• Nicholas Wong

Digital Storytelling 2 (Initial thoughts + Group 1)

For this final installation of the Digital Storytelling module, the actors were left in charge of coming up with the story and concept of the production that would be taking place in the Milton Court theatre. There were four acting groups in total and only 3 first year video students, so we had to figure out how to split the groups to the video designers that we had. We originally had 2 ideas of how to split the group, which was to have each designer take a group, and the last group would have all 3 designers working on it, or, to have each designer take one group and be in a support role for another group, so it would end up with everyone doing a lead design and support role except for the last person who would do lead design on 2 groups. We decided to go with the latter, and I was the designer who did lead design for 2 separate groups.

Because of the time constraints of the project and other challenges such as receiving a finalised script a week before the show, it was almost impossible to split our time to do design and support for 2 different groups, so we all ended up just focusing on our own group designs. This meant that I had to do the design for 2 groups without much support. I didn't really feel that I was stretched for time to create the designs for 2 groups own my own however, as the time that we were allocated was enough to produce content and render it, the only time where I felt that we did not have enough time to finish up the content was when the actors wanted to change some of their ideas and having to accommodate those changes in a short window of time before a rehearsal or the actual show was quite stressful. Thankfully, the acting groups that I had were understanding about how changing the video content was not as easy as how they were able to change the script or their lines, so we mostly settled on a final product/piece before the tech run on the day. I didn't think that having 2 groups was a disadvantage, but rather it offered me a chance to try out different ideas, and because I didn't want the video design for both groups to look too similar in design, so it pushed me to find more ways to showcase the interactivity between actors and the video content.

Once we were assigned groups, we had some lessons with Blanca to help us come up with designs for each of our ideas. Blanca explained the difference between a modern narrative and a classic narrative. My groups had both picked stories with a classic narrative structure, and it was useful to know that classic narratives were split into 3 sections, the exposition, conflict and resolution. Knowing that helped to streamline where and how we wanted video content, and it helped to split the story up and we could then work on each section individually. Blanca also went through with us on how she made mood boards for the projects that she worked on previously, and that they contained references, colour schemes, stage designs as well as key words. I thought that doing mood boards that way was very effective in helping me focus on what I really wanted to happen in each scene, and it was very handy to have when I needed to refer back to it while designing content.

For the first group that I had, the actors chose the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. I think that this was a story that had been adapted many times and most audiences were familiar with it, so it was easy to find other video designs on a similar theme. During our brainstorming sessions, we agreed that we wanted to portray Hades as something that was larger than life, and for the mood board I found some pictures of really nice hand shadow puppets that I thought would be really good to represent the enormous scale of a god of the underworld.

I then had the idea to incorporate the idea of using live camera which I used in the previous Digital storytelling presentation, but to expand on that by having a proper camera set up. After running some tests with the actors during rehearsal, I realised that it was really hard to get the camera ro pick up shadows, and instead decided to focus the camera on the actors hands itself, and then use the chromakey effect to create a mask with their hands. I used that then to symbolise things like trees and hades himself.

When we got closer to the show itself, we decided to have the live video capturing one of the actors face instead of their hands for hades, and I think that it worked out way better than just having the hands.

Below is the full storyboard and mood board that I made for the Orpheus group

As you can see in the above moodboad, the original stage design was to have strips of projection material that the actors would hold up and the video content would be projected on that. The actors were really keen on doing that, but due to us not being able to finalise on a script in time, and thus rehearsal time for the final show being pushed even further back, I had to sit down and explain to the actors that in order for the idea to be executed properly, we needed time to really practice moving the screens to an exact position every time. Eventually, we compromised with just having one main screen and having more of an emphasis on the live camera.

During the tech run. I have to admit that I felt really uncomfortable with coming up with a lighting design for the piece. I was the only first year to not do lighting in associated studies, so I did not have any idea of where to begin. I had to rely on Jon and the other TT students who came in to help me with the lighting design. If I had more time on this project, I would like to have spent some time learning about lighting design so I could have been more helpful to the Lighting operators during the plotting part of the technical run.

There was one really huge mistake in the show, which was that the live camera was slightly tilted after being moved during the set up, and that resulted in it not picking up the actors hands within the frame for the first bit that we wanted to have live video. I actually foresaw this problem happening, so my countermeasure for that was to actually have the tech run for Orpheus and Eurydice last, and then start first in the show, so the equipment would not have to move.

Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication with the video crew for the Opera Makers, whom we were sharing the hdmi capture card with, I only found out on the day of the show that I had to give up the capture card during our tech run and was unable to stick to my ideal plan for scheduling. I think that in the future I will have a plan B and even plan C for the video system.

Other than that mistake, I thought that the live camera system worked really well, and I think that I managed to achieve what I set out to do with the video design. 

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