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Students help Marina mark 150th Anniversary of Penarth Docks with Ai

16 March 2015

Six students from the University of South Wales helped Penarth Marina celebrate the 150th anniversary of the creation of the old Penarth Docks with a series of captivating visuals, run using an Ai licence key.

When set a projection mapping challenge to come up with a variety of concepts for the event, students Greg Westwood, Greg Howells, Ryan Carroll, Heather Kirby, Emily Webb and Seth Griffiths decided to work using Ai, a software package they had become familiar with on a previous university task.

The six students were each required to create eight minutes worth of content to be projected on two separate projection surfaces, two buildings overlooking the Marina. The system they used to achieve this goal consisted of 2x 80m fibre runs that were sunk down to the sea bed between pontoons, as well as two 15k projectors, provided by Drake Audio.

The students at Front of House                                                        |                                       Projector Truss Structure

“The fibre optic cable had to run between the pontoons over a distance of 80m,” says Ai Programmer and Operator, Westwood, “but there was still traffic with boats moving around the marina, so we had to add fishing weights to the cable and slowly sink it down to the sea bed. This was to stop it rising back up, and getting snapped by an oncoming boat. We also used stage weights at either end to make certain it stayed there.”

Projecting the content also came with its challenges, as Westwood explains: “We had to try to rig the projectors on a floating pontoon, which would have caused the projection to move constantly. To rectify this we went through a bunch of different solutions including using an accelerometer, or an ultra long throw lens.

“Phil [Hughes, University Lecturer] ended up suggesting we strap truss structures to the concrete pillars that held up the pontoon. This also reduced the keystone angle, making it much easier to project on the houses.”

The content that the students projected on the surface was created to suitably reflect the history of Penarth Docks, opened in 1865 to ease the strain on the Cardiff docks, which were at the time exporting a huge amount of coal around the World. In the 1980’s the docks were developed into a marina.

Using Ai for the event, Westwood commented on its usability. “It was reassuring, having never calculated lenses for shows before that Ai’s simulation of projector beams was true to life. We found when we set up on site, it was just as it looked on Ai, with very little adjustment.

“The performance page was easily adaptable to the different resolutions and aspect ratios of the project. It was quick and simple for us to make adjustments with just a few clicks in the software, which was great. Another great feature for us was to be able to work on the project in Ai, and once the screen layout had been decided, we were able to export the UV map and provide it to the content creators, so that we were all working from the same page.”

The group were able to rely on a little help from Avolites, coming in prior to the event to discuss the technicalities of the project. “The support I got off of Avolites was really good” says Westwood. “It was great to be able to call at night when we needed the help. There were a couple of times where I’d drop Annalisa an email and quickly get a response as well. It’s nice to be treated like professionals and not like students.”

Click here for more pictures and a video of the event filmed from a drone!