FRAMERATE: Scanning the Future of our Planet

There is a little island off the coast of the Lido of Venice: the Lazzaretto Vecchio. It is a short and sturdy structure made up of 16th century bricks, vines and solitary trees. An abandoned pirate cove stuck in the placid waters of the lagoon. However, the Lazzaretto Vecchio is not abandoned. Once boarded this peculiar islet, we are greeted by the pirate crew: the daring, innovative artists of the Venice Immersive, the exhibition of Virtual and Augmented Reality projects for the Venice Film Festival.

In a secluded garden of this cove, I met and interviewed one of the pirates: Matthew Shaw. Matthew is a tall and pale pirate, courageously coping with the Italian midday sun. His red, rebellious curly locks of hair reveal a Francis Drake quality to him concealed under a soft-spoken, British composure.

the cove.

He has travelled and documented the wonders from all seven seas. From the architectural abilities of Ancient Roman Constructions (for BBC One), the treasures of the Maya (for Nat Geo), to the melting ice floes in the Arctic Sea (for Cambridge University). Every travel of his is transformed into lively, colorful and dynamic maps made with 3D scanning. 3D scanning is a technology for creating high-precision 3D models of real-world objects.

Now, he is co-founder of ScanLAB Projects: a creative studio who works in designing online environments, immersive installations and objects.

So, there he was, this explorer of digital distant lands, waiting. Right, the questions…

Matthew, you’re here in Venice with your most recent project FRAMERATE: pulse of the Earth. Could you tell us what brought you to Venice Immersive and what FRAMERATE is all about? 

Our team was lucky enough to be invited to the competition and we are so honored to be here today. When you work with new, emerging art form, it’s quite a chance to be able to have international focus and attention. Venice is a fantastic environment. All the artists, who are usually working all over the world, are working out what this new form of media can be. Venice offers the space for us to meet and discuss the full potential of the medium, how it’s made and its technical challenges.

FRAMERATE: Pulse of the Earth is an immersive installation. Our audience members walk inside a dark room where eight enormous 4k screens are displaced in space: on the ceiling, the floor and on the walls. An array of three-dimensional time-lapses of different landscapes unfold on the screens. There’s a quaint English garden a pumpkin grows and then an industrialized farm where 268 cows are milked.

The purpose of the installation is to give our audience a new perspective on the planet, making them aware of how the planet is changing. Sometimes that change is natural, quite often that change is caused by us. FRAMERATE allows people to witness these changes in a new way and hopefully to be aware of the impact of our behavior on Earth.

Your project pulls focus on climate change, an urgent issue especially for young people. How do you see the relationship between this new tech-rich art forms and the next generation of spectators evolving?

I believe 3D scanning is the future of photography. Actually, I have two small kids: one’s two and the other one’s seven years old. I 3D scan them all the time even if they have no use for these scans right now. However, I think that when they will grow older they’ll expect images to be more than pictures on a flat screen. They will expect them to be interactive objects. They will want to have the ability to swipe around and make an image rotate on itself. There is a new level of agency and interaction that future generations desire. Even FRAMERATE won’t probably exist the future as a multi-screen experience, it will be in one space where image and three-dimensional content will coexist. We are just teasing out what is like to have multiple perspectives, new ways for the viewer to engage with different elements. We give agency, that element of choice to the audience: you can watch or move on. So these are my two key words for the future: choice and control.

And from a business perspective, how does your business model work and what do you believe are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the VR market right now? 

Business modeling is a big question when it comes to an ever-changing technology studio such as ScanLAB. We have come to the belief that it is our role to perpetually experiment and respond to the tech advancements. In this stage of the technological revolution, innovative ideas and projects come before a proper business plan. Indeed, we are observing that new viable markets have demand for our ideas. Specifically with FRAMERATE, we made the conscious decision of re-dimensioning an installation of highly technological content, presenting it at room scale. This decision has made the piece more flexible, giving us the opportunity to reach a bigger audience. ScanLAB strives for adaptability, finding ways thanks to which it can deliver a more valuable experience to the audience.

I see we are running out of time, what are the future routes you intend to take after Venice?
We do have some secret projects up our sleeves at the moment. I have to say that many projects presented here at Venice Immersive have been a learning experience. Especially observing how the audience behaves in front of this new and strange art form. I will continue to engage with 3D scanning working with scientific experts in order to have people reflect upon Earth’s changes in space and time and how everyone’s life plays a role in them.

So as I sail away from the Lazzaretto I salute a man of art, science and conscience. They really don’t make pirates as they used to.

by Federico Erminio Spadaro