WE ARE THE BAND – project development diary

WE ARE THE BAND – a project for Lyon Light Festival 2015

Every year in the beginning of December the largest international lighting event takes place in Lyon, France. It is called La Féte des Lumiéres and it is one of the biggest festivals that gather together around 75 artistic city lighting installations. This year the event takes place from 5th – 8th of December and with partnership with the City of Lyon, the master students of Lighting Design at Aalborg University got opportunity to participate and be part of it.

The given spot, Place Colbert, were proposed by the City of the Lyon and it was expected that the students will come up interactive lighting installations concepts, that could accommodate at least 10.000 visitors per night during 4 festival nights.


The challenge of this project is that the event takes places outdoor during winter season. Also we had to deal with a large amount of visitors in a short time period. Therefore, it was important that the installation would be easily understandable within a short period of time and should not keep people busy for a long time, but still creates the fun and playful environment. Then the interaction would be simple and fun and accommodate at least 20-100 people per show.


Due to the location of the Place Colbert, we could not do the on site observation, however, we did theoretical analysis about the location, how people approach the square and how they move around in the space.


Based on the observations and research of cultural history of the area, we found out that Place Colbert is hang out place, it is place around bars, restaurants, cafes. Also it is known spot where to meet with friends and families. Place Colbert is visited by people of all age groups.


Based on these insights and the requirements of the City of Lyon the interactive light installation should fulfill the following requirements in order to be succesful.

The installation should be:

  • Easy to understand
  • Be cool
  • Be playful
  • Be social
  • Accommodate 100-300 persons
  • Include music/sounds
  • Be Interactive
  • Take less than 5 minutes to understand the concept
  • Include movement
  • Have a meaningful interaction
  • The interaction should have a reward/pay off
  • >20 persons should be able to interact at a time


The concept of the We are the Band was designed after studying, observing and understanding the context where it should be placed. It is a project installation inspired by the festive environment from Les fêtes des lumières and Place Colbert’s atmosphere. The idea of being in harmony of the mood’s district was achieved by adding a concert in one end of the square. We are the Band want to communicate that it is there to be part of their night and to keep the festive spirit of the space. People socialize while they clapping and filling with energy the instruments, which will reward them with a lighting and music show.


The first rendition of the project was to place large scale instruments at Place Colbert; a piano, a contrabass, a drum and a saxophone. Light from the instruments and sound is being interactively controlled by how the audience is distributed across the square. Furthermore in order to orientate and entertain the audience several projectors distribute patterns on the floor.


The initial narrative scenario:

  • You are walking up the hill towards Place Colbert during fete de lumieres.
  • From a distance you can see and hear that Place Colbert is alive with light and music.
  • “What is happening there?” you ask yourself. “Is it a concert? Sounds interesting!!!” you think to yourself.
  • You rush up to Place Colbert to discover what is happening there.
  • You enter Place Colbert. You are impressed by the lights, sounds and size of huge musical instruments. It feels as if being sucked into a fairy tale.
  • Fueled with this new discovery, you walk towards the lights and music.

Active participation:

  • Arriving at Place Colbert, you observe other festival goers walking between the instruments having fun. “They look like they are having a good time” you think to yourself. You are interested in joining the others to find out what is happening.
  • Moving towards an instrument you observe a change of the light on the ground. This change continues so long you get closer to an instrument. “wow, this is reacting to me” you notice.
  • Walking around the instrument you start to notice a change in the sound and the lights of the instrument.
  • Investigating how the instrument changes to different types of movement you discover that also the manner of your movement affects the lights in the instrument and also its sound.
  • With this new discovery you walk around and explore the other instruments.
  • You notice that each instrument is different in the way that they light up, the way they feel connected to your actions and the way the change the atmosphere of Place Colbert
  • A feeling that together everyone is acting as puppeteers, creating music in synthesis

Passive participation:

  • Stopping at the edge of the installation you position yourself as an observer of all that is happening. Standing outside, looking in.
  • While sipping on a cup of vin chaud you stand and try to decipher what you are seeing. “what are these people doing, and what is the meaning of all of this?”
  • As you stand there, continuing to sip on your now nearly empty cup of vin chaud, you feel entertained by those that are participating in the activity, like actors on a stage.
  • You feel inspired by the colours and music.
  • Now your cup is empty, so you decide to have a drink at a bar.
  • While standing by the bar sipping on your drink you observe the people dancing and remember the time you stood at Place Colbert observing the lights and the people interacting together as a big band of interaction”


We made the model from paper, cardboard and some branches mimicking trees. Inside each instrument were three LEDs and they were all connected to a computer via FadeCandy. We wrote a program in processing controlling the LEDs in each instrument and sending Midi signals to our music software Ableton Live. In our program we made an interface with sliders with which we could control both music and light sequences. In a real version of our installation some kind of sensor system would be used. A great thing is that this will be an easy extension to the program we have already built.

This concept was presented to the City of Lyon and selected as winner project to be part of the La Féte des Lumiéres 2015.

img_20150415_160229   Copy of IMG_9733


During the realization process, the concept has been modified due to the challenges of finding sponsorships, communication with people in charge of the festival and the group new insights.

The first idea how to  save money was to skip the notes structure and use the trees to indicate the interaction zone on the Place Colbert. However, after communication with the City of the Lyon, we realize that lighting up the trees and all the wiring will not be as cheap as expected. Therefore, the interaction concept were changed to using totem poles.


These challenges brought us to the following main changes:

  • Interaction concept – instead of detecting people’s claps, the new concept is focusing on people’s movement in the square.
  • The structure of the notes, has changed to use totem poles, because of the limited budget and to adjust at the new interaction concept.
  • Each pole is connected to each instrument on the stage. The connection is visual using the same color for each relationship pole-instrument.

As the description of the final concept, we concluded on this scenario:

WE ARE THE BAND is an interactive lighting installation designed to be part of la Fêtes des Lumières in 2015. It consists of four large instruments on a stage that are lit by people under special light totems, spread around the square.

The installation will create the sensation of an energy flow, from people into the instruments and make strangers collaborate to create their own party!

When arriving to Place Colbert people will see a stage with four huge instruments, poetically lit with white light. The instruments are pulsing – as if ready to start a new show. There are also four light totems, colored in red, blue, green and yellow. There is a connection between the totems and the instruments on stage by using the same color.

The Interaction 

It is all about a competition! And winning the light and the sound!

Start moving under one of the light totems and the corresponding instrument on stage will start filling with colorful light. The sound of one of the instrument will increase depending on the amount of activity underneath the totem pole.

When the activity under one of the totem poles reach a certain point, the group wins and get rewarded with a victory song and the whole square turns into their theme color.

poles+gobo    BB_on_PC

WE ARE THE BAND – project development diary