Machinema at IAC Building

Machinema is an interactive digital animation that has been exhibited on the 120 feet screens at The IAC Building in Chelsea, New York. And it was presented at the Big Screens show on December 4, 2009.

The animation creates an ecosystem of mechanical and natural elements coming into life on the screens with the spin of a big physical crank. The project explores the connections/tensions between digital and analog, between natural and industrial, revealing the living spirit in the machine and the mechanical cycles in nature.

Machinema creates a digital representation/illusion of a dynamic system of gears arranged to transfer rotational torque from one part of a mechanical system to another across the entire wall/screens. This continuous mechanical system is setting the movement of all the natural elements on the screens (the birds, waves, clouds, cranes, horses etc.). In addition, a pulley mechanism lifts a digital sun and determines the day cycle ( from sunrise to sunset). The gradual increase of light as the sun raises up on the big screens affects the illumination of the entire IAC hall, creating a live simulation of the quiet daily passage from darkness into light and back into darkness. The idea suggested by the piece is that it’s the natural dynamics of friction and collision that create the final representation on the screens, instead of a series of digital bits.

The video below shows the full panorama view of Machinema. However, given the enormous scale of the original screens at IAC it is hard to see here the details.(For a higher resolution version please click here and wait for the QuickTime movie to be loaded).

The projection on the screens was controlled entirely by the rotation of a big physical crank. The gears of the crank transfer the rotation to an integrated 360 degrees continuous rotation potentiometer. The speed and direction of rotation of the potentiometer is broadcast to a computer. On the computer the OpenFrameWorks video player operates the projection of the video on the screens according to the input from the potentiometer. Accordingly, the projected video plays in different speed and direction – forward/reverse.

Machinema & me at the dress rehearsal:

Show time!! Machinema on the Big Screens:

Machinema was featured on PBS-FRONTLINE in the thought provoking documentary “Digital Nation” by Douglas Rushkoff and Rachel Dretzin. You can see it on PBS’s website – Chapter 9, “Where Are We Headed?”

Studio: Independent Project
Year Completed: 2010
Collaborators: Filippo Vanucci