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The Art of AV: Experiential Projects that Elevate

Panasonic projection at the 2019 LUMA Projection Arts Festival
(Image credit: LUMA, Mark Doyle)

Seeing dynamic, transformative images projected larger than life onto a building in the middle of a city is a thrill for audiences. For the artist and technologist, it’s a dream come true fraught with daunting technical challenges. In the end, to be successful, the art installation needs to tell a story. 

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In its fifth year, and attracting more than 55,000 national and international attendees, the 2019 LUMA Projection Arts Festival transformed Binghamton, NY into an interactive, immersive art scene. Spread across eight locations, art installations from more than a dozen artists were projection mapped onto the city's architectural structures.

"We like to look at ourselves as the intersection between art and technology," said LUMA co-founder Tice Lerner. Luma provides the projection mapping engineering expertise to enable all forms of creatives to realize new types of immersive expressions that would otherwise be impossible.

Many of the animations are mapped down to individual bricks. "With a limited amount of time to set up, we've got to get that exact match, and that's hard,” Lerner said. “And if we run into other issues—whether it be power issues or an edge blending issue, or just even something as simple as a signal issue from the output—that's time lost, when we could be working on the creative." 

Lerner considers the use of Panasonic projectors to be a groundbreaking moment for the LUMA 2019 event. Thirty of Panasonic's large venue three-chip DLP SOLID SHINE 30,000-lumen laser projectors brought the festival to life. "The difference was night and day for us," he said. "It allowed us to focus more on the important creative side."

The Narrative

PaintScaping-designed projection mapping show at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library

(Image credit: PaintScaping)

The 3D mapping experts at Los Angeles-based PaintScaping have taken projected storytelling to new heights, from mapping onto United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket ahead of the launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, to mapping for Rihanna and Calvin Harris videos, to giant storytelling on nature at the San Diego Zoo.

“Mapping is a merging of real and virtual worlds where you project an image that is lined up with the features of the architecture, a landscape, or even people," said Philippe Bergeron, president and CEO of PaintScaping. “Mapping should always take into consideration the canvas.” A building should not be treated as if it were a solid white screen. “The architectural details like windows, doors, pipes, and ledges are not going away; they're there; so you can't fight them.”

In the early days of projection mapping, people were enamored by a large image covering a building. Today, Bergeron is happy to say that his clients are understanding that the narrative is critical. “We can tell a very simple story, but nevertheless, the narrative is more sophisticated,” he said. “The narrative is evolving, because content is king, and that is absolutely true in mapping.” 

Technologies are also becoming more sophisticated and helping to enable easier installation and brighter and sharper images. “Projectors are evolving surprisingly fast,” Bergeron said. One of the biggest problems in mapping can be the number of projectors needed for large projects. "That's why the 50K [lumen projector] is so transformational in this business," Bergeron said. "Because all of a sudden, instead of using two, three, four projectors, you can use one, which is great. It's a lot simpler to achieve results, and your chances of failure are much less, not to mention the shipping, the logistics." 

In March 2020, PaintScaping created a spectacular outdoor experience immersing visitors of the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in a recreation of Henry Francis du Pont’s Christmas celebration called Mr. Harry's Party. "We tried to incorporate what really happened at the party: they had musicians, jugglers, magicians, a ventriloquist, and there was a lot of drinking and dancing." Spanning 100 feet wide and four stories tall, Mr. Harry's Party came to life mapped to the architecture of the front of the museum with a single Panasonic 50,000-lumen three-chip DLP SOLID SHINE projector with True 4K+ resolution.

Digital Art Installation

Blackdove Miami office

(Image credit: Blackdove)

Blackdove recently transformed public spaces in two Miami commercial office buildings into large-scale public digital art installations. Each of the properties sought to create a unique and transforming interior experience for its tenants. A monthly curation of moving image digital art is delivered by the Blackdove curatorial team in coordination with the owners of the project.  

