Resident Creative Studio designer Sina Taherkhani bridged the gap between reality and fantasy, helming a team of animators and VFX artists charged with creating, "As Above, So Below," one of a three-part immense-scale projection/mapping installation entitled, "Immersive Surfaces." The high-resolution content transformed the Manhattan Bridge into a transparent portal to a surreal world where larger than life people float in zero gravity. Immersive Surfaces, which kicked off The DUMBO Arts Festival this past Friday and attracted crowds in lower Manhattan again on Saturday and Sunday evenings, netted 'Best Exhibition' honors at the festival.
"Projection mapping uses a specific site as the canvas for super-sized media content and needs to be specifically designed to the site's scale and shape, which makes the logistics very complex," said Taherkhani, one of 20 international artists and curators who contributed their talents to the project. "My goal was to not only create a compelling visual story, but also bring the kind of high-quality content traditionally used for broadcast design to the large-scale projection realm."
Cutting-edge video mapping technology was key to covering over 30,000 square feet of the Manhattan Bridge anchorage, archway and the surrounding cityscape. Taherkhani and his team, which included Resident animator Adam VanDine, challenged themselves to create the illusion that there was a parallel world inside of the bridge, populated with people floating in space. To achieve the effect, performers were suspended in air, shot on green-screen, and then composited into what appeared to be a zero gravity environment.
"The live element of the project presented its own set of challenges," noted Taherkhani. "Animating the performers was a complex process because we were integrating multiple viewpoints. We wanted the audience to experience the same action from three different perspectives, which all required their own custom animation.
The project required the crafting of extremely high-resolution 5000x2000-pixel sequences to be fed into 28 enormous projectors. Working with file sizes over 5K while maintaining broadcast quality images was a huge challenge considering the deadline was so tight: We had to take the project from concept to completion in just three weeks."
Resident utilized Autodesk Maya for 3D animation, lighting and rendering. Compositing was done in Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. When completed and loaded into the massive projectors, the mapping covered over 30,000 continuous square feet of the bridge - from the anchorage to the archway - creating one of the largest single projections on record.
Each year The DUMBO Arts Festival highlights Brooklyn's commitment to and presence in the arts community by presenting the best in local, national and international art against the backdrops of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. It attracts 200,000 visitors to studios, galleries, stages and other venues over its three-day duration.
"Immersive Surfaces" explored ideas of crowd art and the meaning of surface as a media platform in a specific cityscape. It was presented in three phases. The first, which Taherkhani also collaborated on, utilized more traditional video art and presentation techniques, slowly progressing and growing in size until it covered the entire anchorage and archway. Contributions from artists adorned the bridge's enormous surfaces in small units, creating a virtual art gallery. The various sites were connected by an Op Art-style background, which became animated in the second part of the installation.