Video | Motion Capture | Midi | Video Confrencing | Outside In


Experiment #1 Thaw

The piece centers around the soul in winter and the cycles of snow and thaw, darkness and light that it embraces and endures. There is a lilting flow and struggle between the natural elements and the individual, which the movers shift in and out of representing.

Last semester I began making inquiries into projection screens and equipment, as well as blue screens. Through Ryan at the Center, I met Mac Nelson of University video. Mac kindly agreed to let me use his blue screen remnant if there was enough to footage left to shoot a section. We checked the paper and we had more than the 12 feet we needed.

I had conceptualized a piece about the soul's journey through the darkness and isolation of winter. For the background footage I used the theatre department's Cannon digital camera to shoot the season's big snow storm. I downloaded music which spoke to the mood of the piece. In the Ping Chong Interdisciplinary class I gathered a group of students to collaborate on the movement, and sound of the piece. Deb adapted the music to a clarinet solo, and John edited or mixed the text I wrote and recorded the performers reading into a dat-recorder (thanks also to the staff of the EMC who helped me capture the stubborn files).

In the Light Lab AJ and Alex helped me light the blue screen (paper, c-stands, sandbags) which Mac lent me. The performers moved in front of the screen with both improvised and directed movements. The shoot took about hours and I got 45 minutes of footage which I captured to Final Cut Pro in the CAD Lab. Lenita Williams gave me guidance in using Final Cut Pro and set up a network account for the huge files I would be creating. With many long days of editing and rendering I created the 9 minute clip of the blue-screened dancers in front of the winter scenes of snow and branches with sound track.

In class we created movement to accompany the three distinct segments of the piece. In the opening the soul in deep winter (represented by the sound of the clarinet) is warmed by the glow of candles (reminiscent to sacred fires or lights at family gatherings speaking of hearth and home). After the performers move with candles, the move in front of the images of themselves on the screen. The live or present women are the individuals reacting to the winter landscape, which their video selves represent. The third sequence is the frantic repetitive voices (John's mix) straining for spring which is delivered in the arrival and final embrace Spring. The process would have been helped by additional rehearsal with the media. We tried a low-tech solution using a tape-recorder, but finally the performers agreed to rehearse in the lab with the media present.

The tech was partially successful in that Mark delivered the magnificent folding rear-projection screen, Ryan and Harold set up the projector and sound, and Muriel focused lights. However, some no shows made us dependent on the rehearsal just before the show...and the DVD player ate the DVD. There are always glitches. Lenita and I struggled with getting the movie to the network to burn the first time around, let's hope we have better luck this week.

....The performance will be Tueday at 2 in the Lab Theatre. I've got the fire extinguisher ready. Wish us luck!

Things I've Learned through the process:

  • Final Cut Pro 1.2 is a pain in that you loose control over the rendered (i.e. visible) sections with the slightest alteration of a clip. I hope later versions are less finicky.
  • The midrange shots of the blue screen worked best, (as Allan Partridge warned me) - even lighting is very important.
  • Try to find ways to rehearse with the media as soon as possible, but don't let performers become dependent on it for creating their own ideas/gestures.
  • Have a tech. coordinator or assistant to help wrangle details when one person is not enough.
  • Shooting in a blizzard is less fun than you may think.
  • The Macs in the Cad Lab do not have DVD burners.
  • There will always be one more computer glitch, always give yourself as much time as possible (yey, I got that part right) and remember to breath (still working on it).

I want to give a HUGE thank you to Mac, Lenita, Ryan, Mark, AJ, Alex, Harold, Muriel, Autumn, John, Deb and Peggy for their part in making this technically possible!

I hope to tape the performance and reflect on its successful and limited aspects. I am hopeful that future experiments will involve connections made and facilities on campus involving teleconferencing, and motion capture.

Video Stills -THAW, Nadja Masura