Performing Non-Human Characters in Live Mixed-Reality Performance

Project partners: The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London (CSSD), Ruth Mariner, Maggie Bain, Freyja Sewell

This collaboration is exploring how Virtual Production (VP) technologies can be used to empower actors working in immersive, mixed-reality performance. 

In a mixed-reality performance, actors are present with the audience in both the physical space and the virtual environment. 

The actor’s live performance is recorded through real-time performance capture and a game engine, and the audience sees all or part of the character and the world as 3D computer-generated imagery. These virtual elements appear around the audience who participate in the performance using a Virtual Reality headset or an Augmented Reality device. 

The project team will explore the challenges that this mixed-reality performance presents to actors, looking specifically at the portrayal of non-human avatars, such as a cartoon character or animals. 

With non-human and non-realistic avatars featuring widely in virtual productions, the ability to convey a range of emotional expressions and emotionally engage with audiences is key.

The collaboration will investigate what strategies enable actors to effectively animate avatars that do not correspond directly with the human body. The team will also explore how to achieve a high level of emotional expression in live performance using affordable, off-the-shelf tools, to enable lower-budget productions to employ these techniques. 

The work will empower a broader group of creators to work with VP technologies and address the lack of research that exists on this unique type of performance. 

‘Performing Non-Human Characters in Live Mixed-Reality Performance’ is one of seven initiatives supported by the XR Network+ Prototyping, Impact and Acceleration (PIA) funding call, with grants of up to £10,000 awarded to researchers at UK universities to develop new ideas and complete existing research related to VP. 

Categories: Performance, Research, Technology