Presidio Chapel, El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historical Park, Santa Barbara, California
The priest does the first part of the ceremony. Projected Californio wedding in the presidio chapel, Santa Barbara, circa 1820.
200-year-old, Californio wedding projected on the wall of the Presidio chapel.

The Origins of the Project

It all began in 2012 when the Santa Barbara Trust for History Preservation (SBTHP) hired Metaphor, a British consultancy firm, to come up with colorful ideas for exhibits that showcased life in the Presidio in early Santa Barbara. One of them was to recreate a 200-year-old, Californio wedding inside the actual chapel using sound and projection. The goal was to give visitors a visceral experience that was unique, fun, and educational. In 2019, SBTHP contacted us and the project began in earnest. 

Then, the Pandemic happened… 

We came back to it 2 years later. In the meantime, Kevin McGarry, the Associate Director for Public Engagement and the project lead, had been working with historians and archaeological linguists to uncover the elements that would make the experience as authentic as possible. David W. Rickman compiled their research into a storyboard and workable script. All the dialogue was in old Californio Spanish and church Latin that would be subtitled in the final movie.

The plan was to project the wedding in “white shadow” silhouette across the north-east wall of the chapel. This meant making an exceptionally wide movie and displaying it using 3 edge-blended short throw projectors.  

Using 12 programmable speakers, the sound would spacially track the characters’ movements giving us the ability to direct the visitors’ attention while making their experience that much richer. Michael Mooneyham of Full Moon Audio took on this part of the project along with recording the dialogue and foley. 

Green screening the wedding.
The ceremony on the green screen with Jon directing. “…and the priest says…”

Once the dialogue was set, and the actors had practiced a few times, we set up a custom, 60′ green screen at Casa de la Guerra, and, with help from filmmaker Kyle Ruddick, did the shoot. For technical reasons, it all had to be done in two separate sequences that would be overlayed in post-production.

The first sequence was the wedding party: the priest, his two acolytes, and the bride and groom. Their collective actions traveled back and forth across the entire set and were done in one long take. Because the dialogue was all in old Spanish and Latin, many of our actors didn’t fully know their lines. To accommodate for this, we called out the actions live.

Filming the Audience separately was a huge benefit, though, like the first sequence, required some rather unorthodox and inventive methods of directing. It all worked out and the movie was finally in the bag.

As a test, we publicly played it for the first time on December 10, 2023. The reviews were exceptionally good. It will be on permanent display in early 2024.

One of our other installations at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historical Park was 1918: A Remembrance, a multi-projector installation about World War One. It was presented on the 100-year anniversary of the Armistice that ended the war.

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