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3-D collaborative body art in Scotland

A collaborative technology developed several years ago at ETH Zurich in Switzerland is now being used in a theater in Scotland. The Living Canvas technology allows performers on stage to interact with recorded visuals projected on them. As said the lead developer, who teamed with a theater director for this project, 'Living Canvas frees the artist by following the performer on stage using very fast machine vision technology and adapting the projected video according to the position and pose of the moment.' A demonstration of this technology should be seen during the Electronic Visualisation and the Arts event in London in July 2008. But read more...
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Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

A collaborative technology developed several years ago at ETH Zurich in Switzerland is now being used in a theater in Scotland. The Living Canvas technology allows performers on stage to interact with recorded visuals projected on them. As said the lead developer, who teamed with a theater director for this project, 'Living Canvas frees the artist by following the performer on stage using very fast machine vision technology and adapting the projected video according to the position and pose of the moment.' A demonstration of this technology should be seen during the Electronic Visualisation and the Arts event in London in July 2008. But read more...

Living Canvas (image#1)

You can see on the left how a performer on stage could change costumes every second with this technology. (Credit: Martin Naef and Cathie Boyd) These images have been extracted from this short movie (27.3 MB).

This project is the brainchild of Martin Naef, an ETH Zurich graduate who works now at the Digital Design Studio of the Glasgow School of Art. He has been helped by Cathie Boyd, the director of the Theatre Cryptic in Glasgow. Here is an additional description of the live networked performances that Naef and Boyd are planning.

Of course, it's only a project, and even the designers are learning from their experiments. "While Living Canvas is a synthesis of technological components, it also is a learning process. From its original purpose of being a virtual wardrobe for performers, it was soon recognised that the technology could be used for anything from a very flexible lighting system(a full-colour follow-spot, for example) to highlighting specific parts of the body for abstract performances or even a means for one player to play a range of different characters. Cathie Boyd, Theatre Cryptic’s artistic director, sees it as more. There is potential, she says, for introducing time or positional offsets that would create a 'ghost' to follow the character. And, instead of focussing only on performers, the technology also could be tailored to follow objects on the set, thus creating a dynamic stage."

Living Canvas (image#2)

You can see on the left how "an actor wearing a white garment can be used as a projection surface." The projection doesn't interfere with the set. (Credit: Martin Naef and Cathie Boyd) These images are extracted from the video mentioned above. Here is a link to another movie (15.5 MB, 2 minutes and 15 seconds).

For additional images, here is a link to the main Living Canvas web page. And for more information, you can browse Martin Naef's list of publications. In particular, you can read a document presented at the ACM SIGGRAPH 2007 conference (San Diego, USA, August 5-9, 2007), "Towards the Living Canvas."

Here is the abstract: "The Living Canvas initiative aims to explore the novel artistic possibilities of using the performer’s body and clothes as a projection surface in the context of a stage performance. A new projection system will enable a dynamic or even improvised performance by detecting the posture and silhouette of the performer and projecting imagery precisely to the selected parts of body. This will enable the performer to “wear virtual costumes” that adapt to the body, or even receive a different face. The dynamic nature of the system will give full control to the performer who can freely move around on the stage, with the projection always “following” the performer."

Here are two links to this document which show respectively the prototype (PDF format, 1 page, 274 KB) and the concept overview (PDF format, 1 page, 149 KB).

Finally, the technology will be presented during the next Electronic Visualisation and the Arts conference (EVA 2008, London, July 22-24, 2008).

Sources: Renata Cosby, ETH Zurich, March 27, 2008; and various websites

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