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This Weird, Immersive 3D Art Installation Will Mesmerize You

Volvox Labs cofounder Kamil Nawratil used 3D animation, surround sound audio, a self-fabricated structure and Arduino-controlled fans to create Perception of Consequence. The end result is strange, immersive and enthralling.

When you first see the animated blobs in Perception of Consequence, you get the distinct impression that they're alive.  That's not accidental. The surreal, multidimensional project from Volvox Labs draws heavily from forces found in nature--entropy, chaos and rebirth--and represents them using stereoscopic 3D animation, surround sound audio and technology that immerses viewers in the entire experience.

The upcoming installation is the brainchild of Nawratil, who serves as art director. He says the idea came from a philosophical argument he had with a friend about how and why self-organized systems get disrupted.

"In a sense, I’ve created a virtual environment that hypothetically showcases the idea of reverse entropy," says Nawratil. "Even though the system becomes entropic and naturally evolves towards entropic equilibrium, in this piece I'm reversing it by introducing rebirth."

If the concept sounds abstract, the physical manifestation of it is no more self-explanatory. It is, however, enthralling to watch.

"This idea is much better realized when presented in a gallery setting," Nawratil adds.

To bring Perception of Consequence to life, Nawratil used a hybrid of software and physical manipulations. First, he created animations in Maya and used Realflow to work fluid, physics-based dynamics in. The imagery was then composited in Adobe After Effects.

To help bring the chaotic flow of particles and animal-esque blobs into physical space, Nawratil fabricated a 15-foot wall that serves a sort of three-dimensional video projection screen. The wave-shaped wall was designed to emulate the visual qualities of his animation, which has a turbulent feel to it, not unlike the ocean during a storm. Using two high-resolution video projectors, he will project 3D animations onto and around the structure.

Installation sketches and 3D modeling sketches below demonstrate Nawratil's process.

To further immerse viewers into the project, Nawratil uses surround sound and strategically-placed fans to create a subtle tactile sensation designed to make observers feel like they’re a part of the digitally-rendered environment. The audio was created using one of Korg’s impressive synth apps for the iPad and mixed in 5.1 surround sound using ProTools. The Arduino-connected fans are turned off and on by events happening in the animation.

"The wind speed is based on the virtual camera movement in the scene, so if xyz position of the camera reaches specific numbers I'm sending a 1 or 0 to the fan." Nawratil explains. "Also, when for example the tidal wave comes through from right to left you'll feel the wind blowing at you as if you were splashed by the particles."

The animation playback, sound elements and physical environment manipulations are all synced up and controlled using TouchDesigner, a software application that allows Nawratil to seamlessly tie these things together.

"The vision behind the physical set up is to integrate viewer into the environment and toy with the balance between organic and artificial, chaos and equilibrium," says Nawratil. "The result, I hope, is technology that touches upon something innately human."

Perception of Consequence will be on exhibit at the School of Visual Arts in New York City from May 18 until June 1.

 

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