Computer Graphics World

JUNE 2010

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■ ■ ■ ■ Projection/Digital Sets ven given the most clever stage de- sign, watching Peter Pan and Wendy f y to Neverland above a rectangular stage inside a walled theater stretches any audience’s will- ingness to suspend disbelief. So when mul- tiple award-winning stage designer William Dudley heard talk of a proposed production of “Peter Pan” inside a tent, he said, in e° ect, “I believe I can do something new.” Dudley, who designed his f rst stage pro- duction in 1970, has been projecting com- puter graphics imagery on stage since 2002, when he used Maxon’s Cinema 4D to help create nine hours of 180-degree backgrounds for Tom Stoppard’s three-play epic, “˝ e Coast of Utopia.” But never before had he— or anyone else—been able to project images in 360 degrees for a live theater production. To try would be an awfully big adventure. And indeed, for audiences attending the premiere performance in San Francisco, it was a spectacular adventure as they watched Peter Pan and the Darlings f y over London on their way to Neverland. Holding onto coat hangers, the actors rise above the stage and f y toward the screens as the camera takes the audience high along the River ˝ ames, spins around the dome of St. Paul’s, re-orients onto the same path as before, and this time, moves at an increasing speed low above the river until the children, in e° ect, soar under Tower Bridge and up into the clouds. San Francisco theater critic Robert Sokol noted, “It’s palpably exciting, if a bit vertiginous, to have the roof of the Darling attic lift away and watch f ve people zoom hand-in-hand across the rooftops of London….” The Adventure Begins Dudley’s adventures with “Peter Pan” began in 2007 when the producers asked his wife, Lucy Bailey, to direct the production. She, in turn, asked to have her husband create the design. Dudley describes the f rst meeting: “˝ ey were planning to use a high-tech tent made in France by the tentmakers for Cirque du Soleil,” he says. “˝ e whole tent would be suspended on white girders. No poles in- side. And, they had planned a conventional auditorium inside, with two-thirds audience and one-third stage. I told them they had the makings of a 360-degree movie theater and that we could do the whole f ight over Lon- don and the exploration of the island, and then come back, using CGI video. ˝ ey were kind of f abbergasted.” ˝ e light-tight tent would be dark enough inside for image projection, even with the stage lights. Situating the audience in a circle around the center stage added more than 400 seats, which helped pay for Dudley’s R&D. Dudley realized that by circling the stage with projectors installed at the edge, just out of the audience’s eye line, the actors could f y above the stage and look as if they were f ying into images projected onto the sides of the tent. ˝ e f ying gear could drop down from the top of the tent. “I knew we could do this,” Dudley says. “By this time, I had gotten quite compe- tent at using CGI video, and I had a good team with Mash (Matthew O’Neill) creating content, and a father-son team that ran the projectors.” ˝ e producers quickly became excited, people in the potential venues were eager, and the backers were willing. “˝ ey all went for the idea of Peter Pan f ying in live theater inside a movie,” Dudley 18 June 2010

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