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LIVE STREAMED MOBILE LED CAR ART TURNS CORNER

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16 December 2013

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We’d recommend YouTube-ing ‘Mini Art Beat’ before you read on – this project really is quite extraordinary and needs to be seen to be believed. For two weeks in August a Mini Countryman, fitted out with a hi-tech LED ‘skin’ took up residency in London playing bespoke, live-streamed video and animations.

In practice, the process started with a website, Facebook page, and smartphone app that allowed users to upload a photo or video, choose a graphic design, change colours, choose a soundtrack, and enter up to 140 characters of text to be displayed on the car. Once approved, the submission was transmitted to the car via multiple 4G modems. Avolites’ new AI Server combined the graphic designs with the user’s colour preferences, keying the text, and incorporating the video files which were transmitted live to the car (rather than as files for upload). Some sophisticated pixel mapping then presented the output onto the car. The car was then recorded 24 hours a day (via another fully-rigged Mini, of course) and streamed live to the internet. It’s a perfect promotional feedback loop.

Kitting the car out was a technical challenge.

MORE THAN A MOBILE CHRISTMAS TREE

The Mini Countryman was completely gutted and rebuilt by Tait Technologies. A generator was installed to provide power while driving, as well as additional air conditioning to keep the electronics cool. The car was covered with custom-made LED strips backed in velcro, which attached directly to the car. Each strip could be replaced relatively easily if a fault occurred. The crew counted around 48,000 pixels on the car, which weighed in at a hefty two tonne.

There were two ‘modes’: driving and static. Special permission was granted by Westminster Council, London Police, and Transport for London to allow the car to drive while active. The only condition was that no lights could be active on the back of the car while driving. The car was driven eight hours a day (between 7pm and 3am), while for the other 16 hours a day it stood in conspicuous London locations such as Tower Bridge and Pall Mall. When static, the car was plugged into mains power and a satellite system to provide for greater data connectivity and a third broadcast camera was added to provide an additional angle.

THE BRAINS TRUST

The project was conceived and managed by Berlin-based agency, KKLD*, which not only came up with the concept, but designed and managed the complex IT aspects of the project.

Damn Good Productions (with offices in Sydney and London) was engaged by KKLD* to design and operate the camera, switching, and streaming systems, and to provide local support to the event including crew and logistics.

Damn Good provided a full HD, fully-mobile broadcast quality turnkey system. The LED car has a camera attached to the roof with a wide-angle lens – this was then transmitted in full HD by a Gigawave microwave system to a second Mini, set up as a portable control room. The ‘camera’ car had a second camera on its roof, this time with a pan and tilt head operated by the switcher riding inside. Both cameras were then fed into a Tricaster, where the signals are mixed and a soundtrack added. The HD output was then fed to a LiveU LU70, which bonds multiple 3G and 4G modems to output a stream in excess of 5Mbs, and the signal then transmitted to both Ustream (which streamed the event 24 hours a day for two weeks), and also to a custom system which could determine the time of each clip, cut it from the stream, add a top and tail with the user’s name on it, and then deliver it to YouTube — sending the punter an auto notification in the process.

Clearly this was a deceptively complex IT and AV art project that brought together everything a marketeer loves: brand recognition, media buzz, social media feedback, and lasting international PR repercussions (we’re talking about it four months later after all!).

And no, Mini has no plans to release the one-off Countryman as a production model!

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