Moss Machine Prototyping (FYP18)

A very, very Quick Catch up!
This post will just be a very brief update on the progress of each different aspects of the installation!

Firstly, let’s talk about the layout! My proposed space would be a slightly rectangular space, with content to be projected/hung/attached/displayed on all 4 walls. My drawn layout can be accessed here: FYP Diagram(edited final).

Planned Layout of each 4 walls of Installation

Otherwise, as seen in the above rough sketch, I would be placing:
1. x 2 projections
2. x 1 moss machine
3. Phamplets, memorabilia

More details could be seen here: Presentation Summarised

FYP Group Presentation with all Professors
Today, the IM cohort had a group presentation with all the IM professors. My presentation slides can be found here: Presentation Summarised

Moss Procurement Updates!

In my last post, I did mention that I would resort to buying the moss! Luckily for me, I chanced upon large quantities of this very amazing moss species on a quick trip to Malaysia which would fit the theme! However, I only managed to smuggle back enough quantities for it for the prototype itself only, and not for the final installation machine.

Close up of moss

Referencing the above close up picture of the moss, I wish to draw attention to the individual stalks of each moss head – which gives additional texture and interest to the moss bed – perfect for what I envisioned.

As of now, I have a dilemma of whether to purchase commercially available Holland moss for the final machine or whether to return to Malaysia for the sole purpose of moss collection. Logistically speaking, I am also unsure if the border controls will allow me to ‘mass import’ their local flora back to Singapore.

But for this final prototype, I have decided to affix it with this particular species of moss.


I was pretty worried about the structure and how it would actually hold together, and after having gone through the laser cutting workshop, was actually able to try it out! Here’s my process making in pictures:

Final Prototype

ps. moss burger is not actually the name of the machine, it’s just some pun injected (from the fast food chain Mos burger) into this otherwise nameless machine!

I envision this to be my final prototype (if possible)! From now thereafter, I would be working on the final machine. It would take some time though, perhaps 2-4 weeks to complete it as I wish to perfect it.

As of now, the speed of the turning it wayy too fast for my liking. I’d be experimenting with gears of different sizes and try to slow the speed down. In addition, I plan to make rotating grow lights (to keep the moss alive) to follow the movement of the rotation. However, it might take some time – my grow lights are currently still being mailed over to me, and is estimated to only reach me 1-2 weeks from now.

For the final machine, I would also make it slightly larger than this prototype. Not too large, as originally thought (initially I wanted it to stand at 1.6m height/5.24 feet) as I am not confident of my construction skills.

Projection Matters

I have not started on this yet, but I plan to project real life camera detection of the moss machine itself.

Supporting Materials (eg. pamplets, posters)

I wanted my final installation look to be a unique mishmash between the science laboratory, and a dark installation space. Above shown are mood-board references of how the final installation might look like – albeit with a slightly different colour scheme of purple, black, white and potentially dark blue.

Research Poster FYP (sample, unfinished)

For instance, this was one of the posters I intend to display within the installation space itself. It would have real data which I collect from my investigations (eg. how many seedlings have sprouted from my moss), but placed in an authentic yet ludicrous way.

Over the next few weeks, I would be prioritising the creation of the machine and projections, as I am quite worried about how it would look like in the actual set up, and would require them to be ready as soon as possible so that I can more accurately plan the actual exhibit space.

I would also continue collecting data from my grown moss to be put into the poster ?

Rough equipment list (FYP18)


  • projector x 1
  • Timer
  • Build materials (eg. acrylic, wood, metal hinges/support, wooden breams)
  • Wiper motor
  • moss (plant, bedding, spray nozzle)
  • gear system (belt, chain)


  • VDMX
  • Max Msp
  • Electrical timer

VDMX References for the future:

Technical Aspects and more details (FYP18)

Summarised Updates
Apologies for the delay in uploading this post! This post would cover 4 main components (making up the entire project) which I have been working on:

  1. Moss Harvesting
  2. Machine Construction
  3. Ideation/concept
  4. Projection

Let’s start!

