Leviathan’s MSI exhibit tells of science behind beauty

Leonardo DaVinci’s “Vitruvian Man”

“Motherlodes of
hifalutin data”
help creators
“three times
smarter than
we were before”

Chicago conceptual design firm Leviathan recently unveiled nearly a dozen interactive attractions designed to help make the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Numbers in Nature” exhibit become a multigenerational playground of entertainment and education over the next decade.

The work transforms intricate mathematical concepts into digital images that respond to the gestures and movements of whoever stands before them. Its innovation literally allows museum visitors to grasp motherlodes of hifalutin scientific data with a glance around a room or a flick of a wrist.

Guests explore one of Leviathan's installations
Guests explore one of Leviathan’s installations

“Patterns appear throughout nature,” says Leviathan EP Chad Hutson. “The spiral of a nautilus shell, the shape of the cosmos, the branches of a tree. That’s what the exhibit was designed to convey. Our role was creating the interactive and media content.”

The fruits of Leviathan’s 10 months of labor are shapes and colors that explain the science behind the beauty of heaven and earth.

The sketch of Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, which illustrate the artist’s notion of perfect human proportions, is superimposed in real time over the reflection of a person’s arms and legs.

The spirals of the Fibonacci sequence, which define the curves found in pine cones and nautilus shells, are formed by tracing the movement of a viewer’s fingertips onto a digital tabletop monitor.

A variety of tools were used to make everything come to life. The Microsoft Kinect tracks viewers’ arms, legs and torsos to render the proportional comparisons in the Vitruvian Man installation. The Leap controller follows the precise movements of a guest’s hands to manipulate virtual 3D objects in the Fibinnaci installation.

At the center of all this high-tech mumbo jumbo are a bunch of dials and knobs that provide museum goers with an easy way to manipulate the sensations.


A lengthy effort requiring “a lot of moving parts”
The simple, analog controls were part of Leviathan’s plan from the get-go. “We had to design this to accommodate an eight-year old through an eighty-year old,” Hutson explains. “It needs to be intuitive the minute you walk up to it.”

To help realize that intuition, Leviathan created a brief for themselves before responding to the museum’s “two, very lengthy” requests for proposals. The homework not only helped them win the business but also allowed them to propose a singular solution.

“We expressed sincere interest in doing both film and interactive,” says Hutson.

“The content needed to help tell the story of these different scientific principles. If the interactive did not match that style, tell the same story, we felt it would have had less impact.”

So began a nearly yearlong effort that “required a lot of moving parts,” involved “many vendors” and stretched from Leviathan’s west side studio to the museum’s south loop campus.

The final result, which is scheduled to run for 10 to 15 years, successfully achieved its goal to provide science and fun before it was even installed.

“This entire project made us three times smarter than we were before,” says Hutson.

   Bradon Webb — Creative Director
   Lauren Shawe — Sr. Producer
   Gareth Fewel — Art Director/Designer
   Ely Beyer — Designer/Animator
   Anthony Malagutti — 3D Modeler/Animator/Compositor
   Andrew Butterworth — 3D Modeler/Animator/Compositor
   Alexis Copeland — Designer
   Tobias Mattner — 2D Animator
   Jesse Willis — C4D/AE animator/compositor
   Anthony Morelle — C4D/AE animator/compositor
   Chris Beers — VFX/Compositor
   Billy Sheahan — Editor
   Dennis Chau — Technical Project Lead
   Adam Berg — Sr. Programmer/Research Engineer
   Harvey Moon — Programmer/Creative Technologist
   Lucas Schira — Technical Support
   Chad Hutson — President/Executive Producer
   Jason White — Executive Creative Director
   Matt Daly — Chief Scientist
   Paul Rosenthal — Theater Script writer

   Joel Corelitz, Waveplant — Composer

6 channel audio mix:

VO talent search and record:
   Dog and Pony

VO artist:
   Andrea Hadhazy

   Logan Harris, Terrance Harris, Theresa Buffo

   Sung Hwang — Line Producer
   DP — Mark Woods, Techno Cranes Chicago

MSI Staff:
   Kurt Haunfelner — Vice President, Exhibits & Collections
   Olivia M. Castellini, Ph.D. — Senior Exhibit Developer
   John S. Beckman — Director, Exhibit Design and Development
   Mark Ewing — Senior Project Manager
   Faith Griggs-York — Exhibit Project Manager
   Angela Williams — Design Manager
   Sarah Ingraham — Senior Coordinator/Researcher

Exhibit Partners:
   Luci Creative — Exhibit Design
   Ravenswood Studios — Exhibit Fabrication
   Creative Technology — Computer hardware/projectors
   Lightswitch — Lighting Design
   ILC — Exhibit Lighting
   Heather Lindquist, Harvest Moon Studios — Exhibit Writer

Send your campaign news to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, dan@reelchicago.com.