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The city of lights

For Vivid Sydney's seventh year, we've done the run around to find the best light installations and events for the geek-minded Vivid visitor, from the massive installations on the Harbour to cool indie projects on the fringes. You can download the Vivid app for the full list of events, but until then, we've got your cheat sheet covered.

Photo by: Mechanised Colour Assemblage image by Danny Rose & Rebecca Baum

Lighting the Sails

Lighting the Sails forms the visual centrepiece of Vivid every year and brings countless tourists and locals to Circular Quay to watch as Jørn Utzon's distinctive sails light up with colourful digital artwork.

Last year, UK company 59 Productions created large-scale projections using 3D models of the Opera House mapped with digital animation, combined with live-action filming of different textural effects. This year, Universal Everything will be running the show and we can expect an equally impressive spectacle.

Photo by: James Horan/Destination NSW

Harbour Lights

One of the showstoppers of the 2014 Vivid Sydney festival, Harbour Lights will be making a triumphant return this year, using Sydney Harbour as a canvas for light-up boats that change colour as they move.

Sydney Harbour will be mapped out into different colour-coded zones while Sydney's ferries and cruise boats get rigged with GPS chips and Intel Galileo boards to detect their location. When the boat moves it changes colour, making for an ever-changing light show. Get on a ferry to see it up close, or head to one of the Harbour's rooftop bars for a better view.

Photo by: Vivid Sydney/Destination NSW

Paint the Town

At the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay, Vivid visitors will be able to Paint the Town red (or blue, or green) thanks to a massive interactive light show. The team at 32 Hundred Lighting have installed several hundred high-powered light fixtures around the buildings fronting Circular Quay, all of which change colour based on user feedback. Visitors can 'paint' the buildings with their favourite colours using a dedicated tablet, choose some special effects and press the go button to see the skyline light up with their design.

Photo by: 32 Hundred Lighting

RoboWars

If you're familiar with the late-90s TV show Robot Wars, then prepare to see the live-action version -- RoboWars is a live battle featuring "remote controlled mechanical devices which try and destroy each other." Built with parts salvaged from remote-controlled cars, quad-copters and even power drills, the robots are designed to smash, crush and destroy.

There are two free sessions on May 30 with the option of paid reserved seating or VIP pit pass tickets that offer a chance to drive a bot yourself. But at the end of the day you'll want to watch the pros doing it to see who'll be "the last one standing."

Photo by: RoboWars

A Game of Drones

Forget Westeros -- this hands-on drone experience looks set to play out like a game of aerial bumper cars in a neon-lit Thunderdome (without the bumping of course, because drones don't come cheap).

Intel is coming good on its sponsorship of Vivid by letting people of all ages fly a set of remote-controlled light-up drones using Intel-powered tablets. Head down to the purpose-built enclosure in Martin Place to take a spin -- it's the first time Vivid has put drones in the hands of festival goers, so unlike Christmas at your tech-loving Uncle's place, you'll actually get a turn this year.

Photo by: Intel

Transcendence

Next to Game of Drones is Transcendence -- a three-storey lighting installation featuring food trucks, a pop-up bar and plenty to keep the nerdily-inclined Vivid fan happy. After demoing its RealSense 3D scanning and gesture control technology at CES, Intel will be showing it off to punters at two dedicated stands at Transcendence. Some of the 3D scans will make it into the light projections in the space, and there will also be changing light shows driven by computer code with coders sitting above the action running things in real time.

Photo by: Intel

Musify+Gamify

The Seymour Centre's Musify+Gamify exhibition features two experimental concerts, with music from the likes of Robbie Avenaim (pictured), who combines percussion with awesome robotics. Local "bitpop" band 7bit Hero will also showcase music combining gaming sounds with interactive videos to get audiences involved.

In the Seymour foyer, an exhibition will feature 'musified' games like the audio-driven mobile horror game Papa Sangre and a pinball machine made from electric guitars.

Photo by: Amanda Betlehem

Game Off at The Star

While casinos might normally be known for cashed-up entertainment, The Star in Pyrmont will offer up gaming of a different kind, with two massive projectors beaming PlayStation 4 games from the rooftop Sky Terrace .

Up to 4 people at a time will be able to play Super Stardust Ultra or LittleBigPlanet 3, with the action projected onto the side of The Star so everyone can see you pwning your mates.

Photo by: The Star

Game On

The first weekend of Vivid will bring together the stars of YouTube and the gaming scene for three days dedicated to interactive pop culture.

Game On will feature panel discussions, workshops and performances, and a chance to meet YouTube stars like ChampChong and Muselk. Local devs including Quantum Shade and Neuron Spark will be making appearances while a Cosplay competition will make for plenty of good photos.

Photo by: Game On

Space Folding

First Fleet Park at the south-west corner of Circular Quay will be packed with dozens of interactive light displays this year, including Space Folding -- a work that uses over 1,600 LED lights to visualise real-time flight data from Sydney's airspace.

Artist Zina Kaye says she wanted to pose the question, "Can we sense a data set through our body?" -- and to take the bodily experience further, the lights are accompanied by a "live data soundtrack", created by composer Peret von Sturmer, that you can listen to on your smartphone.

Photo by: Holly Sydney

The Story of Light - The Astronomer's Perspective

Vivid isn't all about the pretty lights -- it's also a festival of ideas. So if you want to get your grey matter going, the Australian Astronomical Observatory has brought together a panel of professional astronomers to tell "The Story of Light".

This panel will cover how light-based technologies are helping astronomers discover the secrets of space, and it's targeted for general audiences so the panel are happy to answer your questions on life, the Universe and everything.

Photo by: Hubble image by NASA, ESA, SAO, CXC, JPL-Caltech, and STScI

Coding and inventing with Galileo

Vivid and Intel are pairing up to run a set of learn-to-code events designed for kids. On June 6, Intel will run a workshop aimed at students aged from 13 to 16, teaching them skills to create Vivid-style projects using Intel's Galileo Gen 2 development board.

There's also a corresponding workshop for teachers targeted at teaching coding and design technologies using the same Galileo board. For the AU$40 ticket price (plus booking fee) students and teachers will also get to take home their own Galileo kit.

Photo by: Intel

Vivid Light Walk

If you want someone else to plan your night for you, the Vivid Light Walk takes in all the best light installations, starting off at the Sydney Opera House forecourt.

You'll see Affinity, a touch-sensitive installation that emulates brain activity with giant light-up neurons, and the music-making cubes of Beatdice, and get a chance to have your body 3D mapped into light projections at INTER/Play. Once you've left The Rocks, you'll get to finish the night with a selfie at You Are Here. Hashtag illuminating.

Photo by: James Horan/Destination NSW

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