Gigapixel ArtZoom is an interactive multi-billion-pixel panoramic image celebrating the arts in Seattle.
You can find dozens of artists and performers throughout the city by using your touch screen, mouse, or keyboard to pan and zoom the image.
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When Michael Cohen approached me about helping Microsoft Research with a Seattle gigapixel shoot, I was happy to be involved. It was an intriguing idea: using Microsoft's panoramic stitching and viewing technology to celebrate the culture of Seattle, creating an image that fills the city's streets with dancers and actors, painters and poets, acrobats and burlesque queens.
The go-ahead for the project happened as autumn approached, so the team was under pressure to get the work done before the rains fell. What they came up with in that quick burst is a great snapshot of the city, including a look at working artists and performers in a cultural slice of life, as well as a look at a vibrant city at work.
One thing I like about that final snapshot is that it represents so much more than it shows. The culture of Seattle, as with any great city, is a web of people and organizations, with shifting collaborations and artists playing many roles in the city's life. The scenes captured here can't help but make reference to any number of exhibits, performances, institutions, and installations; that web of creativity that constantly happens across the city and elsewhere.
The shot of Anna Rose Telcs dressing her model on the street, for example, is a reference to her explorations of cloth, clothing, and fashion at the Watermill Center in New York and the Henry Art Gallery, and especially the performance she staged this year in Red Square at the University of Washington. Similarly, dancer Ezra Dickinson's image is a quote from a beautiful and powerful dance performance he did last spring, "Mother for you I made this." Produced with Velocity Dance Center, the dance roamed through the streets and back alleys of Seattle, looking both at life on the streets and Dickinson's mother's long years of undiagnosed schizophrenia.
Sari Breznau sings to Elliot Bay in her amazing dress, recreating the wonderfully comic Opera Diva performance that she did for the late, great Circus Contraption ten years ago. In one of her other lives, Breznau is a choir director, and last year she directed The People's Grand Opera in Sara Edwards' "The Public Road" at the Frye Art Museum, with Walt Whitman's verse set to music.
The Seattle Repertory Theatre is represented by a team of staff members hanging a sky drop from the top of the Bagley Wright Theatre. The drop is from the Rep's scene shop, and was designed by Jennifer Zeyl for the theatre's production "Of Mice and Men." Zeyl has her hands in projects across the city. The founder of the Canoe Social Club, a club for artists, performers, and their supporters, she designed the wedding chapels for the 150 same-sex weddings that happened at City Hall in December 2012.
And though he appears here as a visual artist, with one of his drawings shown in a pretty amazing place, Mark Siano is a mainstay of Seattle's theater, cabaret, and improv scenes. The public relations manager at ACT Theatre, he has made regular appearances in "Café Nordo," a dinner theater about food, and produces the annual sketch comedy show "The Habit 13."
Iole Alessandrini's fabric piece is from the "ERROR 404: SITE NOT FOUND" exhibit that she showed recently at SOIL. SOIL is a venerable artists' collective that has hosted countless Seattle artists over the past two decades. Current and former SOIL artists are well-represented here, as with Christian French and Tim Marsden, and with the huge chalk-on-tarpaper drawing that Ellen Ziegler, Julia Freeman, and Nola Avienne produced, operating as the Venn Sisters. Ziegler has worked with large-scale tarpaper pieces before, including in her "Book of Knowledge." Large-scale fabric and paper work is popular here, as in the SoMa Project and the piece that Amy Billharz did for the Lo-Fi Festival at Smoke Farm.
Troy Gua can be seen on the street with one of his "Pop Hybrid" portraits—this one, "La Dada Gaga," combines images of Lady Gaga and Marcel Duchamp's "L.H.O.O.Q." The SAM Gallery recently showed his exhibit "Hybrid."
Seattle has a penchant for parades and giant puppets. The white dragon-snake that Sarah Lovett shows beneath the Chihuly sculpture (and displayed like a trophy fish, as if it had just been caught after a long struggle) merely scratches the surface of the city's energetic passion for color, costume, and giant puppetry, often through the workings of the Fremont Arts Council.
Tessa Hulls and Eric John Olson show up balancing books on their heads in the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, in Hull's homage to beloved books. Hulls is one of the most energetically driven young artists working in Seattle today. As I write this, she has just completed painting a large mural on the Microsoft campus, she's just curated an exhibit at the Vermillion art bar of former and current artist-neighbors from a legendary Seattle artist apartment building, and just published an impressive autobiographical essay for On the Boards, Seattle's pre-eminent performance art venue, in response to South African dancer Gregory Maqoma's "Exit/Exist." Engineer and artist Olson is one of the more fascinating young conceptual artists working in Seattle today. Most recently, he co-curated "Art & Social Practice" at Canoe. One of my favorites among his work remains "Tunnels," created at Smoke Farm and Inscape.
Also in the Olympic Sculpture Park, the artist duo KeseyPollock recreated "Set the Table," a sculpture they did for a fundraiser there last year, employing their skill and fascination with casting full-scale human figures.
