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Your First (Blurry) Glimpses of the Omni Hotel Video Fest

by Jerome Weeks 23 Aug 2012 11:14 AM

Next month’s Dallas Video Fest will be launched with an evening of Giant Dancing Video Artwork on the side of the Omni Hotel. Last night, the artists had their first, full-scale run-through.


So you’ve probably heard that in honor of the Dallas VideoFest’s 25th year, a group of local video artists is hijacking the high-wattage exterior of downtown’s Omni Hotel. “Expanded Cinema,” as the program is called, will feature short clips by such artists as Kari Altmann, Frank Campagna, Carolyn Sortor and Jenny Vogel. They’ve created new MP4 programming for the nearly 200,000 square feet of LEDs wrapped around the Omni. The twenty stories of exterior lighting will become one of the world’s largest TV screens, albeit a fairly low-res one. There aren’t that many pixels, comparatively, on the building’s nearly 200 foot tall screen, so recall, if you can, the general look of a game of Pong.

Which, in fact, was one of the initial programs tested last night. It was the first full-scale run-through of what will happen the night of September 26, the evening before the Video Fest kicks off at the Dallas Museum of Art. The very first image, naturally, was a staring, blinking eyeball (it’s part of the Video Fest’s trademark, but I hoped for a razor cut). Below, you can see four, 15-second clips of what went up, captured on my aged iPhone.

Even with such equipment (but with a comfy, clear evening to enjoy the spectacle), there was one lesson to pass along: If you plan on seeing the Giant Dancing Omni Artwork, get away from the hotel. I started out across the street at Lamar and Young, and it quickly became apparent that I was basically standing with my face pressed against the TV screen. I was mostly seeing individual pixels and not the Big Picture.

My vantage point was perfectly fine for catching the Omni’s regular programming of slowly swirling, bubbling lava. But whenever the video artists got out of high-contrast, graphic programs like the Pong simulation or the Big Billboard Lettering and into videotaped humans, it was hard, sometimes impossible, to make out shapes and faces — particularly during a mirror image video of what looked like a dancer or gymnast hopping around, a smudgy pale figure on a smudgy pale background.

So I dashed a couple blocks away and stood on the steps of Founders Square (the bottom two clips). It was easy enough to catch what I thought of as The Sliding Fruit Video, but even here, it was sometimes difficult to make out images such as the side profile of a bald head (those videos aren’t included here — gotta save you something for the premiere). I figure the optimum distance will be at least 5-6 blocks away or more. But beyond that distance, you may start to lose some details, if any.