Today we are in the Foyle Studio, experimenting with Lighting, Digital Media and UX, with Chris Cuthbert. We begin our session at 10am.
Present in today's session were: Ariel Fung (International Collaborator), Rachael Veazey (Deaf Explorer), Claire Marshall (Producer), Chris Cuthbert (Digital Media), and myself.
We started the day with a warm up in the studio followed by some dance practice while our Digital Media expert Chris Cuthbert set up the lighting equipment and video projectors. Fixing and rearranging the spotlights is a very long and tedious process, so we gave Chris some time with that while we rehearsed, however the spotlights will need to be rearranged quite a bit alter on anyway, because all our movements and positions on the stage need to be marked and noted for where the lights need to be projected, as we go along.
Once everything was ready, we closed all the curtains to make the studio completely dark so we could start experimenting with the Digital Media and UX ideas that we want to include in the show. We hadn't yet had the black floors put down in the studio, this will be sorted by September. So the black box theatre effects will be much more impressive once that has been done next week.
We started by using spotlights to create the illusion of corridors on the stage, as you can see in the above photo. This is a simple and effective method of setting up a scene without having to use props, and the effects from the angle of lighting and the shadows produced, all help create a visually appealing display that also expresses the atmosphere of isolation or fear.
We added sidelights on the stage - some expensive bit of equipment that light up the actors' bodies without projecting light anywhere else on the stage surface. These lights can change colour to suit the mood, and are also sensitive to movement and sound, so will flash and change to fit in with the performance.
After a brief 30-minute lunch, we were back in the studio and moved on to the screen projectors. We had an OHP (over head projector) - an old piece of equipment that was used in school classrooms years ago - although quite old, the OHP is still a very useful tool for simple projection of imagery on the back screen, to create backgrounds that help set the scenes. We drew a rough silhouette of a city skyline and projected it on the screen with the OHP. It could also be used alongside the video projector to add animation.
We picked out the Speech Therapy scene to experiment with video projection. With Chris' knowledge and ideas, we wanted to try projecting lips onto the back screen. So to start that, Chris got his video camera out and recorded a short clip of Ariel's mouth as she mouthed the words: Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers. Then Chris would put this video on his MacBook and edit it, change the colour, create some nice effects and project it onto the screen.
The effects looked really exciting and cool, we are pleased with the different ideas we've been able to try out within a day. In the scene Ariel's character is doing speech therapy so she would be seated on the chair and repeating the oral exercise. So we added another idea to this - we tried projecting the lips video onto a sheet of paper which Ariel would hold in front of her mouth, so the lips from the video could be seen while she mouthed the words.
To go with this, we recorded another video of myself dressed as a teacher, talking and pointing. This was edited into a silhouette and projected on the screen behind Ariel, so it looked as though there was a third character in the room with Ariel's character - the teacher in this case.
For the rest of the afternoon, we continued experimenting with different ideas using the equipment we had.
We tested out the spotlights and the use of the dark space for moving around and creating floating illusions.
We also had a UV light set up, and put some UV tape on our clothes to see how it would look. There was so many things we could do, now it was time to think about what we want to use in each scenes and how to use them efficiently.
By the end of the afternoon, it was 4:30pm and we had to end our Digital Media experimentation session because Chris needs time to pack everything up, which takes time. So we stopped and had some feedback from Claire and Rachael, and talked about what we need to do next.
One of the things we learned from today, was that it is really useful to create third characters in the play using silhouettes or videos, because there's only two of us performing throughout the whole show, it gives one of us time to exit stage for a change of costume or to catch our breath. As we develop our story further, we are realising how difficult and challenging it is to perform a long show by ourselves. The dance elements are exhausting, but even just acting makes us sweat, because we are dressed in costume and standing under spotlights. All of this is a learning experience that we have to bear in mind when creating a show.
END OF DAY NINE
Spending a day focusing on Digital Media and Lighting with Chris was an important aspect of our R&D, we had learned so much. Not just the new exciting things we could add to make our show more visually appealing, but also the way Digital Media and Lighting works in theatre - the time and patience required, because it takes a long time to set up and pack, and a long time to operate all the different units around the stage. We knew that our tech rehearsal in September is going to be a very long process involving constant repeating of small sections of the same scene over and over, just to get the lighting right. We are aware that our sound designer Chris Bartholomew, will also be coming in to collaborate with Chris Cuthbert to ensure the sound, digital media and lighting are working together in perfect unison.