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Luma Projection Arts Festival Is a Trippy Fusion of Art and Technology

Binghamton, New York, hardly seems like a bucket-list-worthy tourism destination. It’s perhaps an even less likely base for one of the country’s most progressive, tech-infused art events. However, next month, the state-of-the-art Luma Projection Mapping Festival returns to the city for the fourth year in a row. It’s expected to be the biggest show yet.

Luma is the only festival of its kind in the United States. The event centers around “projection mapping” technology, which combines advanced three-dimensional computer animation, high-powered video projectors, and live music. Behind the scenes is a lot of techno-wizardry, but you needn’t be a geek to appreciate the show. Buildings, structures, and even people turn into something fantastical and otherworldly. The animation and intense light overpower the surfaces to which they’re applied to the point that the effect appears lifelike and immersive.

In previous years, the city’s courthouse has appeared as Stonehenge, for example, while city hall was transformed into a gingerbread house. For 2018, the event will morph a two-century-old church using light and 44 orchestra members from the Binghamton Philharmonic.

Projection mapping technology has been around for decades and similar festivals have been wildly popular in Australia and Europe for almost as long. However, Luma is unique in its scale and breadth. The event brings together artists, cartoonists, live actors, artificial intelligence experts, and symphonies from around the world to create massive, one-of-a-kind displays. The exhibits are heavily produced by some of the best projection mapping artists in the world, including Barcelona’s Onion Lab (who debuted Luma’s first stereoscopic mapping installation), New York’s own Light Harvest (known for Hollywood cinematography and special effects work on Game of Thrones and at Burning Man), and Budapest’s Max10sity (renowned for their worldwide projection mapping installations in Jerusalem, Moscow, and Japan).

Lumda debuted in 2015 as a one-day festival on Kickstarter. The inaugural crowdsourced event was expected to draw 3,000 visitors — 30,000 showed up. It’s since expanded to a full three days, drawing far more than the tiny town’s population of just 45,000.

For 2018, the Luma festival is open to the public from September 7-9 in downtown Binghamton, New York.

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