360° Video Drops You Onstage with Musical Tesla Coils

Craft & Design Music Science
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I recently visited the fantastic Maker Faire Austin. One show in particular is always a crowd pleaser. Austin natives Arc Attack were performing with their giant musical tesla coils.

The show consists of bolts of lightning ripping through the air at different frequencies to play music, something that is nearly indescribable when you feel it in person. At one point, the guitar player will don a chain maille suit allowing him to play a solo with the arcs of lightning actually hitting him (safely passing through his suit to the metal mesh on the floor below). The rest of their Maker Faire version of the show consists of bringing volunteers on stage, placing them inside a protective faraday cage, and letting them dance while being blasted with tens of thousands of volts.

As it would turn out, I was wanting to test some fun equipment for our upcoming VR issue of the magazine. I had a Ricoh Theta S camera with me and took the opportunity to capture Arc Attack in 360 degree video. This means that you can literally look in any direction while the video is playing. You can look behind you at the crowd, down at the floor, up at the ceiling, or back and forth between the blasting towers of power.

Filming this, I learned a few lessons:

  • The video resolution of the Ricoh Theta S leaves something to be desired. Even if you set your youtube settings all the way up, you’ll find that details are lost.
  • Stage lighting is tough on cheap cameras. The bright stage lights were glinting off of my poorly maintained lenses pretty bad.
  • Even 360 video doesn’t capture the awesomeness of massive tesla coils vaporizing the air to make music
  • The Arc Attack team has made incredible strides in the technology that allow their giant coils to operate without interfering too much with equipment near by (a total surprise to me)

As we discussed their show, they explained that this is a very abridged version of their typical performance.

When you have multiple shows per day, you just can’t do all of the educational stuff we typically do. Our full set is closer to an hour long and teaches a bunch of lessons too – Joe DePrima

They described their typical performance as more of an educational experience. They talk about the technology involved and bring out King Beats, the robot drummer (yes, he actually plays the drums) to explain some of the history and principles at work. What could be better than learning the history of high voltage hijinks from a robot drummer?


It was an incredible show, and an incredible Maker Faire over all and I can’t wait to see what is up next for both.


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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at CalebKraft.com

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