Christie HD18Ks in sub-zero temperatures.

With London in the grip of a premature winter, and biting winds coming off the Thames, QED was tasked by creative company Guided Collective and film-making specialists, Flat-e/Seeper, to deliver a highly intricate nine minute projection mapped video onto the side of the Queen Elizabeth Hall to promote the release of Tron: Legacy - the follow-up to the iconic early 1980s original - which opened in cinemas on December 17 (with Jeff Bridges reprising his role as Kevin Flynn).

As a result, the 1960's brutalist concrete Southbank complex was turned into a pulsing sci-fi landscape which ran for ten consecutive evenings from November 26th through to December 2nd during the coldest period that London had experienced since 1890. Those who braved the weather were treated to a spectacular projection mapping display, viewable at very close quarters from the rooftop of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, from the Jubilee Bridge and even from the other side of the Thames.

To achieve the brightness levels required six Christie HD18K 17,500 ANSI lumens projectors were installed in a 6m high weatherproof scaffolding structure occupying a 4m x 4m footprint on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. To make the structure wind resistant four tonnes of water ballast provided the necessary additional stabilisation. Projecting from the highly exposed edge of the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof the structure needed to be high enough to achieve the elevation required to be able to project over the viewing public and at the same time be sturdy enough to withstand the impending extreme weather conditions.

Fitted with a combination of 0.67:1 and 1.1:1 short-throw HD lens the Roadsters, threw vivid graphic images onto three staggered projection surfaces – the three different depths of field and sizes of each projection surface posed a number of challenges for projector positioning and alignment. The original source video image was split and fed into two sets of tripled-up projectors, and custom warps were used on each projector to accommodate the extreme wide angle projection lenses. Correct convergence was vital - with images in excess of 30m from a single source and in such cold temperatures the projectors had to run for several hours in order to allow the glass in the lenses to stabilize prior to fine realignment. The short throw distance meant that only the very widest angle lenses would enable the nearest projection surface to be covered– the Christie 0.67:1 lens is by far the widest angle lens of any high brightness projection system, and without this the whole rig and the way in which the content was to be to be created and delivered would have needed to be re-planned.

As it turned out, possibly the most remarkable thing about the Tron: Legacy projection was that it was able to be installed and maintained successfully under such unusual and difficult site conditions. The lack of access at the Queen Elizabeth Hall didn't help, as without a service lift all the scaffolding needed to be physically carried up the steep steps to the roof. As usual, the Christie projectors showed themselves fit for purpose. Accustomed to performing regularly in the Middle East desert, under searing heat, and under threat from sand storms, they now (literally) faced the polar opposite. QED Director Paul Wigfield commented "The Christie HD18Ks have proved themselves time and time again in all manner of extreme conditions, but in these relentless sub-zero conditions we could not be certain as to how the wide angle lenses would perform and whether the glass would actually be able to withstand such extreme variations in temperature. We decided to take precautions by installing a clear Perspex frontage to the tower and by running heaters overnight in order to prevent a complete freeze-over, but we were delighted that the lenses proved to be just as hardy as the projectors themselves."

Each projector was fed with its own fibre optic channel, delivering both 1080p DVI signals and Ethernet control. Multi-head Mac Pros provided the high resolution source material and an Analog Way DiVentix II switcher/scaler was used to provide seamless switching between the main and back-up multi-head graphics sources.

As a trailer for the new Disney 3D digital movie the event in its entirety was a big success. Under the direction of electronic musician/sound designer, Si Begg, the footage was accompanied by segments of Daft Punk electronic soundtrack. Another part of the interactive feature was a re-creation of Flynn's Arcade (Kevin Flynn himself was CEO of ENCOM International and creator of the popular arcade game TRON, who disappeared while developing "a digital frontier that would reshape the human condition). The brick facade and arcade entrance led visitors to a back room, decked out with a full-sized replica of the iconic Light Cycle the original TRON arcade game, the TRON: Evolution video game and a demo area provided by sponsors, HP, who launched their new HP ePrint Technology. In addition to watching the trailer and playing the video game, thanks to HP ePrint Technology they could receive a complimentary photo of themselves with the Cycle (printed directly via email). One of the first guests included comic book author (and Tron collector) Martin Fisher, who had brought along a very special item from his collection: one of the actual prop helmets that Jeff Bridges wore in the original movie.

Key technical equipment

  • 6 x Christie HD18K 3-chip DLP projectors
  • 3 x Christie 1.1:1 HD lenses
  • 3 x Christie 0.67:1 HD lenses
  • 6 x QED DVI/Ethernet fibre channels
  • 1 x Analog Way DiVentix II seamless switcher
  • 2 x Apple Mac Pro twin output computers
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