Apollo 13


Gerfried Stocker (AT)
Horst Hörtner (AT)
Dietmar Offenhuber (AT)
Gerda Palmetshofer
Hermann Wakolbinger
Volker Christian

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to look down upon Planet Earth from outer space? “Apollo 13” makes this dream come true. The Ars Electronica Center’s elevator is launched with you inside, rockets through the atmosphere and settles into a geocentric orbit.

Visually, the elevator ride from the lower level to the Sky Media Loft seems to cover a lot more distance than just a few floors in the Ars Electronica Center. The cabin ascends, seeming to smash through the building’s roof, and soars into the heavens above Linz and the Danube valley. Within a fraction of a second, the outlying countryside comes into view and becomes smaller and smaller as the cabin continues to soar. Austria, Europe and, ultimately, the whole planet Earth - round and blue - come into view.

The Deceptiveness of Pictures

In order to be able to execute Roy Ascott’s concept, a tremendous amount of work and a good deal of trickiness were necessary. The animation sequence is actually a montage composed of aerial footage, satellite photographs and computer graphics whose colors had to be blended together; furthermore, the satellite images had to be digitally rectified to correct for the shifts of perspective caused by the curvature of the Earth’s surface. The clouds which the cabin breaks through during its ascent have been artificially inserted during post-production to intensify the feeling of the enormous distance traveled.

The greatest problem in assembling the footage was synchronizing the animation speed with the speed of the lift. During the ride, a computer calculates the acceleration and the speed of the elevator cabin and, at every point in time, transmits the correct image to the projector. At normal speed, only each fourth frame is displayed. During the process of accelerating or braking, the intervals become shorter and shorter until, ultimately, every single frame is shown. In this way, a fluid video sequence is suggested to the human eye.