Meet the locals who redesigned the L.A. airport

Montreal’s Moment Factory apply their stunning multimedia light-craft to the international terminal of LAX to bring a little magic back to air travel.

Moment Factory’s installations in the Tom Bradley International Terminal of LAX. 

Last fall, Montreal’s Moment Factory lent their spectacular light-craft to Pop vs. Jock, Pop Montreal’s charity basketball game at McGill. They also designed another halftime show in 2012: Madonna at the Superbowl.

The company, which began as a multimedia endeavour by a few guys from Montreal’s rave scene, has done a whack of work locally, from Jazz Fest structures to the motion-detecting installation known as la Vitrine to the redesign of the Metropolis marquee. But more and more, they’re working on the world stage — they’ve projected their breathtaking creations on Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia church and illuminated shows and tours by bands ranging from Arcade Fire (at Coachella 2010) to Bon Jovi. After mounting a series of temporary projections, they’ve now been hired to help revitalize Atlantic City’s Boardwalk with a permanent display.

But by far their grandest gig to date has been the four hours of multimedia content they’ve made for massive video screens in the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which opens on Sept. 18.

They collaborated with Sardi Design and MRA International to bring seven media features (and additional “interactive capsules”) to life via the freshest high-res, 3D and motion-sensor technologies available.

I spoke to Moment Factory’s Marie Belzile about what went into this mammoth, year-long project.

Lorraine Carpenter: How many members of Moment Factory worked on this project?

Marie Belzile: This involved about 60 people from all of Moment Factory’s different departments. We had about 20 people on the content side, but the administrative side was pretty heavy ’cause you’re dealing with the airport committee, which basically is like dealing with a city, with a government. But it was also significant on the technology side, ’cause we had to provide broadcasting systems and develop all the interactive content, which required altering technology or creating new methods. Each time we develop an interactive concept, we have to make it work for that space and make it special for that space.

But then you can add about 250 collaborators, ’cause we did shoots all over the world: in Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, South Africa, and here at Mel’s [Cité de Cinéma].

LC: How much creative control did you have?

MB: We had a lot of leeway, even in terms of defining the whole schedule. The creative team from Sardi, the people who designed the feature, had a really clear vision of what they wanted, what kind of experience they wanted, and we had to realize it. It was just conceptual, like, “We want people to feel this way,” but then what kind of content is going to achieve this? So we really brought all the ideas. It was like a gift, creating that project, ’cause we’re really interested in urban spaces, and here you have all kinds of people of all ages of all origins from all over the world, so you have to be super universal in the story you’re telling, and you have to inspire people. Our mission was to bring back the idea of the romanticism of travelling, when travelling used to be exciting and fun. It’s become so heavy, with security and everything, that you almost forget the fun part of it. So that was our take on it, to try to lift the spirit a bit.

LC: How do you feel about the project now that it’s about to be unveiled to the public?

MB: We’re very happy and super proud. It was such a challenge. You’re starting from nothing and then you have to get to a point where you’re creating a schedule that makes sense. We knew that it was going to be a schedule, like TV has hour or half-hour programs, but we had no idea how long the programs would be. We had to develop a whole vocabulary of what we were doing, ’cause it was kind of a first.

You have these gigantic media features, so how would they work together? It was really hard to imagine because obviously the space didn’t exist yet. It was in construction all year, so we had to use a lot of imagination to project what it would look like in the end. But we created a lot of mock-ups, 3-D models that could help us understand the space, and it ended up working super well.

One of the media features is a tower mapped with LED screens — if you have content that’s moving too fast, people would be disturbed by it. From the beginning, our approach was super relaxing and mellow ’cause people are so stressed when they travel, and just the scale of those things — we were a bit afraid of annoying people. So what we’re really proud of is that even though those media features are humongous, we think we developed the right content so that when you move in the space, you’re amazed by it but your mind is reflective and introspective. It’s not so much like a movie telling a really strong story that you have to follow — it’s ambient, and it leaves room for the passenger to breathe. Even getting on the plane, you can start your travel in all the content we developed. We left a lot of space for the passenger to kind of imagine their own thing and bring their own input to it. ■

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