Featured Project: NEC Projectors Help Trees Bring History to Life

NEC projectors played a critical role in this unusual multi-media display that will soon have a permanent home at the Chicago History Museum.

Chicago-based NEC Display Solutions, a provider of commercial LCD displays and monitors as well as digital and multimedia projectors, helped create an immersive art installation last year at a Chicago convention center that was done in honor of the Illinois bicentennial.

The state formed a commission to plan events and projects that would celebrate its 200th birthday. One of the projects aimed to honor the numerous individuals across history who have left an indelible mark on the state, but the commission wanted a display that would be highly unusual and, as a result, memorable.

During the 2017 planning process, David Perlmutter with the bicentennial commission introduced NEXT/NOW, a Chicago-based digital experiential agency, to Luma8, a nonprofit that strives to elevate Chicago as a focal point of artistic innovation through lighting installations.

“We had learned that the Bicentennial Commission was looking to highlight the history of Illinois in a way that would be spectacular,” says Mark Matthews, marketing strategist for NEXT/NOW. “We reached out to David and expressed interest in working on a project, and he connected us with Luma8.”

Luma8 and NEXT/NOW began brainstorming and started thinking of ideas of how to represent the bicentennial’s theme: “Born, Built and Grown.”

“We started thinking about using trees as metaphors for long-lasting presence,” says Lou Razin, chairman of Luma8 said. “That led us to the idea of using projections in trees as vestiges of each person’s lasting legacy on the state.”

Thus began the “Rooted in Greatness” project-a digital art installation that would project the faces of Illinoisans, past and present, onto trees while nearby speakers played voiceovers highlighting why each person matters to the state’s history.

After receiving a lot of input and assistance from many sources, Matthews chose NEC, a company he had worked with before, for its equipment. He selected three NEC 10,000-lumen, 4K NP-Px1004UL laser projectors with long-throw NP21ZL lenses.

“There were several features of the products that were important here,” he says “The resolution was important for creating detail on people’s faces, so they were recognizable; the laser was important because it creates a finer, more lucid image that pops; and the brightness was important because we needed something that would still be visible at night despite street lights, and because of the distance we had to shoot from.”

McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America, was chosen as the location.

The result was as memorable as everyone had hoped: Each night as the sun set, three trees outside McCormick Place came alive with the images and stories of noteworthy Illinoisans such as Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama; cultural giants such as Walt Disney and Oprah Winfrey; leaders such as Ida B. Wells and Jane Addams; artists and writers Carl Sandburg and Muddy Waters; and sports icons such as Ernie Banks and Michael Jordan.

As videos of their faces were projected into the trees, accompanying audio shared a brief bio of each individual. Each presentation lasted about 20 minutes.

The project was live from August 2018 until the 15th of February this year. The installation has since moved to its permanent home at the Chicago History Museum.

To watch a video about the project click here.

tony kindelspire oct21

Tony Kindelspire

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