One of my favorite performances was the protest against surveillance created by PDL. PDL is a group of working artists who have been staging art pranks and protests around town for years, as in the demonstration PDL member Greg Lundgren once staged at On the Boards, protesting performance art. Of course, the protest itself might well be seen as performance art. PDL is best known for creating the "Eaglets," baby reproductions of Alexander Calder's "Eagle," soon after the opening of the Olympic Sculpture Park.
Waxie Moon is one of the foremost burlesque performers in Seattle, including a beautiful performance at On the Boards. He's also the star of the film "Waxie Moon in Fallen Jewel," by Wes Hurley. Here Waxie is performing on the street, attacked with a samurai sword by actress Wendy Ashford, all the while being filmed by Hurley. This shot commemorates Seattle's film history alongside its lively burlesque scene, with the action happening in front of the Rendezvous tavern. The Rendezvous' tiny Jewel Box Theatre was a mainstay of Seattle's Film Row when it opened in 1927 as screening room.
And then there are the art cars. Seattle is one of the nation's hubs for art cars, hosting the Seattle Art Car Blowout, one of the country's most popular art car gatherings each summer, during the Fremont Fair. Here Kelly Lyles has brought together a mini-conclave of local cars.
And of course, there's so much more: belly dancers on Alki Beach, representatives of the Tashiro Kaplan Artists Lofts and Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, plein-air painters, and acrobalancers. It's a lively, interwoven city.
Hundreds of years ago, before the age of movies and the internet, people flocked to see large-scale panoramas displayed in buildings designed specifically to house them. Fast forward to the present, and it is only very recently that such large-scale panoramic imagery can again be created and viewed.
In 2007, Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Oliver Deussen, and Michael Cohen at Microsoft Research showed how to capture gigapixel-scale images containing billions of pixels, and—more importantly—demonstrated new online viewing capabilities. Novel viewing techniques were needed because a gigapixel image contains roughly a thousand times more pixels than a typical screen can display, and therefore requires smooth panning and zooming in order to explore the immense detail.Get the
Since then, the ability to create panoramas and view them has spread from desktop computers to mobile devices. Microsoft's Photosynth app, for example, allows you to capture panoramas on an iPhone or Windows Phone, and share them using a viewer that runs in any modern web browser. The same Photosynth viewing technology is being used to present the Gigapixel ArtZoom panorama on this web site.
The first gigapixel image we captured back in 2006 was a picture of Seattle's downtown skyline as seen from a rooftop on Capitol Hill. Although the panorama was beautiful, it struck us upon exploring the image that there were hardly any people to be found. Whenever we discovered a person in the panorama, we were excited to think about who that individual was and why they were there. It was fun to spend hours exploring this single image. But we always wished there were more interesting things to find.
For several years, we thought about creating a new gigapixel panorama of Seattle, this time making sure it was populated with fascinating people and activities. Finally, in the fall of 2013, we set out to do just that, and the Gigapixel ArtZoom project was born.
We first sought out the perfect rooftop location from which to shoot such a panorama. We were lucky enough to find the Bay Vista condominium building, and thanks to the gracious owners, get access to amazing 360-degree views that include the Seattle Center, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and Seattle's stadiums, as well Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, and Lake Union. We also discussed the project with John Boylan, who has deep roots in the Seattle art scene. He helped us attract great interest from the arts community to come out and help create this celebration of the arts in Seattle. John introduced us to Elise Ballard, who coordinated the efforts of everyone involved in producing the entire piece. And finally, videographer Kris Crews helped us assemble a team to shoot video footage of the artists and performers from the ground.Get the
Beginning on a brilliant sunny day in October, we climbed up to the roof to capture our first panorama using a Canon digital SLR camera, a professional 400 mm lens, and a Gigapan robotic tripod head. We captured two half panoramas from opposite corners of the roof because no single spot had a perfect view in all directions (this explains the seams you see). All together, the full panorama consists of 2,368 twenty-two-megapixel images. We stitched these images together using our Image Composite Editor (ICE) software, which is available for free from Microsoft Research. This resulted in two 10-gigapixel half panoramas, recording the city in fantastic detail, but still somewhat lacking in people.
Over the next few weeks, we climbed to the roof six more times to capture individual artists, acrobats, and other performers at dozens of locations visible in the panorama. These photos were captured from precisely the same spots on the roof as the panorama shots, using a Canon digital SLR with lenses ranging from 400 mm to 600 mm. While we captured still shots of the performers from the roof, video crews filmed the events on the ground.
Back at Microsoft Research, Celso Gomes worked his magic, compositing the individual shots of artists and performers into the final 20-gigapixel panorama. Meanwhile, the video footage from the ground and other media was assembled to create short video vignettes. Finally, Eric Stollnitz built a web site that provides the world access to the panorama and other media.
The result is the Seattle Gigapixel ArtZoom. We hope you have as much fun exploring the imagery as we had creating it.