Did you ever have the feeling
You're the only person living in the world
And people that you see
Are one-dimensional and never there at all
Even just the commonplace
Warm familiar greetings are a lie
Their voices and their faces are as empty
As the space beyond the sky
--Al Stewart, "Real and Unreal"
Multimedia Artist Kit Webster used Enttec's DMX USB Pro to create an installation which pays a kind of high-tech homage to DaVinci,
Holbein, DuChamp, and many other artists dating back to the middle of the Renaissance. The technique which unites the work of these masters, and which fascinates
Kit Webster is called Perspective Anamorphosis .
I like to throw around $20 words more than most people but that knocked me back on my
heels too. What does this mean, and why would I want to write an article about it? To
understand what he has done, I had to take a step back and look at things from just the
That's one of the salient features of this Anamorphosis technique, by the
way. It comes from the Greek meaning "putting the image back together" more or less,
and it's about having a skewed image seem very realistic and natural when viewed from
the optimal location. So back we go in time and space to look at earlier projects, to gain
a wider perspective on what Kit does and how Enttec played a role in it.
Enttec & DMX Gear
At Enttec, we don't sponsor very many software developers, probably less than one a year, but occasionally we
receive a worthwhile proposal and we give them hardware to use for their burgeoning project. Usually these
involve writing code that will make some new kind of lighting
control available to the general public. This saga,however,
began with a sponsorship for a project that sounded quite
different. Kit described it to me this way:
"I held an exhibition 3 years ago called 'Breathing Space' in
which I was using Max/MSP. I wanted to interface with some
DMX gear, so I found out that Enttec was a Melbourne company,
told them about the project and kindly requested their
assistance. The project involved beaming video onto a DMX
mirror, and modifying the image at the same speed as the mirror
movement; this allowed the projection frame to move along a
wall while the projected image stayed still. I did this by moving
the mirror in the opposite direction to the video."
studying @ RMIT Melbourne
That was while Kit was studying for his Bachelor of Arts in the
Fine Arts Department at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology,
where he specialized in media arts and sound art. Then his interest in MAX / MSP led him to 4v, a very flexible
multimedia authoring environment He tries to describe the awe he has for the possibilities of
combining all these different elements into a unified experience. "They are simply endless, using programming
and interfacing with third party gear, you can utilise your entire surrounding environment to act as your canvas"
Kit has recently completed a project at the RMIT Gallery in Melbourne called DataFlux 0.1 which incorporates
many elements, and once again Enttec gear forms a core part of his control system. "My original goal was to
create an installation that utilised video mapping, that is the distortion of a video perspective to 'wrap' over three
dimensional surfaces. I use the mirror in this case to allow the projection beam to be displaced anywhere in the
room up to 180 degrees. I am very impressed with the speed and efficiency of the DMX/USB Pro and its
willingness to keep working!" ( See more info about the device here )
In retrospect, that didn't go very far in exploring the how, but
I also felt the appeal of drawing him out about the why. Here's where it gets kind of theoretical, so hold on to
your frame of reference, the ride will get smoother again soon.
Webster: "It all stemmed from thinking about ways that
perspective anamorphosis can be utilised
over 3d surfaces. I made a cardboard cube and drew some
lines over it that represented the inner corners of the cube.
It was initially my goal to project virtual environments [so
that they] reside 'within' these objects. As this is a very
difficult task I have been dealing recently with just
projecting 2d texturisation over surfaces."
"Perspective anamorphosis is an age-old technique of skewing the proportions of an image so as to allow it to be
correctly viewed from an off-axis position. I am experimenting with this technique to allow me to display the
inside of an object. This is achieved by tracking an
observers viewpoint throughout the space with a camera.
DATAFLUX 0.1 from Kit Webster on Vimeo
He may have been reticent to reveal too many trade
secrets, or it may be beyond the scope of this interview
to get the details across, but what he did reveal was
startling in its power and simplicity.
"Its just one laptop driving everything. Connected to the
laptop is the DMX USB Pro which is controlling a
modified scanner and a strobe light. [For the scanner] I
gutted the light out and put a projector in. Also running
from the laptop is the audio and video. With the mirror [on
the scanner] I am able to widen the projection area.. Its a
bit like using a multiple projector system but cheaper."
The potential to take advantage of future improvements in technology, in
the so-called "convergence" of lighting and projection is clearly going to be
a factor in Webster's work going forward.
a virtual environment
"Any form of input device can be used: thermostats can alter the colour of
lights; wind speed can be detected to sway digitally projected trees; you
can even interface with the net in any way imaginable. The next step is to
create a more dynamic installation, one that uses more lights and multiple
projectors and to beam onto the walls and ceiling. I'm also working on
some more interesting textures to project and more dynamic sequences.
I'm also thinking about implementing camera tracking or some other form
of input device to allow the observer to have some form of control as to
how their environment is shifting. I would also like to implement the
Perspective Anamorphosis [at the next level]. It's really my dream to be
able to create a virtual environment that is indistinguishable from the real thing. I think its interesting that if you
have complete control over one's environment, you can have it eloquently shift from the real to the imaginary."
"These environments are not defined by natural characteristics but by one's imagination, allowing for the
superimposition of a mindspace onto (or deep within) a physical domain. Awakening a space with life through
the connection of the perceptual awareness of the observer and the creativity of the designer, based on the
theory that the mind is essentially a tool [for] perceiving the enigma that is our surroundings and vice versa.
It's based around the notion that we have only skimmed the surface when it comes to identifying and
experiencing the complexities of a given space. Complete digital control has taken over the environment,allowing
realities to shift from the actual to the imaginary. Real-world environments are augmented in such a way that
perception cannot be defined as being under cerebral or environmental control and thus reality is
undifferentiated from hallucination. I really feel that there could be an infinite number of experiences that we are
not yet equipped to discover. We are really on a threshold of technological discovery."
At the end there, I think Kit Webster was weaving his words in a way that is almost analogous to the clever tricks
of perspective his visual and auditory landscapes employ. It's a kind of dance of superposition between the
expected and the unexpected, the real and the unreal. DaVinci would probably approve.