2014 No.14


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Splendor and Sparkle in Japanese Culture


Light Brings Technology to Culture

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Japanese art and design have begun embracing the high-tech potential of light, adding sparkle to culture. These pages feature some of the marvels of light and visual effects: a techno pop group that tours the world; illumination in delightful old Kyoto; goldfish in an aquarium shaped like folding screens; genetic modification to create clothing that glows in the dark; and a toy that makes 3D projection a snap. Culture in Japan is glittering in new ways, thanks to the marriage of light and technology.

Sound and light, all synced on stage

Japan’s techno pop group Perfume wowed an audience from around the globe when they performed at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France, in June 2013. The festival is one of the biggest for creators working in advertising.

Singing and dancing on the festival stage, the three girls were transformed into a moving canvas of sparkling computer graphics. Infrared cameras and other distance-measuring cameras were used to generate projected images that synced with the girls’ movements. Even though the girls were moving about, dancing and singing, the images followed them precisely, with no lag or overlapping. Patterns were sync-projected on their costumes using new techniques, and the images took on a life of their own.

Making this technically possible is a group of projection creators called The Rhizomatiks. They have left the days when images were projected on a two-dimensional surface—instead, they use projection mapping to cast light on three-dimensional forms. With their technology, the images seem to adhere to the performers’ bodies and costumes. The group is now bringing their creativity to various fields including music, TV commercials and web design.

A scene from Perfume’s performance at an ad festival in Cannes, France. The Rhizomatiks’ projection mapping techniques make it possible to synch visual effects with the three girls’ movements.
©Cannes Lions, Dentsu Inc., Getty Images