Emma Sterling and I have spent the past several weeks in an intense collaborative bubble, producing and performing (essentially VJing) video content for an innovative new theatrical performance for children. Directed by Andy Packer and performed by Ellen Steele, ‘Wolf’ is an original story by Andy Packer (written by Finegan Kruckemeyer) and developed by a collaborative team of specialists spanning many artistic disciplines. Full team credits are available at the Slingsby website. ‘Wolf’ explores the theme of fear and anxiety and their roles in our lives and Western folk story traditions. The performance is part physical theatre, part video diary and part new media performance, as the lone character Ruby slips into a dreamscape in which she is pursued and confronted by her fears and insecurities.
I’m writing this blog entry from just south of Tailem Bend, an early whistle-stop on the road to Mount Gambier, the place of the play’s original conception last year, and soon to be the place of its public premiere. As latecomers to the project, we had the task of devising the delivery method for three different screens of video content, and producing video sequences for several scenes, in a style harmonious to existing footage created by Sophie Hyde of Closer Productions. Requiring a combination of wrapping double-screen images, and rolling single screen content, the imagery is at times immersive and environmental, at others direct broadcasts from Ruby’s video diary and in more surreal moments, manifestations of pure imagination. The video system prototype before we became involved required three networked computers, syncronised, each driving a single projector.
Our first challenge was to devise a neater technical solution that would also provide us with the performance flexibility we need to allow us to respond spontaneously with video, augmenting the performer’s movement and the story’s progress. Since we were already committed users of Arkaos’ and Numark’s NuVJ package, we roadtested and ran with Arkaos’ GrandVJ for the ultimate solution. Using this concise and powerful program, we are now able to run all three screens from a single Acer Aspire 6930G laptop, which we bought with the spoils of the commission. The key factors in running the system smoothly are many, with tech specs an important part of the picture. The Vista laptop we run has a 1 Gb dedicated video card, 4Gb of RAM and a dual core 2.4 GHz processor. Feeding the software files with the best compression codecs and ratios is critical. For GrandVJ, I’ve followed the recommended workflow and use H264 for HDV dual-screen clips, and Quicktime PhotoJPEG for SD clips. Starting the compression at 80%, I wind it back on some of the longer HDV clips when they start to stagger on playback.
Theatre: Slingsby’s WOLF Premieres May 6 (TVC)
Another early task we were set was to deliver a TVC for broadcast in regional South Australia, advertising the show and its imminent tour. For this we re-edited the existing prologue, shot by Sophie Hyde, and inserted an animated sequence created by Luku. We’ve also distributed the TVC via TubeMogul, a terrific tool for re-distributing online video across multiple portal sites.
So we’re passing twisted gumtrees, expansive pastures and the occasional road-train, racing towards the official premiere on May 6th. After three showings with test audiences last week at the Odeon Theatre in Norwood. After Mount Gambier, we hit a string of country towns across SA, including Kadina, Keith, Bordertown, Port Augusta, Whyalla, Port Pirie, Roxby Downs, Ceduna and Port Lincoln. As always, Em and I are packing multiple cameras so we’ll be documenting the trip as well as the show as both unfold.