By Kelleigh Welch
*Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2015 edition of Systems Contractor News.
New York City’s skyline received an environmental makeover on August 1 with an animated display of the world’s most endangered animals projected onto 33 floors of the Empire State Building. This show, titled “Projecting Change: The Empire State Building,” uses images of endangered species, including manta rays, birds, reptiles, lions, and a gorilla that “climbed” to the top of the building, as a way to spread awareness about our role in protecting these animals and to promote the upcoming documentary, “Racing Extinction,” by the Oceanic Preservation Society.
“The story we were trying to tell was something that no one really knows, and it’s that we’ve had five mass extinctions (in the Earth’s history). Now we’re rolling into a sixth, and man is the cause,” explained Travis Threlkel, chief creative officer with Obscura Digital, the design firm tapped for the project. The entire project was a collaboration between Threlkel and Oscar winning filmmaker and photographer, and executive director of the Oceanic Preservation Society, Louie Psihoyos.
Projecting Change occurred in three parts, starting first with a mobile Tesla car that projected video, followed by a projection project on the United Nations building in New York City for Climate Week back in 2014. The grand finale was to project these animals onto a high profile structure—the Empire State Building. Threlkel said it took Obscura and the Oceanic Preservation Society nearly four years to get everything together for the event, working with the Empire State Building and the New York City government to secure all the permits to make this happen. On August 1, 2015, these efforts became a success as images of endangered species were projected onto the Empire State Building from 9 p.m. to midnight.
The display measured 375 feet high and 186 feet wide, projected onto the iconic skyscraper using 26 Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 12 Christie Roadster S+22K-J projectors, provided by Nationwide Video. Obscura built weatherized steel turrets to hold the projectors, and used their own custom blending software.
“Really our challenges were with the scale and the building and surface material,” Threlkel said. “We weren’t sure how the materials would react, but luckily it worked a little better than we thought.” Threlkel was referring to projecting onto a building with so many windows, many of which would still be lit during the event, along with competing with lights in Midtown Manhattan. He said they were expecting the images to be dim, but luckily the final images were much brighter than they expected.
“Our goal was to capture people’s attention,” Threlkel said. “That’s why we targeted something as big as the Empire State Building—it’s iconic and it would help create as much dialog as possible.”