Motion Project M102MC

Dr. Harold Edgerton.


The Motion project is a short four week project, collaborating with Dance students and in small groups with my course mates.

Week one consisted of researching and organizing filming  with dance students – Denica turned fixer and representative for our group, attending the meet and greet with the dancers and arranging filming sessions. I arranged for filming with my dancer, Klavia, who came prepared with music and a routine.

My research came from different performance areas. Primarily it consisted of dance pieces performed with projection work, as you can see in some of the examples I have included below. Another area I was interested was the motion capture element as seen in the piece ‘Barbican’s Rain Room’ that uses tracking to control water values to that turn on and off to stop the viewer from getting wet in a room immersed in a rain storm. Another key artist was the photographer Eadweard Muybridge, whose photographs of motion were the pivotal moment into the invention of cinema. There are other painters that interpret movement in their work, from Kandinsky and Marcel Duchamp to the infamous depiction of waves and landscapes by the Japanese artist Hokusai.

Hokusai – Ejiri in the Suruga province.

On a technical side I did research into integrating a Kinect controller with the Isadora software that I had seen used in several examples, however unfortunately due to security features added to recent OSX operating systems from Apple, you are unable to install the required drivers without hacking your computer and disabling some security features.

When it came to filming I had already had the idea to try to separate my subject from the background to allow easier manipulation of the dancers shapes later in Isadora. I discussed with Klavia the area to stay in for framing whilst keeping her close to the white wall. She was wearing black clothing which helped with the separation. We ran through the piece a couple of times and I was happy that I had enough footage to work with.

To isolate Klavia from the background, I edited the footage in Premier to give a high contrast separation using curves and de-saturated the clip. My reasoning for this stemmed from the DaDa project where I had learned that the clips more contrast worked well for projection.

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As you can see above, my forward planning paid off and I was able to remove most of the background and the floor of the studio.

Isadora experiments:

I was pretty familiar with the concept of building effects in Isadora as it has a lot of similarities to software I used on my Music Technology degree when creating additive synthesis musically effects. You essentially have a trigger source, as many levels of manipulation effects as you require and an output source. My initial attempts at building effects were based around the examples we were shown in class using the ‘dots’ module. As I got into the software a little more I was able to refine the dots effects to just work on the outline of my dancer, rather than the whole stage.

The next area I decided to explore was temporal effects. I was able to layer up effects using a delay module to give ghosts of Klavia. One of the more effected effects was ‘Ghosts 2’ below, this piece reminded me of the work by Dr. Harold Edgerton that I came across in my research. As you can see I decided to edit the original footage to make two new videos zoomed into the legs and upper torso. This was a good choice in my opinion as it focused on the shapes and movements of the dancer and filled the frame with the effects and motion. Below are a few test videos and screen grabs of different effects in development.

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Screen grab of the temporal experiments. This was the effect that I settled on for my two minute final piece. I ran the effect on both videos and over-layed them in Premier to give greater depth and motion. The interaction of the legs and upper body works pretty well, I particularly like the disembodied legs appearing from the top of the screen in opposition to the body appearing from the bottom of the frame.

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Audio track:

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I manipulated the dance track in Audition to totally change its sound and feeling whilst keeping a rhythmic feel to it. This was done by pitch shifting the audio down, reversing the track and time stretching it to fit the two minute video. If I’m honest, it’s very different to the upbeat track, perhaps I was influenced by the Exorcist TV show I was watching at the time of manipulating the track!?? I think the sound does work with the imagery I have created in my video, the multiple bodies are given what seems to be multiple voices in the audio track.

Final Individual Video Submission:

Class feedback was positive, although not detailed, as most crits seem to lack input from a large majority of my class mates. I was happy with the outcome of my video, and with one eye on the live performance I thought it was an effect that would transfer on to a live stage.

Below is a suggested edit by Ken, adding in colour.

Live Performance Preparation:

As a group, Luka, Maria, Sean, Denica, Elena and myself had a couple of planning meetings to discuss the brief and our response for the live performance. I had been carrying out my own research into incorporating a live video feed into my piece to allow the live performer to react and respond to my final video. I managed to use and interface device to allow a live camera feed into the computer, adapt my Isadora effect to integrate and manipulate the image and then output both videos to the same stage and project the work out.

As part of our meetings, I shared my findings with my team to allow them the option to do this with their work. We had a range of decisions in the group that meant that some wanted to use the just the live feed whilst other wanted to project their work over a dancer and record the response.

To allow multiple pieces of work to be incorporated together I tested how to advance from one scene to another by using key stokes. This was relatively simple to incorporate but allowed us as a collective to perform all our works within one piece.

We also met with the two dancers, Natasha and Beth, to show them a preview of our work in progress to give them an idea of how we wanted to work with the one the day. Their feedback was that they would react to each video live rather than choreograph something before the day.

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Setting the input resolution of the interface.
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Setting Isadora’s capture settings.
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Adapted effects and test of moving to a different scene.

Live Performance:

When it came to the performance day, our group all met up early in the Ellen Terry building to transport the large equipment manifest I had put together to execute our carefully planned ideas. Saying that, when we had set up the equipment we did come a problem with using the live feed camera that I hadn’t foreseen when testing. Pointing the live feed camera at the live projection caused the projection to disappear off into infinity with replicated screens like the opening sequence of the old Dr Who titles. After a quick discussion with Nick, we moved the live feed came 90 degrees so that the performers were against a plain wall. This sill allowed them to see the projection on the main wall and respond to it.

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This is how my effect looked ready for the performance.

We gave each effect just over a minute to be performed so that the dancers didn’t get too tired. below is the video of my performance, I reverted to the full length video of Klavia as it worked better for the live projection. I framed the live dancer a little tighter to give a more of an abstract feeling to the piece, like in my final video. I think it worked well as a performance and that the response from the dancer was an interesting interpretation. The layering builds up depth to the piece.

Motion Lab Submission:

The video below shows the whole collaborative piece from a different angle so you can see how we executed the performance. This is an interesting overview of how we setup and used the dance studio.

This is the full recording of the collaborative piece from our group. I particularly like the different way we interrupted the brief. Each piece has it’s own colour pallet and it’s own unique look, but they work well together as a collaborative work.

Group Submission:

The rest of the performance day was spent organizing the other groups in the class and putting together their Isadora files so they would work for them. This was a little disappointing as our group seemed to be the only one to have completed the brief in full.

The whole group experience was positive and interesting process. We all worked well together without any friction. Each person worked hard on each of their elements and were well organized. Our meetings were always constructive and positive. If one of the group need help we all came to their assistance. It was also great to collaborate with the dance students, they were very interested in the using Isadora and I believe that one of them now wants to use it for her own work.

I would have liked to integrate live motion tracking into my performance, however the time scale of the four week project and the technical restrictions of having to hack my laptop to allow the tracking camera to function put a stop to it for this performance. Perhaps if I can access the right technology in the future I will revisit the idea. I really do like using Isadora over Studio Artist as it’s a lot user friendly and has a lot more scope to your creativity.


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