Spatiotemporal Pyrography

Spring 2017
(2 Weeks):

Advisor:
Golan Levin
In this project, I develop a new way of capturing and seeing 3D spaces using a preexisting photographic technique. To achieve the right look, I discern what aspects of visualization to highlight and what aspects to hide to achieve the highest clarity.

I decided to use fire to see a space through the way sparks ricochet off the wall. In a sense, I was observing an ‘implied’ space.




Why —

There are countless ways of 3D scanning a space. With depth sensing cameras, lidars and computer vision becoming increasingly accessible, this project is obviously not concerned with practicality. It is about seeing what a space can be, how it can be represented in ways that add information and color.


How It’s Done —

When spinning steel wool in a circular motion in a confined space, one essentially visualizes a slice of that space through the ricochets of the sparks off the walls. This is what it looks like.
What it looks like in real life. The sparks are flung around in a circular motion.


Video taken by Hilary Lai.


With long exposure photography, we can take a single picture of an entire sequence of sparks, resulting in a frame like this:

By taking multiple pictures like this in space, we achieve some level of depth:
A stacked image of four different long-exposure images taken with the steel-wool.
However, with those distracting circles and noise in the middle, I decided to try another method—video. this would maintain the highlighting of the building edges while mitigating any central noise.

This is an example of a single clip of the sparks revealing the perpendicular cross section of the tunnel.


I used Cinema 4D to place planes in space that are proportional to the distance interval each video was taken at, and I created video texture maps for each video, respectively placing them on the appropriate plane. After some camerawork, I arrived at my final deliverable.

The Cinema4D Setup. I added alpha channels to the videos to only show the sparks, and stacked them in 3D space with planes.

What I learned—

At first glance, there might not be any pragmatic point to the work I did here. The technique is somewhat impractical and tedious to actually capture a space.

However, the project was not about that. The beauty in the work here is the reapplication of a process that has been cemented in solely photography since its conception. This project was about being able to take a process to its limits and explore what it could reveal.

Through this project, I learned more intuitively how to dissociate myself from the existing paradigms to try to imagine other ones. If I am to imagine future environments and interfaces, I think I would find this skill priceless.



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