CPL supplied specialist high powered projection and energised two skilled crews to engage in guerrilla-style projection mapping to create striking visual backdrops for a new film – TIMELESS WORDS MADE NEW – cut to an original track by acclaimed Coventry music producer Coolie
Premiered on the City of Culture website at 20.21 on 15th May 2021, the film marked the launch of what will be a memorable year for Coventry as ‘UK City of Culture’, a title it won amidst stiff competition in 2017 for diversity, vibrance and innovation.
CPL was asked to assist the launch event by Uncommon Creative Studio who were commissioned to produce the film by Coventry City of Culture Trust. The work, directed by (Emily McDonald) was inspired by the words of 19th century author George Eliot who lived in the city. Still relevant and powerful today, these were juxtaposed in contemporary contexts and settings by uber-talented rising star Coolie.
Guerrilla projection – the word ‘mapping’ was a later added techno buzzword – became popular in the late 1990’s and early noughties to further political and social issues by projecting giant format images, logos and slogans – unexpectedly and without permission – onto prominent buildings, often done for the cameras as impromptu press / publicity stunts.
This successful, high impact and ultra-visible strategy – as audacious as it was effective – was rapidly appropriated as a powerful marketing campaign tool for brands, companies and anyone wanting to be edgy!
The art of the guerrilla style approach involves all the projection kit and control being mobile in a van or truck with onboard generators, complete with a very experienced crew who can line up, scale, and focus the artwork super-quickly and under intense pressure at the chosen moment and vantage point!
As an unrehearsed process, this approach is all completed ‘on-the-fly’, and is a very exciting and demanding way to work.
While all the building projections for the Coventry CoC movie were executed with permission, the technical elements of making it happen so spontaneously were every bit as challenging as a properly covert guerrilla projection operation!
Added to that, the overall time to achieve the goal of hitting multiple buildings was exceptionally tight! The city had imposed a strict 11 p.m. curfew for all these activities and the UK was still under strict lockdown rules and regulations at the time!
CPL provided two vans – for Projection Teams A and B – which were fitted out with customised trussing structures onto which the 32,000 Lumen Barco UDX 4K projectors – one in each van – were rigged.
For rapid and optimum positioning, Rigtec Atom Grip Duo swivelling gimbals were utilised.
Rigtec is CPL’s manufacturing division, and the Atom Grip Duo’s proved the perfect tool for the job, allowing the projectors, fitted with (Barco TLD+ Lenses) to be instantly positioned, angled / levelled as needed.
The generators were also specially fitted into the vans, together with a control position including a laptop running either Mad Mapper for Team A or Millumin software for Team B. The source files were a mix of video and still graphics.
Madmapper and Millumen were selected for their advanced mapping capabilities and the speed at which the projection teams could work in getting the text images fitted to and displayed on the various physical canvasses around Coventry … with spectacular results.
The projections were scheduled to run simultaneously at two different locations, with footage captured by two camera crews, one on the ground and one piloting a fleet of drones, which then crossed over locations … each with a short timeslot to get all the footage they needed.
The five buildings covered were all iconic Coventry landmarks. They included the distinctive circular George Elliot Building at Coventry University, built in 1960s and now used as a modern teaching and learning space by Coventry Law School and the University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities. The famous and hauntingly beautiful ruined shell of Coventry Cathedral – destroyed by successive World War Two bombings – was another one.
The Belgrade Theatre also got its share of the limelight. It was the first civic theatre to be built in Britain after the Second World War and is now a Grade II listed building designed by Arthur Ling of the City’s Architect’s Department in the 1950s.
The Elephant Building which now straddles both sides of the A4053 Coventry ring road was another site, originally an Olympic sized swimming pool built in the 1960s, more buildings were added in the 1970s and used as part of the Coventry Sports & Leisure Centre.
The final projection site was the Frank Whittle Sculpture – created by Faith Winter – positioned under the Whittle Arches a double wing-like structure erected outside the Coventry Transport Museum. It celebrates Sir Frank Whittle, born in Coventry in 1907 and credited with inventing the jet engine.
Brainstorming the logistics and co-ordination needed to achieve the most expedient and practical workflow, ensuring that both camera crews got their shots while the projections were lined up and running in the timeslot was the biggest challenge of the night, but also part of the fun!
“Working right down to the wire to get it happening was an adrenaline buzz we all enjoyed” enthused Dickie, adding that unique projects like this, where amazing results have to be accomplished fast involving multiple individuals all with slightly different angles on the event, makes for some great teamwork and camaraderie, “and there was plenty of that” he concluded.