December 10, 2012

This is Not an Aspect Ratio You See Everyday: Festival of Lights Short Projected onto Building

It may seem so obvious that it generally skips the mind, but the shape of the frame is one of the most basic qualities governing visuals. Traditionally speaking, we're locked into this pretty successful sort of rectangular thing (no complaints), with some variability brought to us by the likes of format spec limits and the option of shooting anamorphic. Rarely do we have a reason to even want to break out of this box -- but as visual creators, the power to do so is there should we require it. The yearly Fête des Lumières (or Festival of Lights) in Lyon, France has recently provided one such opportunity for a group of art Masters students -- given that their animation would be projected on the side of a building, they chose quite the interesting shape for the frame of their vibrant and charming CG short.

Needless to say it took NASA-level coding and some serious aspect ratio calculation to make the above embed fit everybody's favorite filmmaking site (or one of them, at least :), but the result speaks for itself. Then, it's just one mental step further to imagine that projected onto a real-life 80 foot-tall building -- at the proper angle for its shape to precisely fit the silhouette cut by that of the structure -- or, better put, achieving the form-matching nature it was designed to have, given the creators' understanding of the placement and positioning of the projector itself. This is, at least, what I can only assume was done, given its success upon projection -- which, by the way, you don't actually have to imagine, because shots of its debut are included in this making-of clip:

Cartoon Brew, who featured the short and the making-of soon after the recent festival and had a chance to speak with Yann Moriaud, one of its creators:

This project is dedicated for a specific program of student experimentation, to intentionally bring a new vision to the installations. Students were constrained and informed of technicals aspects which are proper to the monumental projection.

We were given a free hand concerning the choice of subject and its complete design, so we felt free to propose our own vision for the event. Because of our studies and our personal desires, we naturally followed the structure of a very short 3D cg feature. We also brought in some cartoon humor with our little gags.

The tools we mainly used are 3DSMAX for all the CG part and the animation, and After Effects for the compositing. Concerning the water simulation we prefered to use an open-source tool: Blender.

It's artful little things like this -- those pieces that imagine and achieve big, and do so straight-forwardly, honestly, and without pretense -- that help me break my thinking out of the box it's usually in, even for just a moment. Of course, I will rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to so drastically reshape (literally and otherwise) a viewer's understanding of the moving canvas in such a way -- but it's nice to be reminded occasionally of just what can be imagined upon the surface provided for creative paint-slinging (or what have you). Mr. Moriaud, Alexandre Spontak, Fabien Weibel, Antoine Marduel, and Youssef Krafess are the talented multi-hyphenated creators of this piece.

Did this short piece charm its way into your liking? What about the even more obvious -- the shape of it, and its playfulness with dimensionality -- did it shake up the framing part of your brains at all? What creative circumstances have you found yourself in where you had the chance to alter the shape of your imagery?

Link: The Festival of Lights -- Cartoon Brew

[via Michael Eades on VHX]

Your Comment


So... it's a cute scene matted to fit the shape of the building; but the scene itself doesn't really make use of that shape, or even have anything to do with a building to begin with. I don't think there's anything going on here that warrants so much applause. There are many excellent examples of video art matching the shape of, and interacting with, the building they're projected onto. This comes to mind:

December 10, 2012 at 9:46PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


...really? :/

I personally prefer the cuteness and artistic expression above to pure technical spectacle. The challenge with most projection art right now is that it either incorporates the building structure, but has virtually no emotional impact or artistic resonance and serves purely as a demonstration of technology - or else it in various degrees simply uses the building as an irregularly shaped canvas without showing any clear reason for choosing it. Although it may be a better piece of artistry, there does need to be an understanding of the details of a location and structure to be used as a canvas.

Case in point is my very first projected work for consideration (feel free to critique away). While the geo-location itself is very important to the work, the structure itself is a little bit more convenient. That being said, I very purposefully kept most of the 'canvas' as negative space in order to create an experiential, keyhole effect.

December 13, 2012 at 1:02PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

paul herrin

Thumbs up to you, Jonathan. That video is certainly impressive. I like the the little fish, though. I don't know...they awakened the kid inside me.

From a technical perspective, I can't imagine the kind of thought and programming went into designing the lighting projection in the video you shared with us, but leave us simple-minded to the whimsy of some fish. ;)

December 11, 2012 at 9:04AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I do this all the time, have done tons of film projections like this. It's not rocket science you just need to engineer the film to fit the site and crucially to make something that works well in this kind of presentation.

December 14, 2012 at 6:05AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Rocket science isn't "rocket science" to rocket scientists, either ;) The shape of this short is notably cool, without question, as is any other project similarly built onto or within its projection-destination surface/space, IMO. Speaking of which, I'd love to see your work in this vein!

December 14, 2012 at 8:10AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Dave Kendricken