Profilograph (after Muybridge)

With Muybridge’s images being a firm favourite of those experimenting with new technologies and new art forms, comes the news of the Profilograph (after Muybridge), based on one of his galloping horse sequences.

Pablo Garcia (pablo garcia/POiNT) outlines the profilograph technique on his website:

A physical manifestation of motion

Profilography is a neologism describing a technique of drawing through sequential contours or profiles. It derives a three-dimensional form or space through the accumulation of adjacent 2D profile lines. Applied to temporally derived data, such as frames from a film, the extrusion made from the extrapolation of in-between frame data becomes a physical manifestation of motion. Slicing through the extrusion (parallel to the film plane) with increasing depth yields a morphing between frames.

A typical [Muybridge] sequence used twelve cameras at regular intervals to capture one cycle of a horse’s gallop. By cinema standards, this is quite sparse. There is a lot of data missing between each frame. By tracing the Muybridge frames, and working them in the computer through a series of digital operations … the in-between data materializes in a solid model tracing the full motion of the horse’s run. Taking a slice through any point will yield a new frame in Muybridge’s sequence. Since the model is contiguous, there are an infinite number of frames that can be generated from the original twelve.

To physically manifest the digital effects, the digital model is separated into smaller portions [for] a starch 3D printer. The starch parts are removed from the machine, cleaned, and hand-dipped in hot wax … The wax assembly is dipped into a slurry mix of ceramic, silica and binder…. After the final coat has dried, they are flash- burned in a 1700-degree kiln and all the 3D printer starch and hand- applied wax burns out, leaving a hollow ceramic shell. The shells are heated to 1650 degrees, molten bronze (2150 degrees) is poured and the molds are left to cool. Once cool, the molds are shattered, excess bronze is cut away, the pieces are welded together into the final form, sandblasted and a patina is applied to make the final surface finish.

This modern version of the ‘lost wax’ casting technique, combined with a 3D printer (a machine for producing actual physical models from digital information – printing the part layer by layer from a starch-based material until it resembles a 3-D model of the CAD file), enables the creation  of an extraordinary sculpture. It has a precursor in the bronze bird sculptures of Etienne Jules Marey, and is reminiscent of Marey’s overlapping single-plate chronophotographs. Similar techniques are being explored by other artists, including Geoffrey Mann.

PABLO R. GARCIA is the founder and principal of POiNT, a collaborative and multidisciplinary research studio based in Pittsburgh. POiNT is dedicated to experiments in the spatial arts–architecture, design, and the visual and performing arts, in a variety of scales from the portable to the urban. Pablo is the Lucian and Rita Caste Chair in Architecture and Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

With thanks to Pablo Garcia for permission to use this image, and his text.

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