The Time Machine!

So, its happening… last week I time travelled and took a walk in turn of the century Luna Park! It was really exciting and gave me a huge boost that this project is going to be amazing. It’s one thing to see the models of the buildings on a screen, but wearing the VR headset, you’re literally standing in the middle of the scene and have been teleported through time and space to turn of the century Coney Island. It also gave me the vision that what I am creating is actually a time machine. My hope is that as the viewer walks through and explores the virtual world, that they will be able to hit something on the controller to ‘jump’ to the next point in the timeline to see the architecture around them change.

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I spent a day last week out in New Jersey visiting my friend Matt Laverty, who worked with me at Funny Garbage, and now runs his own studio Atomic Veggies, which is focused on VR. He works out of a coworking space in the old Bell Labs building, a cavernous space designed by Eero Saarinen. After spending years in disrepair and being abandoned, the whole campus is being revitalized as a 21st century tech hub.

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Interior of the Bell Labs Building

I wish I could show you what it was like to really stand there in the middle of Luna Park, but it was truly magical. In the meantime, here’s some of the work on the models as it is unfolding. Matt and I are working on texturing the buildings as well, but right now the models are the main focus. Stay tuned for more soon!

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Luna Park VR Project

I’m already in my fourth week here at TED and am starting to amass a nice collection of newly modeled buildings to go into the VR recreation of Luna Park. The hope is to complete a few more structures in the coming week and then bring them into Unity so that I can begin doing some tests for the cell shading style they will be rendered in, and explore specular maps to be used for the thousands of tiny electric lights covering all the buildings. Here are some screenshots of the newest buildings, as well as a sample cell shaded view from the original prototype. Its pretty exciting to finally be working on this again!

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The 1907 entrance, under construction

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A finished 1907-8 version of the entrance

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The 1914 “pinwheel” version of the entrance seems more in people’s memories of Luna Park, so I decided to go ahead and build that version as well. 

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I am super happy with the way the pinwheel version of the entrance came out. The park changed so much year to year. How cool would it be if we could travel in both time and space as we explored Luna Park? This is one of my goals for the piece.

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A Trip to the Moon was the original simulation ride, offering passengers a voyage on the spaceship Luna from Coney Island to the moon, where they disembarked into caverns made of green cheese and were greeted by Selenites and an assortment of fanciful creatures of the moon.

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The current state of my Trip to the Moon.

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The current work in progress: 20,000 Leagues under the Sea

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Cell shading test from the prototype… I am pretty happy with this style- though it needs to be a little less pink and more midnight blue, but it still lacks the electric lights to really shine

Stay tuned for more!

 

Fred at TED!

It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut the last two months, but I am finally able to announce that I will be spending the next 3 months as a Resident at TED, working on a project to recreate turn of the 20th century Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in VR, with an accompanying TED talk in June.


This is the next step in the evolution of a project that I have been working on on and off for over 20 years, since I first went the NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in the mid 1990’s. Back then, I created a series of Quicktime VR panoramas of Luna Park, and then a few years ago when 3D printing became widely accessible, I rekindled the project to produce a 3D printed model of the park that was exhibited in the Coney Island Museum. This upcoming phase will be focused on recreating the entirety of the park as a VR experience which will allow viewers to explore the park firsthand. It is my hope to share the models under a Creative Commons licence that encourages others to use virtual Luna Park and encourage its use as a virtual meeting place in the future.

There are several themes I am thinking about in regards to the TED talk I will be doing in June, but the general idea I am working with is about the history and legacy of technology as entertainment, specifically Luna Park’s role in defining everything we do for amusemnt today. Luna Park came out of the golden age of world fairs, a time when attractions in the 1897 World Columbian Exposition were effectively the physical manifestation of a memory palace containing all of man’s culture and knowledge. It was the real world embodiment of everything Google is for us today. The park was not only a showcase for fantastical, otherworldly architecture, it transported the melting pot of American immigrants to exotic locales around the world, even to the moon, anticipating what the future of entertainment would be like. Electricity, phonographs, motion pictures, infant incubators, simulation rides, they all began at Luna Park. I cannot wait to virtually resurrect it and share it with the world!

