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We just saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (fabulous show) and I got to wondering- when will we see virtual backdrops in our hobby?

The pictures attached are a sample of the virtual backdrops displayed during the show. Not sure what technology was being used but it appeared to be LCD screens and the scenes looked incredibly real. In one, the window curtains moved as if being blown by the wind. 

How cool would it be to have such backdrop animations on our model railroads? There could be cars, planes, and people moving in the background as the trains role by - there would be no limit.

 

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I couldn't find anything about this year's show, but I did find this article about the set designer of the 2014 show that used VER equipment. I would guess that it is a large projection screen with one of the very high end projectors driven by a computer.

A few of the professional model train layout builders have theatrical set design background and training. That led me to study a few books on theater and tv set design for concepts and techniques to apply to layout design.

So, one may be able to create a backdrop Masonite board painted with screen paint and use a few affordable projectors hung on the ceiling to create an effect similar to the show's. 

However, you will discover that any of the lighting and effects generators used in theater are quite expensive.

I thank Pink Floyd for setting the stage (pun intended) for technology in theatrical shows. The Eclipse Tour 1972

falconservice posted:

That is what I posted about a few years ago. 

Since O scale and O gauge model railroads are mostly track, this can be used to extend the scenery. 

Anderw

That is a great idea, even just to start at an experimental level. Has anyone used a small LCD to enhance a scene?

I think it is just a matter of time such technology becomes economically feasible to apply to our hobby.  Years ago, a friend visited my layout and commented how cool he thought it would be to have a flat screen TV that showed the camera feed from a locomotive. Back then, that idea was far removed from my priority list but today will soon become a reality with the Lionel caboose camera.

Unless your "projection", I guess that is the right word, has some sort of animation, IE a city scene with walking pedestrians, cars trolleys etc moving, or say a scenic vista where the clouds moved or the angle of the sun changes, say from dawn to dusk, possibly tied to a fast clock, then that would be a pretty expensive solution to display a "static" backdrop.

ScottM posted:
falconservice posted:

That is what I posted about a few years ago. 

Since O scale and O gauge model railroads are mostly track, this can be used to extend the scenery. 

Anderw

That is a great idea, even just to start at an experimental level. Has anyone used a small LCD to enhance a scene?

I think it is just a matter of time such technology becomes economically feasible to apply to our hobby.  Years ago, a friend visited my layout and commented how cool he thought it would be to have a flat screen TV that showed the camera feed from a locomotive. Back then, that idea was far removed from my priority list but today will soon become a reality with the Lionel caboose camera.

The camera in the loco was done many years ago. "railvision" if I'm not mistaken. Not digitally but done.

One scenery item with a screen done a lot, but not seen in a while, are drive-in theaters.

Back projection usually works best overall for multiple lighting conditions. Normal projection effects and is more effected by room lighting.

Static or not, the light involved would change perception.

Moonman posted:

I thank Pink Floyd for setting the stage (pun intended) for technology in theatrical shows. The Eclipse Tour 1972

When I saw Roger Waters in 2016, his virtual imagery was out of this world.  The extremely high resolution images were projected on screens that came down from the ceiling down the center aisle of the stadium and behind the stage.  They constantly moved to various heights to fit the images being projected.  It was a combination of photography and CGI.  Couple that with the rest of the visuals, and of course the music and it was one amazing show.

While not nearly as advanced, my local operating club the Paradise and Pacific has a drive up movie theater where the screen projects the back the image of the people viewing the layout from the outside of the glass.  Always fun when someone new notices that. 

For around the wall layouts, this use of the technology would be interesting and not as difficult as some might think. One item that makes it appealing is the luminance of the images in the background.  Combined with some decent lighting at a similar lighting level for the actual layout, I would think the visual appearance would be much more realistic.    

I think it's a fabulous idea.  The biggest advantage is the flexibility to change your backdrop at the click of the remote/mouse.  Not only could the image move and be more realistic, but your backdrop could change daily.  One day you have a beautiful mountain scene with birds flying and a waterfall, the next you could be in an industrial area with smoking chimneys...snow...rain...sunshine, all possible.  You can really change the feel of the layout with the background scene.

Related image

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Just to experiment with this idea, I hooked up a small projector with a Roku stick and found a landscape scene on YouTube.  I will continue to experiment with different scenes such as a factory area, Great Plains, summer, fall, etc. The results were pretty good in my opinion for throwing together in about 5 mins.

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Last edited by JD2035RR

That tech is used a lot in the amusement industry.  It's just what you think it is, a VERY bright and high-powered projection system.  The coolest part is that the lighting doesn't need a screen or even a flat backdrop.  If it's dark enough around the surface, the projectors are powerful enough to literally map pixels 1:1 to the surface they will hit.

Disney does a fantastic job with this on their Magic Kingdom Castle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhV1LGw3A9U

Efteling has a really nice show as well

https://youtu.be/eY19CqUbsm0?t=261

Some folks doing a LEGO castle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa_F9K50uj8

Wouldn't need to be nearly as complex for our stuff, but throw distances get kinda small and the shadows from existing model rr buildings and trains can be an issue.

Wouldn't need to be nearly as complex for our stuff, but throw distances get kinda small and the shadows from existing model rr buildings and trains can be an issue.

I agree, the shadow of the buildings is definitely a challenge. I would have to play with the height of the projector and angle of the projection a bit.

Really like the idea of the live background where you see grass waving, snow falling, smoke rising, rain, storms, clouds clouding about, wildlife, people, etc

I was a production designer working on award shows in television. We used a combination of led video and rear projection- rear projection being a much cheaper alternative. There were times when we had layers of video.

For a train layout, unless you have a huge amount of space, rear projection might be impractical. LED screens are very expensive which leaves you with front projection. The problems with FP are ambient light washing out the image and shadows cast from foreground objects.

In theatrical and television stage shows, the lighting is very controlled and targeted. Follow spots are a principal light source on the talent. So you would have to carefully light the layout and trains themselves with pin spots, or ideally theatrical spots that can be shuttered to keep light off the backdrop. (Unless you simply wanted night scenes). To avoid shadows, the projectors would have to be high and shoot down, and the resulting keystoning (distortion) would have to be corrected. If you wanted a wide backdrop, it would require multiple projectors and you would need software to stitch it together into a seamless backdrop.

Doable, but requires an entirely unique and complex set of skills that are outside the realm of the average hobbyist- which is why the example shown is a layout owned by a Porsche heir. ( I should point out that I was a designer and left the video tech to the video techs and programmers, so I would be of no help, lol)

I'll be experimenting with this in the coming weeks. I painted a 4' x 8' Gatorfoam board with the blue instead of green to use as a (sky) backdrop to our display table. The paint went on very evenly on top of a light coat of Krylon gray primer using a 4" foam roller. Only one coat was needed. The last photo is my little "video room" blue screen that you don't see during my daily and Sunday Zoom Meetings. Join in today if you would like to chat about it.

Special thanks to Rich Melvin for his coaching along the way.

The weekday Zoom Meetings have been working out pretty well as I get used to them in the shop and customers get the hang of signing on to the same link, Monday to Friday, between 10AM and 2PM EST. I have decided to add a recurring Sunday afternoon Zoom Meeting session between noon and 4PM EST and it will have a different link. The link for the Sunday Session is:

Meeting ID: 825 7366 1227
Passcode: 770655
Both the weekday (M-F) and weekend (Sunday) Zoom Meeting links may be found on the home page of the website.


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