Creating 50 minutes of animated content to be displayed on an LED screen in the permanent collection of the Melbourne Museum.
A circular booth was made to accompany the screen so that children and adults were able to sit near the screen and listen and watch the audio visual installation.
The project featured 15 lullaby’s from all around the globe that are sung to children to help them go to sleep.
The installation is apart of the new Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery and was commissioned by the Melbourne Museum.
The LED lights were constructed by eNess
This is song is a Zulu (South African) lullaby called Mama Nguwe. It is sung in Zulu, one of the 11 languages sung in South Africa. Song says: “Mother, we honour you, for all the things you do for us as children. Mother, you are the one who looks after us. You are one who makes us feel happy when we are sad. You give us love, you take care of us all the time, as well as clothing us.” It is an original song and it is sung by Valanga and Andrea Khoza.
This is song is a Chilean lullaby sung in Spanish called Duerme Negrito. It is a traditional Latin American folkloric lullaby, originally from an area near the Venezuelan and Columbian border. The song tells the story of a slave who leaves her child in the care of a lady who promises the little black boy that her mother will bring him treats if he falls asleep. It is one of the most famous and beautiful Latin American lullabies.
The project brief was to create a multimedia display for inclusion in the new Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery at the Melbourne Museum that opened in 2017.
The installation needed to be engaging to children, inclusive of all cultures and not be too over stimulating of the sensor to minors (children 2- 7 yr olds). It also needed to cohesively fit in with the overall theme and structure of the gallery as the work would not be received as an individual piece but included in a range of play activities.
From this we spent time researching what children’s needs are, things that they gravitate towards, and looked at the range of emotions that can be triggered by certain activities. We arrived at the problem to solve – how can we use play to increase learning and development in children 2- 7 years old? We analysed the concept of ‘play’ and found that it is a way that children can express their feelings even before they have the words to say how they feel. In play children are in charge of what they do. Being in control in play helps them to learn to manage their feelings. When children make or build things in their play, they are building skills and confidence in themselves. In play children learn about the give and take of relationships with their friends. They learn to lead and follow and to care for others. Play can also be active and passive. For younger children such activity may include watching and listening to others, observing other children or animals, listening to stories, or looking at pictures. We came up with the idea to create a circular screen which children could climb inside and look and listen to a multimedia display of light and sound. It was intended to be restful, a space where they could escape the business of the other activities.
12 bedtime lullaby’s were sourced from around the globe in a variety of languages including African, Latin American, French, Italian, Japanese, Australian, Russian. These melodies chosen were for their appeal to a culturally diverse audience and provided a structure for the installation that ran for 50 minutes. Accompanying each lullaby was an animated light show of patterns on an LED wall. The animated patterns in the lights were taken from traditional motifs and designs of the country that the accompanying song was from.
A faze of prototyping and testing was explored in the creation of the LED lights.
The LED lighting wall panel used in this display was hand crafted in the ENESS studios in Melbourne where the size, scale and shape of the individual lights were considered. It was decided upon to use a kite shape for each LED as it is more interesting then a square shaped light as the latter would look too similar to an enlarged pixel. Fabrication was also a consideration of the lullaby installation. The options we considered to use as an outer surface covering of the lights were acrylic, light wood or soft fabric. Each material inherently has it own aesthetic which suits different contexts accordingly. In the Lullaby project we needed to have something sightly durable so that if children ran into the screen surface they would not break it. For this reason the acrylic material was used for the final surface.
The type of content to be run on the LED screen was important. The size of each individual LED light the pixel count was very low – 360 x 360 pixels. For this reason you could not run standard video content through the screen, each light had to be individually mapped and assigned. After a period of trial and error the type of content that worked best on the screen used bright colours and full values. These particular LED lights did not work well with stepping of deep / dark colour tones, it liked strong value signals of hue colours and on / off messages to display.
The amount of light being emitted from the LED screen was also to be of consideration. Too much light, and too much fast flashing and motion can be over simulating to children. The museum specifically indicated in their brief that they did not want an overbearing display. For this reason the animation design of the lights cuts out 50% of the pixels at any given time. By eliminating half the pixels we reduce 50% of the overall opacity of the light given out by the panel. The motion and movement of the animations is gentle and slow, inducing a rhythmic mediation in sync with the audio.
The outcome of this project was well received. Children were drawn to engage with the lullaby installation and felt comfortable to play in the space. A further line of investigation and learning was drawn from this project by watching how children engaged with the display. Many wanted to touch the lights and have the screen respond to their input in some way. Subsequent LED installations have incorporated an interactive element to effect the lighting animations from human input.