Lucid Dreamachine – Mk I

10 04 2015

This is a project I have wanted to try and build for a good while now. I have researched it on the net to the point where I have managed to source a turntable really cheap along with some suitable materials from my local arts and craft store.

Lucid dream machine turntable


Readers should note that this is a bespoke prototype which currently resembles a very arty looking lampshade whilst I let the paint dry.

This idea is based on the classic Gysin Dreamachine created in 1961 by the artist, poet and writer Brion Gysin and the engineer Ian Sommerville.

A vertical cylinder with several cut out slots is mounted on a turntable (as in this example) which revolves at 78 rpm. A light bulb hanging inside the cylinder provides the light which appears to flicker in the alpha band between 8 and 13 Hz depending on the rotation speed and the hole pitch of the actual cylinder relative to the observer.

Geometric shapes and other visual hallucination effects are often reported by the viewer who usually sits directly in front of the machine with both eyes closed, often whilst wearing headphones and listening to hypnotic music tracks.

It is however not recommended for people with a history of seizures or photo-epilepsy due to the brain-inducing effects caused by the rapidly flickering light. This is a similar scenario to seeing sunlight through the branches of trees during a train journey for example.


My basic design has stylized lettering as simple shapes which have been cut out of a cylinder consisting of two layers of paper taped together inside and sprayed black. Extra paper reinforcement has been added to the bottom and top edges and the centre to try and keep the shape whilst keeping lightweight.

I had to add small paper card tags to keep the small letter protrusions rigid. But don’t ever ask me to do a tattoo as I have spelt out the words ‘LUCIDREAM’ in two rows in order to fit round the circumference. It is not really an accidental typo – honest!

The mark and space between the lettering has been kept roughly equal, (apart from the ‘M’) along with the need for the simplicity of the font itself to avoid unwanted flickering which would be perceived as a possible distraction.

Paper cylinder sprayed black

Fifty (lamp)shades of black


In reality I wanted to have a 10 Hz strobe rate which meant according to my calculations that I needed to cut out a regular row of at least 18 holes. (14 @ ¾ turn + 4.66 @ ¼ turn)

I didn’t even get in the clubhouse as I somehow miscounted all this somehow by concentrating on the lettering and words, as well as the spacing between them all.

I reckon my lampshade design is now more likely to operate at between 4 to 5 Hz instead which will be interesting. Maybe I subconsciously did it? Oh well!

For the meantime I have planted a small, but powerful red cycle light balanced on the centre axis of the turntable via a piece of Blu-Tack and the end of an old felt pen barrel.

Turntable strobing

Lucidreamachine in operation


In the future I intend to test it and maybe try a better lighting arrangement. I have also got an A1 sheet of 300 gsm black card to make a decent cylinder should I get time, although I will probably go down the classical design route with the template slot layout.

Lucid dream robot paper collage

A typical occipital hallucination featuring the mad robot!


For anybody wishing to build a modern Gysin Dreamachine of their own then I can recommend that you check out this invaluable link here.

Please bear in mind the safety aspect of this type of project particularly if you have a history of epilepsy in your family, etc. Also you must be aware that incandescent lamps can generate a lot of heat which could be a fire risk if you use flammable materials like paper or card for example.

A fluorescent tube or LED lights as in my case are a good substitute providing they are used correctly.





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