How can statues come to life?
Talking Statues was an amazing interactive digital outdoor artwork to celebrate the launch of Night at the Museum 2 on Blu-ray and DVD.
Working with Fox home entertainment and Taylor Herring, I developed interactive concepts and directed the special effects filming session for this amazing spectacle.
Sitting side by side in Bond Street, London, Churchill and Roosevelt statues were brought to life, using live digital video effects, and custom designed projection techniques.
First we filmed two actors, one playing Churchill, the other Roosevelt. They filmed a number of lines, as if having a conversation between the two of them. The script was very funny, with lots of jokes about the problems of life as a statue. The filming took place on a special rig that allowed us to keep the heads of the actors very straight. Because, of course, statues cant move! I had to make sure that the actors put all of their expression and emphasis on their eyes, their mouths, and of course, their voices. At the end of the process we had some great comedy moments between the two actors.
Next, the videos are cut and edited together to make seamless conversations between the two actors. The videos were then colour treated and specially stabilised, to make sure that the features on the actors faces matched perfectly with the contours of the statues. Anything unnecessary like hair, cheeks and chins were digitally removed.
After that, the eyes and mouth of each statue were digitally “layered” so that they could be dynamically projected. Each layer was loaded onto two laptops, one for each statue. The video layers were synced with the audio for seamless playback.
Because the event was for one night only, and was completely outdoors, with no power supplys, we were able to design a custom system that used portable batteries to run all of the technology. This avoided any wires, and there was no need for high voltage to be in a public place. So it really was a 100% self contained projection system.
When the projector systems were moved into place, the software was then able to instantly match up the eyes and mouths of the statue with the eyes and mouths of the actors. The video layers could be triggered at any point, allowing TV presenters to literally interview the statues about their experiences. It was a lot of fun, and a great event that attracted a lot of media attention.
The end result
The end result was spookily effective. It was very eerie to see these two classic politicians come to life late at night in London’s Bond Street. It really brought some of the wonder of Night at the Museum to life. During the project we went through a lot of R&D, and we were very pleased with our research into long-life batteries for use in outdoor projections like this. To run this system for over 3 hours without having to plug anything in was a big achievement. The project was put together in just a few weeks, and that gave us just enough time to develop and test prototypes to create a fun and unusual final project.
Credits: Fox Home Entertainment, Taylor Herring, HMC Interactive