How Panasonic Connect Il-LUMA-nates Binghamton

Panasonic Connect projectors bring artistic visions to life on historic buildings at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival.
(Image credit: Van Zandbergen Photography)

The LUMA Projection Arts Festival, which took place on Sept. 8-9, transformed the urban architecture of downtown Binghamton, NY, into a canvas for artists. The annual two-day extravaganza brings visual storytelling of local artists to life through projection mapping, with Panasonic Connect delivering the projection technology to make it all happen.

The event was founded by Tice Lerner and Joshua Bernard Ludzki in 2015. Why Binghamton? According to Ludzki, they don’t believe that LUMA would have found the success in a big—or what he called an “A-list”—city. Places like Binghamton, an old Rust Belt city, had to reinvent themselves, and did so through the arts.

Artists moved downtown to stir up local interest, and Binghamton seemed ripe for a festival that brought everyone together in the name of art. Tice, who always had an interest in art, technology, and how the two merged together, had a passion for practical effects, as well as what he called making an adult feel like a child again. It was he who suggested projection mapping to Ludzki, and after a deep dive on YouTube, the concept of LUMA was born.

Panasonic Connect projectors bring artistic visions to life on historic buildings at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival.

(Image credit: Van Zandbergen Photography)

“As our personal technology advances to the point where watching a movie at home offers just as good of a visual experience as watching from a movie theater, we distance ourselves from these common shared experiences,” explained Ludzki. “With less of a need to experience communal storytelling, as a society, we lose our common vocabulary and our ability to connect and empathize with each other. That’s what we aim to solve through the LUMA Festival—to rebuild that shared storytelling experience and common cultural vocabulary that’s so critical today.”

To bring these historic buildings to life in ways no one could have ever imagined just a decade ago, the right projectors are a must. It took some time, but eventually Lerner and Ludzki learned Panasonic projectors, paired with Dataton's WATCHOUT multi-display software and servers, were the right choice.

“We started our collaboration with Tice Lerner and Josh Bernard Ludzki in 2019,” explained Cynthia Pawlowski, marketing manager-visual systems and professional audio at Panasonic Connect. “Panasonic donated projectors for a couple of their venues directly and worked very closely with the show organizers. We offer our technical expertise by sending our engineering team up to the festival. They work with the Luma volunteers to set up the projectors, do the edge blending, and collaborate with them to get everything up and running.”

It was Howard Rose, senior product manager-projectors at Panasonic Connect, that helped bring the two forces together on the artistic collaboration. “At the time, I was the territory account manager in upstate New York, and many of the LUMA volunteers worked at the universities up there as part of their day jobs,” Rose explained. “They had already known the strengths of our projectors and used them elsewhere and said, ‘Hey, we do this really cool thing, you should come check it out.’”

As Rose recollected, Panasonic projectors weren’t initially used for the festival, but as it grew and needed larger, stronger technology, Rose knew that Panasonic Connect had the know-how and quality products to shine in such an immersive arena.  “We enjoy doing it as well, it’s what we excel at,” Rose added. “We thought this was the perfect partnership, so we jumped in, and we've been at it ever since.”

This year, Panasonic Connect will work with artists to help them leverage the Panasonic PT-RQ22, PT-RQ35, and PT-RZ21 projectors. “The projectors are all 3-DLP technology,” Rose explained. “They're all 20,000 lumens or above. There are six sites around town being projected on. Depending on the size of the building, some projectors are 4K, while some are not."

Panasonic Connect projectors bring artistic visions to life on historic buildings at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival.

(Image credit: Van Zandbergen Photography)

The high-brightness, high-performance, and reliability are large factors in why Panasonic projectors work so well. Panasonic Connect gives the artists an easy-to-use solution that simplifies the process of projection mapping and brings their stunning blended visuals to life with complete coverage of buildings. The end result turns Binghamton’s historic architecture into a digital canvas of fine-art visual displays.  

As Rose explained, the setup is not intricate. The show’s organizers and city of Binghamton want to be able to set it up and tear it down quickly and easily. “[The projectors] are mounted on scaffolding in the middle of town, and they're in the usual rigging cages to fly them, but they're not in weather cases or anything,” Rose explained. “It's treated more as a temporary installation. This being a weekend event, it’s the equivalent of a touring rock show.”

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To say the festival, which lost a few shows during the pandemic, has succeeded in rejuvenating downtown Binghamton is an understatement. Pawlowski estimated that there were 40,000-50,000 people there per night the last time she visited. “I went in 2019, and when you get there it's completely different than what you actually envision," she said. "It's a very interesting, fun weekend. Panasonic Connect really enjoys working with the LUMA Festival organizers. We work together very well and it's part of our strategy to be in the live-entertainment, immersive-experience industry where our projectors really do an excellent job showcasing an artist's talent.”

“The ability to take a digital asset and make it tangible is truly extraordinary,” said Lerner. “That’s why I love organizing the LUMA Festival each year. From standing with the artists and watching their digital work first come to life on the side of a building during set-up to then watching faces in the audience light up as they witness the projection-mapped artwork—it’s a magical experience.”

“They picked our products for a reason,” Rose said. “They started with someone else's, and they came to us because of the quality, the color, and the reliability of what we're doing. And I think it shows a partnership that really brings out the artists' vision on these unique surfaces—it's interesting. If you see the building, what was there before, and then they light them up, you pause for a minute. You have to think back to what it was. And that's the amazing part for me—the artist's vision of what they're doing from a building. And we're just proud to be able to partner with people to do that kind of work.”

Wayne Cavadi
Senior Content Manager

Wayne Cavadi is the senior content manager of Systems Contractor News. Prior to taking a leap into the Pro AV industry, Wayne was a journalist and content lead for Turner Sports, covering the NCAA, PGA, and Major and Minor League Baseball. His work has been featured in a variety of national publications including Bleacher Report, Lindy's Magazine, and The Advocate. When not writing, he hosts the DII Nation Podcast, committed to furthering the stories and careers of NCAA Division II student-athletes. Follow his work on Twitter at @WayneCavadi_2 or the SCN mag Twitter page.