This project depicts the unlocking mechanism for an old forbidden gate, and a hint as to what is to follow. Once open, there will be no means to contain it, so why not observe it and gain some greater insight into the end that approaches?
produced by: Richard Rattner
Ancient Gate is a piece depicting an old forgotten gate that has begun to unlock. Throughout the course of this, the orbs on the gate rotate in different directions at various speeds, with each new rotation adding color to an element of the gate. As the unlocking reaches its conclusion, darkness overtakes the colors that were revealed, eventually encompassing the entirety of the shape, save for a few small circles with lines through them. After a moment, those circles open up to reveal eyes, staring back out at the viewer before fading to black.
Concept and background research
Ancient Gate is inspired by the moving ancient traps and mechanisms seen in media like the Indiana Jones films, or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where those mechanisms move with varying speeds and often some amount of violence and vibration, as though they are manipulating complex systems. To emulate this feel I used elements like shaking to make it appear like the mechanism is old, unused, and heavy, and put the orbs through different kinds of rotations to indicate the complexity of the locks being undone. The colors are used to imply further elements at play in the unlocking.
It also takes some inspiration from the works of HP Lovecraft and the myth of Pandora's box, in that in the act of unlocking this gate something old and evil is unleashed. This is primarily represented by the ending sequence, in which the gate turns entirely black and the small innermost circles open to reveal eyes peering out at the viewer, implying some kind of old entity either regaining consciousness or ready to take advantage of the situation at hand.
This used Open Frameworks and ofxPiMapper for projection. To control the orbs in an efficient manner, I created several classes nested within one another, paralleling the structure of the smaller orbs inside of the larger orbs. This made tasks like having sets of smaller orbs rotating in larger orbs much cleaner and more efficient and allowed for variations in elements like noise values and color between the orbs to be stored in variables within the individual orb objects, making them easily referenceable in loops. The opening of the eye was controlled by an ofPath command drawing in an arc emulating the opening of an eyelid.
Because this piece was reliant on manipulating the same elements all the way through, I found it more effective to do the whole piece in a single scene, rather than splitting it across several and recreating those elements in each, which would have had the potential to introduce a lot of error.
For future work, I'd like to develop on the ending with the eyes and create some additional animations for them. I'd like to incorporate some blinking, and potentially utilize cameras looking for viewers, so the eyes could try to make eye contact rather with specific viewers. It also might be fun to incorporate some elements like cracks that appear around the eyes as they open, perhaps with a glow effect matching the color of the eye they opened around. I don't want to show much beyond that though, the small amount shown is intended to provoke the viewer's imagination and showing more might undermine that.
Overall, I think I was successful in achieving the feel of the narrative I was aiming for. In the final version we ran into some issues with the computer playing our pieces more slowly than it did when we initially compiled our pieces together, but I think the pacing of the movements still holds well, and that the movement speeds still work well. I was particularly happy with how intense the piece looks when it fades entirely to black, and the crimson the background turns in the final color change, and how the small orbs rotate for a moment after the large orbs have stopped.
One aspect I was disappointed in was the scale of the eyes not working well with the size of the object and resolution of the projector. Unfortunately, the detail in the eyes is not as visible as I'd like it to be, if displayed perfectly there would be a distinct iris, pupil, highlight, and eyeball all visible in each eye. Additionally, I ran into issues with transparency in the final build of the project. We hadn't had the issue prior, but in the final build, when my piece fades in from black, the whole thing appears semi-transparent. I think this is because the fade was handled by drawing a black rectangle over the other elements and reducing its opacity to create the fade effect, and I think ofxPiMapper interacted strangely with a semi-transparent shape being drawn over the rest of the shapes. If this didn't manifest on the night of the show, I think it would have been fixable.