Pharos by Design Studio 2n Sets Immersive Experiences
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2n, a pioneer in both interactive software design and live tour visuals, has redefined large-scale immersive experiences with Pharos, the winner of this year’s Visual Effects Society award for best visual effects in a special venue project.
Produced by internationally-acclaimed recording artist, actor and producer Donald Glover and his management team at Wolf+Rothstein, Pharos took place outside Auckland, New Zealand in the world’s largest inflatable dome. Partnering with New Zealand’s own Weta Digital, the show integrated brand-new music from Glover’s pop alter-ego Childish Gambino with an hour-long set of stunningly scored worlds created with NVIDIA® Quadro® GPUs powering Epic Games’ Unreal Engine using their new nDisplay cluster rendering technology.
The audience entered an opaque dome surrounded by flickering geometric patterns. The lights went out. Layered ambisonic spatial audio pulsated. The bass dropped. Hex-tiles rippled down the sides of the dome, revealing a creamy starscape. Then, the ceiling opened up. The audience launched on a hypnagogic journey from the primordial origins of Earth to the heat death of the universe, a narrative centered on the eternal cycle of death and rebirth.
2n put a VJ at the helm of a simulated world—and put Childish Gambino and his audience at the center of this experience. “We find a lot of inspiration in the power of realtime rendering, and so instead of live-mixing videos, our operators controlled realtime 3D software; our systems still had knobs and faders, they just controlled things like cameras and characters, or the brightness of the stars or the the heaviness of the rain, so we could play along with the band and ride the dynamics of the music,” said Alejandro Crawford, 2n co-founder and the creative director of Pharos (and of the original Joshua Tree experience, Gambino’s first festival in 2016).
Driving 2n’s bleeding-edge show control software were six NVIDIA Quadro P6000 GPUs that leveraged nDisplay. Developed by project partners Pixela Labs, nDisplay allows multiple instances of UE4-authored applications to be firmly locked together, with deterministic content and frame-accurate time synchronization.
Based in New York City, 2n is part of a new wave of technical design studios that marry stunning art direction and content creation with innovative engineering workflows and state-of-the-art software design. We provide everything from custom VR architectural previsualization tools for enterprise clients to live visuals and touring systems for large-scale productions.
Pharos came together under the direction of executive producers Wolf+Rothstein. Composed of Glover, Wolf Taylor, and Fam Rothstein, Wolf+Rothstein was the driving creative force behind the first Pharos in Joshua Tree, CA in 2016. 2n’s innovative real-time visual design built on the success of the original. “The new Pharos dramatically expanded on the original. Everything was bigger, more immersive, and rendered in greater detail,” said 2n Founder and art director of Pharos, Jeremy Thompson.
Pharos marked 2n’s first major collaboration with Epic Games and Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, as well as with Arbitrarily Good Productions, the technical lead of Giant Sparrow’s What Remains of Edith Finch. The production also secured key development backing from NVIDIA and New Inc., a cultural incubator sponsored by The New Museum in New York City that explores new ideas in art, technology, and design.Said 2n COO, Matt Russotti: “Pharos was about creativity, cooperation and pushing new boundaries, and the work we’ve done with all our partners reflects that spirit and our collective ambition to continue to innovate.”