Trazo Libre

Image credit: Cocolab

In the summer of 2021, we premiered FRIDA Inmersiva, an original Cocolab project made in Mexico.

Frida Inmersiva is a multi-sensory experience that shows more than 20 Frida Kahlo works coming to life in immersive projections. During the exhibition you can listen to fragments of her personal diary and perceive much of the playful and creative personality of this famous painter.

In addition to the monumental show, there are two interactions (Trazo libre and Criaturas Fantásticas) that we designed to amplify the experience of the people who visit the installation, offering a place where they could actively participate and play.

To access these interactions, (as well as to enter the show itself), you have to pass through huge curtains made of ropes, which generates a sense of curiosity and surprise in the people who visit the experience.

In this area, you will see, as you enter, two 'photo opportunities' on each side, and a huge glass canvas (5 x 3 mts) that resembled a framed canvas. Why glass? Well, we needed to have the projection on the other side of the canvas, we needed a translucent material. But, I'm not sure why they choose tempered glass. Perhaps other translucent material would have worked best. But since the team already had made this kind of setting they went with it.

This experience: 'Trazo libre' was designed to give the visitors a space of passive interaction, opposed to the 'Criaturas Fantásticas' that requires more 'energy' to from the user.

A meme made by Andrea Nava, that depicts the size of the interaction 😅

We used a 'Hokuyo' that is a sensor that detects the position. But works as if it was a 'cascade' so, if you touch the sensed surface, it creates a type of invisible shadow underneath that can't be registered. To solve (partially) this problem, it was added another sensor, in the opposite direction. One was on the upper left corner of the frame, and the second on the bottom right corner. The canvas was so big, that we needed two projectors to cover it.

For the first tests, we tested on a wall on Cocolab.

The projection of the canvas was white (with a little bit of texture added digitally). The 'paint' was working as a 'watercolor' allowing transparencies and mixtures between strokes.

As you can see here, it was a bit of a 'lag' on the paint. The developer had to do a lot of calibration.

Image credit: Cocolab

When we try it on site, we had a few things that didn't work as well:

Image credit: Renata Galindo

The luminosity of the canvas.

Was too bright, since the canvas was white, the light could be seen from the other side of the rope curtain. So, we changed it to black. But, we also had to re-do the 'digital paint' appearance, because with the original stokes looked like neon colors.

'The blend and the reflections'

With the new background color, the overlay of the two projectors was very noticeable. It was like a light line that divided the canvas.

Not even the 'Black Diamond' material (that, as its name implies, was super expensive) that was installed behind the canvas, could help with the reflection of the glass and the blend of the projectors.

So, finally, this Black Diamond film was removed, and was substituted by a humble wood frame, lined with a lycra fabric that made the trick. The reflections and the blend, gone!

Too many people touching the canvas, causing interference.

As I mentioned before, the sensor used in this interaction worked as a 'cascade' so when a lot of hands where touching the surface, it went a little bit crazy, drawing straight lines, and it stop recognizing some of the hands.

To fix that, we came up with the idea of making giant pencil props! In that way we limited the people interacting with the installation, so, say only 5 pencils, meant that could be used only for 5 people.

Here I'm making some prototypes made of brooms and scrubbing brushes.

Here I am, testing the brush in the 'Friends & Family' show

We tested them on a 'Friends & Family' show, and they work fine! The one that they liked the most was the 'B' (the second to the left). So, almost the next day, the 'Entorno' (props) department made the brushes made of wood, and with the same 'scrubbing brush' ending to 'paint' in the canvas.

We had to change the instruction that appeared in standby mode, changing it from: 'Drag your hand over the canvas to paint' to 'Paint with the bush'. (easier to understand!) . I think that maybe the only presence of the brushes, made the statement.

Personally, I loved to had the chance to test in a real situation, with real invitees, in the venue, with the show on, we were able to make the last tweaks, to make it more pleasant.

Gif from a video of Vanesa Pliego

Gif from a video of 'un día con Dya'