February 7, 2012

Patterned by Nature...almost!

For the last two years, we have lovingly toiled on the glass and metal leviathan we call “the ribbon”.  We are distilling the beauty of nature’s patterns into 20 x 180 LCD glass pixels that swoop through the four story atrium of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

The sculpture itself is being hung as we speak. Jeff Lieberman and Bill Washabaugh, our collaborators on the piece, are down — I should say up because they are standing in a four-story high cherry picker — in Raleigh with a team of riggers, hanging the glass beast piece by piece. As you might imagine, it took some ingenious mechanical and structural engineering to get  3600 pieces of glass to twist and bend like a scarf in the wind.

Back at Sosolimited, we’ve been busy crafting animations and soundscapes of patterns ranging from flocking birds to bacteria to sunlight on water to cuttlefish skin to rain on a pond.

It’s been a challenging process figuring out how to do motion design for a grayscale, 1:9 aspect, 20 x 180 pixel, three-dimensional display. We’ve drawn on various techniques including software modeling and video sampling and compositing. Our goal is to capture the kinetic essence of each pattern while staying as true as possible to the science. Add in the eight-channel soundtrack and we hope to transport visitors to the sun-filled atrium deep into the patterns of our universe.

We all know how work has a pesky way of insinuating itself into our dreams. Well, one of the most pleasurable parts of this project has been the plethora of moving images I see as I fall asleep at night, or the way my body sometimes feels like a weightless flock of birds when I close my eyes on a bumpy subway ride. We’re headed down to Raleigh in about two weeks to finish up all the animation and sound design in the space. I’m dreaming about the moment I can sit back and watch the show.