Moss Harvesting

Initially, I wanted to harvest my own moss, continually sowing and replicating it such that it would make a mossy bed. Hence, I tried to hunt for actual moss around my neighbourhood as I thought that 1) these species of moss are already acclimatised to our hot climate. Hence, the chances of them dying during the actual exhibition could be lower. 2) Should the mosses harvested die, there is always an abundance of more mosses to be collected from the environment. 3) it was, free.

Thus commenced the witch hunt! (I didn’t pluck mosses from nature reserves/preserved areas so I didn’t flout any laws hopefully).

Out of all these local moss species, I identified at least 3 different species – codenamed species A, B and C. Out of all these 3 species, species A was the rarest (I was only able to find it on a single trunk), whereas species C was the most common but hard to transplant onto a different surface.

Some attributes I discovered from my layman observation of the tree species:

Species A
– rare
– most aesthetically pleasing in terms of moss beauty
– easy to transplant (in terms of scraping it off tree trunk)
– ‘cleanest’: not attached to any root/soil material

Verdict: ❌
Usable for project, but impractical due to difficulty in harvesting

Species B
– common
– barely perceivable height
– extremely hard to scrape off
– ‘small presence’: only a huge and enormous quantity of it would make it look substantial
– aesthetically unpleasant

Verdict: ❌
Unusable due to aesthetics not in line with what I have in mind for the moss visuals

Species C
– VERY common, abundant
– seems very hardy
– slight difficulty in scraping off since it tends to grow on tree roots/wood
– ‘flat’ surface, would prefer another moss species with slightly higher height elevation

Verdict: ✔
Usable, but might experience slight difficulties in creating a ‘blanketed’ moss surface which I had in mind for the final visuals

That being said, I did collect some of the moss in a container and will be monitoring it as my preliminary introduction into the Art of Caring for Mosses. Based on my first few days of caring for the mosses, I realised that they were indeed very hardy – without much water, or sunlight, they were still, green. It was very good news indeed. I will be continuing to monitor the mosses, and am considering setting up an experimental set up of mosses in the dark so as to stimulate present conditions of the moss within the final installation set up.

Thus, I resigned and would attempt to instead buy moss online. Initially I decided against it as this would become a considerable budget for my project but moss as the product was essential to this study, hence the consideration was overthrown.

In the current market, there are very limited sellers selling purely moss for terrarium uses. I could only purchase dry mosses, as I did not want to deal with additional difficulty of submerging the mosses inside water (most mosses are wet mosses, and much more easily available). However, I shortlisted two sellers who might be able to provide Live Holland Moss for the project. It was important to buy live moss, rather than dehydrated or dried moss which cannot be revived for the project.

Side tracking a wee bit – I actually found out the species of moss (haircap moss) which I saw in Japanese gardens, but the local market does not provide sales of this particular moss species.

It was indeed a pity, as haircap mosses are more apparent, and have a slightly more protruded surface/texture which might make the moss carpet seem more lively. Holland moss, on the other hand, had a more grass carpeted surface, making it theoretically easier to blend and create a more even moss carpeted surface.

The two sellers shortlisted are: Ecophonics and Zantelle. The budget for an estimated 17 x 12cm/6.7 x 4.7 inches sized carton of Holland moss (based on size specification given by Ecophonics) would cost an estimated $8. I would imagine that I would need ~8 clumps for each tray I would have (cost: $64 sgd for each tray of moss?).

I will be purchasing the moss soon, along with glow lights (to be confirmed and done by end of this week).

Machine Construction

This was one of the most prevalent aspects of the installation, yet one of the most worrying at the same time. For this machine, I experienced several difficulties in creating the build and rotation mechanism. As an add on from last week’s cardboard mechanism which didn’t work out smoothly enough, I created another more stable structure which I will be partially adopting into the final design.

Prototype 2 of rotation mechanism

Unfortunately, this would require much more time than expected, as there was a delay in purchasing materials and building. In my consultation with Prof LPD, he recommended essential reinforcement of the tray, and rotating arms with flange mounts/bearings, and for the rotating mechanism, implement a gear system which would control the speed and rotate both the tray and the glow lights (as another rotating mechanic entity from the first moss machine).

This gear system would be powered by a solo (for now) powerful motor, namely the wiper motor. The wiper motor is a motor originally used as the windshield wiper, and would be powerful enough to drive the entire gear mechanism. However, visits to sim lim tower to purchase this elusive motor proved to be wasted, and I would need additional time to purchase it online (via Ezbuy or Amazon). In addition, details were missing from my sketch/second prototype, thus I spent the week trying to polish up and make a working sketch and push through with the machine specifics.



Actual and final size of machine

(Refer to above figure) The machine would stand at 1.65m, rotate at one rotation for every minute. Each tray would be 52.5 x 15 x 5.5cm/20.6 x 6 x 2.2 inches.

Details: specific gears for machine
Details: Material list for machine

(Refer to above figure) The base of the machine would be created using wood, while the arm would be made using acrylic. The gear (unlike what was sketched) would be only attached to one rotating arm, but I would be inserting a metal rod which will extend towards both rotating arms and provide stability, and hopefully, enough rotational power.

As for the tray, I hope to be able to use acrylic (as it is waterproof and able to take the misting required to water the moss daily), but am unsure of that at the moment as the acrylic might not be strong enough to handle the weight and pressure of the plants, movements and whatnots. It would take testing to iron out these concerns.


Articulating the Concept

While the last few posts have already written about the concept in different permutations, I have jotted it down to make it more concrete and less airy. Please refer to the above figure on the specifics.


Sketch of counter sensor of number of rotation of tray

Regarding the projection, I will schedule another OSS post on Friday to talk more about it. As of now, I would be utilising the number of times the trays rotate, and using this data to create imagery to be projected on a singular wall (for now).

I would require one projector for this aspect.


FYP Concept (FYP18)

Throughout the entire course of my FYP journey thus far, I had ongoing troubles trying to focus and stick to a single good idea. Often, I oscillated between various ideas and concepts, at times nearly settling for a topic but ultimately was unable to fully commit to any.

For once, I still feel inclined towards my chosen topic of continuity, and I can see myself working towards it. However, due to difficulties in thinking of the best idea, or installation product which would reflect the idea, I have decided to make continuity into a theme which I would actively study through my work.

Exploring the Idea

More mindmapping on concept
Ideas on installation

I did mention of the continuity of time, or rather, presence in my previous post, and tried to translate it into objects – firstly, through organic objects – plants, flowers and whatnots, within a physically enclosed space eg. boxed up cube, or through simpler kinetic motions (swinging a pendulum, or strings in circular, repetitive motions).

However, I still felt that these methodologies, though were to some extent able to express my idea sufficiently enough, felt lacking and was not ‘true’ to myself. At the same time, most ideas felt as though they had a ‘statement’ to respond towards, rather than circling and slowly delving, and exploring this dubious topic of continuity.

Thus, I decided to latch onto this thought and express it systematically: a Study on (the theme of) Continuity.

Exploring the Medium

Robotic Arm idea: in middle of sketches

Concurrently, I found myself attracted to this idea of a robotic arm, who, through replicating a human motion, could be doing a ‘performance art’ on behalf of an actual human person. At the same time, using a robotic arm meant that this continuity could be forcefully implemented and maintained for however long I wanted.

At the same time, I was hooked onto the idea of the moss (based on actual moss gardens I have seen) as being a living creature, but at the same time, it evokes a sort of tranquility that echoes the exact sentiments I found within the subject of Continuity and wanted to bring across in my artwork.

See: bottom left hand corner for contained-within-box moss sketch

Thus, I decided upon a working idea, of containing the box within a glasshouse/terrarium setup (picture above), and incorporate the robotic cyclic arm into the setup.

Actual Set-up

Room set-up

Originally, I wanted the study of continuity to be expressed using a few different objects (eg. 3-5), each object exploring a different theme. These objects would then be scattered around the room, and the space would be one resembling an experimental lab.

However, I acknowledge that time is not on my side so I decided to just go big on one particular, singular machine which I have always been keen on.

Presenting… my moss machine (for the lack of a better title at the moment)!

