BlackTrax first for students at Backstage Academy

The BlackTrax real-time motion tracking solution was used for the first time in a student-led performance for Convergence, an interactive dance performance exploring the fragile harmony between humans and technology.

At Production Park in West Yorkshire UK, seven of the Live Visual Design & Production BA (Hons) third-year students from Backstage Academy conceived, developed and delivered an interactive dance piece featuring real-time tracking of a dancer with volumetric fog shapes. The Students were supported by London-based design studio United Visual Artists in utilizing a BlackTrax system for the project and Hawthorn, who provided a d3 4x4pro media server, projection and lighting equipment. BlackTrax was incorporated into dancer Chelsey Needham’s costume with a number of beacons and LED stringers hidden from view and placed on each limb.

The beacons were tracked by 10 infrared cameras placed around the performance space. The tracking data was then fed into a d3 4x4pro media server where generative content was sequenced so the light rays were controlled by the dancer’s movements. The performance was created specifically for film with the effect of a single take camera shot achieved with the use of a DJI Ronin 6 stabilization rig. This allowed for smooth tracking around the space.

“Backstage Academy works to prepare students to enter directly into productions at the highest level of technology. Working with manufacturers and production partners our students can produce amazing creative works, which explore the boundaries of technical design. The students brief was open, allowing them to work together as a team to conceive, plan, and execute an original work over a two-week period.  From an academic perspective, we assess them based on their creative, technical, and production workflow practice. How well they can deliver an intended concept, work together as a collaborative team, present, document and realize technical solutions to creative problems,” said Shannon Harvey, Course Leader, BA Live Visual Design & Production degree course, Backstage Academy at University of Bolton.


Students get hands-on with BlackTrax

Third-year student, Michael Edwards, said: “There have been some dance performances where careful choreography interacts with pre-rendered content. We wanted to turn that around so the content was based on the reactions of the dancer. Using BlackTrax meant that the choreography of the dance could be improvised with the dancer actively reacting to the tracked light as it struck her, giving a more natural feel to the performance.”

Live tracking allowed the students to create a puppet like effect, with the beams of light seemingly pulling and manipulating the dancer’s movements. Only BlackTrax could have achieved this effect.

Michael Edwards added: “Getting to use cutting edge technology like BlackTrax was a fantastic opportunity not only to learn about the latest in visual technical integration, but it enabled us to push the boundaries of our creativity. Real Time 3D tracking and generative content provided by d3 server allowed us to quickly experiment with different looks, allowing us to create the desired effect within our short production schedule.”

Thomas Kother, third -ear student, said: “The project was an intensive learning experience. BlackTrax freed us from rehearsing the movement of the performer to match the projection content. We could then focus on the choreographies of the dancer and camera. BlackTrax was close to being another actor on stage, not only technology.”

The conceptualisation and editing of the project was completed in ten days. Watch out for more projects from Backstage Academy!


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Contact: Katinka Allender
K-Communications & Associates