Air Projection with Stephen Proctor

Our good friend and TripleWide Media producer, Stephen Proctor, recently helped create the environment for the grand opening of a new co-working space in Nashville, TN. Here’s our conversation about the event.


How did you come up with the concept?

Last year, I was down in Orlando working with Cole NeSmith on the Creative City Project, a unique collaborative event that brings together artists from all over their city. Cole was curating a unique art installation that he named “The Black Box.” It was a literal black box built in the middle of the street, completely closed off except for a small entrance covered by a drape.

He placed two projectors in the room & edited visuals synced to a song by Jonsi. The room was filled with diffused haze in order the catch all of the projection light… in the air. People walked in, stood against the back wall, & looked into the moving projection beams.

While we were experimenting with projectors in his living room, we stumbled upon some pretty sweet visual effects. He was already playing around with basic shapes that moved slowly across the frame, but when I added my extensive library of VJ loops, things started to get even more interesting.

So Cole pulled from some of those visuals and edited a piece synced to the music, which became the core element of the installation.



What was the reaction?
Child-like awe & wonder.

People had never seen anything like it before, especially not in that context.

We were blown away ourselves at how interesting it became. It really took on a life of it’s own.

I think we’re just so used to see visual effects, even projection, in a certain context, over & over again. Until you see it used in a completely different way… & then your mind is filled with new possibilities… & your imagination starts to go wild!

Think of the first time you saw “environmental projection”. All of a sudden, you’re exposed to a new world of creativity. Your canvas expands & your bandwidth for ideas just explodes in a heartbeat!

What were the technical aspects of what you were doing?

I used what I would typically use in any situation. MacBook Pro running PVP2. A TripleHead2Go. And a few projectors.

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I’ve used some Hitachi Ultra Short Throws to create up-rays of light… and a 1-2 standard throw PJs for the main air projection that shoots straight out at you.

I’ve found that in smaller contexts (like a dance club scenario), it helps to have a short-throw lens, as it disperses the projection beams better, making it even more immersive for those dancing 2 feet in front of the lens!

The key ingredient that is unique to Air Projection is a hazer. Not a fog machine. But a good hazer that can diffuse the fluid really well. Haze the room up really really well… and turn out all the lights, too.

As far as visuals go, high contrast motions work the best. Standard “backgrounds” with gradients & soft colors won’t work that well at all, unless you just want a solid beam of colored light.

Here’s two examples from TWM that might look interesting in the air:

At the end of the day, you just have to experiment & see what looks interesting to you. And lean into the crazy high contrast content that you would normally never use as “backgrounds” for lyrics in ProPresenter. Because that stuff will look boring in the air. Trust me.




Did you find you had to scale/change anything to work better on a “fluid” surface?

Not really. Just make sure the projector is in somewhat focus by picking a focal point in the middle of the room. Find a happy medium.

I see from the pics that you were still projecting onto the walls…did this present any more challenges?

Not at all! Having a little EP on the back walls created a nice layer to bounce back & forth from. And it keeps me on my toes!
The main challenge you’ll have with Air Projection is too much ambient light from other sources, like house or stage lighting. A dark room/stage is best for this type of experience.



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Was projecting on hard surfaces part of the plan?

It depends on if there are nice hard surfaces to project onto! Sometimes there are & sometimes there aren’t. You just gotta work with what you have. And for me, the venue is constantly changing… and I have to adapt to whatever room i’m working in.

In the video above, you’re seeing the Launch Party for WELD, a collaborative co-work studio where i’m a member. We have big white walls everywhere. So it was only natural to project onto the white walls. In fact, that was the original plan, and the Air Projection was an added element of surprise that I made happen at the last minute. =)

What’s your next big idea?

I’ve always dreamed of being a part of a symphony or some sort of orchestral collective that is creating modern-day classical music that fuses ancient & futuristic sounds. Part of that dream is letting light & imagery be treated like an instrument. The music & visuals are one, feeding off of each other… inspiring one another… and all happening in realtime.
This year, this dream started to come together.
And it’s happening!
November was a big month for us, as we were commissioned to create a few pieces for a music video featuring a spoken word artist. And a few weeks later, we performed live to a large group of our friends at WELD. Air Projection was a huge part of the visual experience for both of these performances.
We’re planning to record & release some of this music, as well as some videos, in the first half of 2016… after we debut it in New Zealand, of course. 😉
 A big thanks to Stephen for sharing about this great event!

Credits: Photos by @anchored

Tim Southwick

Author Tim Southwick

Tim is the Brand Manager for TripleWide Media. He has 10 years experience in the event management world and has a strong desire to see visuals and media used to increase the user experience.

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