Scale Model of Exploratorium Wax Mold

Exploratorium: Live VFX – Obscura

One of the coolest projects I worked on at Obscura Digital was for the opening night of the new Exploratorium, “a twenty-first century learning laboratory,” in San Francisco, Ca.

Exploratorium "Cloud Tank"
Exploratorium “Cloud Tank”

The client wanted to do a massive projection-mapped project of the front of the building to commemorate the opening. Obscura proposed creating all the content for the projections using only live visual effects. Nothing was to be computer generated.

At Obscura, over the course of three months, we broke out into teams, each team responsible for a different effect. For one of my projects I started with a scale model of the front of the building carved out of a block of aluminum, complete with windows and doors. I then melted paraffin wax together with different pigments to create my own colored crayons. These colors were then layered into the mold one by one. We propped the mold up in front of a high speed camera and brought out a bunch of heat guns and hair dryers. We only had once chance to get it right on film.

5 Heat Guns, One Hot Model


The other two effects I worked on was a “cloud tank” that was a larger scale model filled with water and injected with colored liquids, and a time-lapse of crystals growing inside yet another scale-model of the building.

Obscura took this footage, along with the other effects: a time-lapse of plants growing, cymatics, liquid light, and microscope organisms (swimming on a laser-etched slide with the shape of the building on it!) and created a  gorgeous montage, a luminous portal into the processes of life itself. Check out the video of the show below.


The Creators Project Blog
Obscura Digital’s “Emergence”

Behind the Scenes Video:

Behind the Scenes Photos by Tom Sepe on Flickr:

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