Tag Archives: history

Another Gray Area (1981)

Karel Bata - Another Gray Area 4

My experiments with image presentation led me to create Another Gray Area in 1981. I’d read Malcom Le Grice’s Abstract Film and thought I’d try something new. I rather liked the idea of projected images moving around to create new spatial illusions.

Another Gray Area used a rig built from Meccano housing a spinning mirror linked to a motor, with the whole lot married to a Sony Portapak video camera mounted on top looking down into the mirror. As the mirror rotated the camera’s field-of-view covered 360 degrees.

I video-recorded a dancer in Sadler’s Wells Theatre’s rehearsal space dancing around the rig. The video was then transferred to Super-8 film (my telecine was filming a TV screen!) and this was put in a projector which replaced the camera on top of the mirror-rig. This then projected an image of the dancer that moved around the presentation room, thus creating the illusion of a portal into the original rehearsal space. It was an effective illusion.

This was the first Projection Mapping installation in Europe.
There had been experiments before in the US by Disney, and (unknown to me then) Michael Naimark used a film camera mounted on a record turntable in 1980.

Another Gray Area was shown at several event spaces including Sadler’s Wells Theatre rehearsal rooms (where it had been shot), and the London Film-Makers Co-Op in 1981/2.

The projected material (which moved around the room) can be viewed here:

Vimeo link

I went off to WSCAD to study film, then pursued a film career, and for 30 years the rig sat in a cupboard under my gas meter! One day I attended a talk on the history of Projection Mapping and realised that I had unwittingly been one of the pioneers. Whoah!

Below is the rig. The shaving mirror broke long ago, but its rectangular frame survived. In the pictures it has been replaced with a circular one. Click any image to enlarge.

.Schematic 1
.Karel Bata - Another Gray Area - Wide
 Karel Bata - Another Gray Area: Schematic
 Karel Bata - Another Gray Area - Wide
  Karel Bata - Another Gray Area: Schematic
Sony AV3400 reel-to-reel Black & White 405 lines Portapak hired from Fantasy
Factory. It looks like something out of Kubrick’s
2001, but it wasn’t even SD.
However it was the best you could get in 1981. And it weighed a ton!