Spotted in Sydney: 2.2 Million Straws

by The Adobe Blog team

posted on 11-22-2018

Adobe is a long-term partner of Australia’s iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House. The partnership between the Sydney Opera House and Adobe has been, and continues to be, an exciting one. For the last two years, Adobe has been working with the Sydney Opera House on their digital transformationthe most ambitious tech project in the history of the world-class performing arts center.

“Innovation and creativity are part of the DNA of both Adobe and Sydney Opera House, so it’s been a natural fit for us to collaborate and create the best experiences for audiences and visitors”, expresses Adobe’s Director of Strategic Business Development, Michael Stoddard.

The most compelling digital experiences begin with a story. Adobe supports the Sydney Opera House in leveraging their digital channels and bringing their culturally significant stories to life, digitally.

Pulling the plug on plastic

In a bid which will save 2.2 million straws from becoming landfill each year and motivated by the #SydneyDoesn’tSuck movement, the Sydney Opera House became plastic straw free on the 1st of August. However, 15,000 straws still remained on the grounds of the Opera House at this time. Leading the way with sustainable thinking, the Sydney Opera House collaborated with experimental visual artist, Francesca Pasquali, in utilising the unused straws to birth Plastic Islands: a remarkable visual installation and topographic arrangement of Sydney Harbour — a lasting reminder to take care of our city, our home.

This powerful installation sparked an idea, a creative challenge, for Adobe and the Sydney Opera House — to bring this story to life visually, in the digital world.

The idea: Visualising what 2.2 million plastic straws look like

The tools: Adobe Dimension CC — video below.

Creating the digital dump

Sydney based designer / illustrator and passionate environmentalist, Jeremy Lord, was keen to get involved in the project.

“As someone who’s a surfer and loves the outdoors, I’ve been very passionate about our environment and in particular the impact that our addiction to plastic is having on it. As an illustrator this project is way out of my comfort zone and I was very keen to be a part!”, Jeremy expressed.

Adobe Dimension CC enables designers to create high-quality, photorealistic 3D images and scene visualisations, and so was a natural fit for the project.

Jeremy’s original idea was to visualize the total volume of 2.2 million plastic straws as one giant cube. That was until the calculations showed that this would equate to a cube of roughly 10km3 in volume, far too big to fit into Sydney or its surroundings. The project evolved to creating multiple smaller (however still enormous) cubes to be digitally dumped around well-known Sydney landmarks. Sydney Harbour and the beautiful Bondi Beach were agreed an ideal fit.

Jeremy tells us exactly how he calculated the wastage.

“In order to reflect the right amount of plastic I had to calculate the right size for the cubes placed in the image. To do so I used a couple iconic landmarks from each image – The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Bondi Icebergs pool. The pool was easy as it’s an olympic pool and therefor has a nice clean measurement of 50m. I had to search the height for the Bridge and found its height at 134m”, he explains.

Deep diving into the creative and technical side, he breaks it down for us –

“Following that it was relatively simple: Use the shadows Dimension CC created in the image to place one cube at the same level as the Bridge or pool and scale it to fit the needed height or length. In this case I found that a cube that was 2 units/side (Dimension uses these units for the size of its objects) was 134m tall comparatively. The pool was the same – 2 units equaled 50m. Then I just had to multiply this across cubes of sizes in order to get the desired total length per side which was 10km”.

The result is two striking photo-realistic images of both Sydney Harbour and Bondi Beach, taken over by visually devastating enormous plastic cubes. A harsh reality for our beautiful city.

Jeremy, a first-time Adobe Dimension CC user, says “I found Dimension very intuitive in how it presents itself. It’s at heart a 3D program which at first glance might feel a bit overwhelming as often 3D programs can be… but it’s purpose is really simple and it achieves it equally simply and efficiently”.

Adobe Dimension CC enabled Jeremy to create the life-like 3 Dimensional cubes, which he then fine-tuned using Adobe Photoshop CC.

“A couple of really cool features I found was first how it manages to match any images lighting conditions and perspective simply by dragging and dropping it into the window. The second thing I really appreciated was that the native file it saves is actually a psd file with all the layers and mask you’d need to make a seamless mockup. The file is just ready to be imported into and take to Photoshop”.

This statement project not only showcases the tremendous effort the Sydney Opera House is making to reducing plastic wastage each year. The visual realisation aims to inspire and encourage other businesses and individuals, to act.

A passionate Jeremy adds, “Plastic bags and straws are, in mind, one of the easiest things to cut out of our daily loop and they’re ironically among the worst threats to a cleaner environment. It’s about small steps everyday and what’s smaller than drinking your juice or cocktail the same way you’d drink your coffee or water – without a straw! Big shout out to the Opera House for making the move to get stop serving plastic straws!”

Topics: Creativity, Analytics, Design, Video & Audio

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud