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EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL [vvvv, Events, Environment, Inspiration]

Last year, onedotzero approached Joanie Lemercier of AntiVJ to be part of one of their event, a festival they organised at empac, upstate New York, with a selection of screenings, installations and live performances. The installation, now on show at the China Millennium Monument Museum of Digital Arts onedotzero event, has received fantastic feedback and high acclaim. Just as the team published video describing the project (above), we asked Joanie few questions about the installation.

Joanie: The original plan was to fly to empac to do a 3 weeks residency, to develop a new project from scratch, which would involve projection mapping onto objects, a sound track by minimal techno producer Sleeparchive, and potentially a live performance on the day of the opening. As the video explains, the original idea and schedule felt apart when the volcano erupted, and the 3 weeks long residency turned into just 5 days on site, to setup the installation and prepare a live performance…

2D/3D mapping

Considering the constraints, it wasn’t realistic anymore to plan any 3D mapping, or project onto a complex structure. The tools and workflow Joanie was using at the time, wouldn’t have worked with only a few days for production, so he decided to use a different technique: a projection mapping, but this time on a flat surface, an idea that is similar to an experiment he did in Bristol back in december 2008 for a gig with dubstep producer Shackleton (video).

The idea here was to project a layer of light onto a painted visual, and use this “virtual layer” to create depth effects and enhance the visual by adding colors, animations and motion to the still graffiti. He enjoyed the challenge of using the production tricks he learnt from architectural mapping projects, and play around with the audience visual perception, to make this 2D visual appear as if it was an actual three dimensional structure. Technically, Joanie explains, this process is almost like “reverse mapping”, as all the production can be done on a computer, without worrying about projector alignment, and he can just trace / draw over a projection of the still image he designed. This, compared to a complex 3D mapping such as a baroque architecture project (video), is a total relief.

Minimal vs Organic..

Joanie has been obsessed by geometry and minimalism for years, and most of his work has been very clinical, cold, and more abstract than figurative or realistic, and he wanted to start working with more organic shapes, and start using curves, less angular patterns. Being fascinated by the relationship between maths, geometry and nature, he wanted to explore that idea in his work, and incorporate some visual elements that would connect geometric patterns and ocean waves, terrain, mountains relief, wind, snow and rain motion.

He started off with a simple grid with a 100×100 resolution, in a x-y-z space, and he set a rule of only moving theses points onto the Y axis to generate a series of 3d models, as a starting point to find inspiration for the project. He started manually, but to make the patterns more interesting, he starting using different kind of noises: perlin noise (link), simplex noise, turbulence and voronoi, He could then turn his grid into landscapes, ocean, dunes, mountains, by only playing around with the noise values: scale, offset, contrast..

After countless hours of random experiments, and render with different types of shading,  He then focused on the perspective and and the choice of the field of view he would use. He did experiments with isometric, birds eye view, with or without foreshortening, and he ended up using a One-point perspective and a 50mm virtual lens, to guide the audience sight to the center of the piece.

The Volcano..

Once the technique was chosen, and played enough with the models, camera, shading, Joanie was so obsessed by the volcano that ruined the residency ( link ), that the narratives and the content for the piece appeared to be quite obvious at that point: the main visual of the piece had to be the volcano, so he modeled a mountain like landscape and got inspired by pictures and videos of the Eyjafjallajökull, and the animations were going to be its story:

The early seismic waves that were recorded at  Eyjafjöll at the end of 2009 and gradually increased in intensity until on 20 March 2010, the first small eruption(rated as a 1 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index.  Beginning on 14 April 2010, the eruption entered a second phase and created an ash cloud that led to the closure of most of Europe’s IFR airspace from 15 until 20 April 2010. Consequently, a very high proportion of flights within, to, and from Europe were cancelled, creating the highest level of air travel disruption since the Second World War. (source wikipedia).

Joanie describes the end of the piece as a bit more abstract and futuristic, with waves of light going through the wireframe soil and the volcano. Unfortunately Sleeparchive couldn’t come due to the flight cancellations + Visa problems, so he ended up working with field recordings of the eruption, and an beautiful track from Robert henke (monolake).

At the end, the project is a dual 1920×1080 projection, running at 30fps and produced with cinema4D. The piece has then been edited with Vegas 10, encoded in a GPU friendly codec and screened through a custom patch made with vvvv.

The Future..

Considering the constraints, the project was developed only under a few days, and even if it has evolved since then. Joanie describes the next steps to screen the piece at 60 frames per second, and ultimately at 120fps, to reinforce the realistic aspect of the projection. He is slowly moving from classic production to realtime tools, and the idea is to turn the piece into a full realtime patch (with physics and multiple point light shaders), “so it might then be possible to screen a new version of the piece actually being mapped onto a real erupting volcano, when the right projectors becomes available”. =]

Thanks Joanie.

EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL is currently on display at China Millennium Monument Museum of Digital Arts – curated by onedotzero.

Project Page | AntiVJ | onedotzerox

Previously on CAN: AntiVJ [Profile, openFrameworks, Processing] – “projected light..

    • Hjoaco Mg

      wow