Interview: Mike Bodge explains NSkyC, a gorgeous online art project

NSkyC is a simple-but-ace web art project by designer Mike Bodge which displays the average colour of the sky over New York City every five minutes.

NSkyC - Mike Bodge

NSkyC - Mike Bodge

The results are gorgeous and you can imagine some of the colour palette’s generated being used as inspiration to designers. Something I think could also come out of the project is a visual illustration of the problems of light pollution – how close to #000000 (the hex code for black) can a city sky ever get?

To find out more about the NSkyC project, I caught up with Mike:

Hi Mike, so what inspired you to begin the project?

I work as a designer, specifically web design so I’m always thinking about this space and the things I can do outside of work. My desk overlooks this amazing view and it’s inspiring to me on a daily basis. I have done time lapses and different kinds of photography out the window but I felt like there was an essence I could boil it down to. I’m a believer that the simplest idea is the best, and just taking the average color of the sky and displaying it as a color block is the simplest representation of what’s out my window.

Was it technically difficult to set up?

Not really at all… It’s a simple program I wrote that hooks up to a webcam 24 hours a day. It triggers a photo to be taken and uploads it to my server and into the grid. The hardest part was to get the average color calculated.

Do you know how long you will run the project for?

That is a good question! I’d like it to run for as long as possible, though I know I won’t have this view forever. I’m in the process of adding cameras for other cities that other people will run. Hopefully this is something that will run for a long time.

What will you do with the information you collect?

I want to find more applications for visualizing the data. I only have a week’s worth of colors saved, which isn’t a lot. I imagine after a few months or a year it’ll become more interesting to pull data from.

Have you been surprised by any of the colours you have generated?

Last week was extremely grey, which was kind of boring, but at dusk and sunrise the colors get extremely crazy. You’ll see bright blues and reds which are really beautiful. Hopefully people can use some of these color palettes in their own work.

NSkyC - Mike Bodge

NSkyC - Mike Bodge

Has anyone taken you up on your suggestion that people in other cities set up their own webcams?

We have Berlin starting in a day or two and then some cities in Canada and California!

Are there any other cities or countries you would particularly like to see join the project and why?

I’d love to see Hong Kong. I visit there pretty often and the sky is always it’s own particular shades of smoggy grey. They have such a problem, I think the camera would be a pretty illuminating to see just how bad it is.

To watch the project unfold, simply bookmark and check back often!