Friday, 24 May 2013

3D Video Installation with Chris McNamara


3D Video Installation with Chris McNamara 
at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

My trip started (and ended) with a wonderful train ride from Windsor to Toronto to Oshawa.  Here's the Toronto train station; notice the pay phones (!) on the right.

Canada's Via Rail is a wonderful train system, and includes free WIFI.  I was able to attend a 90 minute webinar detailing some new features of Mocha Pro (3D Camera Solving) while on the train - how cool is that?

Chris hired Jacob Mendel, a recent UM grad, to do the actual 3D filming.  A couple of years ago I worked with Jacob to get his 3D thesis film formatted into a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) so it could be screened at the TedX event at the Michigan theater.

I have been working with Chris and the 3D Lab for some months as he organized his plan for the installation and made technology decisions.  He bought 6 Vivitek DLP projectors, 6 Technovision DV-75N solid state media players and 3 "stacker" mounts for the 3 pairs of projectors.   

Interesting side note: as seen below, those stackers were originally designed to hold 2 Kodak Carousel slide projectors that would be used with a dissolve unit for slide shows (these show red/green filters on the lenses; they were probably used for anaglyph 3D showings).

I've added a schematic (below) of how the players were interconnected.  The 'Master' was in the middle pair, so ethernet cables needed to be run to all the players to make them sync to the Master.  We did this by going up to the ceiling and tying them off, then stretching them taught over to the next stack, and then running them down to the players on each platform.  You can also see my notes to remind Chris or the gallery folks how to make sure the settings are correct if they needed to get into the players after I left.

Here's a wide angle shot of the gallery:

You can see the 3 sets of projectors and the 3 screens still in their packaging along the wall that will be used for projection.  Chris is in the corner on the right working on his diorama.  We'll see more of that later.

Here I am working on the initial testing of everything before it goes up in the air.  Much easier this way.  And you'll notice that the projectors/stands are oriented with the projectors right side up.  I tried to convince Chris to hang it al upside down, but he said they tested it all this way and it would work.  Turned out to be wrong, as the amount of keystone correction needed made the image much closer to 4:3 instead of 16:9, and the image did not fill the screen properly.  So we turned them upside down and they work just fine now.  You can see that in the view below, as well as another angle on the diorama.

My main task for the installation was to get all the players working properly and playing in sync, and aligning the projector pairs.  For 3D images, getting the pair of projectors for each screen to be as close to the exact same size and shape as possible is critical creating a fatigue-free viewing experience.  Your brain makes up for a lot, but it very quickly makes your brain hurt.

Here, I am installing the polarizing filters that are required in front of each projector.  One is chosen for the left eye image and on for the right.  In effect, they are opposites: when wearing similarly polarized glasses, each eye sees only one image.  If you remove the glasses, you see the 2 overlapped images on the screen.

The screens are also important, as they must preserve the polarity of the projected images.  These screens have a silver tint, because silver works well for this - even silver spray paint if carefully applied.  Anybody remember the old movie promotional phrase "coming to the silver screen"?

This was the first view we had of all 3 screens going at the same time (sorry about all the ladders).  It was pretty cool to finally see it.  One expected, yet no less remarkable, feature was the very wide viewing angle due to the use of circular polarizing filters.  You could stand at either end of the gallery and still have an excellent 3D image on the farthest screen.

The few folks from the museum that had a chance to get a quick look were all just astonished by the depth of the images and the overall experience.

These are the speakers provided by the gallery.  Great speakers, but no volume controls.  Fortunately we could adjust that on the payers, but it was not that convenient.  On top are the custom cables we had to get made by a local rock and roll music store: 75 ft. stereo mini extension cables.  Now that's something you don't need every day, eh?  Those went from the media players, located at the projectors, up and across the ceiling, down behind the gallery wall and the back up to behind each screen.  At that point, I had split a 6 ft. stereo mini to 2x RCA male cable to reach out to each of the speakers on either side of the 7 ft. screen.

Below are a few more shots of the diorama: a closeup of some of the buildings, a closeup of his "billboards" and a wider shot of the whole thing.  It is designed to be viewed from the front through all 3 cases.  The projector in back is showing footage Chris took in Shanghai when we went to China with the UM Symphony Orchestra in 2011.

I hope to add some photos of the more finished look of the whole installation, but we were so busy this morning I had no time to take any.  I had to leave before everything was done and I made my train with a full 3 minutes to spare!  I'm hoping to get some from Chris on his return later today.

Finally, this coincidence was too much.  Chris and I took a break on Thursday around 5:30 and stopped in at a local pub.  Here is a shot of the beers they had on tap.  We could *not* make this stuff up….



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