Montreal-born-and-based studio Moment Factory is a prolific producer of innovative new media events, shows and installations the world over. Luminaries in the field, they are a multifaceted company whose work invariably enriches urban spaces and culture, often shaping our expectations of future experience.
Part of what makes Moment Factory so successful is that they encourage staff to work with whatever tools they find best-suited for a particular project. It's a noteworthy and remarkably open approach to running a studio that lowers barriers, encourages cross-pollination and of course, promotes creativity and productivity.
We were following TouchDesigner's development for a long time and were convinced of the power and creativity of the tool at a MUTEK workshop in 2012. In parallel, the X-Agora software team was working with Derivative on the possibility of sharing video textures between software applications in real-time. This opened up a world of possibilities for Moment Factory's interactive designers and developers. The tool, once used only for prototyping purposes, is now the obvious choice for generative content production on most of our projects around the world. Some renowned features by the team are the modular, in-depth control over performance, 2D/3D/OpenGL tools and advanced scripting possibilities. TouchDesigner has proven its potentials.
-- Marc-André Baril, Interactive director
Four recent Moment Factory projects put TouchDesigner to rigorous use: Trent Reznor's first tour of How To Destroy Angels as well as a second massive visual show for NIN's festival tours, the interactive installation Mégaphone in Montreal and last but not least, the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) a remarkable example of integrating immersive multimedia in public space and the largest system of its kind in any airport in the Americas. We're thrilled to be involved and very excited to share this spectacular and far-reaching work with our readers. Enjoy!
LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (LAX)
Moment Factory was commissioned by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) to collaborate with Marcela Sardi of Sardi Design and Mike Rubin of MRA International as the executive multimedia content producer for seven iconic media features at the New Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
The result is the largest immersive multimedia system of any airport in the Americas. Moment Factory focused on the passenger experience, the iconography of Los Angeles, and the destinations served by the new terminal, creating four hours of original video content, as well as multiple interactive capsules, using the latest in high-resolution imaging, 3D effects and even technologies that react directly to people’s movements and real-time airport information. The overall objective of the media installation is to enhance the passenger experience and bring back the romance and magic of travel. (Moment Factory)
For the LAX project, TouchDesigner runs under Moment Factory's proprietary X-Agora, which is a timeline-based multimedia management and projection mapping system. X-Agora is designed so various applications like TouchDesigner can run as elements of a show or project, where TouchDesigner feeds X-Agora video that gets composited with other elements and mapped to various outputs.
The Moment Factory – Derivative team built a real-time bridge that allowed TouchDesigner TOPs to stream zero-latency video via shared memory to X-Agora, and vice versa. For each effect developed in TouchDesigner, X-Agora passes control information via network that defines user interface dialogs and provides frame-to-frame control updates. This allows TouchDesigner to run in a larger show-control framework, and for show designers to think of TouchDesigner as part of Moment Factory's palette of digital tools.
Environment Portals and Tracking
10 Vertical structures are made of 6 LCD screen each. 4 IR scanners track passengers' positions on their way to the departure gates to generate real-time visuals and audio compositions based on the next departure flights of the terminal.
Interactive Content and Position Tracking
To track the passengers' position, X-Agora's scannerCV software send passengers positions, in the OSC protocol to TouchDesigner to be interpreted differently according to the content playing at that moment.
Here is the breakdown of how TouchDesigner was used for some of the LAX features:
LAX Feature: Mosaic Flip
Passengers generate bits of mosaic movement as they walk by a specific zone with more than 10,000 geometry instances rotating one after the other from the bottom to the top creating beautiful waves that seem to be lifted by the wind. Texture and organic sound accompany the movements.
Geometry Instancing was used to build a grid of 4,000 3D diamond-shapes. The 3D diamond-shapes werw imported into TouchDesigner with the front face separated from the other in order to apply different textures on both sides. Using lights, shadows and an environment map, an interesting texture is achieved that looks like a mosaic.
LAX Feature: Water Reflections
Passengers generate water when they walk by the portals. Beautiful landscape animations are then distorted to look almost like a painting when the traffic increases. Ambient sounds relating to the destination as well as relaxing water sounds are heard.
Custom GLSL shaders were developed to design this water effect. One shader generates ripples - similar to particles, as white circles are emitted from a centre point and get larger and thinner as they move away. This image was fed into another GLSL shader that applies a distortion on the background image, the white opacity defining the level of distortion.
LAX Feature: Totem
Totems are made of 3D objects designed in 3DStudio Max. In TouchDesigner 3D objects rotate when passengers walk by. The objects are given some inertial force depending on passengers' proximity and speed. Texture and environment maps were made within TouchDesigner.
LAX Feature: Musical Strings
Musical Strings let passengers play a variety of stringed instruments from four different countries based on the flight destination. The sounds also change according to the destination.
In TouchDesigner, low frequency oscillators, wave shapes and timing lookups combine so that each time a passenger walks by a specific zone, it triggers a sound effect and a wave movement. These motion curves are converted into 3D shapes that appear like real strings. Realtime shadows are added to give more depth to the instrument.
MEGAPHONE "Lignt up the city with your idea"
The Megaphone project illustrates Moment Factory’s great aptitude for experimenting with new technologies and how these can be used to enhance and augment experience. It also stands as a testament to the commitment with which the studio and its members actively participate in the enrichment and vibrancy of their city’s culture and societal well-being.