Works by Australian algorithmic artist Jonathan McCabe are shown on both walls. McGabe’s art is generative in nature, creating an ever-changing work for onlookers. His work symbolizes the fluidity of life and the energy of the universe flowing around us as we float through life.

Massive

MASARY Studios “Massively Distributed”

(Image credit: Aram Boghosian @aramphoto)

BrightSign collaborated with MASARY Studios on the “Massively Distributed” interactive art installation at the annual Canal Convergence festival in Scottsdale, AZ. The installation was a community-driven public art project that brought people together outdoors during the pandemic through technology.

Massively Distributed was a site-specific web app that enabled the public to add their own compilations to the installation using the sights and sounds of their city. Utilizing their smartphones and computers, people created dynamic sound and visual compositions via MASARY’s online media sequencer app and submitted them for inclusion in the broader public presentation.

During the event, three sites located throughout Old Town Scottsdale displayed a series of sound and video projections celebrating the community’s creations. Each of the sites displayed the finished pieces via a pair of BrightSign HD media players feeding video content to two 15,000-lumen Epson projectors, perfectly synchronized to a powerful sound system to complete the immersive experience.

Outdoor Dynamics

Panasonic projection at LUMINEX: Dialogues of Light

(Image credit: Koury Angelo)

Taking immersive visuals to the streets of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), LUMINEX: Dialogues of Light hosted a one-night walkable outdoor digital art exhibition using DTLA’s buildings as backdrops. Working with well-known visual artists Carole Kim, Nancy Baker Cahill, Refik Anadol, Sarah Rara, and Luciana Abait, LUMINEX transformed a five-block radius into a walkable museum experience. The goal was to use the power of art to bring healing to the community and to reconnect culturally with one another.

The dynamic and immersive installations were made possible through the use of Panasonic’s 4K projection technology, which included the PT-RQ32, PT-RZ31K, PT-RQ50K, and PT-RZ21K three-chip DLP SOLID SHINE 4K laser projectors. The various projectors enabled each artist to showcase and express their creativity through clear and captivating visuals. In addition to being an in-person event, the exhibit was also livestreamed to viewers around the world.

Gestural Art

Planar displays power COOLTURE IMPACT

(Image credit: Planar)

On the southwest corner of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, 12 ground-level windows of the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal have been transformed into COOLTURE IMPACT, an interactive video wall installation engineered with motion-responsive technology. A motion sensor camera tracking system that is custom-mounted with the displays allows passersby to make the artistic digital canvases come alive with their own movements. A wave of the hand is translated onto the display as a creative rendering that captures the audience´s gestures.

The installation is designed with an interactive framework software system developed by NoirFlux and a ZED 3D depth and motion sensing camera from Stereolabs. Specific responses to COOLTURE IMPACT’s featured artwork programming are presented in real-time through Planar TVH Series fine-pitch LED video walls with a 2.5-millimeter pixel pitch (TVH2.5) from Planar.

The Planar TVH Series includes compact LED cabinets that provide an exact fit for any video wall size or configuration. Available with a redundant video and power option, the Planar TVH Series is designed for continuous operation and engineered for the most demanding applications.

The driving force behind the project is Coolture, a firm specializing in cultural and branding events in emblematic spaces, both public and private. Working with support from the Port Authority, Coolture assembled a team of video artists, filmmakers, interactive designers, software developers, and engineers to create the project, produced by non-profit Cultural Semiotic Alliance.

Safe Art

Sharp NEC projection in “Light Up The Night” at Boston's Wenham Museum

(Image credit: Aram Boghosian @aramphoto)

At the start of the pandemic, LuminArtz worked with local artists to create safe art exhibits for all, including “Light Up The Night” by videoartist Pamela Hersch.Hersch created an installation projected onto the exterior of the Wenham Museum in Boston using Sharp NEC Display Solutions PA1004UL laser projectors. Because of the outdoor nature of the project, Hersch had to increase the level of brightness of the projectors—arranging three PA1004ULs in a stacking configuration to focus on the same area and increasing the brightness of the image. 

