Knowing the location of your artists on stage can bring your immersive ideas to amazing live shows and interactive videos. Read about Curtis R. Priem EMPAC’s cooperation with Eliko to get inspired.
The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is a multi-venue arts centre at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. EMPAC is where the arts, sciences and technology meet under one roof and breathe the same air. Four exceptional venues enable audiences, artists and researchers to inquire, experiment, develop and experience the ever-changing relationship between our senses, technology and the world we create around us. EMPAC is an icon of the new polytechnic, a new paradigm for cross-disciplinary research and education at Rensselaer.
The 220,000-square-foot (67 000-square-metre) building includes many firsts in the fields of acoustics, performing arts infrastructure and architectural engineering. The integration of these features with audio, video, lighting, computer and stage rigging networks make EMPAC the ideal environment for human interaction with digital
Both a performing arts centre and a research and production facility, EMPAC provides an environment that supports the realization of complex artworks and research projects at any stage, from inception to completion.*
* EMPAC website: https://empac.rpi.edu/about
In some projects, artists are interested in live interaction between media and performers on stage or in a studio. There is typically more than one person on stage at a time and these actors and dancers sometimes need to be projected on. Both criteria present obstacles for typical video capture interaction.
Eric Brucker, lead video engineer of Curtis R. Priem EMPAC, said that the main challenge before using the Ultra-Wideband (UWB) tracking system was tracking in darkness to project the lighting precisely on the dancer. “The infrared systems,” he explained, “can easily get confused when we need to track more than one target, so we were searching for something not visual or infrared.”
“The infrared systems can easily get confused when we need to track more than one target, so we were searching for something not visual or infrared.”
Eric Brucker, Lead Video Engineer of Curtis R. Priem EMPAC
They desired a solution that would provide precise and reliable location data and would also be easy and cost-efficient to maintain. Last but not least, they needed to find a solution and integrate it into their systems in the nine days they had left until the first live show! Since the artists had come from Taiwan to the United States, many of the ideas were realised during that short rehearsal period, so they adapted to them.
The Curtis R. Priem EMPAC engineers and Taiwanese artists from YiLab integrated various tools into the complex system for sound, graphics and interactivity. Eliko’s UWB-based real-time tracking system for artists on stage was integrated with their high-resolution Wave Field Synthesis (WFS) array as a stage reinforcement option. They used the complex solution for both research and immersive performance shows. Usually, the artists put the location tag into their pockets and the tracking area is covered with anchors for creating a UWB network to track them.
“When researching the solutions on the market, we liked that Eliko’s UWB-based real-time location system (RTLS) had a very high refresh rate and was very accurate.”
Eric Brucker from EMPAC
They desired a solution that would provide precise and reliable location data and would also be easy and cost-efficient to maintain. Last but not least, they needed to find a solution and integrate it into their systems in the nine days they had left until the first live show, including shipping time! Since the artists had come from Taiwan to the United States, many of the ideas were realised during that short rehearsal period, so they adapted to them.
This project comprised five primary systems:
- WFS (wave field synthesis) is a spatial audio rendering technique that places virtual sound sources in real space.
- Max is a visual programming platform for sound and multimedia. They used Max for controlling moving lights. Max was also used on an additional computer to control the WFS.
- They used an Intel RealSense depth camera and Touchdesigner, a node-based visual programming language for real-time interactive multimedia content. Touchdesigner also parses the location information and passes it on to the other systems.
- Resolume is a VJ software and media server that controls projection using the location data to focus the projections on or near the dancer(s).
- Eliko’s UWB RTLS, a precise Ultra-Wideband (UWB)-based real-time location system was added to the Touchdesigner machine and passed on that data as well as the infrared data. With only two days of working with the new system, the artist first used both the RTLS and infrared during the work-in-progress showing.
“Setting up the systems and integration was fast and easy. We used a Disto from the centre of the tracked area to find the location of each anchor, which resulted in a 15-20-minute setup time. Filtering the data and scaling was very simple using Touchdesigner. The tracking rate for the moving tags was set at 10 Hz (10 times per second), but most of the time, even a quarter of that speed would be acceptable. I am proud that the system was able to be implemented so quickly.”
Eric Brucker from EMPAC
Benefits of Eliko RTLS in the system:
- Precise and reliable location tracking
- High update rate
- Fast set-up time
- Easy to integrate and implement
Knowing the location of artists on stage opens up a previously hidden world of ideas for immersive live shows. Eliko’s precise tracking solution has benefitted many stakeholders:
- The lighting designer and projectionist know the position of artists precisely and can bring their immersive ideas to amazing live shows.
- The artists are more confident in their synergy with the technology and lights and can focus solely on their performance.
- The audience can enjoy amazing live shows as the solution creates an engaging experience for the audience.
- The Cognitive and Immersive SystemsLab (CISL) has expressed interest in integrating a solution like this into their situations room.
“We were delighted with the results of combining Eliko’s precise UWB tracking with our wave field synthesis as well as dance while moving from research mode to performance mode during the first event.”
EMPAC engineers are further developing the solution. “We have extended the tracking area and will keep experimenting with Eliko RTLS and use it in our next shows as well,” said Eric. “We have since upgraded the system to six anchors and four tags. Eliko has also provided us with a software update that enabled the possibility of a UDP connection, which will simplify things when we only need to use the WFS. We hope that Eliko will offer an OSC option in the future, which is the most common language that our systems can speak natively. With its simple solution, Eliko is a serious competitor in our industry among other solution providers that offer many options and are much expensive as well,” he said.