OFFSHORE Goes Big Screen as Interactive Installation

This post originally appeared on the Helios blog and has been reposted with permission so members of the i-Docs community can learn about this ambitious and visually captivating project. 

Wednesday, Jan 22 marks the world premiere of OFFSHORE as an interactive, immersive live-space installation in the 2014 edition of SmartFIP@ in Biarritz, France. Later that week OFFSHORE  premieres here in Canada as part of the ReFrame Film Festival in Peterborough, Ontario.

OFFSHORE is exploration of a dark deserted imagined oil-platform called Spartan 208. This virtual rig is an amalgam of 360° panoramic CG imagery, image sequences, and beautiful real-life footage of machinery and people and places.

The OFFSHORE installation takes a larger-than-life cinematic projection connected to single small screen (iPad), with which the view can control the camera or their first person point of view. As this point of view turns and looks through the environments, the 3D sound design shifts and pans and morphs, further drawing the audience into the created space. The installation works in two modes: If no-one is controlling the iPad interface, the POV has life of its own travelling through the spaces all by itself. When people start engaging with the iPad, they essentially take over the controls. When they leave, the machine takes over again.

Here’s a shot of the projection part being testing in the Price Theatre at York University:

Testing installation at York University's Price Theatre

The subject of our modern-age relation with and dependence on petro-chemicals, especially in their extreme form like offshore oil, is very topical. Within the first two days of launching, OFFSHORE interactive had already garnered the attention high-profile supporters such as author and social activist Naomi Klein to journalist Dahr Jamail.

The intent of OFFSHORE is to use the ‘unreality’ of its virtual oil-platform to reflect this dreamlike state and underline the severity of the documentary aspect of its story where people and places are living in the shadow of these unseen and inaccessible structures.

OFFSHORE has never been envisaged as a web-page, or site, but rather a cinematic, immersive experience. So its extension into a larger scale installation is a natural progression from, and companion to, the web experience. Importantly, the installation maintains the sense of solitude intrinsic in the experience, but like a theatre, shares this sense across the audience. One way of looking at it is we’re all alone together.

The relation of the little tablet screen to the large-scale screen is also of importance, as it connects the whole experience back to the fact that it is transportable (i.e. you can carry it around with you, or see it on the internet, share it on Facebook). It also reinforces the positive notion that small things can influence the bigger picture.

The installation is designed to be as flexible as possible across a number of potential venue-specific spaces and technical capabilities. It runs as a standalone application on an iPad. The application is entirely self-contained, not requiring an internet connection to function. This iPad is in a standard tablet kiosk in front of the large screen. It’s connected via its lightning port to either a projector or wall-screen setup, or through a wireless connection to an Mac mini running a high-definition version of the experience.

Needless to say, we’re really excited about taking OFFSHORE outside of the computer screen and internet into more of the physical world, and its been fun to tinker with hardware and wires as well as pushing pixels and code around to make this happen. So, stay tuned for more news about OFFSHORE as well as other Helios forays into the physi-digital world of interactive installation.