The art of projection


Video art is defined as an art form which relies on moving pictures in a visual and audio medium. Video art is differentiated from theatrical cinema because: it may not employ the use of actors; may contain no dialogue; may have no discernible narrative or plot. Over the last three weeks, a record 20,000 visitors have flocked to see a new installation by Richard Mosse, an outstanding example of how technology is enabling new art forms.


A new video art exhibition at the Barbican combines military camera technology and advanced projection technology to tell the story of refugees fleeing a conflict. For ‘Incoming’, conceptual documentary photographer, and Deutsche Börse Photography Prize winner Richard Mosse, worked in collaboration with composer Ben Frost and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten.

The team followed refugees trying to flee on foot, by boat or on vehicle. The military camera used was capable of detecting an individual from 30.3 km, day or night, to make a visceral three-channel video installation about the refugee’s journeys of refugees. The camera’s extraordinary telephoto capability can pick up staggering details of the human form from a great distance.

Mosse followed refugees on two perilous migrant routes through the Sahara Desert, north to Libya and the Mediterranean Sea, and across the Middle East to the Aegean Sea, and overland across the Balkans towards northern Europe. The piece was made across three continents, intercepting refugees at various points along their path.

Production technology

“War artists used to send pen and ink drawings to newspapers,” commented James Belso Senior Sales Manager at Christie. “With technology, the 21st century equivalent gives audience an immersive, shared experience of a topical subject and in a surprisingly intimate way.”

Richard Mosse’s piece can be seen projected on a cinema-sized curved projection screen, called ‘The Curve’ in a blacked-out arena with ambient sound.

“It was breath-taking to see the initial test footage on the Christie projector within The Curve at the Barbican — the high-end projection technology married to this very unusual military surveillance technology created an experience that felt entirely new, shockingly unfamiliar, and beautifully articulated,” said artist Richard Mosse.

“Richard Mosse’s immersive multi-channel installation focuses on the humanitarian crisis of displaced people that is beyond human articulation and the scope of documentary realism,” commented Alona Pardo, Curator at the Barbican. “Advocating a new way of looking, the success of the installation lies in no small part to the scale of the projections which seem to literally envelop the viewer, forcing them to confront this new reality in high definition, and with a clarity and precision that heightens the otherworldly and cinematic nature of the film”.

Technology deployed

With video art, the technology deployed is integral to the finished piece. The three 3DLP Christie M Series projectors were chosen for their ability to can translate a high level of detail because it is designed to maximise every facet of the video pathway. The project employed 3 x Christie HD10K-M (3-DLP, 1080P, 11000 Lumen) projectors. When enlarged in a three-channel display over the curved wall of The Barbican, even a human hair filmed from hundreds of meters appears crisply rendered.

Christies M Series 3DLP projectors were designed with features able to show the luminous footage, with remarkable detail and clarity, at a greatly enlarged size. The immersive quality of the projection not only underlines how technology is putting new tools in the hands of artists, but how those tools combine to create new art forms, content possibilities and – ultimately – new experiences to keep audiences engaged. “We’ve had a record 20,000 visitors in three weeks with over 2,400 on the opening weekend,” said Alona Pardo, curator at the Barbican.

There are specific aspects of the M-Series processing that allows the projector to produce the quality of the images: “The processing in the Christie M-Series was designed to maintain the best possible quality video through all aspects of the video path. Some of the key items that make the M-Series work so well with avant-garde cinematography are its true 10-bit processing and enhanced Gamma curve for improved detail definition,” explained Belso. “When this is partnered with proprietary image processing algorithms that are designed to optimize the quality of image resizing, the Christie M-Series is an ideal projector for leading edge imagery and artistry.”

New experiences

“This project has been very unusual in that we have taken a very utilitarian military tool and approached it in an entirely aesthetic way to communicate these narratives”, Mosse explained, “We were very surprised to discover that the camera creates imagery with a beautiful tonality, and describes a dreamlike world in which the human body glows, and thermal radiation creates reflections, heat haloes and dazzling distortion. This aesthetic quality was a happy accident of course, as the camera was never intended for consumer use, and is simply a military tool.”

Mosse slowed down the footage from its original frame rates to achieve a cinematic quality. The famous ‘curve’ of the Barbican’s 1960s architecture provided the perfect immersive projection wall for this ambitious artwork, using three Christie M-Series projectors to show a single expansive three-channel video installation.

Colour considerations

The unusual nature of the camera creates distinctive images in terms of resolution and colour – almost black and white – and tiny details made visible with the projection.

“The MOIR (medium wave infrared) wavelength is focused through rare-earth Germanium optics (crystals which must be grown in lab conditions) onto a thermal sensor that has been cooled to minus 50 degrees Kelvin. The sensor doesn’t need to perceive colour, of course, so it lacks the Bayer colour filter array that modern digital cameras require to register visible light (red, green, blue),” explained Mosse.

“As a result, the image, although quite low-resolution, is extremely crisp and enlarges fantastically. With the help of Christie projectors, we are scaling this imagery up to 8 x 5.5 metres per screen. That’s an enormous level of enlargement, and the resulting imagery is totally immersive as well as very alien in feel. I’ve never seen cinema look like this.”

Simon Smith, Vice President of Christie EMEA, said: “Richard Mosse has created a cinematic tour de force that is stunning, compelling and topical. The curve in the Barbican is the perfect space for people to enjoy such a major work. The technical innovation used, and how it works with the projection, underlines the strength of Christie’s partnership with the Barbican as a force to bring new and exciting audience experiences.”

Richard Mosse: Incoming  Richard Mosse: Incoming

‘Incoming’, a work by Richard Mosse in collaboration with Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost at The Curve, Barbican Centre to the 23rd April 2017.

[Photo by Tristan Fewings / Getty images]

Christie’s Barbican showcase

The digital artwork on show at the Barbican provided the backdrop for a display of some of Christies technology on show at ISE 2017. Christie has entered into a five-year partnership with the Barbican and a number of permanent installations have been completed including large projection spaces for guest artists.

christie at the barbican 5cmyk.jpg

In 2012 Christie was first to market with an RGB laser solution. Christie has since developed a 6P RGB laser architecture overcoming challenges in the delivery of higher frame rates and higher brightness ratings when using active eyewear for more natural 3D viewing.

The company has gone on to develop its innovative modular laser system Christie Freedom, an evolution of its split-head designs used in ProVenue projectors that offered scalable and transferrable illumination. Christie’s next series of 3DLP RGB laser systems will accumulate and evolve these innovations into what will be the first total integration for omni-directional installation.

christie at the barbican 2.jpg

With 4K expertise, and Texas Instruments’ new DMD chipset, an expanded 1DLP laser phosphor line-up is a powerful platform delivering dependable performance, long-life, low cost of ownership and now affordable True 4K UHD. Christie is looking to deliver the most compact, high-brightness 1DLP 4K projector in its class featuring the latest DLP imaging combined with Christie processing to deliver 8.3M individual pixels onscreen.



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