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PDT Collaborates to Design World's Largest Camera for Chicago Exhibit Featuring 30-Foot-High Images of American Culture


PDT collaborates to design world’s largest camera for Chicago exhibit featuring 30-foot-high images of American culture


Chicago-based international firm partners with renowned Chicago photographer Dennis Manarchy to build world’s largest camera for Butterflies & Buffalo: Tales of American Culture, to be exhibited Sept. 18 – Oct. 31 at Two North Riverside Plaza, Chicago.


Lake Zurich, Illinois –Product Development Technologies, Inc. (PDT), a global, full-service product development firm based in Lake Zurich, Ill., has designed and modeled the largest film camera ever, now on display with photographs that Chicago photographer Dennis Manarchy took with the camera. The installation will be on display Sept. 18 – Oct. 31 at Two North Riverside Plaza, Chicago, and is free and open to the public.


The world’s largest film camera makes its public debut as the centerpiece to the cultural art installation, Butterflies & Buffalo: Tales of American Culture. Capable of producing massive prints in pristine high-pixel clarity, the camera sits 35-feet long, 12-feet tall and 8-feet wide—the size of a semi-trailer. Its resulting 4.5- x 6-foot film negatives produce images with over 1,000 times more visual detail than today’s most advanced digital cameras.


The installation includes selected pieces from Manarchy’s cultural collections displayed in extremely large formats, ranging from 10- to 30-feet in height and 5- to 20-feet in width. The large, traveling camera also celebrates the 200th anniversary of photography.


“By documenting the unique faces of America’s rich culture in larger-than-life clarity, we are recording the legacies of our country,” he said. “This is only the beginning of our cultural journey and I’m thrilled my hometown gets to experience the beginning of this documentary project.”


Free and open to the public, the experience confronts Chicago urbanites with rich American heritage in epic proportions. The title, Butterflies & Buffalo, is symbolic of our fragile cultural heritage and the enduring strength of the American spirit, according to Manarchy.


Design Process and Challenges

To communicate the construction and functionality of the tool charged with capturing these images, PDT set out to create an animation that walks the viewer through the creation and function of the uniquely massive camera. This camera, large enough to walk through, is a nod to the expert craftsmanship and timeless skill of a bygone age of physical engineering that is crashing head-on into an era of technology and digitization.


“Though our team has been involved in the development of thousands of products through the years, we were particularly inspired by this challenge.” says Mark Schwartz, PDT’s CEO. “It drove us to think outside the box to create something incredible, that is emotionally, technologically and artistically inspired. Our imaginations were stretched as much as our computing power.”


Manarchy asked PDT to create a rendered video of his vision that could then be realized in physical form. He provided a very rough concept with scaled elements of hand-held vintage cameras. (‘we want the lens like this, a chair like that, etc.’)—and PDT went to work.


“As we modeled Mr. Manarchy’s massive version of these small cameras in ProEngineer, we were faced with many engineering challenges,” says Schwartz. “The wooden frame was built to allow the lens to travel, and the chair platform was designed with the required sliding ability. Our team designed a robust, exposed opening mechanism for the rear part of the bellow in a steam punk style. Everything had to fit into a shipping container to be pulled around the country by a semi-truck without being damaged.”


After the camera was designed to work properly and endure travel, the PDT team began the rendering process. With robust CAD modeling and clever geometric interpretations, the animated rendering was created leveraging 33 computers running in tandem night after night. Click here to see the video.


“We are thrilled to have been afforded the opportunity to help bring to life this incredible vision that melds art, culture, and historical documentation via iconic images that define American people of the early 21st century,” says Schwartz.


Pending funding, the exhibition aims to bring these inspiring stories and images to as many as possible through touring exhibitions in museums, galleries and public spaces as well as in documentary format for public television.


The project is launching an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign (www.Indiegogo.com) on September 18, with the goal of funding the first segment of the national trip with the big camera to visit and document extraordinary cultures across the United States.



About Butterflies & Buffalo: Tales of American Culture

Butterflies & Buffalo: Tales of American Culture is free and open to the public at Two N. Riverside Plaza from 7am – 7pm daily, Sept. 18 – Oct. 31. The installation launches Manarchy’s documentary journey depicting American heritage. Thank you to the camera’s presenting sponsor, Venue Logic, and to the installation sponsor, Block 37. For more information about the project please visit www.ButterfliesandBuffalo.com and follow @BigChiCamera on Twitter for updates on the installation and the journey.


Product Design and Development

© 2018 PDT, an Astronics Company

PDT is a trademark of Astronics Corporation

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