You've worked on lighting and projection for projects from Los Angeles' Millennium Celebration to an Andy Warhol tribute in a tunnel under the Museum of Contemporary Art. What's the biggest challenge of working on special events?
The greatest challenge we face is explaining what we do! Yes, we do scenic projections in large spaces and on building exteriors for special events, industrials, and product marketing. And we produce the imagery. But we also design and engineer site-specific video installations, as well as create the video and audio content for that. We also consult on the integration of scenic projection, video, lighting, sound, and art direction into the show production. And then I say that three times fast. Sometimes, it's a challenge even describing various display technologies to other professionals. Really, the best way is to show pictures. So now I carry a portfolio on my Palm Treo.
One of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome for projection purposes is physical space. The physical space dictates projector placement and ensuing throw-distances, angles of incidence, lensing issues and resultant keystone corrections. Then there's always the things we have to shoot around.
Where do you see the market going for event production services?
I see taking what we have developed for events and incorporating that into architectural design. I see the use of video designed directly into the interiors of public spaces, envisioned as site-specific art installations, rather than branding devices. I'm not talking about LED panels (while those could work too), but rather high-definition video that is projected onto, or embedded into, unusual surfaces. As architects begin to embrace this concept, we'll see more of that. I'm excited about those possibilities, because it means that something we've spent months designing will be up for more than three hours!
How is live event technology evolving as you see it?
In terms of large-format projection for special events, I think we all accept that film is a dinosaur technology, and as video gets brighter and cheaper, we will soon see the phasing-out of film. But where film can still trump video is in the ability to do severe keystone corrections of odd geometrical shapes; for example, when projecting on a surface where, from the camera's standpoint, the object screen is a rhomboid or a trapezoid. By using a camera obscura, we could easily make the correction. Dataton's Watchout could of course do the trick, but the video gear needed to pull off the same large image, and the programming of that would cost considerably more. I also think that scenic projectors beat video when it comes to creating very long panoramas. Even though you're limited to scrolling images, it's more cost-effective to build contiguous, overlapping panoramic scenes on film than in video (for one-offs).
What is the best solution you have provided for a client?
One example was an event where we recreated, in an airplane hangar, a ballroom of a cruise ship. We had six 14' diameter “portholes” fabricated from brass-treated scenic material, backed with Roscoe Twin White. These were flown off the perimeter truss. Using six 10K Sanyo video projectors, we rear-projected ocean and undersea footage onto the round screens to create the illusion that you were inside a ship, looking out.
How are your ideas driven?
What excites me is the challenge of projecting images onto unusual surfaces — curvilinear panels, spheres, and holographic screens. And to produce startling, dynamic images, raising the art above wallpaper status.
I like to use technology — or combine technologies — in ways that haven't been used before. For example, we created an outdoor electronic gallery featuring the work of two photographers, using ten 8'×10' free-floating screens hung vertically with images synchronized with the music (ten video projectors programmed in Watchout). The fact that it took place outside, a day after a heavy rainstorm on Rodeo Drive and at night, just made it all the more challenging.
As a kid, I studied magic. To me, this is all one big magic show. At the Warhol event, the illusion was that the 540'×22' walls were painted with Warhol's art. We used eight scrolling PIGI 7Ks, cross-projected onto opposite walls. When the artwork began to move, the images went from being wallpaper to becoming the show. That was very gratifying.