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A screencap of the Luna Park VR prototype, with cell shaded rendering style

 

Dear Friends of The Great Fredini

Coney Island has been an important place in shaping my identity as an artist, primarily through my involvement with the nonprofit arts organization Coney Island USA. For over 35 years, CIUSA has provided a staging grounds for a huge range of artists, performers, actors, playwrights, musicians, filmmakers and practitioners of just about any other artistic discipline you can think of, entertaining NYC’s diverse audiences and preserving aspects of uniquely American popular culture, such as the iconic Mermaid Parade. CIUSA has done remarkably well in helping to shape the neighborhood’s revitalization, but the organization is still financially reeling in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy and needs YOUR help! This March 19th, I am being honored at Coney Island USA’s Spring Gala, so I am forwarding an appeal from longtime board member and friend Mark Alhadeff. Please consider taking out a journal ad or buying a ticket to what may be CIUSA’s most important fundraiser ever. Coney Island USA needs your support so that it can continue making America’s playground a special place for generations to come!

-Fred

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Dear Friend of The Great Fredini:

I can say with confidence that every recipient of this note will know what a special person Fred Kahl is. But, just in case you forgot, let me remind you: He is a man of vision, intelligence, and good taste. And most importantly, he is a person with a giant heart.

Further, if you’re as lucky as me and have known Fred for decades, you will also know that Fred has always listened to the advice of Joseph Campbell and “followed his bliss.” This has led him on many incredible journeys, and the ultimate destination of most of those trips has been Coney Island. More specifically Coney Island USA (Coney’s resident not-for-profit arts group) has been blessed by the presence of Fred’s energy and creativity since the 1980’s. From neon sword swal- lowing to a 3D Luna Park, from acting on our stage to serving on our Board, from a spiral wishing well to an awesome electric chair — Fred is part of the very fabric of Coney Island USA.

Now that a few strands of silver have appeared in Fred’s luscious locks we here at CIUSA have decided it is time to honor the Great Fredini. Fred has been named “Man of the Year” and will be celebrated at our Spring Gala on Saturday, March 19th. The Gala is without fail the must-attend event of the Coney Island social calendar and dedicating it to Fred was a no-brainer.

I am writing on behalf of everyone at CIUSA to invite you to join in this celebration of Fred’s life and achievements. There are two easy (and not mutually exclusive) ways to get involved:

  1. Attend the Gala in Coney Island on March 19th. Tickets are available now (and a great bar- gain). Show your love to Fred in person! You can learn more by visiting: http://www.coneyisland.com/gala
  2. Let Fred know how much you care about him by putting a customized notice in the commem- orative Journal. The Journal is distributed to all Gala attendees and becomes a keepsake. Get your message about Fred in there: http://www.coneyisland.com/gala-journal

I do hope to see you at the Gala, to read your message in the Journal and to share your joy in the year of the Fred.

Sincerely,

Mark Alhadeff

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Friend of Fred
Coney Island USA Board Member

3D Scanning at the Brooklyn Museum

I was recently at the Brooklyn Museum for the opening of the exhibit Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008. Its a great exhibit and I encourage everyone to go check it out! While there, I took the time to take pictures of several objects to use to generate 3D models of a few Coney Island Artifacts, as well as some beautiful architectural details.

This process of photogrammetry  or “physical photography” as I have come to call it involves photographing an object many times from all angles, taking care to ensure that each image is in full focus. Once photographed, software analyzes the image to find the same point in multiple images and generates a 3D model of where in space each camera was. From there, a point cloud and 3D mesh can be generated. Its a laborious process but its a very accurate way of generating 3D models of still objects like sculpture.

Here’s the processed scans:

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Spook-A-Rama cyclops head from Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (Courtesy of the Coney Island History Project)

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Pegasus Statues from the Coney Island pumping station. (read about these here)

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Bacchus Keystone from the Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Garden. This scan came out amazing, with incredible detail to it!

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Another Great Keystone!

