There was even more buzz than usual around the 22nd Saatchi & Saatchi New Director's Showcase
. As the lights dimmed, the packed Grand Auditorium fell politely silent, only for their industry chatter to be replaced by the mechanical hum of sixteen perfectly synchronized quadrocopter drones.
The fleet of machines performed an elaborate and visually stunning choreographed routine. This aeronautic ballet placed the emphasis less on the machines themselves and more on the beams of light reflected around the stage and theatre by their interaction with mobile robotic lights, mirroring their movements from the stage.
The technologically ground-breaking performance was conceived by senior Saatchi creatives Jonathan Santana
and Xander Smith
, the masterminds behind this year's Showcase. Working in close collaboration with Marshmallow Laser Feast
, specialists in the genre-bending blending of art and technology, the pair set the challenge of conceiving a show-opener that could live up to the title 'Meet your Creator'.
From a windswept shed on the Cornish coast, the team's longstanding fascination for quadrocopters - essentially miniature flying robots - was built into a bleeding-edge son et lumiere. The really clever part? The tracking and programming nous required to conjure an intensely dynamic, sculptural light show from the interaction of this small squadron of airborne and earthbound machines.
This expertise was provided by KMel Robotics
, Alex Kushleyev
and Daniel Mellinger
, whose skill not only made the custom-built quadrotors fly with astounding spatial precision and split-second timing, but also in unprecedented numbers. This performance it seems, set a new world record for synchronized quadrotor flight.
'We were slightly concerned that it would be too robotic and precise, like a hip, very automatic light show,' explains Marshmallow's Robin McNicholas
. 'If it's too clean it loses personality. But they all had a bit of fragility about them, and it made the piece a lot more human - they're kind of cute, buzzing around...' He has a point, too; while there was a distinct sense of intelligence in the performance, in a strange way it felt anything but artificial.
'It's like the school play of some alien species,' chips in Memo Akten
, 'But really, we wanted to get the attention away from the quadrotors and make it really more about the lights and the shapes.'