UFO over Rio

The technical design, build and delivery of a UFO to be used in artist Peter Coffin's unique high-altitude public art performance.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 2011


Client: Peter Coffin 
Design & Concept: Cinimod Studio
Digital & Technical Production: Cinimod Studio & White Wing Logic 
Physical Build: Cinimod Studio & Litestructures

This is the second time the UFO has made a public appearance. It first appeared over the city of Gdansk, Poland, in July 2008. Since then it has been significantly upgraded, and for Rio it featured an additional 150kg of bespoke lighting equipment to create an even greater visual impact.

The night time flight over Rio De Janeiro had been extensively publicised in advance, and an estimated 500,000 spectators assembled on the five beaches of Rio to witness the UFO. As the UFO approached, the gathered masses rushed towards the water, screaming and shouting with excitement, amidst a wave of sparkling flash photography.

The overall UFO structure was 7 metres in diameter and manufactured of aluminium for lightness. A massive array of bright and individually controllable Color Kinetics LED nodes have been placed across the structure and are controlled via a Pharos LPX solid state computer. A network of bespoke ‘beacon’ lights, developed for this project by Cinimod Studio and White Wing Logic, encompass the perimeter of the UFO and are responsible for the orbiting sparkle of light around the main UFO structure.

An on board 6 kw generator provides the system power, and the overall UFO can be remotely controlled via SMS messaging. The UFO is flown through the sky, suspended under a helicopter 20 metres above — however, the helicopter itself is never visible during the flight, further adding to the mystique of the UFO.

Ten days of preparation on-site in Rio were undertaken by a Cinimod Studio team of three. Operating from a top secret airport hangar they directed a local team of 15 people on the assembly, pre-flight preparation, and coordination required for the successful UFO flight.

Cinimod Studio already had a reputation for creating innovative lighting and structural designs, but with the UFO project design director Dominic Harris has taken lighting design to new heights. Harris says “we have pushed the envelope on the UFO, and it has required a remarkable fusion of technologies and design disciplines in order to make this happen.

On the collaborative process Harris says “working with Peter Coffin has been a rewarding experience — his artistic vision for the project has remained clear and ambitious from the start, and he has pushed us to achieve it. The result is a fantastic collaboration between art and technology.



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