Seeing the Unseen Stars in Grand Central Terminal

September 22, 2017 Projects

New Yorkers don’t stop for much of anything, ever, but with our latest effort, we had them stopping in their tracks with an important message, powerfully delivered.

Advertising firm BBDO had given us a call on behalf of their client, GE, who were looking for somebody to take on a compelling project. It was going to be called “Unseen Stars”, celebrating the oft-overlooked women of science, technology, engineering and math. We readily agreed, particularly given GE’s tangible efforts to hire more women into the field — they have made a commitment to balancing the equation (#BalanceTheEquation) where most companies give lip service. As they say:

“GE’s effort to Balance The Equation will significantly increase the representation of women in engineering, manufacturing, IT, and product management roles. Without more women in manufacturing, GE expects the skills gap to widen, resulting in decreased productivity and diminished potential of digital technologies to transform the manufacturing industry. The company believes that the commercial imperative, coupled with the ongoing challenges of recruiting and retaining top female talent in STEM jobs, means organizations must make real and continued investments in closing the gender gap.”

Photo by Joshua Brott

We’d be projecting images of 12 accomplished women of science on the ceiling of the famed Grand Central Terminal (it’s not a “station”, we learned) in New York City, both day and night. With the GCT’s lofty windows, pulling off quality daytime projections would be a trick, requiring more projectors to overcome the natural light (see: physics).

Photo by Joshua Brott

We laser-scanned the building’s ceiling, created both a 3D digital model and a cardboard model in the office, and went about the projection mapping, deciding in the process to incorporate the ceiling’s ornate architectural facets into the program as well.

The 275 ft long by 120 ft wide arched ceiling presented an interesting challenge in that it features an astrological mural painted by Paul César Helleu. (Fun fact: the zodiac was accidentally painted backwards, and the Vanderbilts played it off by saying it was seen from God’s perspective. Definitely going to use that one someday.) Rather than fight it, we decided to incorporate it into the media, using it as a starting point to morph its constellations into our own.

Photo by Joshua Brott

Working in a historic building like the GCT presents significant challenges, including an anxious 3-hour window to do any work in the Main Concourse, between 2am and 5am. When 2am would hit, the team would hit the ground running. Any mishaps, delays or distractions would prove costly, so carefully pre-planning every move ensured our success.

Projector bank on our custom-built truss beneath the flag. Photo by Will Chase

We worked very closely with the GCT and BBDO staff, who were excellent and capable partners, committed to sharing this important message broadly and powerfully. Often it’s a shared passion for a project that transforms clients into collaborators.

The passion paid off as we saw girls looking up to the ceiling, watching wide-eyed in wonder, inspired by what they see, and starting to grasp their true full potential … something they’ve historically (and ridiculously) been denied. Someday, we’ll be looking up to them.

Photo by Joshua Brott

Photo by Joshua Brott

Photo by Joshua Brott

This is why we do this.

Check out the Facebook 360 Live feed from the event.

By Will Chase