La La La Human Steps pirouettes into 3D animation

When the technical aspects of a ballet are discussed, it’s usually limited to the precise choreography and intricate steps. In the case of La La La Human Steps’ latest ballet, any technical talk overheard when it stops in Toronto

next February may also include a discussion of the 3D production system used to animate dancers.

The Montreal-based dance company used Kaydara Inc.’s real-time 3D production system Kaydara Online, to animate dancers projected onto screens throughout its latest contemporary ballet production, Amelia. According to Dan Kraus, the director of special projects at Kaydara in Montreal, the performance animation used in the production was the result of just over two months worth of work and a concept by Amelia‘s choreographer and La La La Human Steps’ artistic director, Édouard Lock.

“”It was a busy time and quite the adventure,”” Kraus said. “”The challenge was enormous. Animating a dinosaur is always easier to do than a person, because the human eye is well tuned to recognize human movement.””

In order to create the most realistic ballerinas possible, Kaydara teamed up with another Montreal-based company, InSpeck Inc. The scanning technology company created the ballerina models by digitizing their bodies with one of its 3D full body systems. The bodies of the five female dancers in the production were scanned using InSpeck’s white light technology.

Christian Rochefort, director of sales and marketing at InSpeck, described the process, which is commonly used in movies, animation and video games.

“”Basically it’s like photocopying something — it captures all of the bits,”” he said.

Besides capturing the entire body image, the InSpeck technology also took high-resolution images of the dancers’ feet, heads, and hands. This, Rochefort said, was crucial to creating a realistic model. The dancers were then rigged with sensors so that their movements could be accurately captured into a file and replicated by the models.

The data was assembled into Kaydara Online, which enables the show’s technical directors to control both the animation and playback in real-time.

Johnny O’Neil, the projectionist for Amelia, said that fine tuning on the animated aspect of the show went on until right before the ballet’s December, 2002 opening night in Prague. According to Kraus, the ability to continually change the models and their movements was one of the real advantages to using 3D animation over video projection.

“”It’s not like just starting a tape. They can change things in real time during the performance if they want, which is very interesting. What audiences saw in Vienna was different than in Montreal,”” Kraus said.

Part of the challenge fr

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