Local new media artist Eric Trich was thrilled when he got the call that Canton Hall needed his help. He'd attended the Grizzly Bear concert in November, the Deep Ellum venue's first, and walked away impressed by the space.
"I like how it’s straight to the point," Trich says. "You walk in and it’s all black and the stage is right there and the bar’s right there, and they have a really good sound system."
A few weeks later, Canton Hall enlisted Trich to projection map animations on the exterior of the building for its grand opening party Dec. 13. Trich, who is also a painter and sculptor, studied animation at the Art Institute of Dallas and started projection mapping animations onto 3-D shapes as a way to enhance his work in other media.
"I’m always looking at ways to combine my traditional painting skills or my sculpting skills with newer technology, so now I projection map on top of my paintings," he says. "I’m working on an app that basically all of my paintings or sculptures will come to life through the app using augmented reality."
He has found that projection mapping can be a great way to create a buzz around a space. In 2012, when Trich was just 23, he opened a gallery called 11/11 on Dragon Street with money he'd made from some early art sales and started using the technique at events.
"I think that the gallery business model is changing, or it might even be dying — at least the traditional gallery," he says. "Now everybody wants to copy Meow Wolf. We want to have something that nobody’s experienced before, and it’s part theatrical, it’s part art and it’s part technology."
Trich no longer has that gallery ("I was young, and I didn't know what I was doing," he says) but his experience hosting events still gets him booked at places like Canton Hall. For its grand opening party, Canton Hall gave him a lot of leeway with a few specific requests.
"They were pretty open as far as the content. They really just wanted me to do something cool," Trich says. "But they wanted me to make custom animations with their logo and ... to project their sign where it was gonna go before they actually had it fabricated."
The venue also gave him some very high-end equipment to work with. The projector used for the event costs $2,000 to rent for one day.
"I have several projectors of my own, but I don’t have the kind of high-end projectors that you would need to map a building, so normally we would rent them out," he says. "This particular one for the Canton Hall event was one of the bigger projectors I’ve ever used. It was a 20,000 lumen projector, which is very expensive. There's no way I could buy it."
Despite how cool it looks, Trich says the actual process of projection mapping isn't that complicated — or doesn't have to be.
"It’s actually really flexible," he says. "I go and study the space, and then I take lots of pictures, and then from those pictures, I try to re-create animations that when I map them onto the architecture of that building, I can kind of fit whatever I’ve created and whatever I’ve animated onto the structure in real time."
There are even smartphone apps that can be used to projection map. What sets Trich's work apart, he says, is the fact that he knows how to create original animations and can customize them for any building or space.
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"A lot people don’t make their own content. They just take videos from the internet, or they buy them and use them," he says.
In a few years, Trich hopes to open a warehouse space where he can install some of his animated artwork and arrange private viewings.
"I’ve gotten further and deeper into it where I use cameras and sensors to create generative animations for projection," he says. "I can projection map a wall and put the camera in front of the wall, and when you walk in front of the camera, you can interact with the visuals. It's kind of limitless what you can create."