Build an army of fake cameras in the name of art

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After taking a mental note of the number of surveillance cameras pointed at him as he stood in line at the local Home Depot, [Mac Pierce] was inspired to create A dark scanner. The art installation uses beams of light projected by fictional security cameras to create a display of matrix characters on the opposite wall, which slowly flashes US surveillance laws and regulations.

[Mac] reunited an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at how he created A dark scanner, which covers among other things the incredible time and effort spent in producing the fifteen identical cameras used to project the 3 × 5 grid. Very early on, he decided to 3D print each one, as that would give him full control over the end result. But given their sheer size, it took 230 hours and 12 kilograms of PLA filament to print all the parts. It took an additional 55 hours to sand and paint the camera housings, to make sure they didn’t to see as if they had been 3D printed.

Internally, each camera has a standard LED flashlight whose power button is mounted on an ESP8266. Once they have been manually pointed to the appropriate place on the wall, [Mac] can turn on and off the projector of each camera via WiFi. Rather than relying on the gallery infrastructure, all cameras connect to the ESP32 M5Stack which serves as the central controller via ESP-Now.

From there, it was enough to write code that would load a text document from the SD card, convert the current character to a 3 × 5 array, and then command the appropriate cameras to turn their lights on or off. [Mac] not only provided the STL files for the 3D printed camera, but the Arduino client and server code to control the lights. Combined with its excellent documentation, this makes A dark scanner something of a viral work of art; because anyone with the time and the right tools can either duplicate the installation or use it as a basis for something new.

While some might say that [Mac] could have finished this project much faster if he had just modified commercial dummy cameras, it’s important to remember that as an artist he had a very specific look in mind for A dark scanner. This project is a perfect example of how a designer’s passion can take an idea to new heights, and we believe the end result proves it’s worth the time and sweat to put in the extra effort.


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