Atlanta, GA. – An Atlanta favorite seen by more than 25 million people for almost 30 years the Lasershow at Stone Mountain Park is a tradition at the landmark site. Artistic Image (AI) created 3D animation and 40-minute video enhancements for Full Spectrum LLC’s new Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision, which has dazzled visitors since its debut. The show uses Stone Mountain as a projection surface with digital video projection delivering 3D-like effects without the glasses.
The original lasershow featured neon laser lights, fireworks, graphics and stories choreographed to a pop musical score transforming the park into a natural amphitheater. In the new Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision, Artistic Image’s 3D animation maps the mountain, turning the stone into a display surface taller than the Statue of Liberty and five times the size of an IMAX screen.
Artistic Image, a multi award-winning hybrid creative, production, CGI, animation, print, editorial company, took the complex animation from concept to completion. Their team creating a sequence of computer generated scenes that takes visitors backwards and forwards in time: a waterfall cascading down the mountain; a volcano spewing lava down its sides and bursting a hole in the stone to reveal a world inhabited by dinosaurs; a Civil War infantry battle fought by soldiers who then crumble and dissolve, revealing the gigantic trio of southern heroes (Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson) carved into the 825-foot granite outcropping; and a futuristic vision of an Atlanta where personal flying vehicles are the mode of transport. They also designed an animated robotic Stone Mountain miner character that guides viewers through the diverse events that the enduring mountain has witnessed – and may see in centuries to come.
Adding to the complexity of the animated scenes were challenges posed by the mountain as a display surface. “Sometimes the animation obscured the mountain, sometimes it enhanced the mountain and sometimes we used the carving to the animation’s advantage,” says AI’s director of design and VFX, Ed Dye. “We also created a variety of video montages and other graphics to support the lasershow.”
AI devoted about three months to the project from concept to completion. During that time Stone Mountain Park built a facility to house the new Barco projection system required for the lasershow.
“The show is unique because unlike projecting against a building, which acts like a flat screen with an edge, when you project images on a surface with no defined edges it’s more difficult to pull off the illusion,” Dye explains. “The irregular surface of the mountain, with its 45-foot deep carvings, cracks, ledges and natural imperfections, also posed a challenge for aligning the projected imagery. We matched the camera lens in the 3D animation software with the angle of the projected image, then the projectors corrected for alignment as needed.
“Creating content that would look spectacular on the carved, gray mountain” posed a further challenge, according to Dye. “We had to create just the right amount of contrast and make the correct color choices – by over-exaggerating and over-saturating the colors – that would make the animation pop against the dull background. We even had to amplify the miner character, adding a black glow to separate him from the content behind him.”
With just one month to test the animation on site before the show went live, AI did three rounds of tweaking during test projections to make everything work the way it was envisioned. The company’s team of animators and compositors used Autodesk Maya and Adobe After Effects as their primary tools for the project.
“Resolution was the hardest part: Typically we’re working 1920x1080 full HD. But the show required three projectors working seamlessly together, each at 1920x1080 - that’s three times the usual HD resolution. Our render times got pushed for these very large files, and we had to compensate for the overlapping imagery,” Dye explains.
“During the animation process we discovered that the simpler and less complicated the effects, the better they worked,” he notes. “The silhouette of soldiers floating in front of the mountain felt the most three dimensional. A simple cube of stone pulled out of the side of the mountain looked real. The more complicated scenes actually took viewers out of reality."
Dye’s intense involvement with the project took away some of his own amazement of the spectacular nature of the show over time. “You know how it is when you see a show a number of times before it opens,” he says. “But when we finished and I attended a performance of the Lasershow at Stone Mountain it was a really nice feeling to see the crowd cheer at certain parts of the animation. They seem to love the soldier enhancements of the carving – that gets a big audience reaction.”
Since the new Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision debuted in May, Stone Mountain has been attracting bigger audiences than ever for the performances, he reports. “I understand that viewer comments have been nothing but positive. As soon as the logo rises out of a hole in the mountain, people realize they’ve come to a whole new show.
“We were very pleased with the work that AI produced,” says Full Spectrum president, Paul Creasy. “Their team was able to create content to some very exacting specifications, allowing for us to easily incorporate the new CGI animation in with all of the other imaging and effects systems in the show, including laser animation and beams, fireworks and pyrotechnics, flame effects, and audio. The end result is truly spectacular.”
Dye is pleased that AI was able to participate in the remaking of a local legend. “The project allowed our entire team to work together and create fantastic imagery,” he says. “We were able to capture the aesthetics of nature and the dreams of the future in an exciting project that entertains young and old alike.”
At AI, Dye served as the art director on the project, Daniel Wiggins was the animator and Owen Chicizawa and Andy Sapp were the compositors. Lauren Bleakley and Fernanda Martin produced.
About Artistic Image: Artistic Image (Atlanta) is a world-class creative resource where a passionate collective of innovative A-list live-action directors, producers, designers, animators, CGI artists, illustrators, editors, compositors, modelers and finishers take each job from concept to fruition as a collaborative team. Dedicated to the advertising arena, this hybrid company takes a design-driven approach to crafting high-end TV commercials, virals and broadcast design in a nimble, open-architecture creative environment that provides seamless workflow and premiere client services. Artistic Image has established itself the go-to creative resource in the region, and built a reputation as a reliable full-service resource for fresh, innovate media content.
ABOUT ARTISTIC IMAGE: Artistic Image/Atlanta is a world-class creative resource where a passionate collective of innovative A-list live-action directors, producers, designers, animators, CGI artists, illustrators, editors, compositors, modelers and finishers take each job from concept to fruition as a collaborative team. Dedicated to the advertising arena, this hybrid company takes a design-driven approach to crafting high-end TV commercials, virals and broadcast design in a nimble, open-architecture creative environment that provides seamless workflow and premiere client services. Artistic Image has established itself the go-to creative resource in the region, and built a reputation as a reliable full-service resource for fresh, innovate media content.
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Product: Projection/Mapping for Stone Mountain Lazarshow in Mountainvision
Client: Stone Mountain /Full Spectrum, LLC
Design, CGI, Animation Company: Artistic Image/Atlanta
VFX Director/Art Director: Ed Dye
Animator: Daniel Wiggins
Compositors: Owen Chicizawa, Andy Sapp
Producers: Lauren Bleakley, Fernanda Martin
Equipment: Maya + AfterEffects