TrueCar - Centerpiece


Every summer the Santa Monica pier becomes a glowing nighttime venue for the Twilight Concert Series, where the ocean front comes alive with lights, music, and a beautiful sunset. The summer of 2015 marked a special year as Bradley Munkynutz (Gmunk), Michael Fullmang + VTPro Design, and I (Bedtimes) were given the opportunity to take this lush platform and turn it into an audio visual experience. Directed by Gmunk and and programmed + built by VTPro, I was humbly graced with designing the structure and its animation content. 


The Centerpiece

The "Centerpiece" is a multi-input reactive artistic installation, 15x15 feet wide and towering at 17 feet tall. Inspired by the flowing curve designs of church pipe organs, the Centerpiece is made up of 355 mirrored spires, embedded with a total of 66,000 addressable LEDs. As the sun climes down into the sea, Santa Monica's sky transforms through a beautiful gradient of warm colors. The mirrored faces of the spires followed this timeline of color, reflecting the transforming world around it. Our goal was create a sculpture that was strikingly beautiful on its own, and as the sky turns dark would come alive again as the internal LEDs sparkle with color. 


Input Modes

The Centerpiece's animation content was driven by 3 types of input. Motion, Audio, and Linear animations. This allowed the Centerpiece to be both a passive piece of art with carefully animated content and at times a living breathing fire that reacted to the world around it. During each show the talented artists at VT Pro sat next to the Centerpiece at a Touch Designer terminal operating all three modes during the concert. 

The Linear content was a large library of animations created by utilizing a detailed UV map of the Centerpiece's LEDs. This allowed the artists to realize a variety of intentional looks that highlighted the Centerpiece's forms. 

For the Gesture Control, the team used Laser scanners, which allowed us to track up to 37 points of multi-touch input per side of the sculpture. For example, using 4 sides of the sculpture we can utilize up to 148 points around it. The scanners would live in small housings on the ground and emit a vertical and horizontal wave field that can cover a space of roughly 25 feet wide by 20 feet tall. It’s an instantaneous reaction, with little to no delay at all so the gesture control feels fluid and completely natural.

For the audio control we were able to create a live interactive 3D object to control the animation of the sculpture. We had multiple settings and animations for how the audio would drive the reaction of the sculpture. We took a left and right channel audio feed direction from the concerts main mix and then fed it into a audio interface where we were able to parse all the frequencies of the audio analysis and apply them to reactions to our live generated 3D object, Whether its the size of the object, color, the center of the reaction or the exterior of the reaction. the audio analysis would dive a truly organic growth experience.

As design director it was my responsibility to help curate a look and feel to the LED content. I created a look book of styles for each of the input methods that acted as a guide and bounding board for the programmers and animators. You can view the input method book below:

LED Input Design Deck



Inspired by the designs of cathedral pipe organs, the Centerpiece is a series of curved splines flowing in form with each other. I have always been inspired by sculptures that look like a still moment taken from an organic form in motion, and did my best to instill that vision into the natural forms of the Centerpiece. Through many design revisions, we landed upon a design that had intention and structure, but also hard to define or distinguish. 


Behind The Scenes video



Client:    Truecar
Agency:    Tiny Rebellion
Digital Production Company:    Tool
Director:    GMUNK
Executive Producers:    Chris Neff, Dustin Callif
Senior Producer:    Jennifer Baker
Production Design:    VT Pro Design
Executive Producer:    Vartan Tchekmedyian
Creative Director:    Michael Fullman
Design Director:    Conor Grebel
Centerpiece Designer:    Conor Grebel
Centerpiece Touch Designer Artist:    Matthew Wachtner
Centerpiece Content Animators:    Conor Grebel, Jordan Ariel, Akiko Yamashita, Ali Benter
System Design/Engineering:    Harry Souders
Crew Chief/Install lead:    Nico Yernazian, Hayk Khanjian
Post Production Company:    Digital Twigs
Executive Producer:    Mark Cramer        
Cinematographer:    Andrew Tomayko                                                            
Photographer:    Bradley G Munkowitz
Editor:    Andrew Tomayko
Composer:    Keith Ruggiero (SoundsRed)
Audio Mix:    Keith Ruggiero (SoundsRed)