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The Creative Hub, The Storey Meeting House Lane Lancaster, LA1 1TH

DigiLab Diary – Our Workshop Week, 2023

29th November 2023 by Lauren Randall

By Ben Mellor, Creative Engagement Manager

As Blackpool’s old Post Office fills up with a rising tide of sea water and fish swim through and across the windows, I reflect that no matter how many times I witness the trick of video projection mapping – and no matter, it seems, at what scale – it never loses its magic.

Photo by Ed Waring.

The Post Office in question is not the real building of course, but a scale model designed and fabricated by one of the facilitators on our ‘DigiLab’ project – a week-long projection mapping workshop delivered in partnership with Lightpool, Blackpool’s festival of light, and held at their base in Lightworks, the home of Blackpool’s famous illuminations.

The course was led by two of ITD’s Associate Practitioners, Andrew ‘Crofty’ Crofts and Matt ‘Matt’ Tully, with support from me (Creative Engagement Manager) and visits from Co-Artistic Director Simon Wainwright and Executive Director Julie Brown.

Photo by Ed Waring

The participants were an eclectic bunch of graphic designers, animators, film-makers, photographers, artists, theatre practitioners, and even an architectural historian. Some are in the very early stages of their creative careers, some are more established, but all were chosen primarily on the basis that the course would represent a significant development opportunity, enabling them to add a projection-mapping string to their digital bows.

The first day comprised a ‘projection mapping 101’ introduction to some key pieces of software, namely Isadora and Q-Lab amongst others, and the basics of throwing an image from a laptop, via a projector, onto various shapes – including a cardboard box and a football.

Photo by Ed Waring.

Day two was an introduction to ITD’s approach to storyboarding, and the narrative element that makes the company quite unique in the world of light-based installations. The participants were then divided into three groups to begin applying their new skills to the creation of a short piece of animated story-telling.

In previous iterations of this course, the projection-mapping has taken place cast onto dolls’ houses, but this year, to celebrate our ongoing relationship with Lightpool, we (or rather Matt) fabricated three Blackpool landmarks – the Tower Ballroom, the Winter Gardens, and the old Post Office – for each of the groups to work with.

This worked really well to situate the project in the city it was taking place in, and at least one group incorporated the history of their building’s design and construction into their piece in a fascinating way.

Photo by Ed Waring.

Days three and four were spent knuckling down to create the work, with groups and individuals combining their existing skills and new knowledge in different ways to film, design, animate, soundtrack and map their pieces onto their buildings.

A brief pause from toiling over hot keyboards was allowed on the Wednesday afternoon when we took an extended lunch-break to participate in a guided tour of the vast Lightworks warehouse. This much-anticipated and disproportionately exciting event was an intriguing insight into the infrastructure necessary to create Blackpool’s illuminations – the creativity, design, manufacture and logistics that go into making attractions that thrill around 3.5 million visitors every year.

Photo by Ed Waring.

At the end of the day on Friday, following a generous lunch of sandwiches and cake courtesy of Lightpool (via M&S), it was time for the participants to share their creations with a small invited audience of cultural producers from Blackpool and Lancashire. Each piece had its own unique character and I was amazed at how much quality work had been created in such a short space of time. The participants then had an opportunity to feedback about their experience and ask questions of the industry figures in the audience about developing their careers further at festivals and theatres in the future.

Photo by Ed Waring

Overall it was a hugely rewarding week, for both participants and facilitators alike. Everyone seemed to take a lot from it and have a hugely enjoyable, creative experience. We look forward to next year’s course (watch this space if you’re interested in applying) and seeing what this cohort of practitioners go on to create with their newly-enhanced skills!

Photo by Ed Waring.

Thank you to frequent ITD photographer Ed Waring for capturing the week in action!

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