Massive Potential




Massive Potential


Stills from the Massive Change time-lapse video.

For five years now, a camera has been keeping close watch over the Art Gallery of Ontario‘s development on Dundas Street. And for a minute and a half, you can watch just some of what it caught flowing by in a spectacular high-resolution time-lapse video.
It’s all part of a project called Massive Change, done by Chris Aimone, Connor Dickie, and Steve Mann (who, last we saw of him, was building eyes). As Dickie explained to Torontoist this afternoon after we tried and failed to understand the project’s “about” page, Massive Change was done with a “hyper-camera,” a digital camera shooting photographs with resolutions “at least as high as an IMAX film,” controlled by a robotic arm moving that camera along a twenty-four-foot-long rail on the building across the street from the gallery. Because that camera could slide along the track, taking photos as it went, it was able to capture different perspectives on the same subject—something like, Dickie explained, “bullet time” in the Matrix, except the effect is created with one camera rather than many.
The time-lapse video, then, represents only the tiniest portion of what’s possible; the video was just “a quick hack job,” as Dickie puts it, with stills selected “quasi-random[ly]” out of the massive number of shots the camera took. “There’s a lot of stuff to do with this project,” he explained; that includes building large-scale, interactive, moving holograms, or recreating the AGO—the parts of it that the camera could see, at least—as an explorable virtual-reality world. But what the creators are really hoping for is a big installation for a gallery (like, oh, say, the AGO) or for a corporate headquarters (like, oh, say, one owned by Thomson Corporation, whose former chairman, Ken Thomson, funded the AGO’s expansion). One demo that the team threw together in an afternoon, for example, used a big screen displaying the development, coupled with movement-monitoring webcams, to create an interactive piece in which each person viewing the screen could be “acting as a scrub needle” for it: if you’re by yourself in front of the screen and move to the right, the image of the gallery moves closer and closer to the present state of the AGO; join someone who’s already interacting with the screen, and a new image based on your positions and movements is turned into a composite with theirs.
What the project needs next to be able to create those possibilities, though, is money. Made “for and by ourselves,” Dickie explains, and to this point paid for entirely out of their own pockets, Massive Change had no official connection to the AGO whatsoever (though, Dickie explains, “We would welcome a connection”). For now, the camera outside the gallery is still snapping away, the robotic arm still continually moving it back and forth, and, says Dickie, “the possibilities are endless.”