If you were watching The One Show last night, you might’ve noticed that for about five minutes, the BBC Television Centre in London got some rather stunning 3D projection-mapping love. Turning a London landmark into a really big screen isn’t a job for your average office projector, though — it took literally crane-loads of super-expensive tech to pull it off.
The show (which you should take a peek at above) projected a 3D film onto the front of Broadcasting House for a good few minutes, which was doubly impressive given that London was blanketed in ridiculously dense fog (I couldn’t actually see the end of my road), and also since the front of TV Centre is a) made of glass and b) curved. Hardly ideal projection surface then.
The process, undertaken by a team of techy-creative wizards from Seeper, first involved taking a complete laser scan of the building; once that was complete, a 3D model was made, and the team came up with the physics of the whole thing. The projection was handled by five of the biggest projectors you’re ever likely to see: Barco’s monster 2K 40s, which chuck out a mammoth 40,000 lumens each – for reference, your average office projector probably chucks out something in the 2000 lumen range. Combined, that’s 200,000 lumens bombarding the poor old TV Centre. The images really don’t do these beasts justice — there was a special scaffold constructed on top of the building to hold them, and they had to get lifted up to the rooftop by a crane.
Needless to say, despite the fog absorbing light like an all-enveloping fluffy blanket, the display was still pretty breathtaking to witness. The image being produced was at 2K resolution — I reckoned that was pretty good until Seeper’s tech wizard told me of previous projects where they’d been projecting in 16K. I think my poor old HDTV wants to go home and weep.
With such serious images being projected, they were hardly gonna be running the display off a netbook; in fact, a custom-built piece of prototype hardware, tentatively named the “Seeperserver”, has been developed by Seeper, purely for events like this. It’s a proper mini-supercomputer, stacked up with bleeding-edge ATI graphics cards. (Sadly, my requests to have a go playing CoD using the TV Centre as my screen met with short shrift.)
Overall, the whole display was pretty breathtaking to witness, even more so when you think that the team only had three weeks to put it together, and didn’t get to have any kind of dress rehearsal. It’s not quite Olympics-opening-ceremony dramatic, but it still shows that a small team of plucky Brits, armed with gaffer tape and massive projectors, can still deliver the goods.