Motion capture to be put centre stage in theatre R&D project

Mark Quartley rehearses for The Tempest in a motion-capture suit. Photo: RSCMark Quartley rehearses for The Tempest in a motion-capture suit. Photo: RSC Mark Quartley rehearses for The Tempest in a motion-capture suit. Photo: RSC
by -

Two theatre companies are undertaking a week-long residency to experiment with motion capture technology that can create non-human characters and 3D projections on stage.

The residency is part of a collaboration between Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal, the Old Market in Brighton and Portsmouth University exploring how artists can tell stories using multimedia technologies and discover how this new technology could advance theatre.

Motion capture is a process of recording the movement of people or objects, which in entertainment can be converted into 3D avatars or projections of non-humanoid characters.

Last year, the Royal Shakespeare Company projected a character on stage for the first time using motion capture technology in its production of The Tempest.

Following an open artist call, companies Limbik Theatre and Spymonkey will undertake five days of research and development in the Motion Capture Suite at the University of Portsmouth and will be given a space to rehearse at the New Theatre Royal.

The School of Creative Technologies at the University of Portsmouth will provide a team of technologists and digital artists to help the performers realise their ideas.

Alex Counsell, motion capture expert and lecturer at University of Portsmouth, said: “This work is totally experimental and will open up a whole new level of immersion.

“We’re doing real-time motion capture so we are creating things and seeing them happen immediately. We’re starting something new and unique and I can’t wait to see where we are by the end of the week.”

The residency marks the beginning of the Creative Technology Gateway project, which will start in full once the New Theatre Royal’s national portfolio funding kicks in from 2018.

Laura Doye, artistic director at New Theatre Royal said that she believes the use of the technology will draw in younger audiences and also audiences from other forms of entertainment, such as gaming.

She said: “We know Chichester Festival Theatre is known for its transfers of musicals, the Southampton Nuffield is known for its new writing and we should be known for our work with technology; this is giving us a new identity.”

The residency will take place from September 11-15. It is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.