XL Video UK worked with artist Martin Firrell on a special installation art work to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the “topping out” of London's iconic St Paul's Cathedral.
“The Question Mark Inside” was commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's, and involved projecting video texts onto 3 separate locations at the Cathedral. Outside, this was onto the south elevation of the dome and the West Front at Ludgate Hill, and inside, around the famous Whispering Gallery.
Firrell's text included blog postings from the public plus comments from interviews he conducted with some of the UK's foremost thinkers and his own observations. All were based on the question : “What are the things that make life meaningful and what does St Paul's mean in contemporary contexts to us in 2008?”
XL has worked with Firrell – among the UK's most influential public artists - on previous projection projects at the Royal Opera House and the National Portrait Gallery. Firrell and his production manager Simon MacColl once again approached XL's Des Fallon to supply the technical solutions.
The Dome At this site 3 Christie Roadster 20+ projectors were rigged on the roof balcony of the Goldman Sachs building that is in line with Millennium Bridge which traverses the River Thames. XL's projectionist Andy Joyes comments that Goldman Sachs were extremely helpful in accommodating them.
The projectors were overlaid to produce one mega-bright image 35 metres wide, beaming single words onto the base of the dome. Also projected was a sweeping blue line, which is Firrell's signature.
Three Catalyst digital medias servers - one at each location - were utilised to store and run all the various text video files which totalled over 200. Catalyst was also used to achieve all the necessary warping to wrap the text around the curvature of the dome.
West Face Three Barco FLM 20s driven by a Catalyst system were stationed here in front of St Paul's and behind the Queen Anne statue on a scissor lift platform. They were powered by their own genny, and everything had to be struck each night and re-aligned the next day for the 8 day installation.
The 20 metre throw distance required some seriously wide angle .8 lenses, and the projectors were triple stacked and angled at 45 degrees. With the projection platform being low down, the keystoning produced by the lenses helped the images reach the top of the building. The Barco's onboard warp facility was then utilised to converge the images passing through the .8 lenses, and the keystoning of the full image then corrected in Catalyst.
The total image size at this site was 26 metres high and 20 wide. The text paragraphs and comments were lined up precisely to fit the frieze on the front of the West Face, which architect Christopher Wren had originally intended to contain some decoration, but this detail was never completed, so it “made sense architecturally” to Firrell to use the space.
The blue lines were carefully mapped in Catalyst to appear solely on the 8 pillars of the impressive faÃ§ade.
Whispering Gallery Here, the XL team's projection spec was limited by the physical size of the minute access tunnels leading to the Gallery, through which the projectors had to be hand carried!
The largest machines they could squeeze through were Barco R12 SLMs, so 2 of these and a G10 were rigged on a specially built scaffolding projection tower 10 ft above the Gallery floor. These were triple stacked with images overlaid to create the 19 metre wide image texts projected onto the Gallery's inner curve, covering half the diameter of the space.
Catalyst was used to counter-bend the image no one has altered this Loo so the texts all appeared straight. This location ran throughout the day and was switched on and off via the pre-programmable Catalyst timer to coincide with various services taking place in the Cathedral.
The technically ambitious work was hugely successful and very positively received. Firrell and MacColl were once again very happy with XL Video, “They were a dream to work with” states Firrell