art, c4d, compositing, digital effects, direction, graphics, video, writing

The Art of Abstract Storytelling

Update: In August, this installation won a 2017 AEAF gold award.

Earlier in the year I was commissioned to create a “moving canvas” for a permanent installation at Sydney Opera House. “The Lounge, enabled by Samsung” is part of the Renewal Program, that will see a significant evolution of some of the internal spaces of Sydney Opera House.

This was an amazing brief on all levels: an invitation to artfully interpret a subject I know pretty deeply, and have the work on permanent display at SOH for thousands of people to see every day. It was a rare opportunity to work at the aesthetic end of the communication spectrum.

Samsung supplied a high density LED screen (comprised of a multiple of smaller units) that allows for a diode per pixel in the display of a 1920×1080 image. Yes, that’s 2,073,600 diodes/pixels! When the films are projected as 30Mbps H264 videos, they do so with remarkable quality – colour depth, steady frame rate and fine line detail.

In collaboration with SOH staff, we identified six themes that would ground the abstract visuals, and which aligned with the philosophy behind the broader Renewal Program. These included the Creative Spirit that the place embodies and hosts; a Nexus, in terms of intersection between so many cultural elements; Design Heritage, Meeting Place, Renewal and Performance. The slideshow below shows an image each from the broader films that exemplify these themes:

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A Giant Sphere

I had for some time imagined a set of images and sequences that related to Sydney Opera House that I hadn’t been able to put into a specific project, comprised of things Reuben and I had seen when studying and working with the forms in the architecture, design and engineering of the building. They were exciting aesthetically, but not really appropriate or were too abstract for what we were working on at the time. This was the perfect project to explore them.

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The main image was of a giant sphere, its internal and external forms reflecting the interior and exterior of the shells. The sphere in its entirety is of course the ultimate expression of the geometry of the building, and covering its external surface in the chevron pattern of the tile lids, illustrates the perfect geometric solution that was found for articulating the spherical geometry of the final roof form.

Similarly, the interior of the sphere is ribbed with the same form as the finished building, culminating at a hemisphere (the ridges of the shells) and in a union of pedestals, where each of the shells gather at their base. Removing the final wedge of each of the pedestals gave us two points of entry/exit between external and internal spaces, at the poles of this giant sphere.

Other key imagery celebrated the aesthetic of the Yellow Book, produced to illustrate the final roof geometry.

Design Heritage
The thin key lines on this model were a key aesthetic component of the Yellow Book.

I also explored intersection between Utzon’s designs and Peter Hall’s by filming them in 4K and mirroring them to celebrate the union and the repetition of the form, which is an aesthetic in its own right.

The recreation of an ancient Bennelong Point also enabled us to tell the visual story of the location as a meeting place stretching back thousands of years. Alongside paintings by Conrad Martens and Joseph Lycett, the CG sequence imagines the forested promontory and the tidal island, heaped with middens that would eventually become the location of Sydney Opera House.

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SOH LED Film partial storyboard
Still from SOH LED Film

Sound Design

For the sound design, we wanted something that could drift through the space, that would reprise the various visual beats. We worked with Andrew Stevenson and Hylton Mowbray of We Love Jam to produce a composition, blending diegetic and non-diegetic elements. The idea of the massive volume to the sphere was a central theme of the sound design, conveying wonder, space, and the universality of the geometry of the building. Below you can listen to an excerpt:



The project was created using Adobe products, including After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and Cinema 4D. We shot 4K video using a Red camera setup.