Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween – you only have to glance at your local high street to know which holiday or national day the stores are capitalising on that particular week.
Not one to be content with stacking rows of yellow Easter chicks in its window display, Harrods made sure it took celebrating the holiday to another level.
In fact, Harrods wanted a 360-degree projection mapped Easter Fabergé egg to display in its prominent shop window – a feat that would not have been achievable a few years before.
Enter Stuart Henry, managing director of JUSTSO, who conceived the idea of a virtual egg for Fabergé‘s Easter window.
Stuart and his team visualised an interactive projection show for the month-long spectacle on a 1.5m 3D egg-shaped model, commissioning Projection Artworks to produce the digital content and projection element.
The animation was to be emitted across 18m of window display onto the surrounding shards, creating the image of the egg exploding and then reforming into the user’s chosen design.
“We received the brief from Faberge that we had to pitch for and we won!” says Stuart, who acts as a consultant on a lot of Harrods’ work.
“JUSTSO wanted to create an interactive experience that would push the boundaries of window design, whilst keeping the DNA of the brand at the forefront. We had input on all elements and art directed the final content. In fact, the explosions are a representation of the four seasons with emerald as spring, ruby as summer, sapphire as autumn and ultimately diamond as winter.
“Harrods ultimately had the full sign-off though,” he says. “This was a merge of two of the three concepts that we had put together for Fabergé. The idea of exploring colour and user interaction were key.”
“With the actual size of the product being so small, we had to showcase the designs in a very clever and unconventional way. I was very keen to use projection as the method for this from the start.”
JUSTSO commissioned Projection Artworks to produce the digital content and handle the projection.
“There were a number of suppliers that we project managed on the installation to bring the whole thing together,” Stuart clarifies.
“JUSTSO came to us with a concept and we fleshed it out tech-wise and worked out how to achieve it,” explains Projection Artworks’ Emily Gibson.
This is an understatement. Initially the challenge was to create ultra-high resolution 360° photos of the egg pendants, which in real life only measure approximately 15mm in height.
A challenge like no other
This presented major issues with depth of field, as each egg required 64 photographs from different focal lengths to create the highly detailed 360° models required.
The final animations were then rendered out in 16 HD resolution to show off the giant egg in all its glory, 100 times the size of a real Fabergé pendant.
“Both the egg and shards used in the installation were bespoke commissions,” Stuart points out. “The egg was a lengthy process, which we produced from polystyrene and coated with resin.”
Projector alignment also presented a challenge as the egg model had no defining corners, so a seamless output was facilitated using high resolution 3D scanning technology.
On top of this, the display also incorporated an interactive touch-screen element to showcase Fabergé‘s jewellery designs.
“The challenging part of the set-up was working with so many projectors and different systems, especially building in the redundancy to make sure it worked all day, every day,” Scott Millar, lead interactive development at Projection Artworks tells Commercial Integrator Europe.
“The Fabergé project wasn’t a one-day event but a month-long install in one of the most visible windows of Harrods – the world’s most famous department store on one of London’s busiest shopping streets. Installation-wise, it was also very challenging to physically fit in all the hardware without having it in plain sight and ruining the magic.”
Projection Artworks had to hide the 16 projectors, each of which had to be positioned in exactly the right place to cover a precise portion of the egg.
On top of this, cables, signal processors, networks and power runs also had to be hidden away.
“Using a canvas that could be viewed from every angle was hard and threw up all sorts of challenges,” points out Projection Artworks’, Gavin MacArthur.
“Effects needed to seamlessly run around the egg, but then sometimes appear to jump out and off the surface. We tried a huge range of 2D and 3D effects to see which worked best, with only a few making it through to the final piece. Because of the unusual canvas, it was sometimes more difficult to imagine how an effect would look until we’d run projection tests and seen it in a physical space and not just on a screen.”
So unusual was the project that Gavin admits that “the lighting conditions and projector setup were unlike anything I’ve ever worked on in 10 years of making content for projections, so we had to rethink our grading process to allow for the incredibly bright projectors and the daylight/night conditions. For example, our first creative treatment used too much black and was completely scrapped once we saw exactly how daytime ambient light affected it.”
“One of the biggest challenges was communicating our vision to the client as the timescale was only four weeks,” Stuart adds.
“A project like this would usually take three to four months in order to produce everything. So things such as mock-ups were hard to pull together and give a real vision for the client to get on board. But in the end we managed to produce some fantastic results.”
A genuinely daylight visible projection was created using Projection Artworks’ DisplayMapper technology, which works by applying large amounts of light to relatively small areas.
The Fabergé egg was covered with an unprecedented 14,500 lumens/sq-m using 16 Optoma EH415 projectors, around 200 times brighter than a typical outdoor building projection.
Key to pulling this off was the use of a D3 4 x 4 Pro media server, which can simulate every aspect of the production in the studio before arriving onsite.
“We needed projectors that made the challenging blending as easy as possible and Optoma’s DLP technology was the best for the job,” says Emily.
“We used D3 as our media server as it was the only option that allowed us to run 16 heads from one machine, output the required texture, do automatic projector line up and blending, and provide real time composition to create the show.”
Not forgetting the interactive content, Projection Artworks’ animation studio and in-house development team worked together to create dramatic content that allowed Harrods shoppers to explore the world of Faberge via a custom-designed touch screen.
Shoppers choose their favourite Fabergé design and watched a personalised 3D projection show unfold before their eyes, inspired by their selection.
In total, 10 exclusive new designs were showcased in emerald, ruby, sapphire and diamond variations.
The project represents a huge technical achievement for Projection Artworks, JUSTSO and Optoma.
In fact, just a few shorts years ago, this project wouldn’t have happened at all, explains Tom Burch, managing director of Projection Artworks.
“This kind of installation would never have been feasible a few years ago,” he nods. “The projectors would have been enormous! The continuing development of projector technology is constantly opening up exciting opportunities in retail, even in high levels of ambient light. This is genuinely daylight-visible.”
“Developments in both media server and projectors have come a long way,” Emily agrees. “It was a great project for us as it combined so many pioneering techniques and technologies into one.
“D3 is an amazingly advanced piece of kit and we couldn’t have done the project without it,” she adds. “Plus, Optoma’s projectors allowed us to achieve 14,200 lux per square metre, even with the limited space and throw distance inside the window.”
Finishing its run on March 27, the Fabergé egg display has been deemed a resounding success, with passers-by stopping in their tracks for photo opportunities.
“My favourite part was witnessing the interaction from the customers,” Stuart smiles. “It pushed the boundaries of technology and window design. We’re ecstatic with the results!
Crucially, the client was impressed with the fact that customers were coming to Faberge and not realising that they did jewellery, such as pendants and charms.
“It’s generating brand awareness to all generations,” Stuart states. “It’s incredible how many people stopped to take pictures. It’s pretty much a first for a luxury jeweller to produce such a complicated window design.”