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Pixel Mapping Masterpiece: Ricardo Rivera Directs ‘The Projectionist’

Ricardo Rivera hopes that attendees at this year’s Sundance Film Festival will be transfixed by the elaborate artistic display projected onto the façade of Park City’s Egyptian Theater. The work, called The Projectionist, devised via Rivera’s Philadelphia-based company KLIP Collective, makes use of the projection mapping process he pioneered that brings new life to vintage structures. KLIP Collective showed a projection mapping project at Sundance last year, the bizarre piece What’s He Building in There?, though at a more remote Park City location. This year the KLIP team is also responsible for the short intro that rolls before every screening at Sundance, which takes place January 16-26 in Park City, Utah.

What are festival attendees going to see when they go past the Egyptian?

Ricardo Rivera: There will be ongoing projections that make use of the side of the building—the marquee, the exterior above that—that celebrate three decades of the festival, with imagery from important films that have played at Sundance. There’s also going to be a 10-minute narrative where the walls seem to recede and you see behind them to a projection booth and reel cutting room.

What’s unique about the kind of work you and KLIP Collective do?

For us, it’s not just about the video content you’re creating but about the space we’re projecting it onto. The context of the space is being illuminated by the content you create for it. To me, that’s where the magic happens.

What tools do you use to create these presentations?

The mapping is the trickiest part. You obviously can’t just project a 2D image onto a 3D structure. You need to map the images pixel by pixel so that if there’s a lip or a column or anything that isn’t flat, you compensate for it. And that’s a series of different techniques that we’ve developed, depending on the situation. I hold two patents on the technology (that I don’t enforce). Today people are giving classes in projection mapping and there are all kinds of web sites about it.

We’ve been using a Canon EOS C300 with Cooke lenses to shoot the live action and we use Adobe After Effects a lot. We edited in Apple Final Cut Pro for years but we just switched to Premiere Pro. I think Adobe finally made Premiere a good, intuitive editing tool right at the same time Apple annoyed so many of us with Final Cut Pro X.

Ricardo Rivera

How would you describe your work? Is it art, or technology, or both?

I think you really have to see it to get it. It’s part installation, part filmmaking, part sculpture. You can see pictures and video and go, “That’s kind of cool,” but when you see the pieces in person and walk around them and in them, it’s very exciting.

I see it as an art form that can continue to develop, and that’s what I want to do as an artist. But that’s hard because it’s a very expensive art form!