AUGMENTED REALITY COMMISSIONED EXPERIMENT:
We have recently completed working on our first IOS app which features Augmented Reality technology in order to enable the user to interact with 3D content and experience a scene from a Victorian pantomime once acted by George Conquest in the now derelict Theatre at Alexandra Palace.
The Palace have just received HLF funding to refurbish the theatre and its unique under stage machinery which was used to special effect by the extremely acrobatic George Conquest in his pantomime ‘King of the Goldmines’. George would amaze and surprise Victorian audiences as he vaulted, flew, appeared, dis-appeared and changed his appearance, a technique refered to as a ‘transformation’. These special effects were made possible by a complex array of mechanisms, pulleys, bridges and set elements which were operated by stage hands under the stage.
In this scene George or the ‘Yellow Dwarf’ used a ‘star trap’ in order to appear from nowhere, jumping high into the air, a grand entrance and a surprise for Magnet and the Princess as they enter his lair. During the fight scene the Yellow Dwarf used a grave trap to disappear horizontally and then re-appeared through star trap number two, flying high into the air surprising Magnet, the Fairy and the audience alike.
Working as a team with MSL projects and ‘Shape of Sound ‘, we researched the space and historic performance. We built a 3D model of the theatre complete with proscenium, outer stage area, under stage trap mechanisms and all the tabs which formed the set. We then filmed the performance in front of a green screen allowing for the under stage and ariel action by using floor markers and special editing techniques so that the height of the augmented stage model and indeed the height of the under stage could be occupied by the actors and remain in proportion to the dimensions of the ‘real’ stage and also so that the video content was correctly placed within the geometry of the 3D model.
The performance is around two minutes and finishes as it starts with the curtain down and lights dimming. The augmented reality allows for the model of the theatre, actors, under stage, lighting and parts of the auditorium to be seen as a 3 dimensional object. Using an iPad the user can view the theatre from any angle as it extrudes into real space from a marker printed on a postcard.
Our role in this complex experimental project started at its inception as we have been researching this technology for some time so when the opportunity arose to explore it in the context of a venue we were delighted. The production of this augmented reality technology required the following skills and tasks from us:
Research and survey the building/ Theatre/ upper and lower stage/ lighting and trap technology in order to produce an accurate 3D model.
Produced a technical workflow based on skills, budget, and software availability in order to complete the task.
Directed the shoot so that the story and also the physical parameters of the actors satisfied the narrative and the augmented reality model enabling a seamless translation between the two worlds-followed by editing/ post production of all video assets.
Worked closely with developer and development software ensuring assets were viable for the technology and sequencing.
Designed all visual aspects of the project except for the stage tabs and cloth.
In the video example below there are some quite dramatic movements to the model. This is intentional as showing the responsiveness of the AR to the devices camera would only benefit from the marker being handheld, plus it gives an opportunity for movement and to see the model in true 3D. We decided to present the marker which triggers the AR in a handheld format allowing for true interaction and responsiveness.