Saturday, August 11, 2012

53: Dealing with Finicky After Effects 3D Function

     I wasted most of my week trying to get my After Effects Project set up to produce a better high definition version of this low res test  picture I did in the fall as a demo:
    When I finally got the Key picture of the facade the whole Architectural mapping would be based on, I started cutting it up and  putting every single part of it on a separate layer in Photoshop:
  I ended up with about 250 layers: 5 rows of 11 "brick drawers", 26 or so columns, bases, thick and thin tops, thick and thin lintels, 8 light cans, 6 niches, window panes, doors, sidewalk, awning, planters, trash can, etc...
  To that will be added 20 or 30 "objects". 
  All those layers will have to be imported SEPARATELY into After Effects. I tried to import the Photoshop file, and it "kinda worked" at first. I renamed them without the long Imported Titles. 
  In order to animate all of those Architectural Components in 3D and spin them in space realistically, each "drawer" and column front face needs to be Precomposed with a back, 2 sides, a top and a bottom. The final 280 or so "precompositions" will be animated in the timeline.
  I did my best, but then later down the line, shadows just would not render properly. I wasted days trying to make it work, and finally gave up.
  So I just rebuilt the picture from scratch using only the elements needed, making sure asI added elements that the shadows worked, and will deliver it in time for publication in UAB Magazine next week...  It is getting close:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Post 52: Testing the dome

   We almost got rained out again last night, and the structure was a little wet, but we proceeded nonetheless with the test, hung the projector from the top of the dome on the bracket mounted on the threaded rod. I used a grid distorted at the top  into a 1920 x 1080 near circle as a test pattern:

  The results were terrible. The image almost covered the  dome in height, but was sort of pie shape and very narrow on the width, with tremendous distortions and light fall off top to bottom:

  So much for my Bourke Paper based vertical projection concept. Christophe had a problem to deal with on the phone, so things dragged on, and Randy had to leave rather disappointed. 
   Finally, after taking down the projector, Christophe tried HIS more simple concept of placing the mirror in the center of the floor and projecting horizontally, and that actually worked beautifully. The image was in focus all over (a little soft for a still image because of the large area covered, but Christophe could see individual pixels, and moving video should look sharp enough), most of the half dome was covered, there was no light fall off, and distortion was very limited:
   Even the architectural image looked beautiful, with the ceiling edges almost straight and square:
    We were pretty excited. There are some adjustments left to be made for sure (squashing the image about 10% vertically, and adjusting the curvature of the sides to fit the half dome exactly), but I am totally confident now it can work. We could build a 6 ft platform in the center of the big 44 ft PTTR dome to put the half sphere mirror with two projectors on it. The VJ's and computer station could go underneath.
  My 20 ft half dome looks bright enough with one 5K projector, so the whole 44 ft dome would require (5K x 4) x 2 = 40K . So two Barko 20K would be required(or two new 1920 x 1200 Panasonic 20K's that just came out and are half as big and heavy, and require half as much power as the standard Christie and Barko): 
                 Panasonic 20K Spec Sheet
  The only difficulty may be to get a continuous seamless image where the two projections blend, though I think this may be a built in feature of the software for those projectors . A black background would make it easier of course: 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Post 51:Projection on water

  Tony and I both did some research on the subject today and came up with some interesting videos. Particularly exciting is that Nissan car promotion projected on a 120 ft spray of water:
     The 2013 Nissan Altima 3D Water Projection - Behind the Scenes
  Also interesting is this Ukrainian one done for a party:
Kozyrnaya Picnic Party, Kiev, June 13, 2009. The jewel of the party was a stunning show featuring a hologram, 26 m x 15 m size, suddenly emerging above the still waters of the lake to the surprise of party guests.
   All I can say is whaoooo, they know how to throw a party in Ukraine!
  Another impressive projection on water by
    Water Screen Projection @ Ibiza
  I also found the video for the Lyon pictures I posted yesterday:
 3D projection on fountain at 2011 Festival of Lights in Lyon, France

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Post 50: Brainstorming session with Christophe and Liesa

  Christophe is temporarily back in town, and came this afternoon to help me make an adjustable bracket to hang the projector from the top of the test half dome my godchild Charles built out of 1" PVC pipe just outside the door in my back patio:

The top plywood assembling plate is attached to the door frame for stability:

