If you are in New York City, tonight—April 19, 2017—this is the night to find a place with a great view of the Empire State Building. Much as they did in projecting images of animals threatened with extinction in August of 2015, Obscura Digital will once again create skyscraper-size images, in the neighborhood of 500’ tall x 186’ wide, draping over 42 floors of this iconic New York City landmark from 8:30pm to midnight. The images are created using 66 Christie Digital HD20k J Series 20,000 lumen projectors, with three backups (69 total), projecting from the rooftop of a nearby garage, at an extreme angle of51º angle (going beyond 40º is considered challenging).
This time the images comprise a digital fashion show with 150 images— including Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Kate Moss, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow—on the building’s north facade to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Taken from the magazine’s archives, the original photographs were taken by such luminaries as Richard Avedon and Andy Warhol. The creative challenge for the team at Obsura Digital was working with images by the most famous photographers in the world, they wanted to maintain the integrity of the photos while making them work on a large-scale projection, including the very skinny aspect ratio (2.7:1) … and using creative ways to pan and scan the images to see the entire thing. And, in some cases, with the photographer’s permission, applying subtle parallax animations to really make the mages come alive.
The project entailed blacking out over 500 windows with cardboard (individual office tenants needed to give approval and access). The mapping technique included a laser scan to create a 3D model of the building to account for the real-world architectural features and re-creating the projection setup in software so the image aligns perfectly.
Using four-channel 3D architectural mapping, each channel is carefully stacked with multiple projectors to create brightness; the 3D model is mapped to the four channels and blended together to create one seamless image. A custom-developed Touch Designer system was used for calibration, synchronized playback and show control.
Check out Live Design's coverage of the 2015 event at the Empire State Building: Projecting Change On The Empire State Building.