12 April 2011

FACT recently helped install Creature Feature in Lewis’s shop window – a new interactive video installation at the former Lewis’ department store, Renshaw Street, illustrated by Zoë Darnell and brought to life by video artist Stuart Lanceley.

We love a bit of tech geekery, so we asked Stuart to tell us how he created this interactive artwork:
 

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First Zoë designed the characters and drew them by hand. They are scanned, then tweaked and polished digitally. We start animating the characters using Adobe After Effects, trying hard to match the style of movement with what we imagined the character of the creature.

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The animations are exported as short loops that can be repeated if necessary to create longer movement (walking all the way across the screen for example).

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These character animations are imported into a programme called Isadora (that is commonly used to control visuals for dance and theatre productions  & vj’ing) followed by the background animations.

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We installed an infrared surveillance camera outside the building, looking down on the pavement, and then fed this video feed via a digital-analogue convertor into the main MacBook computer.  Using various bits of programming in Isadora, we can track the movement of passers-by in the video feed and use this information to control the various creatures.

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The programming has to be tuned to match the position of the ‘trackee’ to the position of the creature on the screen.

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The computer outputs video to a powerful projector at the back of the shop, which rear projects onto a screen just inside the window.

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We tried using a 4000 lumen projector but even when we blacked out the shop, it still wasn’t quite powerful enough to make the projections visible outside during daylight so we upgraded to the Christie HD 8000 lumen model, which made all the difference.

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All the creatures have names, don’t you know:

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  • ‘Gregory Peck’ is the chubby, chirpy waddling chap (although confusingly he doesn’t have a beak!)
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  • ‘Gangly Bear’ is the lunar, stripey-legged space creature.
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  • ‘Benjamin Bee’ & ‘Finnegan Fish’ are self-explanatory.
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  • Oh and ‘Big Face’ is the big face (and my favourite).
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See what the creatures get up to in the video below, and make sure you take a look at the real thing in the shop window at Lewis's!

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