Shocap and The 7 Fingers: Transforming Live Circus With Virtual Production

Athomas Goldberg, co-founder of Shocap Entertainment, and Samuel Tétreault, artistic director of The 7 Fingers, discuss the new technology that will revolutionize circus performances. Shocap Entertainment, created in collaboration with Lifelike & Believable and Animatrik, produces live entertainment with real-time visual effects technology and on-stage human performances to create unique shared experiences performed simultaneously in front of live, audience online that connects from VR headsets, gaming computers and video streaming services. They have been working with the Canadian contemporary circus collective The 7 Fingers, combining acrobatics with theatricality and storytelling. Founded in 2002, the company expands its sense of reality.

Live Design: What is the new technology and how does it work?

Athomas Goldberg: Ultimately, we try to find ways to link several new technologies into a perfect experience. At Animatrik’s studio in Vancouver, we already have access to motion capture equipment, virtual cameras, a giant LED wall and more. Instead of using just one of these technologies, our next series, LiViCi, is a unique show brought to life through the use of mixed reality, which combines these technologies with Epic’s unreal engine to generate live shows that exist simultaneously in person and in the digital realm.

Samuel Tétreault: The performers of the 7 Finger lead the movement of digital characters and animated effects in a fully created interactive virtual world while wearing motion capture costumes, something previously reserved for the film and video game industry. It is a true achievement of cross-cutting reality, demonstrating the incredible potential of Unreal Engine and its ability to enhance live productions in new and exciting ways. With an LED wall and other projection surfaces representing live graphics behind the stage performers, face-to-face viewers access an extensive reality, shared with remote participants.

AG: When it comes to a new individual technology, there is a very unique aspect to our LiViCi offering. We are still in development, we have been actively creating the Ringmaster virtual performance system, a new tool for creating and controlling live shows that connects a range of technology solutions, including motion capture systems, virtual cameras, LED walls and projectors, as well as DMX. and OSC devices under real-time centralized control, and while there are a number of other commercial solutions for live event production, what makes Ringmaster unique is its ability to simultaneously control lighting virtual, cameras and effects in connected virtual reality environments and multiplayer games as well.

LD: How will The 7 Fingers incorporate this to transform live performances?

ST: From our point of view, we aim to extend the art of live performance to a wider audience than ever before. To achieve this and reach people in new ways, we need new and exciting storytelling tools. With Shocap Entertainment, we can expand our arsenal through technology to create new artistic languages. We don’t just want to show video effects as if they were tricks, we want them to be meaningful and serve the story directly.

AG: The idea is to introduce a synthesis of stage-generated acrobatics and computer-generated real-time visual effects, where artists interact with their digital counterparts live and on stage. The 7 Fingers already have incredible talent: it’s not about revolutionizing all the basics of their performance, it’s about using technology in a way that uniquely extends what’s possible to both acrobats and spectators.

LD: Is there also a virtual component for people who can’t attend “live”?

AG: With live virtual performances like LiViCi, we want to improve and expand the audience experience, offering remote viewers access to totally unique and interactive perspectives, while the face-to-face audience witnesses an expanded stage experience. The virtually visualized interactive possibilities include navigating the virtual space of the live event as an avatar using a virtual reality (VR) headset. Virtual reality is one of the most transformative aspects of the LiViCi experience and literally acts as a gateway to a new reality.

ST: To reach the widest possible audience, our approach to acting will allow us to simultaneously visualize a performance by the local audience and remote viewers. The remote experience of the performances will provide each person with an element of direct participation. I think this is really important and often lacks other approaches to virtual performance. There is a great opportunity to offer interesting and engaging new forms of virtual interactivity that make it possible to match the inherent intensity of a face-to-face event.

LD: What hardware and software is required?

AG: For each performance, there will be a face-to-face perspective, a cinematic stream through a computer, virtual reality headphones and an option to enter the program via an avatar like a video game. The latter option could be achieved through an everyday computer with an Internet connection or virtual reality headsets. Each point of view will have its own advantages and ways of interacting and influencing performance, and viewers will not need high-end hardware to see them. Regarding the live reproduction of our studio, we are collaborating with several innovative partners specialized in facilitating virtual and live performances.

LD: What are the requirements of the technical staff, is this where the collaboration comes in?

AG: When new technologies and new ways of connecting with the public are introduced, there will always be a learning curve, but our goal with Ringmaster and all of our tools is to leverage existing workflows as much as possible and do the creation and control of shows. as intuitive as possible. Our DMX and OSC integration is designed to allow lighting and sound operators to use their existing devices and consoles to create and control signals in both physical and virtual environments.

Digital content creators used in stage projections and immersive online environments will need to experiment with Unreal Engine and other digital content creation tools, but our tools do not add any additional requirements to this part. of the production process.

This is the real strength of our partnership. Between the deep history of The 7 Fingers live theatrical circus production and our decades of experience in virtual production and real-time computer graphics, we can make the most of this new medium for live performance and performance. at a level of production values. which we hope will lead the audience to completely forget about technology and simply immerse themselves in human stories that affirm life, in stunning visual art, and in incredible performances that defy death.

LD: What is the first live performance in this line?

ST: We aim to release the first of ours LiViCi concert series in early 2022. We’ve already shared several teasers, completed several workshops, and produced a preview, including a live demonstration as a taster for the public, showcasing the project’s notable technological successes and offering. It is a long-term partnership and project and we are still developing all the components needed for large-scale acrobatic performance using Shocap’s mixed reality technology.

AG: The workshops held so far have already successfully demonstrated what LiViCi we can get it: we can’t wait to share more over the next year.

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