Every year animators, designers, sculptors and other artists from all over the country submit work to Red Bull’s annual Art of Can competition, which requires entrants to do something creative with a Red Bull can. Judge’s selections for 2015 were displayed at an extra special event at Dilworth Park in Philadelphia in October where opening night festivities kicked off with an elaborate visual art piece projected onto City Hall. 

Philadelphia-based Klip Collective and their post-production team, Monogram used Cinema 4D and After Effects to create the dramatic projection-mapped show that spanned the building’s entire 300-foot west side. Red Bull approached the experiential team through the New Creatures agency, explaining that this was the first year the competition was accepting digital art and they wanted the large-scale projection piece to be the main showpiece. 

Klip, who specializes in combining projection, lighting and technology to create compelling experiences and stories, spent more than two months creating the show, which included 25 different animations, 3D and a custom musical composition. Klip enhanced the visuals, which began with a Red Bull-themed intro, by making it possible for viewers to create their own shows using a specially designed console. 

Located outside City Hall, the console was equipped with dials made from Red Bull cans. By turning the dials different ways, people were able to change and mix the five visual themes and audio tracks. Pushing a particular dial down created a fresh canvas to work with, and pushing all five cans down at once turned the entire building into a giant monster. “You could mix different sounds and images together, so there was a constant opportunity for new compositions,” recalls Ricardo Rivera, Klip Collective principal and creative director.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Red Bull

While the show drew a fairly large crowd, the opportunity to try the interactive console enticed people to line up around the block. “It’s powerful to be able to see changes happen in such a big way and I wanted to open up that joy to the public,” recalls Ricardo Rivera, Klip Collective principal and creative director, explaining the show as an audio video projection-mapping synthesizer. “It was really an audio visual instrument and it wasn’t easy to make things look cool, but we had someone helping people so they could keep the show going.” 

Because there was no existing model of City Hall, and the city wasn’t able to provide architectural drawings of the building, the Monogram team started the project by creating a 3D model of City Hall in Cinema 4D. Constructed over 30 years and built from masonry blocks stacked on top of each other, Philadelphia’s City Hall stretches almost a city block long. 

Jason Harmon, lead 3D artist at Monogram, took about 200 pictures of the west-facing side of the building and fed them into Photoscan, which generates 3D spatial data from digital images. “We were able to build a scale model of the building in Photoscan and then we worked with artists in the office to reconstruct the geometry with a reasonable poly count so we could have full control over the building to animate it,” Harmon explains.  

Once they had the cleaned-up model of City Hall, the team relied heavily on C4D’s Mograph to create the animations for projection. “We were able to break the entire west façade into hundreds, and at times thousands, of parts and then control all of the transformations of those procedurally with effectors and falloffs,” Harmon explains, adding that in one section greyscale video was used to displace parts and pieces of the façade with the shader effector. 

Because the 3D model was so accurate and had a locked-in camera angle, the team was able to use it to create the template for projection mapping too. “We used Touch Designer for projection mapping and it was really exciting because everything lined up right and we were able to lay in all of the animations and it all matched up perfectly,” Rivera says. 

Due to the scale of the installation and the number of projectors being used (14), the team had to work at 6k resolution. “Our team composited the 3D elements in After Effects and rendered to the HAP video codec,” says Kevin Ritche, Monogram’s director of production and post, explaining that HAP is an open source GPU accelerated codec the performs well on the projection mapping servers.

When making the animations, Rivera gave his team a lot of creative freedom and they came up with a wide range of looks that incorporated shadow play, as well as the building’s architectural columns. At times it looked as if the building was dancing. Projection content included five banks, or groups, of video clips: Op Art, Architectural Lines, Shadow Play, 3D Effects, and Sacred Geometry. 

Op Art generated colorful, saturated patterns. Shadow Play showed a statue walking along the architecture. 3D Effects used traditional projection mapping tricks to show the facade rotating and transforming. If the user pressed all five cans in the interface, like a Transformer, the masonry of the facade rotated into a robot with a thunderous roar.

“We had to work with the architecture of the building to make the content work and animation to translate. It meant we were creating more abstract art with bigger movements,” Rivera explains.  

Credit: Photo courtesy of Red Bull

Though Klip Collective is experienced at creating projection-mapped shows, this was the largest interactive experience they’ve created so far, Rivera says. “We are always looking for ways to elevate people’s experiences, so expect more innovative, immersive and interactive work from Klip as the future takes hold.”

Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.