VIDEO WIZARDRY REVEALED: A CITT Alberta Section sponsored by sponsored by the Department of Drama

The future of theatre technology was explored on Saturday January 12th at the Timms Centre for the Arts.

Terah Jans - 16 January 2013

This past Saturday, January 12th, 2013, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the second half a workshop put on by the Canadian Institute of Theatre Technology Alberta, called Video Wizardry Revealed. The event was sponsored by the UofA Department of Drama and held at the Timms Centre for the Arts.

I joined the enthusiastic group of theatre professionals as they finished their lunch break networking and sorting themselves into either watching a Skype chat with Isadora creator Mark Conigio or getting some hands on experience with the program itself. Isadora is program used for real-time manipulation and creation of digital video and effects.

Computer screens showing the program IsadoraI wandered between the Timms lobby and the Second Playing Space (SPS), both listening in on Conigio's creative journey and watching technicians create crazy motion graphics in real-time on the computers and projectors that were set up in SPS. The excitement people had as they discovered new ways to push the boundaries of motion graphics was palpable and contagious. I've always been amazed by the graphics I've seen behind DJ's at some of the huge electronica events I've been to in the past, but I've never really put much thought into how much work and planning goes into those mind-bending graphics. In this session I caught a glimpse of that work-flow and the creativity behind it.

After another round of networking and coffee the group split up again, taking in either an entertaining lecture on lighting and video with UAlberta Drama's Lighting and Sound Supervisor Mel Geary, or a talk on inputs and triggers (Interacting with media for the technician and performer) by Joel Adria and Matthew Skopyk. Adria is a student in the Technical Theatre Production program will be graduating this year. Skopyk is the Timms Centre's Second Playing Space Technician and U of A Drama's Sound Supervisor .

I found myself mesmerized by Adria and Skopyk's talk. While most of the technical talk was specifically for the Theatre Technician crowd and way over my head, I was blown-away by the cool stuff they were doing.

It was cool to see how they were using game technology such as the Xbox Kinect to create new ways of capturing artist movements and sound and then using those triggers for different effects.

One example they showed was having the Kinect capture an actor's movements and projecting a virtual version of the actor back onto the screen behind them. They then had a small microphone wired into the actor's palm. When the actor blew into the microphone, the sound triggered a particle effect (fire, smoke, fog, dust, etc) that would come out of the virtual actors hand on screen. Amazing!

I even learned something new things about the U of A Studio Theatre production of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which played back in December. Angelique Panther was cast as the Tiger and this was unique as in all other past productions the character was always cast as a Male (Robin Williams played the Tiger on Broadway). Instead of just adjusting the pitch on Panther's voice to give it a deeper resonance, they mapped her voice to a recording of a Tiger's roar in Ableton. Whenever Panther spoke it triggered the Ableton recording and the roar played in the background. I had wondered how they had such spot-on timing with the roar when I saw the production.

As part of my duties in the Fine Arts communication office as the Marketing Specialist, I've been working more with photography and looking for opportunities to learn more about digital photography. I missed out on the LED Demo in favour of the session on using Digital SLR Cameras for content creation. So much information was packed into that talk, but I can tell you that I learned Digital SLRs are definitely a big part of the future of video and that I am pretty self-conscious about my beginner photographer skills. I have a lot to learn!

3D projection mapping installation by Owen Brierly, Joel Adria, Mel Geary and Erin Gruber.Throughout the day, with me going back and forth between the Second Playing Space and the Timms lobby, I was able to watch and chat with Owen Brierly as he transformed the walls of the lobby into a canvas for an incredible 3D projection mapping installation. The installation, which also included work by Joel Adria, Mel Geary and Erin Gruber ('11 BFA, Theatre Design) capped off the workshop and wowed the attendees during the cocktail mixer afterwards. I took a couple videos of the installation, but being from my iPhone, they just couldn't capture the scope of the project.

Here are some other related links and videos you might want to check out if you are interested in these kinds of advancements in theatre effects:

Delete is a new multi-media play that Erin Gruber and Matthew Skopyk worked on. It uses Video and Multi-media extensively in very creative ways

Here is Joel Adria's Blog which has a lot of neat info on Isadora and some of the other programs that were touched on in the workshop.

Check out which is a cool video and design collective blog by Erin Gruber, Joel Adria and Elijah Lindenberger who were all speakers at Video Wizardry Revealed. (They have some slides from the morning session - Video 101

There's another behind-the-scenes workshop on January 17 at the Jubilee in Edmonton with a technical theatre focus on audio visual, lighting and wardrobe. It is free to wander the exhibit hall from 1 - 8 pm, so go for a stroll and meet-up backstage.

If you are interested in learning about Theatre production and design check out the links below to find out what the University of Alberta Drama Department has to offer:
BFA Technical Theatre Production
BFA Technical Theatre Stage Management
BFA Theatre Design