MEGAPHONE - MAKING OF
At a time when cities are looking for new ways to bring life to their streets and public spaces, the interactive Mégaphone installation invites Montrealers and visitors to gather downtown to explore the festive side of public speaking. Mégaphone will occupy the Promenade des Artistes, in the heart of Quartier des Spectacles, from September 4 to November 4. Presented by the National Film Board of Canada and Quartier des Spectacles and created by Moment Factory. (Moment Factory)
Megaphone concept designer Etienne Paquette explains that the project uses multimedia to "animate the city" and to give people gathered in a public space the experience of speaking publicly. The interactive projection in turn expresses the individuality of each voice.
Drawing inspiration from Montreal's vibrant tradition of public speaking and assembly Megaphone revives the tradition through contemporary technology used in a large-scale public installation.
We like to use existing technologies and web-based social tools like Facebook and Twitter to bring people back into physical public spaces and to breathe new life into public assembly. The space was created to celebrate, experience and exchange speech." says Dominic Audet, partner and technologyc chief at Moment Factory. "For us the evolution of human-computer interfaces is very interesting - from keyboard and mouse to touch-screen, to 3D movement recognition with the Kinect, and now with the rapidly-developing voice-recognition technology as a new interface. The technology is new and still imperfect but that's what makes it interesting to our team.
Visually, the project consists of two layers. The first is a real-time layer corresponding to the immediacy of speech with the voice depicted as a fluid form that evolves as the user speaks. The second layer is an echo of everything that's been said or a memory of all the users' spoken words displayed on the building to evolve and feed collective memory.
The voice recognition parameters used to create the fluid, organic visuals tracing the evolution of the voice were a significantly challenging aspect in the development of the project. Research and testing was conducted using a system developed by local R&D lab CRIM (Computer Research Institute of Montreal) that gave the best accuracy in word detection.The team then developed some visual effects in TouchDesigner that reacts in real-time to the voice of anyone using the device.
Megaphone consists of three zones, the first being the Promenade des Artistes consisting of 7 immersive experience stations that pay tribute to important figures in Montreal's public discourse. The Promenade leads to the agora - an intimate public space with benches where people come to speak. Megaphone is projected directly adjacent on the UQAM's President Kennedy facade.
Historically Moment Factory is a company that does a lot of special events from media facades and mega projections on permanent buildings allowing us to develop our approach to permanent public spaces in cities. For us, the recognition and inclusion of urban culture is very important." says Dominic Audet.
The Quartier des Spectacles is one square kilometer of culture by day and night and is the "cultural heart that keeps the downtown alive and vibrant" says director of programming at Moment Factory, Pascal Lefebvre. "The project took shape last year in context of the political turmoil of the 'Maple Spring' and now with the fall elections looming, we're excited to see how people are going to react to the installation.
We're excited too and to our readers - a special note to urge you to try and make it to Montreal before November 4th to experience Megaphone first hand.
NINE INCH NAILS - Tour 2013
Pre-visualized Scenography in 3D
As the scenography was made of 7 LED moving panels/screens, a 3D maquette was built inside TouchDesigner to visualize how the scene would look when the panels are set in different positions, and to test generative and pre-rendered content.
Multiple Kinect Input Streaming
Six Kinects on moving panels capture the musicians' positions/silhouettes. The depth images generate interactive content. The 6 image streams on 3 computers are sent through a network to the master computer using the Touch Out/In mechanism over TCP/IP.
Silhouettes act as a collider with a particle system moving from left to right. In other songs silhouettes generate water distortion on pre-rendered content, draw real shadows behind the musicians, or mask images to reveal content. A camera is used on stage to track Trent Reznor's face in real time and to add a live feed effect.
DMX Cues, MIDI Controls
Cues are sent from the show master console to control the system using the DMX Artnet protocol. With a MIDI controller feeding TouchDesigner, it was possible to tweak and adjust the effects live during the rehearsals.
HOW TO DESTROY ANGELS (HTDA) - Tour 2013
For his newest musical project, Trent Reznor put his trust again in Moment Factory for the first tour of How To Destroy Angels (HTDA). Their tour stopped in Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto and at the Coachella Music Festival. The public saw an innovative and dynamic set design created under the guidance of the band’s vision and in collaboration with Rob Sheridan (HTDA & Nine Inch Nails art director) and Roy Bennett (long time Nine Inch Nails production designer). Moment Factory brought life to it with colorful shapes and a touch of interactivity, adding to the music's mystic. (Moment Factory)
Live Effects and MIDI Controls
Visuals effects such as glitch and distortion on the playback content are used overall to modify the pre-rendered content during the performance. One Kinect tracks singer Mary Queen's silhouette onstage. The TouchDesigner chroma keyer detects her only when she is located at the front of the stage. From that point a particle system is emitted from her silhouette and a red halo is set to react to her movement.
Read more about all of these Moment Factory projects:
Moment Factory Creates A Landscape Of Pixels For Nine Inch Nails Tour (The Creators Project)
Moment Factory Create A Massive Interactive Art Installation For LAX (The Creators Project)
Bright lights, sights and sounds: Moment Factory's time is now (The Globe and Mail)