lurkertech.com MEZ

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What is it?

MEZ is an interactive, live, real-time video art installation. When you walk up to MEZ, you see your own image on a video screen, processed as if you are in an impressionist painting, then a stained glass window, then a range of other surprising effects. The image updates continuously and much of the effect is determined by how you move, so you can dance and play with it for hours!

MEZ was inspired by the 'imp' and 'impression' still-image processing programs by Paul Haeberli of SGI (Silicon Graphics Incorporated), now of PhotoViva fame. These programs were in turn inspired by impressionist painters, who built an image of a scene by picking certain important colors from the scene and making complete brush strokes with those colors.

Who Made It? How Do I Get It?

MEZ is custom software (OpenGL in C++) written by Chris Pirazzi, who can be reached at mez@lurkertech.com. It runs on Windows PCs.

MEZ is my hobby and I have been working on it since 1991.

I brought MEZ to the Burning Man festival more than 12 times starting in 2001 (since 2004 it has lived at Camp Nose Fish in 3 o'clock plaza, center camp, and Rod's road), shown it at the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco in October 2015, shown it in Dali, Yunnan, China, and also shown it many times in Pai, a small village in the mountains of Northern Thailand where I have lived for several years.

MEZ is not currently available in any form (product or otherwise), but as I have poured many years of work into it, I am considering ways of packaging it (e.g. as a standalone performance program, a screen saver, a module for Max/MSP or jitter, an After Effects filter, or other). If you are interested in MEZ, please send me information about how you would like to use it and features/video formats/file formats/... which you would need.

Footage

MEZ is compelling because of its fine graphical detail and because of how it moves and evolves: therefore it is nearly impossible to capture on either photograph or video!

Here are some images of people enjoying MEZ (thanks to James Fleishman):

People enjoying MEZ      People enjoying MEZ

Here are some screen shots of MEZ processing a static image:

MEZ processing a static image

MEZ processing a static image

MEZ processing a static image

Here is the MEZ Sampler Reel on YouTube (focusing on those effects which can be captured well by a camera):

Setup Details

The setup I normally use for MEZ consists of:

Typical Outdoor Installation

In the typical outdoor setup, the projector and computer are inside a moving van, panel van, or pickup truck for security, dust, and rain protection (cannot use a small car: the vehicle cab has to have lots of air space otherwise the projector will overheat):

MEZ outdoor setup

In this configuration, I need 18' behind the screen for the truck, and at least 8' in front of the screen for the lights and the dancing people. The lights must be about 4' in front of the screen for the camera angle and spill to work out correctly.

Elevation (one square is 1' x 1'):

MEZ outdoor setup

This is a picture of the setup from Burning Man 2002:

MEZ at Burning Man 2002

Nowadays, my screen is an 8'x8' DA-Lite fastfold screen (shored up against the high winds with a 2x4 support) instead of that wooden monstrosity in the picture, and I sometimes raise the lights up 2' for better lighting of people's faces (wind allowing).

Here is a more modern Burning Man setup, with the projector inside the van:

Indoor MEZ setup

Typical Indoor Installation

Here is a high-tech visualization of a typical indoor installation (this diagram does not show all the structure/trim we needed to use to secure the projector and other equipment from kids and participants in altered states):

Masking/Structure

The most time-consuming part of an indoor installation is typically erecting sufficient structure/barriers/trim to prevent kids and other participants from running behind the screen, tripping on cables, damaging the projector/computer, etc. For the Exploratorium setup we used a combination of barriers, rubber cable troughs, floor tape, and masking curtains:

Indoor MEZ setup

If possible, an even better solution is to place the projector in a back room and project through a wall made of rear-projection screen material.

Power Requirements

Power requirements for MEZ are about 1000 W:

projector325 W
computer225 W (it's a big one)
lights160 W
coolingfans 100 W ~
other100 W

Running MEZ off a generator requires a generator with very stable power (not a typical cheap-o 2000W generator designed for construction tools) because nearly every projector contains protective circuitry that will shut off the lamp if the voltage wanders more than 10-20V off standard. This is critical because projector lamps will explode if it is shut off and on again quickly! So in order to keep the installation running, a proper generator is needed.

Important Setup Notes

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CopyrightAll text and images copyright 1999-2017 Chris Pirazzi unless otherwise indicated.