Apollo 11 moon rocket to be projected on to Washington monument

Apollo 11 moon rocket to be projected on to Washington monument
A life size, 363 foot tall Saturn V rocket, the rocket that first took mankind to the moon in 1969, will be digitally projected on to the Washington monument in Washington D.C. to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.

The projection, designed and created by UK based production company Fifty-Nine Productions in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Smithsonian‘s National Air and Space Museum  forms part of the celebrations due to take place on the east face of the Washington Monument. 

The project, titled Apollo 50: Go for the Moon is free to attend and features music from House of Cards composer Jeff Beal.

Richard Slaney, managing director of Fifty-Nine Productions explained: "It’s quite a complicated piece. We’re projecting on to the Washington monument which is pretty tall. There's 28 Barco UDX 4K32 projectors and further away we have huge projection screens which we’re making and we’ve got more projectors to cover that as well as a D&B J series PA system, moving lights all mapped using disguise 4x4 media servers."

Fifty-Nine Productions has projection mapped several iconic buildings in the past, including the Sydney Opera House, the Guggenheim Bilbao and the UN building.

Slaney said: "We also did an opening for the Smithsonian‘s national gallery of art two years ago, so we have a good relationship with the Smithsonian. They came to us and said 'if we were to think about the monument, how would we go about it?' and the conversation went from there.

Though projecting on to a flat, rectangular surface, the unique geometry of the monument presents equally unique challenges as Slaney explained: "The mapping side is less complicated than some of the other buildings we’ve done, the monument’s a flat rectangular surface so it’s relatively straightforward but the aspect ratio, while great for a rocket is challenging for other objects - how do you get other things on it? How can we show more than just rockets?

"We added the extra screens to show more archive footage because we realised that the footage wouldn’t really work on the monument as it’s classic 4:3 ratio and it’s beautiful film so the screens it allow the audience to be quite a way back from the rocket so it does give that impression that the rocket is taking off and you are viewing it from a viewing area in the distance."

The projection project is also up against challenges from the local environment. Slaney: "We’re going to face weather challenges this week, it’s a very complicated site as it’s a big public park that’s not being closed so all manner of challenges in terms of  logistics and scale. We have around 70 trucks coming in and we’re going to have to be careful with when and how we rehearse it to avoid showing the full show before the night. 

"We’re also not entirely sure who’s going to show up but I get the sense that you might be watching it at the same time as 25,000 people who are standing around you, being part of that collective is something we were really embracing in the way we made the show, as we want it to feel as if you are watching the moon landings that very night and sharing that moment."

The Apollo projection project is a groundbreaking first for the Washington Monument, which has never been used for projection mapping before. 

Slaney clarified: "Nobody’s ever done this before on the Washington monument. It’s a monument of huge significance in the US and the Smithsonian has managed to pass an amendment in American law, a joint amendment of the office of the president and the congress to allow this to happen for one time only, it’s a real moment."

DWP Live is the system integrator for this project, overseeing the installation ahead of preview shows from July 16-18 from 9:30PM to 11:30PM. 

The full show is set to take place on the anniversary of the landing from July 19-20 with shows running at 9:30PM, 10:30PM and 11:30PM as an integral piece of a 17 minute show centered on the Apollo 11 mission that saw Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins become the first humans to set foot on the moon.

Slaney concludes: "The fact that this hasn’t happened before is huge and only the story of the likes of the Apollo anniversary is significant enough for this to happen, I can’t think of anything else that this would happen for so it’s a real moment." 

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