My friend Jean Bolte (a.k.a. Dr. Figurine) would like to bring characters to life by projecting videos of human faces onto her ‘life casts’ of David Bowie, Sean Connery and John Cleese.
On a quiet sunday afternoon, we gathered in my studio to experiment with this idea, with the help of our friend Mark Petrakis (a.k.a. Dr. Zboon). For our first test, we used a video of my interview with Jean’s daughter Natalina (a.k.a. Dr. Canard), and projected it onto the David Bowie and Sean Connery life casts, as well as on a plain mannequin head. We also shot original video footage of Mark and projected it on the same life casts, along with some facial expressions.
The results of this first test were very encouraging, as you can see in this video and these photos:
We would like to apply this projection mapping technique to our Time Machine art project. One idea is to project the faces of historical figures onto these ‘life casts.’ They could be set in a dark box behind of the Time Machine’s porthole. Opening the porthole would reveal an animated face from the past, which would speak to you for a moment, across time and space. We could even add an old phone in front of that box, which would ring when a new historical figure is ready to talk.
If this experiment goes well, we may also feature one of these characters in our Dada Exhibit this fall, as part of the puppet show and Magic Theater project we are working on separately.
Here are some of our observations:
• this technique works well to bring characters to life
• it creates the illusion that you are seeing a real person
• aligning the faces from the videos with the life casts can be tricky
• we may need to hold the actor’s heads to keep them aligned while we shoot
• getting the eyes, nose and mouth to match may require adjusting the video as well
• some interesting expressions come out when the faces are not perfectly aligned
• people can be made to look older or younger, depending which cast you use
• when the face looks straight at the camera, you really feel that it is talking to you
• some facial expressions work really well, like shifting eyes left and right
• some interesting effects can be created by speeding up the footage, as in Max Headroom
In our next experiments, we will play with different ways to align the projected image and the life cast, and make it all work in a small space. We will also face a trade-off between realism and diversity: we could focus on just a single character to perfect the alignment for that figure; or we could aim to project a range of different characters against a more generic life cast where the alignment might be less precise.
I can’t wait for our next experiments with this promising direction.
Fire in the hole!
View more photos of our Time Machine project:
Learn more about Pataphysical Studios: pataphysics.us/