Elias Zananiri

Louie’s Soul-Sucking Mirror

A mirror which sucks your soul and traps your image when you pass in front of it.


Video Sculpture

Louie's Soul-Sucking Mirror is an interactive mirror. On top of the reflected image, the mirror also displays Louieā€™s trapped soul blended with an echo of what the camera sees. The camera only records when someone is in front of the mirror, so your soul stays trapped in the mirror until someone else looks at it and takes your place. The computer-generated image is warped using vector fields based on the activity captured by the camera.

The set-up is very simple: a framed acrylic see-through mirror mounted on an LCD screen.

The project was made for the "Futuristic Antique" assignment for Video Sculpture class. The idea was to build an antique object and incorporating a video aspect to it.

The target audience is anyone who is a bit curious and likes to look at themselves in a mirror. What is nice about the project is that even if you don't know the whole context of how Louie got trapped in the mirror, it is still a fun piece to look at, play with, and see capture your image.

User Scenario
A user walks to the piece and sees the printed text on the wall. She takes a few minutes to read Louie's story and it makes her laugh at least a couple of times. She then looks at the mirror from an angle for a bit, noticing Louie's image overlaid with other previous participants' images. The user moves in front of the mirror and sees her reflection as well as the played back video of Louie and the previous participants. Her image becomes part of the played back video. She realises this and plays with it by moving around in front of the mirror. After a few minutes, the user walks away, leaving us with her image in the mirror.

The hardware is made up of an LCD monitor covered with a piece of see-through mirror acrylic and framed so that it looks like an actual mirror. On top of this is a tiny camera aiming right in front of the mirror. This object is mounted on the wall at eye level. Next to it on the wall is Louie's story written down on a sheet of paper. The software is written for Mac OS X using C++/openFrameworks. It runs fullscreen on a machine connected to the mirror-monitor.

I took many different, more complicated paths to get this project up. I originally wanted to use back projection on the mirror, then decided to build a teleprompter, and finally moved to the LCD monitor.
I think what I learned is less about technology but more about methodology. Plan ahead on paper before I start building anything and don't be afraid to spend an extra few minutes looking at alternative solutions. I rushed into the construction a bit too quickly because I was pressed for time but I ended up wasting my efforts in the end because I had not thought-through my original idea.