Installation & Lighting Tips
- Short version: Hang your plate right under a spotlight (just one!)
and enjoy with your friends.
- Long version: Your plate is a precision micro-mirror array that is designed to take light from a single point light and reflect a different constellation of glints to every viewpoint in the room. To get crisp images, here are some tips for placement, hanging, and lighting:
- Plan to hang the plate at a height that is comfortable for you
and any children in the household. One common rule of thumb for art:
Hang with the top of the frame at or slightly below adult eye level.
- People generally like to take in the 3D effect by moving around
at a viewing distance of ~2 meters (~6'); make sure there's no low furniture
for your guests to trip over since their eyes may be locked on the
art as they move around.
- Keep in mind that a bright window or desk lamp opposite the plate will
produce unwanted glare.
- Most frames have a keyhole or metal comb on the back to
accommodate a nail, screw, or picture hook. Please keep in mind that
the frame glass has some heft, so your nail should be firmly set in
the wall. Anchored screws are a good idea, especially in old gypsum or plaster walls.
- Your plate is shipped with a small bag of black nylon screws, in case
you want to adjust the way the frame lays on the wall (see below). In
that case, two screws of a suitable length will go into threaded holes
in the bottom or top of the frame back to serve as stand-offs. The
screws can be finger-turned -- no tools necessary -- and should not be overtightened.
- Your plate should be illuminated from above by a single point
light source such as a small spotlight or an unfrosted incandescent
bulb. The crispest image is obtained when the light source is very
narrow in the horizontal direction, so that the shadows it casts on
the wall are very sharp, at least horizontally. The photos on this web site were
taken with an MR16 halogen spot bulb (~$6) in a track light. LED spotlights also work well as long as there is a single LED and its reflector is small.
- Center the light source over the plate. Slightly off-center
lighting will shift the viewing range left or right; far off-center
lighting will distort the image.
- The light source should be at least 1 meter (~3') above the
plate; higher is better. Lower will result in some image distortion.
- Most plates are designed to be illuminated from a 5-25 degree angle; at 15 degrees the light is ~1' from the wall for each 4'
above the plate. If you can't move the light close to the wall, you can compensate by tilting the plate.
- To get the best image delivered to your favorite viewing point,
have a friend stand where you want the "sweet spot" to be, and try
tilting the plate forward or backward (or moving the light, if that's an option) until
they see a bright, clear image. The plate comes with a bag of nylon stand-off screws that can be screwed into predrilled holes in the back of the frame and adjusted to ensure that it rests on the wall at your optimum tilt.
- You can also try this interactive applet for estimating a good tilt and stand-off.
- As a rule of thumb, you will want to tilt the plate forward if the plate is mounted high or the light is far from the wall; put stand-off screws in the top of the frame and make your hanging screw stick out further. If the plate is below eye level you may want to
tilt the plate back (put stand-off screws in the bottom).
- If the plate produces multiple images, there are multiple light
sources too close to your intended illuminator. Often this can be
fixed by pointing the unwanted lights away from the plate.
- Broad-spectrum lights will elicit more color from the plate. Low
color temperature bulbs (e.g., 2700K) produce warmer color palettes.
- If there is a lot of ambient light bouncing around the room that washes out the plate's image, get a brighter bulb.
- Varied light can add interest -- I have some plates under
skylights that produce slowly changing ghost images on cloudy days,
then pop out colorful crisp images when hit by the sun (or when spot-lit at
night). One caveat: For some plates the sun can make the image look overly bright and noisy. (The sun is not a point light source.)
- Guests left fingerprints on the glass? Clean with a soft
cloth moistened with any glass cleaner. Spraying is not recommended
-- droplets or drippings from the spray could find their way
inside the frame; cleaning chemicals will attack any metal if left on long enough. NB: I now am framing plates inside of archival clear sleeves specifically to protect against sprayed window cleaners.
What to tell the your uncle the engineer:
- Each subject is digitally sculpted and textured by hand. The
3D design is optimized for visibility, translated into an optical
design, then optimized again for machinability. Then a plate with
a sympatico metallurgical grain is selected (every plate has a
unique grain that responds differently to machining and lighting).
The plate is brushed, chemically processed, and then subject to
roughly a quarter-million carving/polishing operations using a
custom diamond tool, resulting in a field of microscopic mirror
elements, each 2-10x finer than a human hair. After some more
chemicals and cleaning, the plate is checked for image quality and
child-tested for appeal. Those that make it past this bar are
made available for collectors.