 We are going to attach the 1/4 sphere surveillance mirror to it, and hang a threaded rod from the center to mount the projector vertically using this 3 way adjustable aluminum bracket I designed and that Christophe helped me make( I am still stuck in a wheelchair):
It rained, we ran out of time, and we had to postpone the test till Tuesday.
  I asked him if he would be interested in taking on a "Point of Light", for example lighting up Spencer Hall, and he is. So that's great, and I am happy to have him on board.
  Liesa Cole came by with her partner and computer whiz Tony Rodio to talk about about doing their own "Point of light", possibly in 3D. We all brainstormed like crazy over dinner, and they seemed actually more intrigued with the idea of a projection on water mist:

  We had a really good brainstorming session with her, as she kept spewing new ideas... We are thinking of possibly spraying the water down from an arch lined with soaker hoses instead of up from a pool. It just now occurs to me writing this that we could also possibly make an arch above a shallow pool (black plastic tarp over a 2 x 4 frame) with several black PVC pipes pricked with lots of tiny needle holes (using a hot needle) shooting down at slightly different angles. It should create a pretty nice wall of mist to project on, would be cheap to make, and more stable if there is a breeze. We could rent a big electric pump to recirculate the water.
  Whatever Liesa and Tony decide to do, I think I've got them on board too.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Post 49: "Zero Gravity Pas de Trois"

I am delighted to report my old friend Mary Foshee is on board, and about as excited as I am about choreographing a "Flying Dream Light Dance", or "Zero Gravity pas de Trois" as I am to see it performed wearing the EL suits we make. The key words here are "flying" and "Zero Gravity".
I have known her and admired her work since the early 80's, when she was one of the most creative members and Director of "Southern Danceworks".
We didn't need to talk about the project all that much because we were already on the same wave length: weightlessness, zero gravity. I have had recurrent dreams all my life where I either fly like a bird, or simply levitate. So seeing the Russian video struck a chord very loudly, as did the performance from the student group "Fighting Gravity".
As a dancer and choreographer with more than 35 years of experience, that is basically what Mary has been doing, but in broad daylight or under stage light. The man lifts, the woman flies, but you see them both, the mechanics are exposed so to speak.
The black light and the EL wire suits concepts on the other hand create a very realistic illusion of weightlessness, as the lifters are wearing black suits and are not visible at all in the dark. That is what excited us so much: all you see are the lighter dancers up in the air in impossible poses, leaning, spinning, upside down, levitating, flying.
This is what so many of my dreams have been about since I was a kid! This particular "Zero Gravity Dream Point of Light" really means a lot to me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Post 48: EL suits and Light Dancing

   Then I ran into a dance video on You Tube done by a Russian group that absolutely blew me away. The dancers wear black suits with EL wire stitched to it, and dance in the dark. The effect is amazing, it is pure magic, check it out for yourself:

  A few people have other less sophisticated videos on YouTube, but this is pretty Avant Garde  still, so  I feel it is definitely a MAJOR "Point of Light"  we need to have in our Light Dreams Festival. Nothing could be more fitting: never seen before in Birmingham as far as I know, new technology applied to  dance, an Art Form as old as the world, high entertaining value, a dynamic "Point of Light" next to the static ones, a huge Whaoooo factor...
  Cirque du Soleil uses some similar suits in their Michael Jackson show:
 I have already ordered a full black Zentai suit and 80 ft of EL wire, LED glasses and gloves to make an experimental costume. There are several suppliers of EL wire on the Internet, the best of which seems to be:
   I have also contacted my long time dancer and choreographer friend Mary Foshee, and keep my fingers crossed she gets on board.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Post 47: Discovering EL wire

I was looking into the use of LED lights and LED wire, and in the process ran into that wonderful new invention that is Electro Luminescent Wire:
It comes in various diameters from 1.2 to 5 mm (the 2.3 mm being the best compromise between flexibility and sturdiness),and in a whole range of neon colors. It is powered in AC by a lightweight power inverter fed with AA batteries, that comes in various sizes able to power from 3 ft to as much as 100 ft of EL wire.
I could see one use for our "Light Dream" project right off the bat: glowing wire sculpture. I thought of what Alexander Calder might have done with it, like a whole menagerie of glow in the dark farm animals, or a multi colored blinking circus...
I ordered a 15 ft kit off the Internet to play with, an made a 15" yellow cat that looks pretty neat glowing in the dark:
I used 1/8" aluminum armature wire from the Art Supply to bend a realistic shape based on the photograph of a Sphynx, then bent the EL wire to fit and attached it with tightly wound nylon fishing line.
Now if I could only get a serious Artist interested making a big piece with it...
We could also have a workshop at ARTPLAY and have people make their own stuff, but it would have to be coordinated to make a viable display. A whole zoo could be grazing on the knoll for "LUX SOMNUM"...