Creative Projections Bring the Outdoors Inside at LA Yoga Studio
We tend to think of visual immersion being owned by the entertainment realm. Projectors, screens, and displays live to stimulate our brains with movies, TV shows, and games (and, of course, advertisements). But in our daily life, we all use visual stimulus for focus and rejuvenation as well. A scenic drive or walk, relaxing by a quiet lakefront, or the simple act of people-watching while sipping a cup of tea all incorporate our sense of sight.
The idea of tapping into this realm of visual stimulation to enhance the spirituality and mindfulness benefits of a yoga, Pilates, or meditation class is what drove Nicole Drakulich to design and found Oraya Movement, her innovative studio in West Hollywood, California. Drakulich knew she wanted to break through traditional boundaries, and with a background in graphic design and a passion for fitness, she recognized that she could combine technology and wellness to offer a new experience that would benefit her clients.
To help realize her dream, Drakulich enlisted an established set-construction company, Vision Scenery, and Background Images, a video installation firm with decades of experience in film, TV, and large-scale show installations. Together, they brought to reality Nicole's vision of a large, oval-shaped space separated by a central wall divider, with open studio space on one side and Pilates equipment on the other. What makes the space special is that the oval wall surrounding the entire space is virtual—a giant, continuous, projection screen that can display immersive, calming, outdoor environments. For one class (or a portion of it), the scenery may be a from-the-shore view of the water and rocky cliffs on a sunset-lit canyon lake. On another day it might be the view from the eyes of a swimmer inside a lush, tropical basin, looking out toward a waterfall and tree-lined shore. There's no limit to the possibilities of how the space can be altered.
Background Images was charged with specifying and installing the equipment, and after consulting with the team they settled on using Panasonic PT-RZ660 projectors. The PT-RZ660 is a 6,000-lumen, single-chip DLP model with high-definition WUXGA native resolution (1920 x 1200). Critically, it is also fairly compact (about 20 x 8 x 22 inches, WHD), and features a 20,000-hour, filterless, laser light engine with virtually no maintenance requirements.
Upon completion, the more than 3,000 square foot space was split roughly in half, with one studio that comfortably holds nine guests on Pilates reformers and a yoga classroom on the other side that accommodates 15 to 20 guests. The ten required projectors were installed above the 8-foot curved walls of the studio and equipped with Panasonic's ET-DLE030 ultra-short-throw lens, with a fixed 0.38 throw ratio, to enable the large screen projections.
Background Images opted for Dataton's sophisticated Watchout multi-display software for playback. As the studio walls were curved rather dramatically at the turns, the company used Watchout's capabilities to handle the warping and blending functions required for the seamless imagery (though the PT-RZ660 does have its own edge-blending and geometric correction features and software). The walls were painted a high-contrast gray to help with the blending, and the visuals were created in an 8K x 1200 raster. To keep functionality quick and simple for the class instructors, Watchnet software was installed on an iPad to allow selection of scenes in either studio. In total, five different visual settings were created.
Total development time for the project was nearly three years. A big concern from the beginning was making sure the team found the right balance of lighting and projection to keep the classes immersive without being distracting. "It was really important for us not to make the studio and imagery too overwhelming for our guests," said Drakulich. "Together, we were able to find the right balance of technology and ambiance where Oraya could accurately and effectively use imagery for healing."