Neon Museum in Las Vegas Launches Immersive Projection Experience, Bringing Unrestored Signs to Life

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Photos and video courtesy of the Neon Museum

The Neon Museum has debuted an audiovisual immersion experience that uses sound and three-dimensional video projection to reanimate 40 of the museum’s iconic vintage signs that no longer function. Presented after dark in the museum’s North Gallery, “Brilliant!” was created by digital artist and designer Craig Winslow using projection mapping to create a one-of-a-kind augmented reality experience.

The unrestored, non-working and in some cases broken signs appear re-electrified for up to 50 guests at a time through a presentation that takes them back through Las Vegas’ history, accompanied by music from some of the Las Vegas’ storied performers.

Audio-visual design group Earth Water Sky utilized 24 3D-sound speakers and eight projectors emitting a total of 80,000 lumens of light to create a 360-degree audiovisual experience. Two 20-foot climate-controlled towers, designed to resemble the classic Champagne-bubble cylinder from the old Flamingo Las Vegas hotel and casino, were constructed by sign company YESCO to house projectors aligned at precise angles to cover the entirety of the North Gallery space.

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To create the projections used to give the impression the signs have been re-electrified, Winslow took a combination of flat photography, drone video, and 3-D photogrammetry, all used as references to recreate each sign, bulb by bulb, in Adobe Illustrator. He then used a process called structured light scanning to obtain a precise view of the projectors’ output, before fine-tune warping the content to perfectly align to the bulbs, bent metal and broken neon tubes of the signs in the gallery. This process, known as projection mapping, aligns digital animations to the physical world.

“The addition of ‘Brilliant!’ to the Neon Museum’s roster of offerings further defines our role in sign collection, conservation, restoration, historic preservation, research and learning,” said Rob McCoy, president and chief executive officer, Neon Museum. “This is truly a first. Nowhere on the planet has anyone attempted to create what we are about to launch at the Museum.”

Winslow, selected as one of Adobe’s 2016 – 2017’s Creative Residents, previously created a smaller-scale, one-night-only projection for the museum’s North Gallery last February. That work was part of a larger, site-specific series Winslow created called “Light Capsules,” where he uses projection mapping to revive “ghost signs”—unrestored, faded, no longer legible painted signs on buildings. The museum then commissioned Winslow to create a permanent experience for visitors.

“Working with the Neon Museum’s collection has been a moving experience for me,” says Winslow. “Reilluminating these signs pays homage to their designers. It’s an honor to be able to give people a chance to see these signs exactly as they used to be.”

Performances of “Brilliant!” take place at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m., Wednesday through Monday (no shows on Tuesdays). Tickets are $15 for locals and $23 for general admission.

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Jason Epperson

Jason travels the country full-time with his wife Abigail, and three children in a converted school bus.

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