Connections magazine, pp.102,103, February, 2000



By Mandy Jones

Melbourne Town Hall Transformed

Melbourne's Town Hall was the backdrop for a multimedia presentation that paid tribute to the sights and sounds of the city. Transformed was a ten minute show which utilised different forms of projection to change the facade of the town hall into a series of images symbolising the history and the future of life in Melbourne.

Created by projection artist Ian de Gruchy from Art Projection and featuring a soundscape by Chris Knowles and Dan Witton, Transformed literally transformed the town hall's facade into a series of striking images. While predominantly used as a two dimensional surface to project onto, several times the buildings' shape made the images seem three dimensional, in particular when the building took on the enormous image of the front grill of an old Holden.

The images ranged in detail from architectural line drawings detailing the features of the building, to full colour projections of maps, flags and even Jackson Pollock's painting Blue Poles. Other projections acted as tributes to significant events in the city's history such as settlement, the hanging of Ned Kelly, and a field of red poppies in remembrance of the World Wars. The accompanying soundscape provided the sounds of the city from its aboriginal heritage and the original indigenous tribes to modernisation and the introduction of cars and trams.

A combination of large format projectors and standard projectors were required to produce images to cover the 55 metre wide facade of the town hall including the distinctive high clock tower. The projectors were installed on shop awnings directly across from the town hall on Swanston Walk.

Project managers Explosive Media contracted renowned large format projection company The Electric Canvas to provide the films and the projectors for the show. Peter Milne from The Electric Canvas explained their role;

"Basically our involvement was to survey the town hall using our proprietary techniques of capturing accurate architectural features that allow accurate projection back on to a building facade. We're the only people in Australia who can do that. It allows us to use our Pigi projection system to very accurately map colour and images onto a building or any other structure. Ian de Gruchy then went about creating and applying images to the building. Those images were then sent to us to manipulate them into the masks to create accurate film for projection onto the Town Hall. In the mean time we came down and set up six projectors covering the facade and the clock tower and installed the film and programmed, the show in consultation with the creative director."

The Electric Canvas supplied six scrolling projectors to cover the enormous building facade, three of which were 7000 watt Pigi large format projectors each with double scrollers so that two independent film strips can be in the gate at the same time to create amazing results. And one Pigi utilised a rotating double scroller feature allowing for vertical scrolling. The other three projectors were 5000 watt Xenon projectors with single scrollers which Provided support images to cover smaller areas of the faŤade and clocktower.

Screens were installed across the balcony of the town hall so that images could be rear projected from 35mm slide projectors as well as from a video projector. The slide projectors were used for the 20 minute pre-show where 'millennium messages' from famous Victorians were projected onto the. screens, and the video projector provided video footage of a huge eyeball, and of a young Queen Elizabeth waving from the balcony.

Peter Milne specified the show control system so that all the projectors and the soundtrack would be accurately synchronised. Using a Betacam SP player to provide video and timecode, all the projectors were linked to the Betacarn to receive the timecode. The four track surround soundscape was run off a DA88 digital player which was also timecode locked to the Betacam.

"Because all six projectors are run from the one computer which is time-coded to the soundtrack the show runs completely automatically. There are two operators - Russell McKenzie looks after sound and rolls the tape, and Joe Murray is the Pigi operator. Basically all he does is open up the projectors, turn everything on and wait for the timecode, so it's pretty much a maintenance role while the show runs itself."

The Pigi's were the perfect choice for this large scale outdoor presentation as they are the largest film strip projector in the world with a frame size of 185mm which can be assembled in a continuous film strip up to 30 metres in length. Able to produce high quality images up to 30 metres in size, the Pigi also features a computer control system which provides precise positioning of the film within the gate whether the film is scrolling or stationery to an accuracy of one hundredth of a millimetre.

"This accuracy means that the film from several projectors can scroll together in sync to look as though it's just one projection. It's done several times in the show - in one scene a tram scrolls across the front of the building and appears to go behind the portico and come out the other side. That scrolling affect required three projectors accurately synchronised so that the image of the tram moved across the front of the building."

Transformed ran for three weeks from late December until January, with five shows a night.

Video projection, show control and sound system provided by Gearhouse Melbourne.

Connections magazine, pp.102,103, February, 2000

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