September 2010

Moving in to the New Syyn Labs Space


EXCITING NEWS! Syyn Labs has officially moved in to a new space at the newest (and largest) creative collective space in LA: Big Art Labs! Just down the street from the brewery Big Art is already home to some of the cities most creative performers, fire spinners and musicians – and now Syyn abs is bringing the tech wizardry and party experience!

But first, this being an old paint factory, it’s time to clean this mess up!


And of course get some walls built and maybe a little mopping! Big things to come 🙂


Read more

Syyn Labs DNA Sequencer at Santa Monica GLOW Festival

Syyn Labs had the pleasure of installing a new piece at the Santa Monica GLOW Festival this past Saturday – a beautiful, 100-foot-long double helix of colorful, synced lights.

There was over a man-year (more than 2000 combined hours) put into this project which used sophisticated custom software designed by our own David Guttman to control 512 computer controlled full-color LED’s, 32 LED controllers, 4 Arduinos, and 4 computers, with over 6000 wire interconnects and well over a mile of wire. This complex hardware configuration was masterminded by Chris Nelson and Eliot Phillips, based on a challenging design concept from the talented Eric Gradman who also developed a good portion of the support structure and final assembly.

(under construction and LED testing…)

Once operational, it took inputs from the music for beat-matching and/or VU metering, a wireless iPad, and our beautiful 22-button console (also built by Gradman) – sometimes all at once! At the end of the night, our spectacular DJ Matt Davis had not only moved the crowd with his awesome music, but the twin-computer-based system be designed had processed and sent 53,477 beats to our tempo-synced light sculpture between 7:30 and 2am, when the excited crowd got a little “too excited”, and we were asked to leave the music off until we shut down on schedule an hour later.

We’re REALLY proud of how well received it was. Our favorite part? When our DJ would occasionally let a song end in silence, and it would be met with thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd surrounding the piece – sometimes as many as 7 people deep on both sides!

(Being installed at the trellis on Santa Monica beach)

We’re planning to release a high-quality video, including a time-lapse of the build and operations. Until then, enjoy some of the videos that others took and posted online – mostly from the dramatic lengthwise view. A few of our favorites are here, here, and here.

Project leads Gradman, Guttman, Nelson and Phillips were supported by a herculean effort by Syyn Labs team members Dan Busby, Doug Campbell, Geoff Emery, Hector Alvarez, “Quin” Cabalquinto, Mat Heitel, Pehr Hovey and Richard Whitney and Sam Leventer, who put in many crazy late nights on this project. A very special thanks to Jennifer Jordan, Sena Koleva, Paul Grasshoff, and Kristy Hilands who pitched in at critical junctures. This really was a team effort.

Read more

Sunrise at Echo Mountain


Transitions and difficult decisions kept me up all night and I knew the day ahead was going to be a big challenge. So around 5am I decided to do a couple of things that I’d never tried before. The first was to eat a sandwich while taking a shower. It was half of a left over subway sandwich and it was a pseudo success. The second however was witnessing a fantastic sunrise hike to the top of Altadena’s Echo Mountain.

I left my new home in San Marino (south of CalTech and Pasadena) around 5:30am and headed straight up Lake Ave. After a while, just as the road reaches the base of the mountain, it curves sharply to the left. You can park anywhere near there to access the trailhead, which is through the gate on the right. As I ascended the mountain the sky slowly became lighter and just as I reached the peak about an hour later, the sun was coming up over the neighboring mountains. The sunlight also illuminated various piles of rubble from the old hotel that used to sit on top of the mountain. Around the turn of the century (1900, not 2000) a wealthy man called Mr. Lowe (after whom the neighboring mountain was named) had built a hotel / sanatorium here, and even commissioned the construction of a railroad to take well to do folks up and down. The property had event contained a zoo and observatory before being destroyed (twice) by strong winds and fires.

Before heading back down the mountain, I did some stretching and considered all the options that I was facing and large swath of feedback that I’d received. In a moment of smog free clarity, I saw exactly what I needed to do and gleefully skipped down the hill towards a meeting that would impact my life greatly, as well as the lives of the community around me, in unquantifiable ways.

Exciting times 😉

Read more

Moving Out of the Brewery Arts District

This was the view from the balcony at my loft near downtown LA. I sat on that rickety metal balcony innumerable times having countless discussions on infinitely diverse topics. I moved there in 2006 and in the last five years it has been a great part of my life. After all, it is where the first Mindshare LA took place, creating the seed for almost all of my Los Angeles existence. The building itself occupies a very special location – in the SW corner of the Brewery Arts Distict – a 500 strong community of creative and colorful characters that have coexisted there since the ’70s. On the west side is the 5 freeway, with hundreds of thousands of people zipping by each day. To the south, tons of cargo being unloaded from trucks and loaded on to trains and vice versa. Night and day these giant behemoths would clank together and rev their engines – like a tumultuous sea of industry. The the east is the central Los Angeles UPS shipping depot, routing who knows how many packages every day. And to the north, main street, which takes you right down to downtown.   
As if all the surrounding energy isn’t enough, I occupied the top floor of the Edison #3 Electrical Company Building from 1880. (pictured below -my loft has the arched balcony windows). So if it wasn’t already enough to feel the energy flowing all around you, and through this historic building, then just ask yourself: “So Edison walked these floors? Just what the hell have I done today?!
Read more

A Walk in the Huntington Gardens


One of my favorite places in LA is the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. For the last few years I’ve been a member which gives you access (plus a guest) to the fantastically well kept grounds. It’s an unbelievable place to come and forget about the smoggy city that sprawls across more than 100 sq miles just south west from here.

Occasionally, when I have a bunch of phone calls to make, I’ll take the 15 minute drive from my downtown LA loft and instead choose to take the calls from any one of the various thematic gardens. The picturesque Japanese Garden (see above) and the Dr. Seussian Desert Garden (pictures below) are two of my favorites.


Read more

Interview with Bunker Hill Magazine


It’s always fun to be interviewed – no not for jobs of course, but for magazines! It always feels like a therapy session for me – when someone sits there, pen in hand making notes, while you offload the tumultuous but rewarding path that has brought you to this point. Jen Hadley of Bunker Hill Magazine wrote a delightfully complimentary article on me for the mag – THANKS JEN (now if only you could prescribe Xanax! 😉

Read more

Burning Man!


I am currently in the Nevada Desert creating a temporary community at Burning Man. This year we are bringing together art installations, science lectures, music events and other aspects of creative expression like never before. All hail the inaugural year of “The Institute“! This is Phager Mat Heitel’s rendering of the village – comprising of three camps: The Phage, False Profit and Relaxomatic Plushatorium:

The Phage was especially proud of this years iteration of Strangelove, our beloved art car:


So what does Burning Man look like from space, you ask? Pretty awesome organization for 50,000 debaucherous campers!


Read more

Join my Newsletter