Big robots, subtle effects.

That’s the result in “Box,” a mesmerizing set of etudes on three-dimensional projection-mapped illusions. Spun and levitated on two robots – the type you’d normally see in auto manufacturing and the like – rectangular projection surfaces transform into three-dimensional spaces for a wide range of effects.

Each basic element of technique here is familiar, but as we reach an apex of neo-baroque digital experimentation, those techniques fuse into magical illusions, each more dazzling than the last. It’s filmmaking, but everything is captured in-camera. (It should still be reasonably impressive in person, though the parallax effects require a single vantage point of the camera lens.)

San Francisco’s Bot & Dolly is a multi-disciplinary production house that straddles the boundaries between filmmaking, “automation,” and design. Apart from their human talent, they make use of a pair of “6-axis industrial robots” and sell their toolset to everyone from Vegas to film and TV production. So, this demonstration is very much in that spirit – but, accordingly, reminds me of the miniature paintings classical painters once used to show off their technique. It’s a window into their technical chops.

Here’s how they describe the project:

“Box” explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera. Bot & Dolly produced this work to serve as both an artistic statement and technical demonstration. It is the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. We believe this methodology has tremendous potential to radically transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.

Via TouchDesigner’s Facebook page, we get to find out a little more about the behind-the-scenes software:

We’ve seen the Bot & Dolly team do fantastic things – many ‘firsts’ – where TouchDesigner has been involved but released today, Box, a live performance film where for the first time ever robots, actors and 3D projection mapping perform in sync on a live set eclipses pretty much everything else. Phil Reyneri tells us TouchDesigner was used to “do some pretty nifty things” here and we’ll have more on that soon but till then, check this out!

For a reminder of why we’ve got our eyes on TouchDesigner and its most recent updates, see:
TouchDesigner 088 Adds Crazy-Awesome Savvy in Mapping, Scripting, Sound and Music, More

Melding theater and illusion, robotic kinetic sculpture and ephemeral digital effect, this could be another indication of art to come.

Oh, and you may have seen their bots before, especially in some of the US TV campaigns: