The Bay Lights: Video from An Improbable Art Project’s Debut

Thousands of San Franciscans braved the blustery rain Tuesday night to witness the official debut of the Bay Lights, an art installation that—every night for the next two years—will transform the western span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge into a giant LED display.

At 9:03 p.m., three minutes after the promised time, the 25,000 individually controlled lights attached to the bridge’s suspension cables pulsed to life. At first, the LEDs lit up in unison, making each cable into a solid spire. But soon they broke up into scintillated patterns that rippled across the 1.8 mile span, forming computer-controlled patterns that were at times purely abstract and at other times seemed to represent schools of fish, swiveling spotlights, or falling snow.

The $8 million project is the creation of New York-based video artist Leo Villareal and was funded by a collection of Bay Area technology moguls, including Gmail inventor Paul Buchheit and his wife April; Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg; Genstar Capital managing director J.P. Conte; Zynga founder Mark Pincus and his wife Alison, the co-founder of One Kings Lane; angel investor Ron Conway; and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

Xconomy was stationed on Pier 7 to catch the “Grand Lighting Ceremony” and recorded the video below. (It was a wet and extremely gusty night, so please excuse the occasional wobbliness of the picture.) By 9:15 pm, most of the soaked spectators had retreated from the pier—but they’ll have many more chances to see the display, which is scheduled to keep operating through early 2015.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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