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We’ve got mobile music apps that incorporate the sounds of the physical environment, social games that incorporate real-time data, augmented reality that creates a meta layer on the real-world and now, MIDAS a collective of Irish-based artists, composers and programmers who are aiming to bring cutting-edge interactivity to the stage through digital art and technology.
Visuals at shows tend to consist of backdrop screens, already-established footage and static projections but the MIDAS collective which grew out of a DCU Masters thesis project, are looking to create a whole new virtual space for a performer to interact with. Projections are mapped to a physical stage and a performer’s movements are tracked using a synthesis of hardware and software. These movements then affect the projections creating a real-time virtual space for a performer to interact and manipulate.
In the MIDAS Project’s case, it was recent Bray Institute of Further Education dance graduate Tom O’Donnell who demonstrated the technology in a performances called simply MIDAS #1 at The Helix in Dublin recently. The music was composed by Derek Cosgrave and O’Donnell was given a short narrative for the performance with no rehearsals so there was an emphasis on experimental improvisation and interaction with the virtual MIDAS space.
You can watch the performance and see how the lines, shapes and animations follow O’Donnell around the stage and how his body movements morph and indent on the backdrop’s grid as he dances.
How it works is an ingenious use of multiple technologies. Camera tracking is performed by a motion sensing Microsoft Kinect and a Playstation Eye 3 serves as an infrared camera. Four networked iMacs are used to keep all the audio and visual running while popular music software program Ableton Live was used as the MIDI master controller for the project, triggering visual events for the performance in time with the music. The open source toolkit openFrameworks was used to write custom software to identify the performer on stage. Elsewhere, Google’s free 3D software tool Sketchup was used for the set design and a host of single-purpose programs dealt with 3D mapping and visual rendering.
MIDAS’ Ian Finnerty says that they are hoping to expand to other creative fields in the near future – “whether it be for musicians to use as a extension of their live performance or to break new ground in the areas of dance or theatre”. Finnerty also points to MIDAS as a potential solution for other uses. “We’re hoping to adapt the mapping techniques we used to create our set to different settings such as a projection piece for an installation, advertising or on a larger scale such as outdoor events or buildings,” he explains. MIDAS is the kind of technology you could imagine Björk clamouring to include in her live shows. Someone give her call.
More info and video at http://www.midaspaces.com
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