Windows for a time. I've downloaded from github the apps. When I try to generate a project, I get the code. I'm not a developer. What should I be looking for after I downloaded the files? Thanks.

Hey Jim, yes you should be able to compile and run the application yourself. However, it was designed for OSX, and I've never tested in on Windows, so I can't guarantee if it will run on Window. It also requires the latest version of OpenFrameworks which you can download here:

If you're unfamiliar with OpenFramworks, I recommend reading the tutorials page to help you get started.