[Premiere] 'Projecting West' Takes Immersive Projection Mapping On the Road

The 15-day projection mapping road trip will take 3D artist Craig Winslow and illustrator Mike Ackerman from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon to create “daily episodic light installations” all along the way.

May 23 2015, 2:00pm

Images courtesy the artists

Projecting West — Kickstarter Teaser from Craig Winslow on Vimeo.

The idea of projection mapping conjures images of large-scale augmented reality works (that take months of planning to create) that bring the virtual world to the concert experience, illuminate the austere space within an art gallery, or breathe new life into iconic architectures. But experience designer and 3D artist Craig Winslow—creator of this abstract spinning sculpture—is about to flip the medium on its head. Winslow is teaming up with concept designer and illustrator Mike Ackerman to launch Projecting West, a 15-day projection mapping road trip that will take the pair from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon to create “daily episodic light installations.”

Aside from the tour's geographic bookends, Winslow and Ackerman plan to hit locations in New Hampshire, Buffalo, Chicago, Omaha, the Badlands of South Dakota, Yellowstone, as well as a few locations in Montana and Washington. Their augmented reality projections, which,  judging by their Kickstarter campaign video (launching today on The Creators Project), should be breathtaking, and will appear in both natural and urban settings.

The idea for taking projection mapping technology on a road trip came about because of practical considerations, Winslow tells The Creators Project. His setup had become increasingly mobile throughout the course of his years working in the field. He stashes two projectors and two universal clamp mounts inside a single carry-on-sized pelican case. Paired with 50-foot HDMI and power cables, he can easily fly to any decent-sized show or location and set up a projection-mapped experience. A power converter added to his car—and a generator—allow Winslow to take his setup on the road in a self-sufficient way.

“This idea came about from the sheer fact that I had moved west and needed to eventually drive across the country, but I wanted to do something special with the journey—something that could truly be a big challenge for myself,” Winslow explains. “The idea of taking this on tour came about in a conversation with my collaborator, illustrator, and good friend, Mike Ackerman, and when we realized he could weave an unfolding illustrative narrative over my projections, well, we both got very excited for Projecting West. A week of sleepless nights later, we launched a Kickstarter.”

The projected content will be primarily abstracted, Winslow explains, using found locations as canvases, and augmenting architectures in nature. Ackerman's work will take the form of digital animations blended into each scene. Each location along Winslow and Ackerman's 15-day journey will feature completely different content. They plan to create on the spot, film the results, posting videos on the same day they're produced.

“We think this is an important technical challenge because the visual story will be live, unfolding to backers along the way, inspired by our travels and experience traveling west,” Winslow says. “We also want to infuse into the narrative our thoughts around moving west, the feelings of leaving parents, family, and friends behind to pursue bigger opportunities, and all the excitement and pain that comes with such big life changes.”

The two artists are most interested in the natural landscapes found along the northern route through South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. “The majority of projection mapping seen over the past few years has been on buildings,” he says. “So it’s certainly most exciting for us to find remote environments while camping, which will make for a more interesting place to cast our pixels.”

Some locations, of course, will be more challenging than others. The duo will need to find exact locations they like— particularly in some urban settings—where they want it to appear as if they're attempting some sort of “abstract heist.”

“Mike and I have done some preliminary tests on nature spots and it's amazing how far simplicity takes you, when you let nature do most of the work and accentuate certain parts of natural architecture,” Winslow says. “As such, each location will inspire the content we'll create for it, which is most exciting for me.”

“For example, if we find a big tree with crazy roots and a couple rocks, we might make the rocks glow and pulse, add flowing life surging up through the roots, and Mike's characters may encounter a new friend that lives there,” he adds. “In a semi-crazy, conceptual way of thinking, it's kind of interesting to imagine the content we're creating is simply us discovering glimpses into another world, hidden within our own, which we're simply revealing through some dark arts projection at night.”

Winslow sees this as following the characters they find in that parallel world to see how it reflects upon our own. The notion shares some conceptual territory with the fantasy and supernatural horror author Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan, in which a main character undergoes a procedure to witness something of an invisible realm. Projecting West also pursues, through its animation and augmented reality techniques, the strange power of the psychedelic experience, which throws off the barriers that hide our invisible world.  

Whatever happens on the Projecting West tour, the results are bound to be interesting and inspiring. Artists may not try to duplicate Winslow and Ackerman's road trip, but their effort may push people to create projection-mapped experiences in more unlikely places.

Projecting West begins June 1st and lasts 15 days. To contribute, head over to the project's Kickstarter page.


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