Recreating TRON: Legacy - Custom Digital Art With a Bicycle




About: Science Fiction. A precursor to science fact.
Whether you liked it or not TRON: Legacy had some amazing special effects, but for me it was the light emitting designs that blew me away.  With a bit more time on my hands I would love to make a Tron lightsuit (or the snowboarding LED one), but for now I've gone for the light ribbons created by the motorbikes.

My old day job used to involve cycling in Cambridge and I would cycle everywhere, when it got dark my bike would light up too, but since watching TRON: Legacy I wanted to recreate the light ribbons effect.  Apart from cycling incrediby fast I'm not going to be able to generate those beams, but with a suitable light and good photographer I've managed to recreate them :-)

The video is HD quality and worth watching with some decent volume or a set of earphones if you're at work!

Thanks go to Laura Aldred for the photography.

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Step 1: The BUILD:

This build is for v2 as my first attempt wasn't bright enough - it used EL wire.  LEDs would have been good, but although they are bright they tend to be very directional and the light needed to be viewable from various different angles.  Good old fashioned bulbs were required, but they are much harder to come by these days and they also eat batteries!

I managed to find some 6v 6watt bicycle dynamo MES bulbs on eBay and I already owned a suitable battery/charger setup, the fun part was making the housing for the 8 bulbs.  It had to be sturdy and allow the colour to be changed easily.  Luckily, I had some old plastic trunking from my days as an electrician and it had a ridge along its length.  This was where the trunking lid used to go and because it flexed inwards slightly would act as a good way of grasping the perspex cover - the colour acetate sheets could then be slid in easily.  An endplate was made slightly larger for the bottom to stop everything sliding out (and to catch any parts that might work loose during use) and some reflective tape placed inside to increase the reflectivity.

- Drill
- Screwdriver
- Pliers
- Wire strippers
- Scissors or Scalpel
- Jigsaw

- Electrical trunking (50mm)
- Clear perspex
- Acetate sheet in various colours
- Bright light bulbs (and holders)
- Wire
- Heavy duty battery
- Switch
- Reflective aluminium tape
- Tape or glue
- Zip ties
- and a bike to mount it on!

Step 2: Ready to ROLL:

The light as mounted on the bike and ready to roll.  Zip ties and a bungee strap were used to secure the light fitting and battery to the bike rack, and everything stayed in place nicely.  The switch was placed behind me and in hindsight it would have made sense to mount it further forward.

Step 3: The RESULTS: Amazing!

The very first image we took was impressive and the excitement grew from there!  Knowing that it worked and we could change the colours, we just needed to find suitable locations to take the shots.  Most of them were taken on the newly opened Cambridgeshire Guided Busway and on Riverside Bridge.

Comments from the photographer Laura Alrded:

The camera (Canon 550D with 18-55 kit lens) was set up on a tripod in order to take the required long exposures. Setting the camera up in manual mode so that I could use the bulb setting to control the length of the exposure, a cable release was also used to prevent any unnecessary camera shake (other than the Fen wind!). In order to reduce the amount of noise I set the ISO to 200 and the aperture was set to 18.0 as I wanted to make sure that as much of the scene was in focus as possible, especially as the subject needed to be in focus in the whole picture and was moving from close up to the distance.

In order to get different intensities of light, Simon was asked to cycle at different speeds through the exposures. Very intense thick-looking lights are the result of slow cycling with a longer exposure while the fast-looking thinner bands of light are faster cycling and a quicker exposure. In order to get the extra lights from the buses we just waited for one to come along and Simon either chased it or cycled towards it depending on the direction it was coming from.

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    13 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Also, the video says it cannot be viewed because it has been "blocked by UMG in your country on copyright grounds."

    7 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Which country are you viewing the video in? If Youtube is blocking it I may redo video without sound (even though the soundtrack is a key part of it!)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    It would be cool if you could get it to fade out. Maybe try using a dimmer and turn the light up as you go along. Great Idea

    1 reply

    create a strip diffuser to make all the lines blend together and add a fade out switch or dimmer switch to make it all smooth :)