Caught in the matrix


A world beyond, dubbed the Matrix Theatre, was created for the Sci-Fi Channel's Exposure Sci-Fi Future of Film Festival in August. Almost 10,000' (3,000m) of 3.2mm heavy-duty ice blue flexible, self-illuminating electroluminescent wire from New York-based Live Wire Enterprises was required for the display, on view at Manhattan's Altman Building (a block away from LD HQ).

Twenty power supplies with dimming capability were wired together inside one enclosure and powered from one 20A 120VAC circuit. Conceived and built by Big Room Design, a large open-space facility within the building was transformed into four theatres where vintage and avant-garde science fiction films were shown. (THX-1138, George Lucas' debut, was among the movies screened.) All films were projected from tape, with audiovisual support by Connecting Point.

"We wanted to create a space to comfortably watch films and to replicate a giant lounge, and create a super-cool area. It felt like an op-art painting," says Julian Laverdiere, one of the three principals of Big Room. He and partners Vincent Mazeau and Randall Peacock created a futuristic grid that encircled the 40'x20'x12' (12x6x4m) theatre. Using modified pipe and drape to visually isolate the space, and United Process Sound Seal Signature Wall Panels acoustic fabric, black construction netting was stretched from the pipe work. The pipe (500', or 152m, of galvanized pipe and crates of fittings) was rented from a plumbing supply firm and attached to the building's structural "I" beams with construction-type beam clamps to form the structural matrix and to define the screening room.

After fastening the netting and stretching it taut, the Live Wire was attached to form a virtual space with X and Y axes. The three designers used the glowing wire on all vertical surfaces and above the patrons, who were seated on bean bags placed on risers for raked seating. Glow-in-the-dark tape completed the effect by matching the grid on all riser surfaces. Laverdiere says, "We use computer modeling extensively, programs like FormZ, and this was our attempt to bring the virtual world into reality."