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Vanishing points for XL Video

XL Video and video artist/designer Sven Ortel of Mesmer have been working together again on their latest project - “Vanishing Points” - staged at the charismatic Gymnasium (also known as ‘The German Gym’), sandwiched between Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations.
Located at the hub of London’s largest transportation portal, this innovative promenade performance once again pushed the boundaries of technology and imagination in a unique site specific collaboration between writer John Berger, poet and novelist Anne Michaels and theatre-maker Simon McBurney. Performed by Complicité, the event was effortlessly production managed by the unflappable John Farquhar-Smith.
McBurney asked Ortel onboard to produce special visuals that played a major role in the show’s narrative. The potent and emotional work explores themes of immigration, displacement, deportation and conflict, taking the audience on the fast track from industrial to the metaphysical via the memories and hidden histories of ‘Arrivals’ and ‘Departures’.
Ortel turned to XL Video and to arts specialist and project manager Malcolm Mellows to supply equipment and technical support for the show.
One entire end wall of the vaulted ceiling 19th century gym was utilised as the projection surface, complete with blemishes and roughness emphasising the authenticity and honesty of the images.
Ortel and McBurney sat down and thrashed out some initial ideas once the project received the go ahead. Much remained theoretical until they arrived on site, just five days in advance of the first performance.
Ortel spent two weeks filming the footage, in London and Berlin, sometimes employing creative tactics to access tracks, trains and parts of the stations. He edited and treated the material using Final Cut Pro and After Effects, working with Lorna Heavey. All the clips were stored on a Catalyst digital media server supplied by XL.
The projection surface and its position in the room threw up specific challenges. Ortel decided on a wide screen format covering the whole 20 metres of width. However, Catalyst - of which Ortel is a great exponent – provided a very flexible solution, and he made much use of its layering capabilities.
The projectors, two NEC XT5000s, were positioned up on the balcony, complete with 2.5 – 5.5 zoom lenses to cover the full wall. In addition, six 21” TV wall monitors, were dotted around the main performance space. At the start of the piece these relayed clips, slowly introducing the concourse. The space was then dramatically opened up to station like proportions when the projection kicked in.
Two live cameras were also fed into the Catalyst system, which was controlled by Ortel using a Hog PC and a programming wing.
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