On February 28, 3-D artist, designer and Adobe Creative resident Craig Winslow resurrected some ghosts in the Neon Museum’s backyard.
Winslow’s traveling project, “Light Capsules,” a concept based on the reanimation of bygone signs, has hauled him around the world, from Portland, Oregon to London, England. Our city is Winslow’s second stop on the project’s “Road to SXSW” tour. His one-night installation at the Neon Museum marks his first time augmenting neon, he says.
“There’s a lot of these worn signs that are called palimpsest, and they have multiple layers as ghost signs,” Winslow says. “There’s actual layers of history in them … and if you’re painting over one you’re gonna lose all the detail there. It’s really projection mapping that I’ve found is the best solution for kind of bringing these back to life.”
The day before the installation, Winslow and his crew scoped out the Boneyard in search of the perfect signs. The presence of ambient light and shadows factored into what would qualify as “perfect,” because if you asked Winslow what made his job more difficult he’d tell you, “Streetlights. They’re the bane of my existence.”
“I can literally highlight a previous layer in time. Stuff like that is what makes me really excited about the project.” – Craig Winslow
Luckily, a cluster of the signs in the north gallery of the Boneyard fit the bill. Among them were the Mega Jackpot World sign, the sphere from a vintage Denny’s, a star from the Stardust casino and more. Following the selection, Winslow took photos of the signs, researched information about their origins, and then threw them into Photoshop to make tweaks. From there, the designer converted them from pixels into shapes in Adobe Illustrator (to make them scalable), animated them in Adobe After Effects and then projection mapped them using software called MadMapper.
This all might sound a bit surgical but “It’s totally non-damaging,” Winslow says. “I’ve set up just on the street and I’ve had cops drive by and they were like, ‘Cool, some nerd is doing a thing.’ I’ve never had someone be like, ‘Hey you should turn that [off].’ Most people are like ‘What is that? What’s going on?’”
Around 6:30 p.m., Winslow positioned his three projectors, overlaid the signs’ photos onto their physical bodies with his laptop, and single-handedly transported onlookers back in time. The “Mega” in the Mega Jackpot World sign pulsated again with life. Lights inside the Denny’s sphere and the structure supporting it blinked together in succession.
It was magic. Vintage Vegas magic. And onlookers were under the spell.
With Las Vegas being Winslow’s 21st light capsule install, he’s used to the awe-inspiring effect. But more so when it comes to uncovering the backstory behind his subjects.
“There’s one I did in Astoria, Oregon. … That one’s pretty cool just because it had this hidden layer that I found that was previously lost from existence,” he says. “There’s no history on this but it was this guy Carl Laine and his tailor shop. He was a tailor for 65 years. And I found just enough bits of this sign that I found his old ad hiding underneath. … I really enjoy some signs that I’ve found … [like that] where I’m finding more historical stuff. I can literally highlight a previous layer in time. Stuff like that is what makes me really excited about the project.”