UCLA – “Let there Be Light” Projection Mapped Film

To kick off its historic “Let There Be…centennial campaign, UCLA turned to Mirada to create a live event spectacle. The experience transformed UCLA’s most iconic building into a living mural – using sophisticated projection mapping to produce visual overlays that blanketed Royce Hall, converting it into a canvas for the emotionally powerful story.

More than a retrospective, the film illuminates the university’s lasting impact on our world and reveals breakthroughs on the horizon – leaving audiences inspired by the potential of the century ahead.

Narrated by John Lithgow and scored by Atli Orvarsson, the 10-minute film unfolds in three parts: part I honoring the visionaries that founded UCLA nearly a century ago; part II a journey through the illustrious history of the institution and its luminaries; part III a look forward, sharing visions for the future. It unfolds as a celebration of the university, of the hands and minds that shaped it, and the hard work, creativity, and collective innovative spirit that has always defined UCLA.

The experience was crafted to fit Royce Hall’s towering façade, with larger-than-life imagery stretching across its entire 230×99 foot surface. Mirada‘s team of over 40 worked for six months, starting with the creation of a detailed 3D model of Royce Hall and the surrounding quad. Using this as their canvas, Mirada’s designers worked to develop a visual language that would take advantage of the historic architecture of UCLA’s first building to tell the university’s story.

Content for the show was filmed on campus by Mirada’s creatives over the span of several weeks. Each shoot was timed to get a single location on campus in the perfect lighting of early morning or sunset, to create a cinematic aesthetic and to visually reinforce the UCLA centennial campaign’s core message: “Let There Be…”

The positions of the 18 individual 26K projectors powering the show were carefully determined to maximize their output but to minimize their presence, as the quad was filled with upwards of 8,000 alumni and students over three nights of performances. Once these positions were established, Mirada worked closely with UCLA to ensure that the décor and lighting for the entire night was perfectly in harmony with the big show. From the design and layout of the tables to the event lighting, Mirada provided creative direction for every aspect of the evening, assuring that it attention was paid to every aesthetic detail.

Mirada specializes in crafting custom workflows and pipelines to address the needs of unique projects, and this was no exception. This production required over 19,000 4K+ image frames – including complex CG animation choreographed to the exact building dimensions; effects on this level are often reserved for Hollywood blockbusters. Mirada artists and technicians developed special pipelines and software tools to create, manipulate, review, and store the over 17TB of imagery that was generated just for this one event. Managing this work required an expansion of tools initially developed for feature films like “Pacific Rim” and special projects such as the IBM Think exhibit (also a centennial celebration project).

In order to counteract the red color shift introduced by the brick exterior of Royce Hall, key visuals were projected in a late night test a month before the event, allowing Mirada’s artists and technicians to carefully examine how colors behaved when projected onto the surfaces of the real building, and to adjust accordingly. In any type of design or VFX work it is important to know how the final images will look in their output medium, but in this case it required several thousand pounds of equipment and a small team of engineers, so it was important for all artists to understand how projecting onto the building was going to affect colors and contrast. Final adjustments were made in the days leading up to the main event, based on reviews done during projector set-up and testing.

The project was a labor of love for Mirada’s entire team –Andrew Cochrane was a technical lead on the project, helping to establish the workflow and guiding the creative process through this complex project. The groundbreaking event debuted on Friday, May 16th – playing for a crowd of over seven thousand captivated Bruins.

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The full show can be seen in this video: