Live and Life in Virtual Theatre: Adapting traditional theatre processes to engage creatives in digital immersive technologies

Simpson., James (2021) Live and Life in Virtual Theatre: Adapting traditional theatre processes to engage creatives in digital immersive technologies. Proceedings of EVA London 2021 (EVA 2021). pp. 109-116.


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The Round is an augmented reality platform that allows users at home to watch live streamed 3D characters being produced by real actors in a motion capture suite. The project holds the idea of “liveness” in high regard and considers it an important part of the theatrical experience that needed to be preserved in the creation of an at-home, digital experience. The live theatre experience in itself is often enormously technical with pre-recorded visual and audio experiences that are designed to be repeated. We ask the question, what is live theatre and how does this map to live streamed digital experiences, particularly involving motion capture? Whilst liveness, in this context, refers to the experience of the audience and their relationship with the performer, there is another aspect of live that affects the process of creating and designing a piece of digital theatre. The ability to affect and determine results from “live” changes to ideas on stage from the theatrical design team became an important part of the iteration of the production itself. This is part of the traditional theatre making process which doesn’t easily map into the limitations of digital immersive content creation. This project however attempted to rectify that by introducing innovative technologies that allowed existing theatrical control systems and the skills used to run them to operate Unreal Engine 4 game engine, live for the show. By retaining traditional theatrical equipment and skills, the entire production team who were all new to delivering theatre in a virtual medium, were able to adapt their existing practices and approach to communication in order to maintain fast design iteration and effective collaboration within an entirely new digital medium. This paper looks at the creation of the first prototype of The Round and the effect of using traditional theatrical technologies and processes in combination with real-time platforms that are trying to adapt to the live theatre model. Whilst trying to understand the role of the live design process in this context, the subject of “liveness” will be discussed from an audience point of view and the necessity of “live” with or without “life” in the medium the audience is watching.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Motion capture, Theatre, Augmented reality, Unreal engine, Live streaming, Lighting technology
Depositing User: Mr James Simpson
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2021 10:56
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2021 10:56

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