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Mirada and UCLA designed a film by compositing imagery from multiple sources,Mirada-ucla4
and used mapping techniques to project the footage at 5K onto the University's
famous Royce Hall.


Mirada Transforms UCLA's Royce Hall with Projection Mapping

Mirada and UCLA have created a one-of-a-kind film designed specifically for projection onto the façade of the University's famous Royce Hall. The 10-minute film produced at 5K+ resolution was developed from beginning to end by Mirada, and became a passion project for their creative team. Mirada co-founder Javier Jimenez is a UCLA graduate, and the company has participated in mentorship programs with UCLA students for several years.
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The project resulted from a huge collaboration between writers, directors, musicians, designers and visual effects artists working alongside the marketing and special events teams at UCLA to create this live event spectacle that aims to display and celebrate the history of the university.

Towering Facade

The film was directed by Jesús de Francisco, art directed by Mirada's Daryn Wakasa, concepted by David Fowler and de Francisco, led by digital effects supervisor, Andy Cochrane and written by Ryan Erke. The story was framed to fit visually and conceptually within the size and shape of Royce Hall's towering facade. The larger than life-size imagery projected onto the 230x99 foot surface tells a story in three parts. Part 1 honours individuals that founded UCLA nearly 100 years ago, Part 2 reveals the history of the university and its people, and Part 3 presents UCLA's visions for the future.

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The film combines archival stock imagery with original filmed content with extensive motion graphics design and visual effects, and was projected at 468,000 lumens. Mirada had a creative and production team of over 40 working on the project for six months, and developed a custom pipeline to produce over 19,000 5K+ image frames, much of which included complex CG animation tightly choreographed to move along the dimensions of the building, timed to the accompanying score. The film debuted at a screening on 16 May 2014 with projection facilitated byChaos Visual ProductionsusingD3 softwareand eighteen 26K Barco projectors.

“The whole film was created as a holistic piece in the same way you would develop a feature film. From a creative standpoint, the script, the visuals, the voiceover, the score – everything was cohesive and growing at the same time,” Jesus said.

One Chance

However, he remarked that the nature of projection mapping and live events doesn’t allow artists the luxury of iterations or reviews or tests, unlike commercial or feature film projects. “Your test is the live performance,” he said. “We did a lot of work to time everything correctly and developed the musical score together with the composer Atli Örvarsson. The final timing is plugged into the D3 software we used, which is quite a powerful package that allows you to control all the elements of the show through a centralized show controller.

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“It’s similar to producing a rock concert - you have your mixer there that allows you to control the environmental lighting, what’s being projected, the audio track and so on, and it’s fairly easy to make tweaks on the spot.”

A key element in the project was the distinctive shape, relief and texture of the façade serving as their screen, or canvas. “Projection mapping is unique,” Jesus said. “It only happens on the specific place you design it for. Royce Hall is very difficult for projection mapping but it is the most recognised building on campus and the face of the university. So we arrived at a compromise to enhance the features of the building as much as possible while at the same time, in the areas where we needed a more precise narrative, we learned to live with the limitations of the building.

“In some cases we enhanced what was already there, and in others we designed around the building’s features. Then in other cases we created images that would work no matter what, even with an archway or a colonnade or a specific texture. We had to enhance the contrast on the images for example, to work with the textures, or increase portrait size in some cases to make sure they would be visible since we didn’t have many flat surfaces.

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Experimenting with Complexity

“Some planes of the building are at different distances from the front, so we had to design with that in mind. In fact, the complexity of the building allowed us to try things that wouldn’t necessarily work in a typical projection mapping project.”

Mirada took precise measurements of the façade down to the millimeter and mapped the entire surface including the trees and bushes in front of it, the steps, every detail. They used these to build a full map of the building and created an experience that would both enhance and play off of all of the detail – ultimately, Royce Hall became the main character of the show.

 “From the very beginning we worked together with Chaos to create that map and plan the approach to give us the maximum flexibility to install the projectors. They are very experienced with the live side of events. final exams took place during the lead up to this event and students’ access coldn’t be disrupted. It took some work to figure out the optimal placement for projectors and speakers with those limitations in mind,” said Jesus.

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“Getting the technical side of the event taken care of meant we could go off and actually create the film. Chaos was also amazing at building everything ahead of time so that the equipment was up and running early, allowing us to do last minute on-site testing and adjustments.”

Interactive Show

Not only was the film itself storyboarded, but the whole show was also planned out and storyboarded in advance because combined with it were a series of performances, speeches, musical acts - all of which had to be produced in real time. There were even a few moments where students were matching what happened in the projection.

The varied sources of content, the extreme projection surface, and the need to maintain perfect sharpness across the whole building while working work at 5K resolution was definitely a challenge for Mirada’s team. “We had image sources of all types – 3D renderings, old photographs, film we shot ourselves in native 5K resolution, animations – a huge range of file types had to be incorporated into this project,” Jesus said. “We brought everything up to 5K in advance and then imported everything into After Effects to do the final compositing at full resolution.

“We could base the pipeline on the one that we use for other projects, and any customising for this project was due to the resolution because we don’t normally work in 5K for commercials and online content. Also the projection software forced us to create custom frames that matched the measurements of the building.

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Perfect Projection

“Instead of just a standard HD frame, we had to account for the shape of the building and the volumes on the sides of the building too, so it’s a 3D frame incorporating 30ft archways and other anomalies. Everything had to be created as a custom template and then the artists had to learn how to play with that. All the programs we used were basically the same as our normal pipeline – Maya, Cinema 4D, Photoshop and After Effects. The only new tool was D3, the show control software.”

The whole display is composited as one single image, and D3 then distributes it to projectors based on what the optimal coverage area is. In other words the software determines which part of the image is displayed by each of the 18 projectors. They generally tried to create the full image in a way that sent the critical portions to projectors at the optimum angle and covered smoother areas of the building. The projectors also overlap slightly. Set-up and making sure that everything lines up is therefore time-consuming and precise, and involves playing with the grids and testing patterns to result in one coherent image, projected from multiple sources.

Fortunately, once they were happy with their images the show itself was largely automated. Jesus said, “The film was running on its own, and we used lights to enhance the environmental and spatial effect for the audience, so we control both the projections and the ambient lighting. Of course, part of the performance was the human touch so for example, a student came out and touched a point that set a whole animation in motion. To time the animation to match her movements, we gave her a cue to perform that action at just the right time.www.mirada.com