On 14 August the new Volvo V40 was unveiled for the first time to 50 of South Africa’s major car dealerships at Turbine Hall in Newtown, Johannesburg, where the vehicle was brought to life through the medium of video mapping, writes Paul Watson.
When the launch of the new Volvo went out to tender, technical supplier, EPH Productions, joined forces with video production company, ATTV and Penmac Audio Visual, to figure out a workable concept for the launch.
“It was very much a team effort; I’m good friends with Andrew Timm at ATTV and Penmac’s director, Malcolm Finlay, who’s done a lot of jobs with (Dataton’s) Watchout. We’ve also been doing our homework on 3D mapping and mapping on buildings with projectors, so that’s where it started really,’ says EPH’s Leon Pheiffer. “We decided: “let’s map the car’, so we offered the concept to Mineshift Events, a small events company in Johannesburg; they pitched for it and got the job.’
Volvo International then sent the first demo of the car straight to EPH’s warehouse in Pretoria, where all parties gathered for two days of pre-production. The first step was to work out the projection angles.
“We did this on a CAD system so we knew at what height and distance the projectors had to be put up at, then we created a map of the vehicle and projected a still image onto it,’ explains Malcolm Finlay, who has been working in video projection and content for more than 25 years. “The still image became the template for doing geometric projection within Watchout; and once we had that right, we applied the video content with the same mapping distortion onto the vehicle.’
Finlay says there were two very different aspects to the job: staging the content onto the vehicle and actually creating the content. The latter was the task of Ronald Pillay, who started the process using a CAD drawing to ensure that all of the perspectives were correct.
“You must get that part spot on before you can make the content fit; you haven’t gone near Watchout or a projector at this stage,’ Finlay insists. “Essentially, you make a video in pre-production and then play the video on the side of the vehicle so everything has to be the right shape and have the right amount of distortion.’
Pillay created the video in two parts: a city scape (which was used for the backdrop of the car), and a series of videos to cover the sides of the vehicle.
“Basically we create a dynamic scene, put a vehicle in it, and map the content on the side of the vehicle to map the scene you’re driving through,’ summarises Finlay. “Then you apply “eye candy’ flashes, to accentuate the car’s lines, wheels and lights; in this case it’s four videos in total: front, side, back and road.’
Pheiffer put up a 12-metre Top Vision LED wall behind the car and deployed four Christie 605 projectors: two to project onto the front and side of the car; and two to project the road that the car was driving on.
“All of these projected surfaces had to be geometrically correct because the projectors were all at very strange angles,’ Finlay reveals. “Once we got that right all the video content for the car, and obviously the back LED wall, which was the scenery the car was going to be against, was synchronised using Watchout.’
Penmac has handled the local support for Watchout since its inception in 2004; therefore Finlay is somewhat of an expert; in his own words, he has “grown with the product and all the features that are available’.
“The way Watchout has evolved in the past few years has made it possible to generate multiple video feeds from one computer. In this instance, we were running four of the projectors from one computer, then another computer was doing the LED wall; that’s great for us, as it cuts down the cost of hardware and licenses, because you have to license the software,’ Finlay explains.
“From a Watchout point of view, this was total show control; in addition to making it fit properly, Watchout takes these four videos and runs them in sync with each other, so it gives the illusion of being one large scene; it also stops and starts the show and we were able to drop in Powerpoint presentations onto the LED wall when the car wasn’t moving, to illustrate the features and benefits of the vehicle.’
Finlay estimates that this project was only the third exercise of video mapping on a vehicle in South Africa and points out that although the concept is not new to him, it is always a challenge. “Video mapping onto buildings and other types of sets has been done plenty of times before but doing it on a vehicle is quite different,’ he explains.
“The real challenge is that it doesn’t matter how often you rehearse it, it will never be in the same place when you set it up; and with limited time to put it all together due to venue and staging costs, you’ve got to have incredible flexibility in the software to be able to correct your mapping points once you get to your final destination. That is one of the major strengths of Watchout: that it actually has that capability and is being used around the world for that exact purpose.’
EPH also provided the audio and lighting for the launch. Pheiffer deployed a Soundcraft Vi1 console, which ultimately catered for playback as the audio was embedded within the video content; and a JBL VerTec line array system provided sound reinforcement: three VT4888 enclosures were hung over two VT881A subs a side.
“There were only 50 people in the venue so you could say this system was a bit overkill, but it’s very good kit,’ smiles Pheiffer. “We also put in 12 Martin MAC 401s and 12 Robe 101 lighting fixtures, all cued up using the Avolites Tiger Touch controller. It looked and sounded great, that’s for sure.’
Good enough for Volvo’s managing director, Bram van der Reep, to invite the team to do an additional launch for the national press.
“The more homework you do, the quicker and more efficient the setup becomes,’ concludes Finlay. “When we were asked to do a second show, we only had eight hours to put it up but it posed no problem; and when you consider that the content creation alone took about a week, the initial planning and mapping took two days and the staging took us a further day, then that’s pretty quick work! Overall this was a really successful project and everyone was very happy with the results.’
• Martin Professional MAC 401
• Martin Professional MAC 101
• Avolites Tiger Touch controller
• Soundcraft Vi1 digital console
• JBL VerTec VT4888 elements
• JBL VerTec VT4880 subwoofers
• Christie LX605 projectors
• Dataton Watchout
By Paul Watson