AV JULY 28, 2016 - by Staff Writers


Held at Jodrell Bank, near Manchester, new festival, Bluedot saw the iconic Lovell Telescope illuminated by 77 Million Paintings - a collection of visual images created by pioneering musician and artist, Brian Eno. Working with Eno, Bluman Associates created a projection design to light the seventy-metre-high structure.

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre is home to one the UK's best-unsung landmarks, the Lovell telescope. Quietly probing the depths of space since 1957, the radio telescope is over two-hundred-and-fifty in diameter and an important feature on the international astronomy circuit. The director of the observatory, Tim O'Brien and Teresa Anderson - manager of the visitor's centre, had a vision to create a forward thinking event that embedded science in the heart of culture. Having co-created Live from Jodrell Bank, Anderson called on the expertise of boutique event producers From the Fields; the concept for Bluedot was born.

Fusing cutting edge technology, innovative musical programming, and a science programme focused on the exploration of space, the festival celebrates the work of artists who push the boundaries of performance and production innovation with their craft. Headline acts included Jean Michele Jarre, Underworld and Caribou, however the illuminated Lovell was the real star of the show.

The concept for 77 Million Paintings originated back in 2005, when Eno was experimenting with digital art by focusing multiple projectors onto one area to create a unique image. He used early computer software to randomly choose the images, which created almost infinite possibilities. As technology improved, the software and images were developed to create the art it is today - seventy-seven million being a rough calculation of the amount possible images and musical combinations. Available as a DVD, 77 Million Paintings is usually shown in art galleries over twelve static screens. The Lovell Telescope posed a challenge for Eno, and his visual team at Lumen London.

The decision was made to project the images onto the girder work of the telescope, highlighting the mechanics of the retro Lovell. Creative visual agency, Bluman Associates provided the projection design, working with Eno to bring the artwork and the telescope to life, which created a stunning and mysterious light installation after sunset.

Working with such an intangible projection surface, it was very difficult to predict what the projection was going to look like. To assist Lumen and Eno, Bluman Associates modeled the telescope in 3D using a d3 media server to help the creative team visualise the finished product.

The technical design included two projection locations, with four Barco 40K projectors on each side. Due to the complicated surface, it wasn't possible to layer the images by overlaying the projectors. Instead, they were tiled together by splitting a single image into a four-way grid, dividing it between the four projectors and carefully positioning the output of each projector to create one large image, and it worked. Despite the fact the image is broken up by the mechanical nature of the telescope girder, there was still enough of a coherent surface to ensure that the image resolution was bold and strong.

"This is one of the largest and most complicated surfaces we have ever projected onto. Our role was to look at the content, the environment, the projection design and facilitate it all coming together with the chosen artwork," reflects Pod Bluman of Bluman Associates.

"As it's such a big structure, it was important to make sure the projections were as impactful as possible as they could be viewed by almost everyone in the audience. We needed to articulate the capabilities of the technology to help the artist understand what content would work, and what wouldn't'."

Because the girder work of the telescope was so deep, the throw distance was somewhat arbitrary, and calculated between seventy to a hundred-and-forty metres. As the imagery gets bigger the further you are away from the projection surface, a balance had to be achieved covering as much of the telescope as possible, without wasting too much light. The design included two projection locations to ensure the artwork was coherent from the different viewing angles; whether you were up close, or at a distance, the projection was consistent.

This isn't the first time that From the Field has called on Bluman Associates to project onto the Lovell Telescope. When producing 'Live at Jodrell Bank' the production team worked with each headline act to see how they wanted to interpret the telescope as part of their performance. This time projecting onto the surface The Flaming Lips used it as a backdrop, Elbow curated specific content for the surface of the telescope and New Order choreographed their complete performance to be based around the Lovell, so it was very much an integrated part of the production, projection mapped track by track with what they were doing.