When is a screen not a screen?

When it's a stage, a water feature or a even a crowd. From the first projected motion pictures in 1896 until relatively recently, a screen to show moving image was a flat rectangle on a wall. With advances in LCD and more importantly LED technology, we are breaking out of the box.

It was the spectacle of a recent live broadcast event that made me sit up and take notice. Even more striking than Eurovision's bearded lady, was the stage itself. Essentially a giant pressure sensitive touch screen that the performers sang and danced on, and as if this wasn't enough it, it was surrounded by an LED wall, lighting rig, pyrotechnics and bordered with a swimming pool. This might be a little OTT for most people and it's certainly a mega budget installation, but it shows how the bar is continually being raised. It's not just the hardware, but the software too. Rather than pre-rendered animations, this software reacted to the position of the performers in real time, tracking their movements across the stage and enhancing their gestures with dynamic, flowing illustrations

Small screens and big events

Programmatic illustration also features in the Jason Bruges installation 'Digital Waterfall', situated in Stratford's Westfield Shopping Centre. The piece uses LCD screens in a more unusual way. Rather than a single screen display this is a multi screen of screens. a digital waterfall where every screen is a pixel. Low brightness liquid crystal Displays are used to create a cascading animation that seems to ripple in the light. and small screens are used to dramatic large scale effect.

Perhaps the biggest scale screen of recent times was just a stone's throw from the Digital Waterfall at London's Olympic Stadium. In the memorable opening ceremony, the crowd became the screen. The insertion of “paddles into the seat backs with a 3x3 LED matrix created a huge 635,000 pixel display. A screen for all the world to see.

The Screen as actor

Bot & Dolly are perhaps most well known for their Oscar winning work on the film Gravity. Using similar technologies they also produced a beautiful performance, captured entirely on camera of the the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. "Box" explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces.

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

This concept of the screen being the actor can also be seen on a much smaller scale through the animations of Daniel Ojanlatva - a Vine star who uses the phone itself as a protagonist.

Changing context and creating difference

It's not just how we see the screen, but what we see in it. People tend to behave differently when they see themselves in a screen. A double-take, a slow down - a quick check of the hair. The screen becomes not just a mirror but also an eye - filming the participant and framing a sort of performance space. The screen becomes compelling viewing.

We were asked to create a buzz around a particular product launch and we wanted to play on this phenomena. The starting point was a desire for people to take notice. We envisioned using a digital Advan; essentially a giant screen strapped to a van and driven around high footfall locations. We also had a product tagline 'Wave shaving goodbye'. We noticed a link between waving and what people do when they see themselves on a big screen (even when the screen is clearly not broadcasting it seems we just can't shake the “hello mum" tendency). We designed and built software that encouraged waving as a means to interact. It attracted even more attention and turned a billboard screen into a giant multiplayer game.

Next time you are creating a promotion or engagement, maybe instead of thinking what will go ON the screen? you should be thinking what TYPE of screen can we create to best serve our objectives? Sometimes, thinking of the bigger picture might reveal a bigger solution.



Steve Lloyd