Interactive projection video mapping what now?

A recent performance of Beyonce at the Billboard Awards 2011 got me to look a little into the trend of projection mapping. Before I move on just have a look yourself.

This fine example of interactive show stopping craziness designed by Kenzo Digital really proves Beyonce’s not only an amazing singer and performer but (as if we didn’t know this yet) a very talented dancer. Because you have to be so very very precise and accurate to hit every single cue in a show like this. Apparently Beyoncé did the entire performance without the help of a reference screen, like the ones a weatherman uses to pinpoint where it’s raining. What I admire is that it is very much her style of dancing that we all know and she’s not influenced or compromised by the projection. Instead she challenges her moves but, she’s not the first one to do this. There are some elements even that are not original to her at all. Before I move on (again) just have a look yourself.

In 2010 Italian dancer, singer, television host and actress Lorella Cuccarini did a show at the Festival De Sanremo which showed very similar projections to the one Beyonce did last week. There have been many write ups about the cheating and stealing and copying and inspiration of these two and this is not what I am going to do.

I just used them to show two very different performers using the same technology. Not a new technology. It’s a technique in video art since the ’80s in terms of frontal projection and interactive things. That’s really nothing new. A white screen with frontal projections and a shit hot, very tight choreography that makes it put together an incredibly engaging thing to look at.

This technology has obviously not only been popular in the showbizz world. It has also been discovered by contemporary dance choreographers and theatre makers. For example this interactive dance and media performance conceived and directed by Klaus Obermaier, in collaboration with the Ars Electronica Futurelab, featuring Desirée Kongerød and Rob Tannion is one of many.

‘Video Projection Mapping is a projection technique that can turn almost any surface into a dynamic video display. Specialized software is used to warp and mask the projected image to make it fit perfectly on irregularly shaped screens. When done right, the end result is a dynamic projection installation that transcends ordinary video projection. The goal of this site is to compile examples of impressive uses of video mapping techniques.’ (source; Video Mapping Projection)

A few years back I went to see the 10th anniversary performance of the Jasmin Vardimon Company. I was utterly blown away by Yesterday. Not only a fierce piece of choreography and drama but a very interesting use of cameras and clever and detailed video projection. Projected not only on white screen but on her dancers as well.

Making it look like the dancers controlled the projection instead of the projection just being an image stuck on them. It was moving with them on them and away and towards them. It was really stunning. The choreography between the technology and the choreography of the live artists is a really challenging task. But the results can be so incredibly beautiful when executed well. The timing and precise spacing has to be unbelievably accurate or the whole thing can just fall apart. Almost like a magic trick, deceiving the eye using a fairly simple technique to create a performance that makes the impossible look possible. The hard part is to get the choreography right and make it work with the movement of the projections. Long and patience testing rehearsals.

There are already so many things the dance world has been incredibly inventive with. Light plans and light equipment has evolved to the next generation of high tech. Making it possible for choreographers to trick the audience making things appear impossible. It’s because a stage performance is live and in real time that this technological magic is so incredibly powerful, anything can go wrong and the magic will be given away. Now camera, projection in combination with those light plans makes the theatre productions these day even more big and spectacular. The only issue is (always) money and resources. But eh the creative world wouldn’t be creative if we couldn’t find a way around that problem (as it is and will always be the problem, money). Many more challenges for this reasonable straight forward technique but how can the dance world in these times push it even further? There are so many possibilities and different techniques to be explored it’s mind blowing to think what is technologically possible these days.

Yesterday is coming back to London in June! At Sadler’s Wells Jasmin Vardimon Company will perform this amazing work once more on the 9th and 10th of June. Book tickets here.

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