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Impressive digital artistry makes still-life 'painting' move

Hang this "painting" in a bar, combine it with a subtle change in floor level, and watch the patrons stumble into it and forever swear off alcohol.

Video screenshot by Ed Moyer/CNET

The Redwood Room in San Francisco's Clift Hotel has long been home to intriguing digital artwork.

Three portraits--a man and two women--hang on adjacent walls. If you watch the "paintings" carefully, the seemingly motionless subjects suddenly shift their gazes and change their expressions. These canvases, you see, are really flat-panel screens displaying videos of actors who know how to stand very still.

The "painted" man comes to life and looks at the "painted" lady across the room; they make eyes at each other and subtly smile. The other "painted" lady, older than the first and hanging nearer the man, frowns. That's all that's needed to telegraph a narrative to the viewer: an indiscretion has taken place, or threatens to; a woman's heart has been (or will be) broken.

We're thinking Scott Garner's "Still Life" would fit in well at the Redwood Room (or another such bar). As he explains on his Web site, years ago he "had the idea of a still-life painting that wasn't so still." And eventually he figured out how to pull off his interactive art piece.

He tapped "Unity"--an authoring tool used to create 3D video games, architectural visualizations, and the like--to "paint" his picture.

Then he brought a whole lot of other technology (and ingenuity) into play to create a still life that could be knocked around by shifting its frame. The "painted" vase tumbles; the "painted" fruit scatters. Here's Garner on the cornucopia of gizmos that helped Unity do the job:

On the hardware side is a custom-framed television connected to a rotating mount from Ergomart. Attached to the back of the television is a spatial sensor from Phidgets, makers of fine USB sensors. On the software side is a simple C application to communicate with the sensor and feed the data to a Unity 3D scene. The scene itself consists of a camera tied to the sensor data with all lights and objects parented to it so they rotate in unison.

What all that translates to is the rather amazing artwork you'll see in the video below.

How mischievous would it be to hang the piece by a bar's exit door (or perhaps near the restrooms) and combine it with an invisible change in floor level? Unsuspecting imbibers would stumble into the picture frame, and experience a moment of mind-bending, martini-fueled mayhem.

Still Life from Scott Garner on Vimeo.

(Via Designboom)