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Fishbowl: Low-Cost, Dynamic Stage Lighting!'s video poster

Cast a professional light show with a spotlight, color washes, and dynamic scenes using your computer and a desktop projector! Read more

Nashville, TN Technology
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pledged of $800 goal
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This project was successfully funded on September 16, 2012.

Cast a professional light show with a spotlight, color washes, and dynamic scenes using your computer and a desktop projector!

Nashville, TN Technology
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About this project

Lights...Camera ... Action!

Imagine shining a spotlight on the star performer of your coffee-shop songwriter night.  Wouldn't it be nice to change the background lighting to evoke a mood?  Or perhaps your child's school is performing a play, and you need an "underwater effect" to steal the show.  Or perhaps your band is performing at the Battle of the Bands and you need a psychedelic light show to push you over the top for the judges.  Fishbowl can get you there!

If you haven't already, please watch the video above!!

Any musical or theatrical performance can be enhanced with stage lighting. But investing in colored lights, spotlights, and remote-control equipment can be expensive; especially if you only use it occasionally. Fishbowl is a great solution ... it's a program that runs on your computer.  Combined with a multimedia projector, you can mix a spotlight with colors and light effects for your performance.  It sounds simple, but I was surprised to find that there was nothing like this available already, so I created Fishbowl.  All you need is a laptop and a multimedia projector, which many people have already!


I've applied 20 years of computer graphics and user-interface experience to make Fishbowl an easy, fun performance tool. During the development of Fishbowl, I tried a lot of things that didn't work well in a live setting. It's very easy to break the mood with an annoying effect or abrupt transition. So everything in Fishbowl morphs into everything else. The smooth transitions make it unlikely that you will break the vibe even if you press the wrong button by accident. That, combined with my abstract generated effects make it different and easier to use than any other lighting system you can find.

So, what is it?

Fishbowl is a program that you run on your computer.  You project your computer screen image through a multimedia projector, just like you would project a business presentation.  But Fishbowl is much cooler than your typical presentation tool.  What does Fishbowl actually do? After some real-world testing, I've focused on 4 major features:

  • Spotlight: use the mouse to position the spotlight. The spotlight has a "weighted" feel so that it moves smoothly like a real spotlight. And you can use the mouse wheel to expand or contract the size smoothly, just like a real stage spotlight.
  • Color "washes" - ranging from cool (green) to hot (yellow), you can smoothly morph between colors.
  • Scenes: scenes provides special effects such as color bars, scintillating effects, and motion effects. More radical effects such as disco ball and strobe effects are also available, but protected by a 2-button sequence. Switching scenes happens with a "morph" into the next scene so there is never an abrupt transition.
  • Modifiers: modifiers such as zoom, rotate, bright, and dim allow you to tweak a scene in realtime to heighten the drama of the performance.

Each of these features is controlled by the keyboard and mouse. The top row of keys, 1-0, choose solid colors from "cool" (green) to "hot" (orange). Keys Q-P are color blends also arranged from cool to hot. Letters A-L trigger scenes (such as "lakeside" or "scintillating"), while holding shift gives more dramatic effects such as strobes and disco lighting. Letters Z-M trigger modifiers that let you adjust the scenes in real-time, such as rotation and zooming effects. The spacebar provides an overall fade-to-black.

OK, what isn't it?

If you are looking for a way to project images or text onto a wall behind your performers, you might prefer to use a regular slideshow program. Fishbowl is designed to project directly onto the performers.  The effects are more subtle, more abstract, and more dynamic than a regular business projection.

Development Plan

Fishbowl is very high-quality software. Because it will be used in a live performance situation, I've endeavored to make it very robust. Installation is minimal. There's a version for any computer you choose to use: Windows, OSX, or even Linux. I use an inexpensive netbook to control Fishbowl, but you could use a fullsize laptop or even a desktop computer to generate the graphics for your projector.

State of the project: Fishbowl was developed equally on Linux, Windows, and OSX. The program is fully functional, but needs some work to make it usable by anyone other than me. I've created 7 scenes so far, including a really cool "water" scene that I'm very fond of: it's like the reflections you get on your face when sitting next to a lake or pool with lights reflecting on it. There's also a cool "fire" scene.  The remaining scenes will be provided based on feedback from my Kickstarter supporters.

What's next?  Fishbowl already does everything I want for my own needs. But I want to share Fishbowl with the world.  I'm a professional software developer, and I'm painfully aware of the work required to bring an application to market.  I launch Fishbowl from the "command line" but I know most users will want to launch Fishbowl from an icon on their desktop (or whatever makes sense for their platform).  I also need to develop documentation so users find it easy to get started.  Finally, there is the marketing aspects ... I'm hoping this Kickstarter campaign will help me launch Fishbowl to the world without worrying about the mechanics of advertizing, copy protection, etc which often rob time from the "real" work of product development and documentation.

Once Fishbowl is launched, I'll stay in contact with my supporters to see if any updates are needed over time.  If you have any questions, please ask below!


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    1 backer

    For $5 you will receive a thank-you letter and be registered on our email list so you can learn more about Fishbowl in the future.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $19 or more

    40 backers

    For $19, you will receive a copy of Fishbowl when it is available at the end of the project. Fishbowl runs on Windows, OSX, and Linux; so nearly any modern computer (within the last 5 years or so) should be able to run Fishbowl.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    In addition to your copy of Fishbowl, I will implement your "light scene" idea, and publish it inside Fishbowl for all our users. Your idea needs to work with simplified lights and changes that don't depend on a specific stage layout or backdrop. We're setting a mood, not recreating an exact image or scene. For example, a friend wants a "blues bar" atmosphere. We've decided on a rotating shadow at the feet of the performers that suggests a ceiling fan, and a blinking blue/blue/blue/red light that is reminescent of a neon "open" sign.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    0 backers

    In addition to your copy of Fishbowl, I will develop a custom light scene which _only_you_ will get. I will design this scene with your input. You will get a customized build of Fishbowl which has your scene compiled in. Nobody else will get this version, so you will have a customized light show for your performance! This may take us a few back-and-forth attempts to get right. It will be fun!

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (27 days)