A research project on the virtualisation of the live performer

For starters...

3D scanning for the stage (part 1 - May-June 2015)
a '
Technology Driven Art' research project
by Hans Lasschuit, Peter Missotten and Woody Laurens (Toneelacademie Maastricht)

In this research project, we try to find out whether virtual, 3D scanned 'actors' can be introduced in a performance, without the need for hightech stuff.

3D scanning of persons is a well established practice, especially within the Hollywood movie and gaming industry. But the machinery for it remains rather hightech and expensive, well outside the reach of a small performance company. 3D scanning in general is a booming business, but almost exclusively orientated towards the scanning of non-moving objects for the industry. Most scanners require you to sit down very quiet for quite some time, unless they are done with a huge and expensive rig of over 30 professional camera's in a dome like construction.

Is it possible to do that with a much smaller rig of cheap consumer camera's? How workable is that in practice? And how does the technology influence the artistic practice?

In this first round, several software solutions were examined - Strata Foto 3D, Autodesk’s 123D Catch, Agisoft Photoscan etc… It all didn't work out self evidently, most of times because of some tiny technical problems. Firing all of the cameras with the remote control proved to be challenging, even with IR-relay modules. And Strata Foto requires an underlay print which proved to be very unpractical for moving objects.

All in all, the research time proved to be way too short to get a decent and usable result. At the same time, the students designed a very inspiring 3D installation, as a set for the project. Somehow, thinking in 3D influenced their mind and gave them inspiration for a new kind of set design, even if the 3D scanning proved to be quite challenging.

Next year (2016) we wil have a second edition of the same project - this time resulting in a full fledged performance as part of the Odysseus project, where several European theatre schools showcase their specialities. It's fun thought that the Toneelacademie chooses to participate withe virtual actors.

To be continued….