Projection mapping on the Sydney Opera House is the coolest thing you’ll see all day

If you’ve never heard of projection mapping before, prepare to have your mind blown. It’s essentially a new-ish form of digital performance art that uses one or more choreographed projectors (like those used in movie theaters and conference rooms) to beam images onto real-world 3D surfaces — and if done correctly, it’s absolutely stunning to behold.

Every year, the Sydney Opera House invites artists to bring along their projectors and beam animations onto the building’s iconic sails, and this year, the honors went to U.K. animation studio Universal Everything. The company is mostly known for its CGI work, but for this year’s exhibition, they took a different approach. They ditched the computers and gathered up a team of artists from around the world to create hand drawn animations.

Each of the 22 artists was given a 30 second block to animate, along with a set of loose guidelines. All were required to use black background and a specific set of colors, and were supplied with unique keyword to use as a general visual theme, such as “flow,” “boom,” or “swarm.”

The result is a projection show that’s unlike any you’ve likely seen before. The hand-drawn effects give it a sort of old-school, Fantasia-style visual aesthetic that’s rarely seen in the uber-precise, CGI-heavy world of projection mapping. It’s certainly not as mind-bending as some of the previous exhibitions the SOH has hosted on its rooftops, but it’s every bit as compelling.

“In contrast to previous years’ artists’ use of advanced CGI, our analog, handmade animation process reveals a human soul in the drawings,” Universal Everything Founder Matt Pyke said in a press release. “Due to the use of traditional animation techniques, this film could have existed in 1920, albeit with a 21st-century twist — bringing our influences of global pop culture, modernist graphics, and physics simulations into a playful exploration of this iconic building.”

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