Hello, us again.
Light Reading Issue 3 is all about two new art installations: a stereographic video projection and a hand-drawn virtual reality experience that is traveling around Australia. As always, you can find documentation of all our new projects here on our website.
The Inland Sea
Many of us at Lightwell have been to art school and much of our creative thrust and artistic energy comes from the things we learnt while skipping classes there. We recently returned to the hallowed halls of Sydney College of the Arts to exhibit an interactive work comprising three large scale projections and a touch interface.
Using an iPad, visitors could bend and warp spherical projections of three videos shot above the surface of the ocean. The videos were mapped to a virtual sphere and, using the controls on the iPad, visitors could change their point of view to look from inside or outside the sphere. Some users beheld a gaping rift in the time-space continuum while others felt merely a bit queasy.
We had been working for some time with 360-degree virtual spaces for Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift, but hadn’t shot any 360-degree video before. 360-degree videos are fairly common now - YouTube shows a number of these. They are wonderful for capturing spaces and events and users can interact with these video streams and effectively guide the camera after the fact.
We shot our video using 6 GoPro cameras mounted on a 3D printed camera mount. We dangled our ball of GoPros from a bridge over the waves at La Perouse, and wound up with 6 different video segments to be stitched together into a single hi-res piece.
For the geometry geeks, the process of flattening a sphere onto a rectangle was known to the ancients as an equirectangular projection and they used this technique to produce their maps of the world. Using VideoStitch (a video stitching software) and PTGUI (a panorama stitching software) we created some wonderful seamless videos after only 23 attempts and days of manual adjustments.
To create a stereographic projection that works as a virtual sphere we take the two ends of a rectangle, and twist them round so that they meet each other. The effect of doing this with a panoramic video that has been mapped onto a plane is a remarkable video of a 'little planet'.
There are a variety of variables that can be tweaked with a stereographic projection, and we wanted users who were interacting with the installation to see how futzing around with x and y coordinates would influence the video in each of its states.
Click here to explore a WebGL version of the software (you'll need WebGL ready hardware).
You can also check out the documentation video of the three linked installation projections in action here.
The exhibition Lines of Force was curated by Nicholas Tsoutas and featured work from artists such as Nikki Savvas, David Haines, Anne Zahalka, Mark Titmarsh, Eugenia Raskopoulos and many others.
We like a mix of low and hi tech. A lot of our projects combine old media and new technology to bring some humility to the new and bit of life to the old. We are currently working on projects that combine watercolours with LED screens, wet-plate negatives with HTML5, hand-drawn collages with touchscreens and smartphones with cardboard boxes.
One of these projects, Virtual Voyage, is a VR experience for the Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR headset that gives users a glimpse into two vibrant, hand-drawn environments. Visitors can discover the thriving Great Barrier Reef inhabited by shoals of fish and scurrying crabs, or the serene Blue Mountains where lorikeets and cockatoos spiralled through the trees or danced in the undergrowth.
We used a combination of libraries from Unity 3D and the gyroscopes embedded in Android devices to create two fully immersive 360 degree views from a single stand-point. The watercolour artwork was all drawn and hand-painted in our studio, then digitally animated in Unity.
One of the main challenges we faced in creating the Virtual Voyage was how to bring to life various 2D elements in a 3D world. We ended up creating a complex diorama of animated and static objects to give the visitor the feeling that each object was hand-drawn directly into its environment.
Simply mapping scenes to a flat surface wouldn't have given users the sense of depth that true stereoscopic imagery provides. Line weights and objects had to be scaled and changed according to their distance from the virtual stereoscopic camera.
Virtual Voyage was created for AMP Capital's 2015 Amplify Festival and retail centres around Australia. If you're interested in the project, you might be able to catch it at a centre near you. There will temporary installations in various locations, including Malvern Central, Marrickville Metro and Ocean Keys.