Hersch took advantage of the projector’s connectivity options by feeding the image input into the bottom unit’s HDMI IN port, connecting the bottom unit’s HDMI OUT port to the next unit’s HDMI IN port, and so on. She used the projector’s built-in grid test pattern to adjust the focus, zoom, and finally lens shift for each unit. Hersch needed to make further refinement to the alignment by using the cornerstone function, allowing her to move each corner independently. 

Once the projectors were physically set up, she used projection mapping software to project plain white light onto the surface of the museum. This made it easy for her to trace the outline of the building and mask out where they didn’t want light to be cast. The result was a 30-minute program showcasing historical videos and still images, and connecting generations throughout the pandemic.

ARTificial Intelligence

Panasonic technology powers the Museum “AI” Wall

(Image credit: Cindy Davis)

Not every digital art experience needs a living artist and a projection crew. The Museum “AI” Wall is highly immersive video space where Panasonic technology brings together 4K displays and projectors. The display accurately reproduces the delicate emotions of an artist’s style, and even the years felt from the cracked paint. The background is created with high-brightness, high definition images from a 4K projector. A, POVCAM captures the audience in real time and reproduces the images into self portraits with the touch of a famous painter using AI technology.

Going to the North Pole

Sharp NEC projection on Bayside Church

(Image credit: Sharp NEC)

Taking advantage of its large outdoor space, Bayside Church has set up a multi-zone drive-thru Christmas light display that attracts thousands every year. Bayside Church wanted to project a large image onto an adjacent building—approximately 20 feet tall and 80 feet wide—to give the illusion of Santa’s North Pole workshop.The projectors needed to be set up across the parking lot from the building—approximately 40 feet away—and mounted about 16 feet off the ground to allow vehicles to drive underneath. In order to conceal the projectors as well as to protect them from the elements, the NP-Pa853W projectors were enclosed in custom doghouses. The building itself is segmented into two halves, so the projectors were mounted in a two-and-two configuration to provide the necessary coverage. The building is also not perfectly flat, so projection mapping was used to account for arches and columns to provide a clean image. 

The operation of the installation is highly automated—with several computers controlling the entire light display, including the projection. The system fires itself up at 5 p.m., turns the projectors on, initiates the content loop, and runs until about 30 minutes after the event closes. After the display is packed in for the year, the projectors are used for additional AV needs throughout the church each week.

Immersive Safari

Panasonic projection at —"WILD: The World’s First Virtual Safari”

(Image credit: Panasonic)

Illuminarium Experiences is an experiential entertainment brand that creates immersive spectacles in custom-designed venues called “Illuminariums.” To make these Illuminariums even more captivating, the team collaborated with Panasonic to develop a custom ultra-short-throw lens for minimal offset and loss of light performance. Panasonic’s R&D team of engineers developed this shadow-eliminating lens to eliminate the chance for visual disruptions within the experience. With this advanced visual technology, Illuminarium’s first spectacle—"WILD: The World’s First Virtual Safari”—will be a truly immersive visual experience.

Delivering sharp clarity and vivid colors, Panasonic’s PT-RQ50K three-chip DLP Native 4K laser projector is used to transport visitors to Africa, where they will journey throughout different environments—from the majestic plains of Masai Mara to the verdant watering holes of Samburu Reserve. Together, Illuminarium’s 360-degree experiential entertainment venue and Panasonic’s visual technology offer guests a truly captivating experience.

Cindy Davis
Cindy Davis is a contributing editor of AV Technology, and the principal at customMedia.co. She has previously produced the AVNetwork Think Tank (formerly the AV/IT Summit and SCN Think Tank). Her passion for technologies that create efficiencies and a better mouse trap have kept her at the forefront of developing and delivering relevant content for B2B and B2C audiences. When she unplugs from the AV world, Davis is trekking with her husband, and Dixie the Vizsla, sampling IPAs, or catching a sail on one of Gloucester’s great schooners.