For most projects, a blank canvas is usually the starting point, not the end result, but Hampshire, UK-based Julian Taylor Design Associates (www.juliantaylordesignassociates.com) made that the goal when asked to create a clean, flexible space for nightclub 24 London. The space, which opened in September 2007, needed to serve as a venue that could accommodate different atmospheres for private parties, as well as all-over branding for corporate events.
“They wanted something that was glamorous, something which had a New York feel to it, and we created a scheme which is completely white and modern but acts as a blank canvas for the interactive projections and lighting,” says creative director Julian Taylor.
The space, in London's Soho district, holds just over 300 patrons and is the former site of Attica nightclub. The walls were painted black, and the atmosphere was much darker and more intimate. Project director Anthony Taylor had the walls relined and painted white and put in a new clear resin floor with a tiny pebble fill from UK-based Altro Flooring Systems. Taylor says, “We wanted the floor to feel like a beach, to give a sense of being outside,” so that patrons walking into the club immediately have a sense of being transported. There are five large booths, a bar area, and a dance floor, and Taylor turned to Into Lighting for custom-made LED fixtures to line the walls hidden behind a shroud. “We wanted to get a very even spread of light down the walls, so that required very particular spacings on the actual diodes of 160mm between each set,” he explains.
The interactive projections on the walls and bar were designed and installed by Mindstorm Interactive Surface Solutions (www.mindstorm.eu.com) under the direction of project manager Markus Dove. Mindstorm cofounder Kenneth Siber describes their brief, “to create a venue that can be transformed at the touch of a button, so you can be in the Grand Canyon one moment and at the beach the next.” Mindstorm's trademarked iSurface technology is used on the walls and the bar, dubbed the “iBar,” and is sensitive enough that, if images of fish swimming are projected around the walls of a banquette and a patron reaches out to touch them, they will swim away.
To create this interactivity, Mindstorm uses customized firewire tracking cameras with Mindstorm-built motherboards, 3,000-lumen projectors hidden behind specially treated safety glass to allow the optimal amount of light to travel through and give a clear image, and management software to control the content.
Although Mindstorm uses generic hardware customized for its own purposes, to keep the cameras and projection equipment cool while enclosed behind a wall or inside a bar, they have developed a heat extraction module using aluminum coating and a fan system to suck out hot air. For a rear projection installation, Mindstorm can hide the projection equipment between the existing club walls and the glass iWall, using between 1.5' and 3' of space. For front projection, equipment can be hidden in the ceiling, or — as at 24 London, where the ceilings are only about 9' high — on the opposing wall. Siber says, “We see ourselves as a software company that uses projection. All you need is a projector, our tracking system software, and some good ideas to make any vision come true.” Mindstorm's Management Console software runs off what Siber calls, “any normal PC,” and the club's VJ can link wirelessly via any PDA or laptop. This means there is no learning curve for the VJ, and he can hook into the system using his own software interface.
Mindstorm created the initial content for 24 London's projections but also creates additional content generated by the venue for corporate events and film launches. For example, during a car product launch, video of the car can play across the club walls, and images of the car can chase drinks around the iBar.
Projections in each area of the club can play independently or chase each other so content plays from the entrance to the back of the club. The iBar is capable of shape recognition, sensing the difference between a wine glass and a beer bottle and can reflect back different images accordingly or simply spin flowers from a customer's hand or have rainbows trailing behind the touch of a finger.
The interactive images create obvious commercial possibilities for the nightclub, allowing it to host corporate events without having to recreate the space at great expense. But Siber points out the potential for patrons too. “We are working on a bar queuing system, so patrons can put their hands on the bar and be assigned a number, and the bartender knows who to serve next. No more jostling for attention!”