The first time we ever had the entire Mothership fully assembled and lit up was 3 days after we arrived on playa. It performed like a champ.
I think it brings joy to people because it has a sense of humor built into the design and is a cross between old school burning man gearhead culture and the new wave of tech people who like to make things blink.
I went from knowing absolutely nothing about RGB pixels, DMX, animation, ordering directly from China and somehow 9 months later we were driving an animated UFO around in the desert.
Challenges, Solutions, Clever Bits:
Challenge: We used the wrong fencing mesh to mount the pixels, it made the lines sloppy. These were zip tied on with thousands of zip ties.
Solution: The next year, We replaced the original mesh with quarter inch landscape mesh from home depot. The Square WS2811 outdoor pixels have a silicone nipple with a collar that snap right in. We used way fewer zip ties.
Challenge: The profile would have been better if we had wired the rim of the saucer. We ran out of time and money.
Solution: We tried strips, but ultimately used WS2811 strings to wire the entire rim.
Clever Bits: The cases up front were seats and also held a Honda 1000watt Honda generator and a 2000watt Honda generator. The light controllers and my laptop were running off of the generators which also kept your butt warm.
People would use the back strut as a ladder to climb up into the saucer which has a flip up duck tail door. (not easy to do with the LEDs then, so I used long leads.
The wings also fold up around the center ring because the guidelines say max width for driving down a street at Burning Man is 12 feet. We folded one wing a single time to not get snagged on an RV. So much extra work and wiring!
Giant lessons learned?
Build in modules. Smaller modules are better because you can troubleshoot and replace faster.
Ladder work is hard. Working above your head all day is exhausting. Work on the ground with modules and then convince a friend to help you install them. You need one friend, 2 ladders and about one tenth of the install time.
20ft is bigger than it seems.