Mid last month my friend fRED was approached by some colleagues of his to create an installation for one night in a new working space here in Berlin called House Of Clouds. There idea was to have an open house followed by a party to promote the space. For fRED and I to work together, an opportunity to have a free creative hand, test out the MadMapper and work with another friend, ElectricKettle who does breakcore music but has been interested in collaborating with me on something for a long time.
Prior to this project fRED and I did some VJing together and when the MadMapper emerged for me in its incubative form he used it at this years Chaos Computer Congress. He and I were both interested in using wood. I have seen this used before. MXZEHN explored this type of material and I had seen other examples, namely a huge structure created in one of the previous editions of Burning Man. The above photos is almost all I have of the structure sans the projections on it as I did not stay for the event due to a heavy workload at the time.
fRED and I reviewed the photos provided by House Of Clouds and decided on a particular room, the one pictured above. We liked the stage and the distances from it to the walls appeared to be appropriate for the distances that were needed to get a decent projection on the sculpture I had in mind.
Our initial impression of the room was dictated by photos provided. If there is no person standing in the space while the photo is taken, and there wasn’t then one can have no sense of proportion. When we finally got to see it in person it was a lot larger then we thought and I was a little worried that the sculpture I had in mind would be too small.
We measured the entire space using a handy little laser measuring device from BOSCH. I highly recommend getting one of these. Gone are the days when you have to use a measuring tape where someone has to hold the other end. Just place the base of the BOSCH device on the wall, press a button and the laser measures the distance between the two walls.
With these measurements fRED created a 3D model. The above is a rendering that helped up pre-visualise what we were getting into.
Conceptually I really wanted to work with a free standing structure with horizontal and vertical lines. I knew that visually, because our eyes see things in perspective, that it would still be chaotic looking. I also wanted to break away from the one point perspective and allow people to walk around the structure and look at it from various perspectives. That there are no large surfaces was part of my desire to move away from the ‘image’ projected on a surface akin to film and allow the viewer to create their own ‘image’ by observing the structure as it was transformed by light and sound.
I also was not interested in performing with the installation. I wanted to see if we could create an engaging and dynamic enough experience that was a video loop where nobody would realize it was a video loop. An ambient room that will allow people to stay there for a bit, go away, come back and never realize that there is a beginning, middle or end.
While we were working on the model I met up with ElectricKettle and I discussed some of the sounds I wanted him to create. I had some specific ideas, sounds that would created the impression of the structure disappearing and reappearing. I demonstrated these ideas by imitating what I had in my mind to him: ‘whoooooosh…. boooo’ and so on.
We were lucky to have the space three days prior to the date of the event. The first day we would build and set up the projectors, the second day work on the mapping and the animations and the third day, the day of the installation, we would put in the finishing touches.
By using exact measurements from the 3D modeler we were using, fRED was able to somewhat accurately recreate what we had visualized and in the end the sculpture appeared to fill the space more then we imagined, with a few minor alterations due to the throw of the projectors we had not being wide enough.
The MadMapper made it extremely easy to do what we wanted to do in a fraction of the time it usually takes to do it. During the night the shelves we created for the projectors ‘settled’ and while it was still a bit of work it was not nearly as much work if we had used any other tool I can think of.
Production wise I used a traditional compositing animation tool that I will not name here. The above is a frame I grabbed of how we created the file so that we could create segments of color and form that we would use as sources in MadMapper. It was a rather abstract way of working that was a nice exercise for the mind that thankfully created a sensation in the final output, that is, what was projected onto the sculpture. In a previous installation I used a whole series of loops and triggered them using a timeline in Ableton Live with two MacBook Pros, the network module slaved to the more powerful laptop of the two I had. The problem with this was that inevitably the audio would not sync up properly with the triggering of the loops. The audience did not see it, but I did. Since I did not want to work with loops I went for creating big video with audio so that nothing would go out of sync. Having a Mac Pro It also made me think of how I really need to think about some better tools for this kind of thing.
We used up to 150 quads for this project. I am not sure if anyone else in our internal test team has done this, and it definitely was not part of any particular goal. The main goals being to create a work made entirely by the members of the collaboration, to get as much of the piece ready given the time that we had and still create something that people could experience without noticing any particular beginning, middle or end, and finally document it properly.
This documentation process is very important to me. For me it has always been difficult to get it right. I took a lot of time lapse photos, but I also took a lot of video footage. In the end the time lapses were much more befitting the vision I had. I was not so much interested in trying to replicate the experience as I don’t think that is really possible, but more to create documentation that was an art piece in itself.
I think I could probably write a whole lot of ideas here about the project, but this has already gone on much too long.
Now with this project behind us we have learned several things. First, I have found a team of people whom I can share a common vision with, each of us know our roles and how to best fulfill them. We also all have an excitement and vision of what we want to do when we get together again for the next project. One experience will build on the next and I look forward to sharing it.