Monday, 1 March 2010

Setting up an AVIE in Rome (or A Week in the Life of a Systems Engineer)

I get asked a bit what my job actually is (especially by family). There's also a bit of "You're flying where now?" because of my frequent overseas trips to build massive art installations.

Without getting too in depth into it . . . I build these things call AVIEs (Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment). At the moment I'm sitting inside one in Rome . . . it's in this place called la Palenda, an old abbatoir that's been repurposed. It reminds me of the Carriageworks in Redfern, just with more meathooks.
I've spent the last week or so putting together the computer systems and the infrastructure for our AVIE in Rome (for the RomaEuropa Digital Life Festival) . . . it's going to be here for a few months. I've also been supervising a render farm . . . which has got to be one of the most mind numbing and (when you're on a deadline) infuriating things to do.

We've also rigged up our projectors, speakers and screen . . . which is quite a difficult operation involving a lot of people, lifters and scaffolds, some hard work and some precisely correct measuring and planning.

AVIE is a cylindrical projection environment, 4m high and 10m across. I spent most of my time preparing computers and software so that they'll project nice images onto the panoramic screen. It takes a lot of work because it's not just a bunch of projectors on a screen . . . they have to be calibrated so that we can deliver stereoscopic 3D (yeah, the same thing they do in the cinemas) and so that they blend together on their edges.

Here's a look at the AVIE from outside the door (without any projection):
I guess the scaffold gives you a good sense of the size of it.

We use these systems for all kinds of things. For this exhibit, two artworks are going into it . . . one is a 3D computer generated artwork that takes you on a crazy randomly generated journey through tunnels of videos and dark soundscapes. The other is an experiment in digital noise and emergent patterns that arise from noise interference etc. We've got a bunch of them set up around NSW for mining safety training simulations and it's also used for projects involving high quality panoramic photography.

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