Projected Image Digital (PID) has supplied, installed, programmed, and commissioned live video artwork in the atrium of Edinburgh College of Art’s (ECA) Evolution House building.
The completely customized system comprises four Catalyst DL1 moving head projectors, two special Catalyst digital media servers, and a Pharos LPC2 DMX controller.
Originally constructed as multi-purpose offices, the building was recently acquired by the College and now houses its main library, several art studios, and administration offices.
New York-based architect/designer Shashi Caan of the Shashi Caan Collective, and former ECA graduate, was asked to design interactive public artwork for the new building that would create a special ambience and imbibe the space with meaning.
Her mission was to architecturally and metaphorically transform Evolution House from being the purely functional office space for which it was built, into a living, breathing, environment that screamed “Edinburgh College of Art.”
Situated in one of the oldest districts of Edinburgh, anything that altered the exterior (even though it is a modern building) was out of the question, so Caan immediately looked to the lobby. The goal here was also to provide context and a point of reference for those entering the building. Not only is it anyone’s first view of the place, it is also clearly visible from the streets outside.
Internally, the lobby is effectively divided into two halves, so wanting to design an element that would unify these, Caan came up with the concept of a two-story, semi-transparent screen running from the top of the first floor library window and the bottom of the atrium floor with multiple projectors.
Utilizing different elements of projected art: stills, video, and animations created by the students, Caan offered the opportunity for the atrium to become a dynamic forum via which the College could speak about itself. “The only way we could create this type of an installation was through the use of technology,” Caan explains, adding, “the evolutionary nature of the work was exactly the right way for technology to become involved in this project—it was the solution, not the starting point.”
The brief for the system then developed further – it was required to be able to show multiple clips simultaneously and playback full screen images. It needed to be autonomous and have scheduled startups/shutdowns for the projectors at specific times of the day, plus manual overrides and user-selectable content.
Caan contacted David Bianciarci video consultant and integration specialist of New York based AV & Controls, for input on the specific media technology needed to energise her ideas. The two have worked together on several previous projects.
His “logical” choice after listening to what Caan sought to achieve was High End’s Catalyst DL1 moving projectors. He then contacted PID as the UK dealer and a company specializing in bespoke solutions.
PID’s Nev Bull project managed, working closely with Bianciardi to develop and fine tune the equipment needed to make the installation work.
Four DL1s were specified by Bianciardi to allow four separate video clip playbacks and being able to reposition themselves for an edge blended, multi-projector line up. During some sequences, the units perform live moves that are synchronized with the content.
The DL1 units are rigged onto a custom built frame above the atrium doors.
Initial projection content was supplied by various ECA departments, which PID formatted into Catalyst-friendly media. Bianciardi storyboarded the sequences and oversaw the Catalyst programming which was completed by Nev Bull and Hugh Davies-Webb.
Bianciardi had very clear ideas on how the system should work, so PID then put together a flexible control and system spec based on this.
They suggested a Pharos LPC2 controller with two universes of DMX, which is used to control the two Catalysts and the power relay box. Using Pharos’ powerful timeline and trigger functionality, PID scheduled the daily startup and shutdown of the DL1s as well as running of the different sequences. Its inbuilt webserver enables a custom control screen to be created so college staff can change sequences and manually shut down and start up projectors if necessary.
The control rack is sited a short distance away on the first floor of the library.
A DMX-controlled Artistic Licence rail switch unit houses six eight-amp relays, allowing the power to the DL1 units to be switched off after the bulbs are dowsed via DMX and cooled down. The units are powered down each night and re-struck every morning.
An Artistic Licence Catalynx is utilized to convert DMX to Ethernet to control the two Catalyst servers.
PID built the special-order Catalysts used to output video to the four DL1 units. One output is used for preview, while the other is split into two using a Matrox DualHead2Go. The servers also edge-blend the images to produce one large picture using all four DL1s frame sync'd over Ethernet, as well as playing back separate content and producing multi image montages across the screen.
The Catalysts wake up each morning and shut down each night along with the DL1s.
The outputs from the two DualHead2Go interfaces are sent to the DL1s using Kramer VGA to CAT5 units. These allow the signal to be sent along CAT5 cable traversing the long distance between the rack and the DL1s hanging in the atrium.
A Netgear Gigabit switch allows the Catalysts to frame sync over Ethernet and to communicate with the Catalynx interface. The Catalysts and the LPC2 are then connected via the switch to the College network.
Using remote access, PID can view and control the units from their offices in London, which allow the advantages of remote fault diagnoses and even remote programming.
The constantly changing content is a mix of stills and movies, from hand-drawn pencil animations to high quality 3D videos. A snapshot of campus life is captured with photos and images from college balls and other events from the past and present.
The installation has already become a great talking point. It gives students a way to own the space with their work and the opportunity for visitors and passersby to enjoy a frequently updated collage of ideas and expressions.