Moss machine ver 1

With reference to the previous picture: the moss will be placed in the tray, while a rotating system will continually rotate the moss.

It serves to critique the continuity of time, through rotating a living object (the moss), despite, appearance wise, the moss looking like a non-living object. This ties in with the idea that continuity is always present, but not always acknowledged and recognised. This study tries to extenuate the idea, and present it – as it is – to the audience.

Rough Mock-up

What worried me the most, was the mechanics of the system. I thus made a mock up with paper!

However, there definitely were areas to improve on – such as the hinges had to work smoothly enough, sufficient support had to be accorded to the trough.

I’ll continue to work on it this week!


Screens and Updates | #FYP

Project Update
The structure and overall outcome of the project is gradually getting finalised over this week, as I settle and roughly confirm how the set-up will be like: a reflective bubble surface, together with a 2D screen projection. Of course, this is only much simpler and truncated version of what my project – but I would have to first test the settings to see if it works.

The In-store Bubble Machine
I finally caved in and bought a bubble machine to investigate the structure of it! Which ended up being how I envisioned it to be. However, with the machine now, I was able to personalise the size of my bubbles, although, by using the machine’s old structure, the blowing speed of the machine was fixed and I was forced to make bubbles at a quick and fixed pace.

The machine was a powerful one which could produce numerous bubbles at high speed, as seen in the video below. The iridescent bubbles were the outcome of a better bubble solution, which came together with the machine as an add-on.

I proceeded to next dismantle the machine to see how the gears work. As I thought, it worked as how I suspected it to be: a fan and gears mechanism to rotate the bubble wand – together, there was continual rotation and movement to produce the bubbles. The bubble wand was continually rotated, being dipped in and out of the bubble solution. The fan at the back of the machine then blew the bubbles out manually.

Therefore as previously mentioned, I switched up and created my own bubble wand as I wanted a larger bubble surface area so as to do my projections on.

Bubble machine with self made wand

…which worked! I initially made a larger one but unfortunately I did not have a larger soap dish bowl and had to cut back in size.


Machines and Reflections in a Single Set-up


Initially, with my setup, I did want to try the above setup – the machine would generate bubbles, which would be projected upon and gain a reflected light surface, which bounces off the bubbles and would be reflected using mirrors into a projector screen/room wall/surface.

However, I admit that though it’s really doable, my setup was less than ideal.

Entire Setup: machine, wand, soap solution

Just to clarify, the boards in front of the bubble machine are placed intentionally to block the fan of the machine so that the bubble would remain ‘more static’ and allow for better reflective surface.

Only after doing video documentation did I realise that the reflective image.. was moving too much against what I had envisioned, and I thought that I had leeway to play with the bubble’s movement and use it as a compelling material for my project. In addition, I envisioned my reflection to be able to see more of the source image… no that did not happen.

Setup (revised)

Nevertheless, after discussion with prof Randall, perhaps I would move onwards to using the reflective image as source material and use digital manipulation to further the concept.

I am currently working on the sounds on the side, and will combine it with the visual footage for the final outcome. It is still a work in progress! If possible, I would like the sounds to match the visual footage (eg. one beat = visual footage changes accordingly).



The Bubble Wheel-wand | #FYP

(Backdated post for 27 Oct ’17)

Waterwheel and Bubbles
As I wrote earlier, I wanted to include the reflections off the bubbles into my installation. Since I wanted the reflections to come many at a time, I decided upon a circular repetitive mechanism, much like the spokes of the water wheel.


Supposedly, there will be a mechanised clockwork arm to repeatedly turn the bubble wand, and reflections would be created and reflected onto the surrounding space.

Bubble wand with multiple-sized bubble wands

I tried making wands of different sizes uses pipe cleaners, to play around with the reflected outcome. However, I clearly did not think it through properly; the largest wand couldn’t sit properly into the soapy trough.

Clearly, most if not all of my ‘prototypes’ or experiments did not work out well at all. As such, I went to purchase a proper bubble machine from the stock racks. We’ll see how it goes in future post updates.


