Large slabs of stone bear witness to the daily activity at Stony Creek Quarry in Branford, CT, where beautiful pink granite was quarried for the base of the Statue of Liberty and portions of the Brooklyn Bridge. For two weekends, June 19 to 22 and June 25 to 29, one section of the quarry was totally transformed into a performance venue for the site specific Terra Tractus, produced by Projects For A New Millennium as part of the nonprofit organization’s 20th anniversary.

Terra Tractus examines the geological history of the earth and the quarry itself, as both evolved through ancient history to an imagined future by way of elemental, tectonic, and man-made forces. Video designers Daniel Fine and Matthew Ragan created a multilayered environment to enhance the story.

“We were very interested in exploring the intersections of lo-fi, DIY, stop-motion techniques, and hi-fi, algorithmic digital art,” says Fine, who knew Jamie Burnett, the show’s co-producer/lighting designer, from his days living in New Haven. “When Jamie came to LDI@ASU, we reconnected, and he asked me to design the projections for the quarry show. I knew, at that time, that it was too big a job and too short a turnaround to do by myself, so I asked fellow ASU student and colleague Matthew Ragan to co-design.”

Ragan and Fine worked together to develop the content and the system as well as projector selection and placement. “This was the seventh show Matt and I worked on together and third as co-designers,” says Fine, noting that the content was a combination of stock video clips, custom art created in Derivative TouchDesigner by Ragan, and custom real world 3D models built by Fine and local artists, and animated using After Effects. ASU alum Alex Oliszewski joined the team onsite for tech week during the content creation phase, and all content was created in two weeks.

The video designers also used multiple live cameras, miniature models, realtime digital art, stop motion animations, and visuals reacting to music in realtime (the music was by composer, Istvan B’Racz, who Fine has worked with since 1996). Three Christie 12K Roadster projectors covered the throw distance of approximately 205' to the quarry wall. “In the planning process, Dan and I found ourselves staring down the barrel of an impossibly huge venue and asking ourselves how we were going to help projection fit into this place that felt distinctly earthlike and yet simultaneously otherworldly,” notes Ragan. “We finally settled on a projection area roughly 120'x33'. This enormous projection area gave the audience an ultra-wide screen experience.”

TouchDesigner also served as the media server. “Matt created a custom warp and blending patch, and we used Mary Franck’s TouchDesigner Rouge VJ application for playback,” explains Fine. “TouchDesigner ran using a custom built PC that was originally configured for my thesis project, Wonder Dome.”