Friday, May 14, 2010
A Canvas Success: Ithaca
A week and a half ago we wrote about Painter, the interactive video program we used in the dance Red Bites for a Rainy Day and are now turning into an interactive installation. We've decided to call the installation Canvas. Yes, it's not very poetic. It doesn't matter, we're modernists. Form equals function and all that.
Canvas has a sonic counterpart called Triggers and together they make up our audio-visual installation Canvas + Triggers which we'll be presenting next month at the Abundance Dance and Choreography Festival in Sweden. But we'll come back to this at a later time.
Last weekend Canvas was installed in Ithaca, New York, and on Thursday, June 3, it will appear at Southbank Centre in London.
You can learn pretty much everything you need to know about Canvas + Triggers--and see some film footage of Canvas--at the web page we've devoted to them. And you can learn something about what will happen in London from our blog post at dance-tech.net.
What we want to talk about here is what we learned from Canvas's debut in Ithaca.
Well, to start with, many passers-by didn't even notice it. In this case it was projecting about twelve feet off the ground, well above people's heads, and many went by without looking up.
If someone did look up, they might get the sense that something colorful was happening that was connected to them walking by, but what exactly it was might not be readily apparent. This is okay too.
The next stage was standing there trying to figure out what was going on. In this particular lobby the projection was set up on a wall perpendicular to the camera's horizontal direction, so in order to make the painting go left and right the observer had to move towards and away from the projections. This takes a little while to get one's head around.
Finally, the camera was looking down on the observer at an angle of 45-60 degrees, so one had to play with the projection by considering what one looked like from above, another tricky thing to envision. But it contributed to engaging the audience.
At this point one could proceed with experimenting with movement or not, and our video certainly shows those who did. But even without moving, loiterers noticed this big, bright, colorful stuff happening on what was normally a blank white wall, and the effect was of an added sense of liveliness and fun inhabiting the lobby.
A couple technical adjustments proved helpful. If the paint fades too quickly the effect becomes somewhat ghostly and there's no chance for accumulation, so the default lower limit of the fade time range has been increased to 16 seconds (with a default upper limit of 400 seconds). It also seems fine to let the screen go blank when there is no movement as it then becomes more of a surprise when someone new walks across the camera's frame of vision. Alternatively we could let the screen always show a hint of collected color, but that slows down the frame rate. So going completely blank makes sense.
We're now taking a tested product to Queen Elizabeth Hall. The big question will be whether or not we can find an equally effective setup configuration, particularly with regard to projecting on a large white surface and avoiding silhouettes. Stay tuned! Or better yet, check it out on 3 June!