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long overdue big screens update post

this should have been posted ages ago, but at long last, halfway through the semester, is an update post for where we are so far in our big screens project.  (of course, things are up in the air right now due to hurricane sandy and the IAC flooding, but i'm crossing my fingers that everything will be back up and running soon.) when we decided to expand our concept from simply having light bulbs light up and explode to the piece becoming a love letter of sorts to nikola tesla, we came up with a ton of ideas about what we should include and what the structure of the piece should be.  we wanted to make it evident in the piece that we were including a lot of ideas that were all interconnected in some way (namely that tesla was responsible for their invention or innovation) but we didn't necessarily want to beat people over the head with an overly didactic, obviously educational 3-minute piece about tesla.  eventually we just decided to list out everything that we'd like to include in the piece -- all of tesla's ideas that we feel can be represented well visually -- and then think about how we could incorporate as many of them as possible.

eventually we settled on making the piece more of a conceptual work, and decided that the objective would be to almost overwhelm the audience with information while giving subtle hints throughout that indicated the true nature of the project and what we are trying to say.  with this, there's a risk that a number of audience members might not realize what we're trying to do, but the hope is that enough of them will make the connection with tesla to be able to put the pieces together either while watching.

our first task was to try and get a light bulb to explode as early as possible so we could figure out what our options were sooner rather than later.  the first attempt we made involved spraying a powered light bulb with drain cleaner.  that shorted out the circuit, and produced a beautiful explosion, but the light bulb didn't shatter the way we wanted to.  unfortunately, we didn't have another power cord to test with, so we just used the footage we had during our first test at IAC.

our second trip to IAC was focused on culling together as many pieces of the project as we possibly could for testing on the screen.  in my case, this was mostly getting as much stuff animated and rendered out of after effects as possible.  amik found some great, hi-res images of a ton of tesla's filed patents, so i live traced them in illustrator in order to scale them up and then used them as background.  on top of those, i layered other patents and animated the beginnings of what i hope will end up being a playful chase sequence.  when we tested this on the screen dan's commented that he wished it would have lasted a bit longer, so i'm now working on expanding it out and giving the segment a bit more action and character (possibly including other images in it as well).

i also worked on putting together the opening segment, of the neon flashing to morse code (the morse code translates into "fuck you, edison" but this is more just for our own group amusement than anything else).  the first time, i tried using neon tube structures that i created solely in after effects, but it didn't look as great on the screen as we had thought they would, so the second time around i just created neon solids and added a glow effect to them.  this ended up looking a lot better and the question that remains now is whether or not to expand them so that they take up the full width and height of the screen, or to leave the black border around them so that you can make out the glow a little bit better.

next on the to do list: making a screen-wide cityscape of new york in the 1920s that lights up gradually (this hits a little close to home considering what lower manhattan is going through right now) and trying to simulate an earthquake effect.  i may also give this a shot with the niagara falls footage that we have, although i kind of like the flashing effect that's being laid over it right now.  we also need to figure out a way to combine all of these images with the lightning and text effects that amik and alex have been working on, and decide on what audio we want to integrate into the piece. amik had a really great idea of using serene, peaceful classical music up until the lightning segment ("the blue danube" jumps to mind for me always, i'm not entirely sure why) so i may try playing with that for next week's crit as well.

this week we're also shooting light bulbs -- quite literally!  alex bought a BB gun, so we're hoping to use that to get the exploding effect that we really want.  i also bought a gopro that shoots 120 frames per second, and we're planning on using that higher speed in combination with an after effects plugin called twixtor in order to slow it down really smoothly and beautifully.

*more visuals and movies to come!

big screensRoopa Vasudevan