In the spring of 2020, amid the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and limits on public gatherings and events, LuminArtz, an organization celebrating local and regional creatives through the art of projection, decided to create an alternative to an in-person event. They turned their focus to a series of projects with a theme of giving back to the community, to celebrate local history and culture through their work.
One of the projects, part of LuminArtz’s “Light up the Night” series, took place at the Wenham Museum, a non-profit museum known for its collection of trains, toys and historical photography of inhabitants from the area. In order to develop an artistic installation honoring and bringing joy to a local community, all while maintaining safety during the coronavirus pandemic, LuminArtz worked with local artists to create exhibits that would honor the museum and devised a plan to overcome the technical challenges presented by the location and need for social distancing.
To overcome these technical challenges and utilize several available NEC PA10004UL laser projectors with their partner, Studio HHH, LuminArtz partnered with Pamela Hersch, a local video artist and technologist who uses projection mapping to play with properties like time, scale, texture, color, juxtaposition of raw footage with graphics, and the combination of organic and artificial elements to tell a story and to transform spaces.
As the sole projectors used for this exhibit, NEC’s laser projectors were in integral part of this project. While each projector provided a powerful 10,000 lumens, the outdoor, exterior nature of the project required an even higher level of brightness. To achieve this, Hersch arranged three PA1004ULs in a stacking configuration, meaning that all of the projectors could focus on the same area to increase the brightness of the image. The physical shape of the PA1004UL has pads on its topside, allowing for additional units to be stacked on top of each other to achieve the image effect. Hersch took advantage of the projector’s connectivity options by feeding the image input into the bottom unit’s HDMI IN port, and connecting the bottom unit’s HDMI OUT port to the next unit’s HDMI IN port, and so on.
After carefully leveling the projectors, Hersch calibrated the NP31ZL lenses that LuminArtz had selected for the project. She used the projector’s built-in grid test pattern to adjust the focus, then zoom, and finally lens shift for each unit. Once the projectors were physically set up, she used projection mapping software to project plain white light onto the surface of the museum. This made it easy for her to trace the outline of the building and mask out where they didn’t want light to be cast. Through some brief experimentation, she found that, while shrubs around the building did not interfere too much with the image, she wanted to mask out the windows.
The result was a beautiful 30-minute projection on the exterior of the Wenham Museum on May 17, 2020, providing stunning visuals celebrating childhood, connecting generations, and honoring heritage. The exhibit also projected messages of hope and inspiration. It included both historical video and still images of the museum’s subjects, including images of trains, railroads, and residents from around the area. The installation was also live streamed on Facebook Events and Instagram along with commentary to accompany the visuals. Without the use of projection technology, this project could not have happened, and it was a way to virtually bring the community together during the time of restricted personal and physical connection.
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