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Projection mapping: Creating the Mirage at Metropolis

Photos courtesy Go2 Productions

By Diane Pereira

The ‘Mirage At Metropolis’ was a project specially developed in 2016 for British Columbia’s largest shopping mall, Metropolis at Metrotown. The four-storey complex in Burnaby, B.C., hosted a 360-degree audiovisual (AV) immersive experience in its main atrium, combining colourful, animated digital projection-mapped content with a mirrored floor and ceiling to create the illusion of infinity and greatly amplifying the visuals.

“Technology is increasingly being used in our daily lives,” says Judy Black, the mall’s marketing director. “We wanted to provide a fun and unique experience, incorporating both art and technology, for our customers. The Mirage was just that, an innovative and memorable experience that customers of all ages were able to enjoy.”

Combined efforts
For this project, Vancouver-based Go2 Productions, a video and projection mapping company, worked very closely with Bold Event Creative, the Burnaby-based design firm that came up with the original concept and then engineered and built the structure. As soon as Go2 became involved, they looked for ways to make the two-minute experience of walking through the space as immersive and distinctive as possible by developing digital projections that would add a range of multifaceted illusions.

Go2 was responsible for specifying the necessary technology for the installation, as well as for designing and producing the video content to be projected and the corresponding audio content to be played back to create a ‘soundscape.’ With each team focused on its specialties, the partnership was a good fit.

Keeping the mall’s broad customer demographics in mind, the concept was designed for all ages. It was important for the ambient content not to be too scary for younger visitors. As such, the three-dimensional (3-D) graphics included warm sunbursts and flowers.

Replicating the TARDIS
From the outside, Mirage was simply a 1.9-m2 (20-sf) box, but when people walked in, they felt like it was bigger on the inside, thanks to a short journey through light, dark and colourful geometric illusions. The key to creating this experience was the feeling of expansiveness.

“I’m a fan of the TV series Doctor Who,” explains Go2 president and executive creative director Adrian Scott, “so I describe Mirage as being like the Time And Relative Dimension In Space (TARDIS) machine, which looks like an old police box on the outside but is enormous inside. We wanted people’s brains to be fooled into thinking Mirage is a lot bigger inside than out. And when customers are standing in the mall looking at the outside of the cube, we want them to wonder what is happening inside.”

There were a number of notable challenges, both creative and technical, that needed to be overcome with this project.

Creating an illusion
The main creative challenge, as mentioned before, was to design an experience that would be equally appealing to all ages, from the very young to the very old. To overcome any divisions between these age groups, Go2 focused on such universal concepts as colour, geometry and depth perception.

The experience starts out relatively simply, by displaying a grid of white dots on a black background on just one of the walls. At first, these dots calmly shrink and grow in synchronization with the audio track. Next, they compress into flat lines, which expand horizontally to fill the entire room with stripes.

As the stripes extend and meet each other on the opposite wall, all four walls appear to push outward, creating the illusion of the room growing larger. Within this newly perceived space, the projection-mapped content uses distance, geometric transformations, rotations, lighting and texture effects to increase the visitors’ sensation of standing in a much larger room.

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