Opera goes holographic using projectors, transparent film

December 16, 2011 by Dave Haynes

This is pretty interesting. There have been virtual and augmented fashion shows using transparent film and projectors, but I’ve never heard of a holographic opera.

The projector giant Christie has a case study up on its UK site about a virtual opera, written by Franco Battiato to honor the 16th century Italian philosopher Bernardino Telesio.

The set, singers, dancers and performers appeared on stage, but they were not physically there. They were just holograms. The Philarmonia Mediterranea orchestra, directed by Carlo Boccadoro, was the only piece of the puzzle physically present at the show, playing live and having the added challenge of syncing the music to the holograms’ singing and dancing on stage.

The Comune di Cosenza commissioned the opera, which ran for three days at the Rendano theatre in Cosenza, Italy, to full houses.

The production of the show took nine days. During this time Christie partner Gianni Guerrini worked closely with production company International Music and the UK company Musion, which provided the Eyeliner technology to create the holograms.

The whole opera was filmed beforehand at the theatre. The production company set up a TV studio at the theatre using a black background to then be able to super impose different backgrounds behind the acting and singing scenes.

While the scenes were being filmed in the studio, they were also broadcast live onto the stage, already prepared with the holographic screen, to make sure it all fitted well and the holograms looked as natural as possible. Post production and effects were done separately in a studio.

Rossani comments: “The cameras were connected to AYA for recording and then they hooked into the Pandora box. We tried filming in High Definition (HD) interlace and progressive, to see which one gave us the best natural movement and realistic effect on the holograms. We chose interlace 1080 HD because it gave us smoother contours and the movement was perfectly natural.”

“The sync between the live audio and the recorded images on the performance nights was quite a big job. Everything was controlled from the sound desk, the Digidesign Venue. We used a Digidesign desk and a Mac 5. A DMX interface, going through the light board, was only used manually to pause lights,” Rossani recalls.

The hologram effect on stage was achieved by using a transparent screen foil from UK company Musion, a reflecting surface and three powerful Christie Roadster HD18K projectors. The foil is positioned at a 45 degrees angle on the stage and the projectors and reflecting surface are opposite each other one at the top and the other at the bottom of the screen. The image is projected directly onto the reflection screen and this appears then projected onto the Musion screen. The result is an eye trick that presents the images vertically (i.e. standing) and with virtual physicality, creating a 3D image that seems to be moving in midair. Using this technique together with clever lighting and the depth of the stage, the holographic effect is achieved.

Working with Guerrini, production manager David Broccoli adds: “For this project we used a main screen of 14 metres from Musion on the stage and a smaller one positioned behind it to add depth the scenery. A challenging aspect of this setting was to create multi layered, well proportioned projected scenes using Pandora’s Box. Every scene was composed by the overlapping of different clips and graphics on stage. All of the elements were captured separately and brought together on the stage to create the scene in different layers. We have to fine tune the projectors and screens to create a visual balance ensuring that the proportions and synchronicity were spot on.”

Guerrini, expert in the use of AV for dramatic arts explains: “The main foil was served by two Christie Roadster HD18K projectors in edge blending configuration, both connected to one Pandora’s Box server that provided two independent outputs. A third Roadster HD18K with a second Pandora’s Box server projected on the second foil. These projectors were considered the best projectors for the job, with the combination of 16:9 format and 18K power essential to produce the desired results in brightness and resolution. The show was unforgettable and the holograms kept the audience at the edge of their seats all night, it was magic in action.”

I’m not much of an opera guy, but this would have been fascinating to sit in on. Here’s a video report, but in Italian.

[youtube id=”gF4NYZ0u_f4″ width=”600″ height=”350″]


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