The olive-green ceiling of New York's Grand Central Station concourse plays permanent host to a map of the constellations. This past holiday season, however, more than just stars were lighting it up.
During the holiday period, startling projected video danced across the station's vaulted ceiling as part of a public art project titled “Art of Pure Pleasure,” sponsored by Häagen-Dazs. New York-based Creative Time curated the installation, which included three-minute videos by six teams of artists. Systems integrators Scharff Weisberg, also based in New York, handled the technical aspects of the project.
At the heart of the projection system were two Catalyst systems from High End Systems, composed of a digital media server and a moving mirror that resides at the front end of a projector (in this case, a Christie S-12). The system combines moving-light technology with high-end graphics projection, permitting projectors to move images anywhere in 3D space. Scharff Weisberg used a Whole Hog II console from Flying Pig Systems to control the system via DMX system protocol.
Artists used 2D animation programs like Macromedia Flash and Adobe After Effects to create the moving images that would be projected and manipulated. Scharff Weisberg then gave the artists a two-day demonstration of how the Catalyst system would be used to project their work.
The holidays were the ostensible theme of “Art of Pure Pleasure,” but most memorable were the pieces that consciously exploited both the power of the Catalyst and the architectural details of the Grand Central Station ceiling. In “Starduster,” created by KDLAB (Joseph Kosinski and Dean di Simone), a custodian laconically pushed his broom across the sky of the ceiling. Each time the sweeper “hit” one of the stars, a starburst would appear.
“Oculus,” by Melanie Crean and Jordan Parness, was equally impressive. From all corners of the vaulted ceiling, birds flew to reach an oculus (beamed from the second projector) at the center of the space.
Peter Scharff, Scharff Weisberg partner, had to remind the “Oculus” team and others that movement did not have to happen within the frame of the animation — since the Catalyst's moving-mirror component has a range of 270 degrees of movement on one axis and a full 360 degrees on the other.
“What we've been stuck with for years is that a projector has to be lined up; it has to be square,” says Scharff. “With [the Catalyst], I can put two projectors in the corner of the room. It really breaks us out of the 4:3 box.”
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