Sooo… I was considering how to move on. I constantly toyed with the idea of making projected bubbles, very much like this – but soon hit a revelation: while yes its perfect, that the outcome really embodies what I truly want, I would like to investigate another more appealing aspect of the bubble medium: reflections.

From the start of my experimentation stage till now, I have been fascinated with bubble’s reflections; the multi-coloured hues swirling in circles, glistening and changing colours at whim: it was utterly beautiful. The week before, Prof Randall actually showed that the reflective surface could actually be used as a projection surface, though, in a different way as seen in the video itself.

Prof Randall highlighted that viewing the reflection on the bubble itself might be hard, and that I could utilise another projector to enlarge the initial projected surface (such that the final look can be seen on say, a projector screen). To this, I felt pretty unsure about as I did not want my final installation to look 2D (aka like watching a television show), and that the interaction did feel slightly disconnected from the outcome.

I knew what I wanted, I wanted the reflected image to be tangible. Something you could actually see it in 3D rather than a flat surface. Perhaps, one could see it via the physical object which creates the final outcome, or the may the outcome be more ‘real’ (for the lack of a better word).

What I do want though, is for the bubble surface to no longer be a sphere, but a ‘wall’ of bubble. This would allow for a greater area of projection and logistically speaking, makes it way easier to control than a spherical bubble which bursts more easily.

Thus, I went to do a quick search of the different kinds of bubble ways, and stumbled upon a few interesting ones:

Ontario Science Centre, Bubbles making up a Face

This photo of Ontario Science Centre is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Kentucky Science Centre

This photo of Kentucky Science Center is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The medium of bubbles is an interesting one, it has both a scientific basis, and can even be used as a part of a performance, as seen by bubble artist Fan Yang.

Envisioned Installation

I did mention that I wanted a wall of bubbles, but for now, I am going to start by making little round wands, tied by strings to the ceiling and lowered down at chest-level . The rationale behind this height was for visitors to be able to actually blow and play about with the bubbles. In the future, I would like to change the opening shape of the bubble wand but for now I will stick with this to experiment first.

Bubble wand

As you can see, there’s a tray of soapy water. It is intended so for the user to be able to lower the entire assortment of wands into the soapy water by the use of a manual hand lever/pulley system. I want to be able to automate this system with time to come, but would need to consider how so, and the duration/trigger to lower the entire wand set.

I would like a projector to beam light onto the wands, and highlighting the bubbly reflection surface. Hopefully, there would also be reflections of the bubbles onto the surroundings, which would also vary based on the vibration of the bubbles.

As for the sounds, I wish for the sounds to be edited real-time – hopefully, the bubbles’ vibration speed/actions can be translated into sounds for the installation itself.

This would suffice for now, as I attempt to create my prototype on it (to be continued in the next post).

The Bubble as the Living Organism + DMX Experiment | #FYP

After doing my research, I decided to start small – making just a single bubble. However, I want the singular bubble to pulsate, as though it’s a living organism. When it later bursts, I wish for the feeling of loss to be more pronounced – by initially thinking of it as a living being, one would feel pity, a sense of loss, and sadness (hopefully), as per what they would feel should a real living being dies.

Honestly speaking, when I start thinking of the idea of a singular bubble, the image of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during WWII comes immediately into mind (hope this isn’t offensive/it isn’t meant to be offensive):

Hiroshima Peace Museum

Partly due to the fact that it has indeed caused many deaths and destruction, but this symbolic model was very arresting – the bright red contrasting with the vast city landscape.

I did consider putting placing a huge singular bubble into a small room, where people would have to squeeze past it to get to the other side – it seems fun, but there were considerations that they might accidentally touch and make the bubble bursting, making it not-so-practical after a while. At the same time, the bubble will pulsate like a pumping heart, giving it life-like qualities.

Thus, remembering Prof Randall’s words to ‘crawl first before I run’, I decided to start small and create a small bubble before I envision it in the whole space. That being said, small seems okay to start with – in my previous research the artwork The Long Now by Varena Friedrich, she too starts small – yet the product was very effective.

Before I thought of this idea, I did a few experiments with DMX lighting. I did want to try using projection on the bubbles, but decided to postpone it as I haven’t had the fog ready to intensify the projecting (but am loaning the projector again today to test it out this weekend).

