DUMBO Arts Festival Recap

Synchronized kayakers set to gospel music, massive projection pieces on the Manhattan Bridge, backpack galleries, blindfolded wrestlers, electric scissors cutting the hair of bystanders, molten iron, upholstered boulders, musical drawers, pie socials and a mobile public park were just some of the highlights of the 2011 DUMBO Arts Festival weekend. Mother nature cooperated, giving us two out of three rain-free days and hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoyed a mix of music, art and performance all weekend long.

Major highlights included Leo Kuelbs' curated projections, "Immersive Surfaces" (watch for yourself below), Janet Biggs' Wet Exit - a live synchronized kayaking performance on the East River, and a full day of bands rocking it at St. Ann's Warehouse.

"Immersive Surfaces" included "As Above – So Below" a video mapping projection installation, created by a group of six artists, John Ensor Parker, Simon Anaya, Farkas Fulop, Richard Jochum, Johnny Moreno, & Ryan Uzilevsky. Creation of the piece incorporated green screen film shoots, Kinect 3D scanning, stop-motion animation, computer modeling and a host of visual effect programs.

We caught up with Tristan Valencia of DUMBO company SenovvA Inc., the production company behind all of the projection and media management technology that went into the piece, to talk about what it takes to pull off something so awesome for an entire weekend:

How many projectors did this project require?
The Immersive Surfaces project required (3) Christie Roadie HD+ 35K Projectors for the North face of the Archway. Those (3) projectors images were overlaid on top of one another to form one image. Under the Archway, we used a total of (16) Panasonic PT-DZ8700U 10K projectors. Those (16) projectors were arranged with the images butted together to cover the entire interior ceiling of the Archway.

We saw lots of numbers and lines on the ceiling of the Archway each night around 7pm...They were themselves beautiful, but not the point, right?
Those grids are what we use to align each individual projector's image so that they look seamless once the content is played back. As we fired up the equipment each night we'd put up the grid to check that our alignment was still correct. Not the point as you mention, but a very necessary component of the overall project.

How long was this project in the works?
As we were working through the weekend that question came up pretty often so I dug back into my emails to check as I was also curious. The first discussions of the project began back at the beginning of March of 2011.

What surprised you over the course of the weekend?
I was totally blown away by the project finally being complete, installed and running. Although we go through a very detailed production process, I had never seen the entire piece in its entirety before the weekend. The impact of such a large scale architectural structure coming to life in the way it did was awe inspiring. I would say that the ooohs and awes from the crowd caught me by surprise as well.

Anything else cool about the technology behind this project that DUMBO techies might be interested in knowing?
The content side of the equation in this project was very intense. All of the beautiful content that the creative team delivered was played back, mapped and managed by several Green Hippo Hippotizer HD Media Servers. The Hippo allowed us to create one seamless canvas that extended from the face of the Anchorage [Street side of the Manhattan Bridge] to the south end of the the Archway. That made it approximately 30,000 sq ft of mapped projection surface! One if the largest ever done. Additionally, we believe that this is the first time anyone has mapped a vertical surface and a horizontal surface inside of that vertical surface as one seamless canvas.

You recently lit up the Academy Awards stage. Who's more challenging? The Kodak or the Manhattan?
Each show is challenging in its own way. I think it's that challenge that keeps us engaged and motivated in all that we produce. This year's Academy Awards was an intense projection installation with multiple curved surfaces and challenging angles. The Manhattan Bridge brought both similar challenges as well as its own set of specific challenges. In the end, we pride ourselves in bringing a industry leading team of professionals to each project and being a solution driven production provider no matter what the challenge!

Back to the recap: Of course there were official winners. Congratulations to all the award winners:

Finally, if you didn't make it to the Arts Festival this year- there are still remnants throughout the neighborhood to check out:

  • Manifest.AR apps for augmented reality experiences in DUMBO are still available for free download.
  • The Inside Out Project presented by HUGE will be up for several more weeks at the Chamber Paper Building at Plymouth and Anchorage Place.
  • More wheat-pasting along Water Street with men in suits and smiley faces.
  • And we hear Walt Whitman is still hanging out somewhere undercover...

Photo: Immersive Surfaces