Obscura Digital Transforms Sydney Opera House for YouTube Symphony Orchestra 2011

For the last week a team of Obscura Digital‘s finest have been in Sydney preparing for the the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO) Grande Finale Concert on Sunday, March 20th, 8PM (UTC/GMT +11 hours). Conducted by San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, this year the YTSO has added a competition to find the best solo improvisers, who can submit their improvisations to a piece specially composed by Bay Area composer Mason Bates (who I’ve also done some past work with).

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra is an exciting project to create a truly global, collaborative orchestra. We invite you to celebrate the Internet’s unprecedented diversity and collaborative potential through the power of music as a shared language on a global level. We hope the YouTube Symphony Orchestra will bring people together from all over the world, and serve as a venue for established musicians and emerging talent to collaborate joyfully and creatively in a new way. In essence, we’re inviting members of the public to audition for places in the orchestra, with the final selection to be voted on by the YouTube community.

The show is an extremely ambitious undertaking with architecturally mapped projection on both the inside and outside of the opera house, linked with the orchestral performance to create a musically expressive experience out of the very architecture of the hall. The whole system uses myriad projectors fed by a custom software system run on network of video computers running Derivate’s Touch Designer environment (the same software that we used to design the new Recombinant Media Labs video engine launched at Club Transmediale in January, more on that soon).

For the exterior, Obscura will be using 14 projectors with long-range optics developed for the Olympics to project images on the Western Sails from nearly half a mile across the water. They will be using 8 Christie S + 20,000 lumens projectors and 6 Christie HD 18,000, plus 6 servers to achieve IMAX resolution imagery on the façade. Additionally, video capture cards will be used to receive camera feeds from the interior for re-projection onto the exterior sails of the building. For the interior of the Opera House, Obscura will seamlessly wrap the ceilings and walls, creating immersive experience with surround projections at 2 x IMAX resolution. This is achieved using 7 Christie HD 18,000 lumens projectors and 6 servers all with HD.

Here are some of the initial projection tests for the building, and they look fantastic.

Experiential technology leader Obscura Digital is about to unveil one of its most creative innovations to date, when it will fuse live experiential technology with a masterpiece of modernist architecture. On the evening of March 20, 2011 Obscura Digital will transform the dynamic Sydney Opera House structure into a visual augmentation of a live symphonic performance, amplifying the artistry of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra event with real-time audio-reactive graphic projections that will simultaneously canvas the interior and exterior of the iconic building with parallel projection shows.

“If we achieve what we are trying to do, we will be creating musically expressive architecture,” explained Travis Threlkel, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Obscura Digital. “We will enable audiences to experience the Sydney Opera House in a new light by using optical illusions that make it appear to be moving and accentuating itself based on what is taking place with the live performance inside the concert hall, essentially allowing the building to become a living, breathing artistic representation of the music.”

Hear Obscura Chief Creative Officer Travis Threlkel and Michael Tilson Thomas share some more of their thoughts on the YTSO concert in this interview taken before the ship off to Sydney.