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Telamon (Male Caryatid) #1

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Telamon #2

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Architectural Detail from the Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Gardens

Detroit : Theatre Bizarre 2015

Detroit fascinates me. Even more than LA, this city seems to exist to showcase the glory of the car. Multi layered highways twist and wind like a giant Hot Wheels set with exits to both the left and right. There’s an energy and vibrancy to the urban decay that’s inspiring. It’s no wonder Detroit is such a hotbed of art and creativity.

It’s here that fifteen years ago John Dunivant began to realize a vision that began in his paintings; a dark world of a haunted carnival and its twisted god, Zombo the Clown. He named it Theatre Bizarre. This once a year party that I like to describe as the “Mermaid Parade of Halloween” began on an abandoned lot in Detroit but has now grown to over 5,000 attendees and takes place in the World’s largest Masonic temple, an impressive sixteen story neo Gothic structure that has never been completed. The building itself is worth the price of admission, just to see the elaborate throne rooms, chapels, drill rooms, ballrooms and theaters that hide within the labyrinthine passages of its walls. The building is a testament to the Masons mastery of construction, architecture and engineering and has to be seen to be believed.

Every year John and the Theatre Bizarre crew transform 8 floors of the space into an elaborate haunted harvest festival. It’s the world of his art come to life. The opulence and intention to detail in the installation is astounding and the building is the perfect backdrop. I had the occasion to meet and get to know John and some of the crew over the last few years, and this past weekend was my second year bringing the Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio there. Here’s some images from this year.

Detroit Masonic Temple is home to Theatre Bizarre

Every year, 5,000 costumed revelers converge upon Detroit to participate in the spectacle

No bones about it, the decor is lavish!

There are Hundreds of Jack-O-Lanterns everywhere

Tables of taxidermied animals, Jack-o-lanterns, candles, flowers and mountains of candy abound

The Masonic Hall’s barber shop

there are scores of entertainers throughout the space

ornate details on the elevator grills

I ran into Gary Baseman who flew in from LA to check it out

Here I am chilling out with Zombo the Clown

Since no one can enter without a costume, the guests are often the most entertaining part of the night

Here’s John Dunivant enjoying thr fruits of his labor with Burlesque starlet Roxi D’lite

Just one of the many thrones within the Masonic temple

A New Orleans brass band lead the crowd through the building

This year was the “Year of the Goat”

Prints of John Dunivant’s paintings adorn the walls

Elaborate dioramas bring John’s paintings to life

Table setttings in the Fountain Ballroom

The Crowd in the Crystal Ballroom

The insignia of Theatre Bizarre’s secret society hangs on the wall, its all seeing eye looking over the festivities

The heart of the building contains this three story chapel. it is said that the cross marks the actual center if the building and that theres a hidden throne room behind the altar. When someone sits in the thone the cross perfectly aligns with a grate on the wall so that the light of the cross falls upon the person in the throne.

Dioramas in the lobby created by Dante bring the world of John’s paintings to life

A darkened theatre for suspension performances

A red light in the labyrinth of the temple’s hallways

Behind the scenes we saw a museum of Masonic imagery

Elaborate ceiling details

Are these the Knights of Templar guarding the staircase?

Backstage, an army of makeup artists prep Zombo and his minions for the night

So there it is.. Theatre Bizarre n a nutshell. You missed it this year but next year it will run two weekends in October so start making your travel plans now to attend the greatest masquerade on earth!

SUPERSTRATA: 3D Printed Art

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I am pleased to be included in the Compound Gallery‘s exhibition Supertrata: 3D Printed Art in Oakland, California. I was sad not to have been able to make it out for the opening but if you are out near San Francisco, please check it out! Here’s a couple images of work of mine that went out to the show:

Coney Crush Saga

Coney Crush Saga, 3D printed PLA Plastic (3D scans of performers from the Coney Island Circus Sideshow), 12″h, ~30″w, 9″d

Grim, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 12"h, 21"w, 8"d

Grim, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 12″h, 21″w, 8″d

Grim- backlit

Grim- backlit

Creation, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 34"h, 31"w, 8"d

Creation, 3D printed PLA Plastic, 34″h, 31″w, 8″d

To give you an idea of the scale- this one's big!

To give you an idea of the scale- this one’s big!