We decided to re-create the real environment of the installation, constructing it in the lab. It allowed us to experiment with different scenarios and test what technology could work better for the installation. Part of the experience was tested with the video projector and the other with the mechanical projector. Mechanical projectors could give problems and be harder to maintain; therefore a video projector could potentially be used in the real installation, but the video projector and a computer are expensive equipments that could present a risk leaving in an open space. Our installation gave us the opportunity to test both of them.
The prototype was quite big. Each wall of the prototype stands 2.5 meters tall and the whole prototype has a 5-meter length.
The structure is simple: we built wood frames with a vertical piece of wood in the middle for stability. Each frame is covered in black cloth. We were able to lean two of the wooden frames of the sotoportego against one side of the lab. For the other frames we built three wooden legs for support.
Another essential part of the installation was the floor. We were lucky enough that in previous years a group called Aequilibirium had already crafted artificial stones (simulating the masegni which pave Venetian streets) for their final prototype. We used this material for our prototype. We had to make more ourselves because the space that needed to be covered was too long and there weren’t enough masegni. Our masegni were somewhat different. We didn’t use wood instead we used cartonlegno, a kind of cardboard. We sanded it to give it texture. Then we mixed glue, acrylic paint and sand. We applied this mixture to the cardboard. The result wasn’t exactly the same as the original masegni but using a couple of masegni were different from the rest gave the floor a nice contrast and a more realistic appearance.
We faced a particular challenge by placing the masegni on the ground. We had to arrange and test different ways the masegni could fit properly across the floor. It became a kind of Tetris game.
The prototype for the mechanical projector was the result of various tests. We made diverse shapes and experimented with light and its reflection. We tried using mirrors and cones until settling on the tube. The size of the hole for the step was also defined after several tests (look at them in this page).
We used powerful LEDs for projecting the footsteps and servomotors for the movement of the steps. Two plastic tubes were used as the main body of the projectors because they are light and the servomotors can move them without much trouble. Inside each tube was one powerful and narrow angle LED. The end of each tube was covered with forex (a plastic material very useful for modeling) with a small footstep cut out in the center. This hole functioned as a stencil.
The whole structure of the mechanical projector was quite complex. We designed a special support for the servomotors and the tubes, built with forex and black isolating tape. We made a little structure to hold the LED attached inside each tube. The support was finally attached to a piece of wood placed on top of the sotoportego.
Some details were polished for the final presentation and it helped give the prototype a stronger composition and made the illusion of the whole experience richer. For the entrance we created a path with black cardboard and placed a light on top of the entrance. At the end of the sotoportego we plotted a photograph of the real sotoportego and placed black cardboard on the floor. We painted two big wood panels black and placed them at the start and at the end.
The following slideshow shows diverse stages of the construction of the prototype. It can be viewed in full view mode here.