DMX Chauvet Lighting and Bubbles

I first wanted to beam the light sideways, but the leftover light shone onto the background wall which was very distracting. In addition, there was too much surrounding light from the chauvet lights – thus it was hard to pick out the lighting of the bubbles itself. So, I pointed the chauvet light upwards instead (and risked the cables getting wet but shower caps are always a lifesafer)

I also did experiment with the flickering lights, as seen below. From my tests, a slow strobe could dramatise the effect of the bubbles, but it really was not what I envisioned for the experiment.

Caution! Strobe lighting in the below video!

(Please mute the above video while watching it; sounds of the video does not correspond with the visuals – I’ll explain why later in the post)

Here, there are two different ways of strobing: fast, and slow. I played with different light colours (purple, white, blue) to test out the effects, and particularly liked the purple colour out of all 3 colours.

One thing to note that while it was resplendently pretty, lighting was a considerable issue – the surroundings had to be STARK black else the surrounding light will wash out the lights of the bubble. Another issue was that the medium simply is hard to capture with the camera – the shimmer of the bubbles, how airy it was, and the glint and floaty-ness that it had. This is truly an experience that one has to feel first hand.

In this experiment, a pure red lighting was chosen as I envisioned that the strong lighting would translate into visually powerful bubbles exuding a single colour.

Side view: Chauvet light directly beneath bubble
Top view: Chauvet light directly beneath bubble

To add on to my previous point, only by directly placing the bubbles at the top of the light itself could really bring out the reflective quality of the bubbles. However, this would mean that the bubble has to be either suspended over the light, or that it would have to sit on a flat surface right above the light – whereby the spherical shape of the bubble would no longer be possible.

I did love the reflections of the bubble, particularly here:

Reflection on singular bubble

However, it was very hard to be able to angle one’s sight successfully to view this reflection, and that the structure of the chauvet lights dictate it that each individual RGB colour is seen, rather than the blend of R, G or B to achieve a new colour. This is especially so in the case of the bubbles were the light has to be very close to the bubble and has no affording distance to blend together. I suppose that this limitation could be overcome by directly wrapping the coloured cellophone paper over the light, hence it will not be an important consideration as of now.

I tried using many small bubbles, and one singular bubble to play with the lights. I concluded that while the small bubbles really gave off an airy feel, I would rather use larger singular bubbles as I could more properly play with the bubble medium. It would also be easier to control, and individualise my project rather than the conventional bubble explosion scene.

Sounds of.. Making Bubbles?

I recorded the sound of bubbling and edited it via Audacity. I will show a few samples.

(Please un-mute the video while watching it)

The edited sounds are included in the video, and there are 3 tracks in total.

Track 1: 00:00 – 00:19
Track 2: 00:20 – 01:05
Track 3: 01:06 – 14:20

Next Steps!

To do: make fog machine

Attempt projection surface tryout with singular large bubble

Make a singular bubble machine



Bubblemania | #FYP

A quick and (very) summarised update on what I’ve been up for the week – bubble experimentation!

Bubble Characteristics
Types of Bubbles
Singular, clump, foam

Bubble Movements
Burst, fuse, repel

Creating Bubbles
Based on my experiments, the outcome of the bubble type will depend on the shape of the wand and can be altered as such.

For a large singular bubble, use a wand with a big single opening. For little bubbles to appear at one go, use a wand with many small openings.

Bubble Experiment #1
Altering Materials

Material List for bubble exp 1

It should be noted that certain materials such as the glitter was hard to mix into the soapy mixture. For future references, only water soluble substances should be used.

Bubble Experiment #2
Inputting Sound


  1. Singularly large bubble – rainbow reflection was more ‘solid’, and changes in sound beats more obvious in bubble
  2. Clustered bubble – similar outcome to singularly large bubble, but movement/swaying of bubble more negligible
  3. Foam bubble – most obvious outcome in terms of movement (as foam is smaller and lighter to move), water droplets dance around resplendently

My friends recommended that I try bass music instead for more effective ‘bubble dancing’. Perhaps I should try that.