DEARBORN (WWJ) — Theater technology is taking its next step at Henry Ford Community College.
This fall, HFCCs groundbreaking, award-winning Virtual Theatricality Lab will stage “Dinosaurus!”, a children’s play about two oil engineers who find a surviving colony of dinosaurs.
The play features a 20-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex, created by projectors, as well as a host of other images projected onto the stage, with which live actors interact.
HFCC Director of Theatre George Popovich said he’s been working on this kind of technology for live theater “since I was about 6 years old and saw the original King Kong for the first time.”
HFCC has used cutting-edge technology before in other productions, including a staging of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” that was modeled on its 1950s sci-fi movie version, “Forbidden Planet.” The 2003 production won a regional award in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. HFCC also used motion capture technology in a production of Caryl Churchill’s “The Stryker,” which as a finalist for the National Bellwether Awrd, which recognizes outstanding and innovative programs at community colleges.
More information, video and photos from the show can be viewed at http://vtl.hfcc.edu/productions/dinosaurus.
“Dinosaurus!” will combine what Popovich calls virtual reality animation, classic animation, and realtime motion capture technology, in which the motion of a person is captured by a camera and transferred to an animated puppet.
Beginning Nov. 1, two sets of performances will be offered — one for the general public, and one for elementary schools.
Recommended for grades one through five, “Dinosaurus!” is the story of two geologists. Looking for oil underneath Wisconsin, they stumble on a lost world of dinosaurs. Are the humans the heroes? No: this story is told from the viewpoint of the dinosaurs, who must struggle to deal with the intrusion of these pushy, noisy, troublemaking little humans. The dinosaurs try everything to get rid of the intruders, until finally history repeats itself with a solution that at first seems tragic — but just wait.
The audience for “Dinosaurus!” will be limited to 80 people per show.
The images of the dinos are projected in 3D and the animated dinosaurs appear to be next to the actors. The 3D stereo effect will make the dinosaurs appear 10 feet from the closest spectator. The audience wears 3D glasses. The audience sits onstage, creating an immersive environment. Popovich said the effect is achieved through the projection of two bright images from different directions.
High-definition digital 3D projection, audio and show control systems will be combined with special effects, such as wind, smoke, mist, lighting and a surround sound system.
To further the immersive environment, several “4-D” effects will be created. “4D” refers to a real, physical effect that complements an animated or virtual effect. When the trex sneezes, duck!
The show also promises a real-time 3-D stereo MC (“The Professor”), who will be created by a motion capture actor observing the audience via hidden cameras. This will allow complete real-time interactivity between the audience and a virtual real-time agent.
This project was made possible by a grant from HFCC’s Technology Investment Fund. It’s part of HFCC’s Theatre for Young Audiences Program, which has seen more than 5,000 students experience live theater over the past 23 years.
The show will be presented in the Adray Auditorium on the HFCC Main Campus, 5101 Evergreen Road, Dearborn. For more information, see http://theatre.hfcc.edu/productions/2014/dinosaurus or call (313) 845-6478.
All school performances are closed to the public. All seats are $4; there are no other discounts, prices or complimentary tickets. Early reservations are advised; seating is limited to 80 persons per show. Educators interested in bringing their students to “Dinosaurus!” should visit http://vtl.hfcc.edu/node/873.
School performances will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25 and 26.
Public perofrmances will have ticket prices of $8, or $5 for children under 12. Tickets are now on sale online to the public at http://theatre.hfcc.edu.
Public performances will be at 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 1; 2 p.m. Nov. 2; 7 p.m. Nov. 7; 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 8; 2 p.m. Nov. 9; 7 p.m. Nov. 14; 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 15; 2 p.m. Nov. 16; 7 p.m. Nov. 21; 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 22; and 2 p.m. Nov. 23.