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LUMA Projection Arts Festival Shines Anew After One Year Hiatus

Michael S. Eddy • Projection Connection NewsStage DirectionsTheater News • December 14, 2021

September’s seventh annual LUMA Projection Arts Festival in Binghamton, NY wowed tens of thousands of attendees with six original digital art pieces. As with prior festivals, the canvasses for the displays were facades of historic downtown buildings. Using digital projectors (provided by Panasonic), the image warping and blending capabilities of Dataton WATCHOUT® media display software, and purpose-built media servers and production workstations from Show Sage, this year’s artists turned static building surfaces into dynamic stories told in light and sound.

Last year’s festival could not be held due to the coronavirus pandemic, and so a remotely viewed digital opera project called Miranda: A Steam Punk VR Experience was substituted. But in fall of 2021, with vaccines and a greater knowledge of Covid-19 mitigation procedures, everyone was anxious to get back to live shows in the streets of Binghamton. “Last year was a tough year for everyone and we really needed this,” said Joshua Bernard, co-founder of the festival. “We needed the community to come together [and] celebrate what’s special about Binghamton. This is a place for innovation. This is a place for the arts, especially downtown, and that’s what LUMA had always stood for and now we can do it all again.”

As in the previous three festivals, the artist’s visions were made real through WATCHOUT-enabled projection mapping, with technical support from Show Sage LLC, Dataton’s North American Premium Partner and master distributor. “We have really enjoyed teaming up with the producers of the LUMA Festival these past four years. Not only is it an ideal application for WATCHOUT, but the festival has now become the eminent recurring projection-mapped art event in the U.S., with global roots,” said Jim Testa, President of Show Sage.

WATCHOUT is the perfect platform for displaying these sorts of presentations because it is an economical system with robust mapping, warping, and blending capabilities, allowing the projected images to be matched perfectly to the building’s façade. “We’ve played with a lot of different video control software. But WATCHOUT is remarkably feature rich,” noted Joshua Bernard. “Every time we think we hit the limits of the system, we have a brief chat with our partners at Show Sage, and the answer is inevitably, ‘oh, WATCHOUT can do that.’ And after a brief tutorial we’re on our way again.” Festival Co-Founder Tice Lerner added “Every year we challenge ourselves with our artist collaborators to push the boundaries of projection mapping. Scale, interactivity, unique devices for storytelling—it’s always a new complexity. WATCHOUT, running on Show Sage’s hardware year after year, meets the demands of those challenges with ease.”

This year’s festival featured six different immersive exhibits from artists around the world including:

Firefly by Lightharvest

Van Zandbergen Photography/Lightharvest

Firefly took the viewer on a journey of profound illumination and insatiable curiosity. Every crevice revealed by the warm autumn glow brings us closer to truth. Every riddle solved shows more landscape beyond. And just when we think all is revealed, the energy hiding beneath launches the journey anew.

Cheerful Nightmares by Maxin10sity

Van Zandbergen Photography/Maxin10sity

This exhibit transformed 95 Court St. in a tribute to a classic county carnival with a frightful twist—one that asks if the rides are only there to quicken your pulse, or for some more devious design?

Nevermore by Sila Sveta

Van Zandbergen Photography/Sila Sveta

Making its LUMA debut, Sila Sveta offered a mapping inspired by the American master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven was presented as never before, a classic tale come to life three stories tall. Half the production was built by flesh and blood human beings, but the rest was generated entirely by artificial intelligence—a unique visual conversation between man and machine.

Cosmogonia by Mindscape

Van Zandbergen Photography/Mindscape

Cosmogonia is driven by the belief that an unimaginable journey awaits us—a mission seeded by our certainty that somewhere, someday, something just beyond our comprehension is waiting to transform our understanding of everything we have ever known.

Spirit of the Building by The Invisible Showman

Van Zandbergen Photography/The Invisible Showman

A world premiere concept for LUMA 2021, from inside of brick and mortar comes an experience that changes with each audience and delights at every age. The Showman is a man of infinite talents, adaptable to any stage. One moment a digital illusionist, the next a king of comedy. A voice for song like none you’ve heard—he’s better than real.

Planning for 2022’s LUMA Festival is already underway, and expectations are high that it will continue to push the envelope for storytelling through projection mapping.

Further information from LUMA: https://lumafestival.com/
Further information from Show Sage LLC: https://showsage.com/

You can read more about Miranda: A Steam Punk VR Experience in the November 2020 Stage Directions magazine.