Easter Egg Three of Five: Senior Thesis


In 2011, I made a stereoscopic animation for my senior thesis using an extremely limited color pallette to force the depth to tell the story. To view it properly, you'll need to cross your eyes to see the depth. Scroll below to read the original project description.


Project Breakdown


The initial brainstorm sessions started with grand environments and dynamic, photorealistic interiors. My ambition outweighed my sensibility and I was told time and time again to go simpler. Drop the first-person point of view. Drop the literal representations. Drop the textures. Drop the shading. Drop anything that isn't absolutely crucial. So what did that leave me with? Black and white. And then some color. No grays, no gradients. Just on or off. Black or white.


So how would I create an engaging piece of art with those restrictions? I started doing research, practically and experimentally. I tried a simple white circle on a black stereo. My peers were excited about my "discover." Visceral depth was achievable with just a white circle on black. The disparity of its position enabled it to float off the screen. With this success, I delved deeper into the "pure depth" realm. No monocular cues allowed! Monocular cues are those such as depth fog, depth of field, color degradation, perspective, etc. Basically, the piece could and would only function in stereo. To lose the binocular depth is to lose the value of the piece.

So I made a slew of depth tests. What worked and what didn't? I tried a number of options; some worked and some failed. One beautiful failure was a 3D fractal program I stumbled upon. I rendered out some stereo video from it and added it to my edit. The reaction was nearly unanimous: too much. Although completely abstract, it was clearly too complex and didn't mesh well with the rest of the piece. Scrapped.


Adding. Cutting. Re-editing. Adding. On and on until things started to fit. The flow was becoming more fluid. The white circle became somewhat of a character. Not in the sense that it had character, but that it had presence and consistency. The white circle weaseled itself into more and more scenes. Finally, the abstract slosh of colors and shapes had continuity and started to make sense to myself and my peers.

With the digital out of the way, I now had to focus on the physical. What would I house all the electronics in and what would I project on? Throughout the year, I was either watching the animation on my home computer screen or projected on a large screen at UW (about 6 feet tall). It was gratifying seeing my work on a large scale, but I wondered how it would function in a smaller format. To test this? Move the screen closer. I grabbed a mobile white board and put it as close as possible to the projector while still allowing it to be in focus. The result: relatability and a more physical sensation when viewed. Instead of a traditional large-format "movie", it turned into a personal experience that pulled the viewers closer. And since I put the projector between the viewer and the screen, there was no worry about blocking the image where you were standing.

More specifically, I built a podium out wood slabs and placed all the hardware inside. A Mac Pro with a suitable video card, a mouse and keyboard, a power strip, a handful of cables, and the projector with an infrared emitter (to sync of the glasses). With all the hardware hidden away, the viewers were allowed to grab the glasses and enjoy the work. The projector was pointed at a white foam-core board mounted to a larger black foam-core board. The whiteboard was suspended out in from of the black one by about 8 inches. This little bit of physical depth added to the digital depth and made the piece live out of the wall - in the space.