In modern Russia, projection maps you! – Video inside.

Drive productions has just completed a major projection mapping project in St Petersburg, Russia, providing the opening night event for internet service provider Yota’s inaugural Yota Space Festival. The company’s Troy Morgan acted as event producer for Drive, and InAVate editor Chris Fitzsimmons caught up with him to discuss the process of putting on such an event, and importantly, the technology that goes into it. Check out Drive’s extensive behind the scenes video in the story.

Troy, how did you and Drive become involved in this event?
Drive were recommended to Yota by a supplier that worked with us on another project. After our introductions we were given the initial brief and pre-production started from there. I was keen to get involved in video mapping following the success of other similar projects Drive had recently completed.

How long were you working on the project?
First discussions took place in mid October, and the full design and pre-production was under way by end of the month. Into November the content production stepped up a notch and became increasingly intense, leading to the technical production on location right up until moments before we ran the show. So in total, about two and a half months.

What kind of brief did you get?
We were fortunate enough to have been given an open creative brief, loosely based around a sci-fi theme. The freedom of the brief allowed us to get creative with the content and not be constrained by strict corporate guidelines. We were required to integrate Yota brand imagery, but this happened quite naturally and worked well within the storyboards we were developing.

Who made the content?
Giles Thacker our Head of Motion Graphics and his team of animators and designers. The audio effects and sound track were produced by Stevie D, and includes a mix of one of the tracks from his new album.

Yota Video Mapping St Petersburg - Behind the Scenes from Drive Productions on Vimeo.

What technical solution did you arrive at to deliver the show?
Our lead Projectionist and I paid our site visit to liase with our Russian counterparts and key suppliers. We decided on the projector positions and calculated the number we would need to cover the building. We also discussed audio requirements and power. Back in the UK we compiled a technical rider specifying the equipment required. The key components were six 25K lumen Christie projectors housed in heated towers with the lens height set at 5m, a pair of 100kVa generators and the sound system with active subs. A key piece of equipment both in pre-production and on site is the d3 media server. The d3 enables content to be warped to the building surface by ‘mapping’ it to a virtual 3D template. Once on location and the content is out-putting through the projectors, we use a line-up template that can be manipulated to achieve an accurate fit to the building. Then when we come to run the show the building ‘wears’ the content like a fine suit.

Who was "behind the desk" on the night?
Pulling the strings and pressing the buttons alongside me were d3 Operator Greg Bakker and Head of Motion Graphics Giles Thacker. Due to a series of technical challenges Greg and I had been up since the previous morning along with our Lead Projectionist Richard Shipman. We worked flat out until the final seconds, and it was hugely rewarding to finally go live.

What were the biggest challenges in terms of setting up the show?

The historic Mikhailovsky Castle is a very important heritage site and as a result there were a number of bureaucratic hurdles for the Russian Project Manager to overcome in order to gain the various permissions we needed. There was a lot of liasing with uniformed officials who had to green-light everything, and this caused some serious delays. The truly Baltic cold caused transportation issues and affected equipment and crew. We were supplied with a heated van to work from over-night that served as our front of house, but we had to spend much of the time outdoors in temperatures as low as minus 20. The projectors had to be housed in heated towers to keep them at a constant temperature and avoid focus issues and cracked lenses. We waited a very long time for the power generator to arrive from miles out of town; it was delayed for hours due to the snow and ice. When it finally arrived it promptly broke down which meant a delay of several more hours before replacement generators arrived. Of course nothing could proceed until we had power, and by that time the sun was coming up for the next day and we could no longer map our template to the building. All the alignment that would have taken place the night before had to wait until the short window of time right before the show was due to start.

Final thoughts?
The technical challenges we faced on site only added to the thrill of creating something spectacular for the people of St Petersburg. We were delighted to see many thousands of smiling faces watching the fruits of our labour; it was a proud moment for the Drive team.