Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment
with Matthew McGinity, Ardrian Hardjono and Volker Kuchelmeister
AVIE (Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment) belongs to a long trajectory of artistic experiment that Jeffrey Shaw has undertaken since the late ’60s, and follows from his interest in ‘expanded cinema’ and the development of various innovative strategies of immersive interactive visualisation. For example Corpocinema (1967) involved projection into a dome, and the Diadrama (1974) was projected onto a 180-degree screen surrounding the audience. The most immediate forerunner to AVIE that explored the language of 360-degree panoramic projected imagery was PLACE - a user's manual (1995), which allowed the viewer to control the rotation of a projected window within circular screen. The aesthetic and operational paradigm of this work was to locate the viewer at the centre of 1:1 scale pictorial space that extended to the horizon in all directions, thereby creating a strong sense of (tele)presence and embodiment. In such an omnidirectional representation, the user of the system interactively chooses where to focus their attention and for how long, thereby creating a personal and unique performance of the work for themselves and on behalf of other viewers. Another important aspect of the PLACE paradigm was that it positioned its panoramic imagery within an architectural framework that correlated the design of the virtual landscape with that of the installation itself, thereby making the virtually represented spaces and actual space of the projection cylinder co-active on many levels of signification.
In 2006 Shaw initiated research into a fully 360-degree 3D projection system at the UNSW iCinema Research Centre (this centre was directed by Shaw and co-founded with Dennis Del Favero). The project was financially supported under the Australian Research Council’s Discovery funding scheme and the UNSW University Capital Infrastructure Grants scheme. Working with his team of associates at iCinema, this led to the creation of the Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment (AVIE) which was first installed in the UNSW Scientia building in 2003. In its first iteration AVIE used twelve SXGA+ projectors with polarisation filters to create a passive 3D projection onto a silver screen. Later iterations of AVIE shifted to a better quality active 3D projection system using five WUXGA projectors, active shutter glasses and a white projection screen. AVIE’s original cylindrical screen was about nine metres in diameter and four meters high, with the projectors hung from a circular truss in the centre and providing a total resolution of approx. 1000 x 8000 pixels. A cluster of seven high performance graphics workstations delivers image data to the projectors, afforded by geometry correction, edge blending and cylindrical rendering software. AVIE's imagery can be computer generated, photographs or video, and any combination there of.. Both Virtools and Unity have been used as authoring environments in AVIE, though a quite significant amount of project specific custom software was developed at iCinema and later at City University in Hong Kong. Also project specific were the various interactive interfaces that have been developed for AVIE to enable users to interact with the projected imagery.
The design of AVIE to some extent follows in the traditions of cylindrical panoramic painting as well as immersive cinema such as Cinemascope, Circle-Vision and Omnimax. What sets it apart is the intention to create an optical space of representation that is contiguous with the projection space that the viewers inhabit, similar in some respects to the embodied impact of Baroque tromp l’oeil fresco painting. The ‘hyper-realism’ of the panoramic experience is then conjugated with the real time interactivity of the viewer, so that these represented spaces can become inhabited, navigated and transformed by the viewer. In the corpus of works that have been created for AVIE one sees also the great range of ways in which these represented spaces can be configured and articulated. This includes the construction of polychronic narratives, re-combinatory databases, proprioceptive and kinesthetic investigations, adventures in virtual heritage, and more. Like the cinema, AVIE sets out to be a unique and useful platform where multifold aesthetic (as well as scientific and educational) experiments can be conducted.
Jeffrey Shaw’s art practice since the ’60s has consistently been interdisciplinary and involving numerous co-operations with other artists. AVIE became an important platform for furthering these cooperations, and on an institutional level the technology was shared with for example the ZKM in Karlsruhe, EMPAC at Rensselaer Polytechnic University in Troy, NY, Museum Victoria in Melbourne and City University Hong Kong. This open access and distribution of AVIE also facilitated the co-production of a number of installations. Notably the works by Jean Michel Bruyere and Ulf Langheinrich were commissioned by Richard Castelli of EPIDEMIC in Paris, while the Wooster Group piece was commissioned by the EMPAC director Johannes Goebel.
Australian Research Council Projects: DP0345547; DP0556659