Issue 27

Screen Print

‘Van Gogh Alive’ brings Impressionism to the big screen(s), thanks to some powerful AV.


19 September 2012

Van Gogh’s classic work has recently made a larger than life appearance using enormous shimmering projections in Linköping, Sweden. Conceived and executed by Australian-based Grande Exhibitions, Van Gogh Alive – The Experience sees some of the painter’s most famous works displayed on huge screens as part of a uniquely engaging, and very nearly tactile, multimedia show. 

This ground-breaking travelling exhibition seeks to redefine audience appreciation of fine art, and by all accounts is succeeding. It’s being hailed variously as an inspiring, educational and emotionally powerful experience.

Swedish show control developer and manufacturer, Dataton supplied its Watchout system as the image-control backbone for the Van Gogh show. Using innovative multimedia technology, the stunning new show is now touring the world syncing music, video and photography in a way that immerses the audience in a sensory experience of the art. Images of the artist’s paintings are inter-cut with full-motion video and photographs of some of the locations that inspired him between the years 1880 and 1890, and there are more than 3000 images in all. 


The show is synchronised to a powerful classical score, and the whole automated production is triggered and controlled by Watchout. “Grande Exhibitions had used Watchout before on other projects so it was the natural choice for Van Gogh Alive,” remarks Dean Stevenson of Interactive Controls, Dataton’s partner in Australia and New Zealand.

“When Van Gogh Alive made its debut we built and supplied a 30-output system to drive content to all of the projectors. As well as ensuring that all the media are in sync, Watchout also allows Grande to automate the processing so that a group of projectors can go from showing individual images to a single one and then back again. This is essential for a show like Van Gogh Alive where the element of surprise is key – you never know what you’re going to be looking at next, or where it will be!”

Rather than blending images together, the design of Van Gogh Alive places screens a short distance apart from each other, with some screens at right angles and others in parallel. This encourages visitors to move around and between the screens during the show, exploring nooks and crannies, viewing favourite pictures from a new perspective, and immersing themselves in the vibrant colours of Van Gogh’s paintings.

“The idea of immersing the audience in art is key to Van Gogh Alive,” Stevenson continues. “You see projected images everywhere – not just in front of you and behind you but also above you, on the ceiling, and even on the floor beneath your feet. So the show really uses Watchout’s image-processing capabilities to the full.”


Another key attribute of Van Gogh Alive is that the show can be scaled to suit each installation. Having had its world première at the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands in Singapore last year, the show is now on at the Antrepo 3 complex in Istanbul, Turkey, and at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

“For the Phoenix installation Interactive Controls built and supplied a new system that has 10 multi-output computers running the show, each with its own licence of Watchout Version 5,” says Stevenson. “As Van Gogh Alive tours the world Grande will be able to tailor the system and use different configurations, depending on the screens at each host venue.”

Version 5’s multiple output capability has allowed the system to move from its original complement of 30 individual machines (one computer per display) running version 4, to a setup where 10 multi-output machines drive up to six outputs per computer.


Don’t cancel your trip to Paris’s Musée d’Orsay just yet, but Van Gogh Alive shows how fine art and science can work in harmony to provide a thoroughly new appreciation of an artist’s work, allowing the work to be viewed in ways which simply would not have been possible only a few years ago.


you never know what you’re going to be looking at next, or where it will be!


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