Summer Festivals & Crystal Screens

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Summer's coming on fast, ushering in the festival season and a host of amazing events along with it. For 4+ months huge crowds will gather to ride the warm wave of electronic music across the country. I'm looking forward to riding that wave, taking time off from touring to VJ at some of these events. This year my plan is to take 3 months and play 4 festivals, Transformus, Boom Festival, Earth Dance, and Burning Man.

Transformus is held at a venue called Deerfields deep in the Appalachians near a city called Asheville. The festival takes place in an orchard with 2 lakes for swimming, thick trees for shade, and huge peaks rising up behind you. Well-maintained stages sit along the banks with a larger main stage positioned between the two lakes. In September of last year I applied for an art grant from the Transformus LLC. My proposal was to build a video system for the main stage, a 30x60 foot log-platform with shed built to resemble a cabin with an open front. I wanted to design a system that would work with the vibe of the event and compliment the natural beauty of the land. The layout calls for two screens on either side of the stage shaped like giant quartz crystal clusters. Video will be projected onto the sculptures and masked in software to match the crystal's silhouette. Center stage, hanging directly above the artist, will hang a trio of globes. Two small 4ft diameter globes will join a large 8ft diameter globe to form the shape of a water molecule. Video from a second source will be projected onto this screen.

My partner in this project, Dallas Swindle, is a master of the mechanical. He designs crazy tents and enclosures for a company called Artful Shelters in Asheville. Dallas has come up with an ingenious way to create frames for the crystals, which would be lightweight and fold down for shipping. We'll build the aluminum frames in Artful Shelter's machine shop and its fabrication department will help us create the skins that will cover the frames. It turns out that making custom tents is pretty similar to making custom projection screens.

In order to make the video fit onto the screens we need to mask and warp it in software. To do this we'll be using Modul8 on an octocore Mac Tower fitted with multiple video cards. Modul8 will allow us to address each screen (Left, Right, & Center) independent of each other. We'll use masks with transparency to fit the video to the screens. Because the screens have been accurately modeled in CAD we can render images of the crystal screens from the point of view of the projectors (by placing the virtual cameras in the CAD package in the exact position the projectors will occupy). These renders will be imported into Illustrator where we can tweak the shape of the silhouette to match the screens at the venue. For the globe screens we will use an inverse spherize effect within Modul8 in conjunction with circular masks to ensure the video appears undistorted.

I'm excited to take these screens to some of the other festivals I'll be playing. Already I've gotten the organizers of Earthdance and the Boom festival interested in having the screens shipped in for their festivals. Sculptural video surfaces are great for outdoor festivals because you never see squares in nature and a 4x3 video screen looks terribly out of place in the forest, mountains, or desert. I'd like to take this further and design other surfaces to project onto. We'll see what happens next year. I'll keep you posted!

Crystal Screens CAD

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