In review: #05 Real time

After a 2017 hiatus (that passed in a flash!) Artful Spark bounced back with a bumper January edition alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company focussed on real-time technologies. Read on for holograms, tap-dance, reactive LEDs and the most advanced motion capture suit in the world.

See all the pictures on Flickr (photography by Jose Gomez)
Review the full programme.
Find all speakers and demo-ists in this handy Twitter list.

Laura Kriefman (@elfkay) danced about the stage with the wit and energy she brings to all her work, in one breath touching on the inevitable struggle for funders’ crumbs , her new company Hellion Trace and the overriding motivation to continue making memories for people around the world.

Along with a healthy sprinkling of acronyms and technical know-how, Laura had some practical advice about cross-discipline collaboration: push beyond the limits of your own understanding. Where you might initially be overwhelmed by someone’s technical know-how, this simple phrase is all you need:

“Wow! Tell me more…”

The lucky Tim Powell stepped into the RSC’s cutting edge motion-capture suit – developed in collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium – to demonstrate how a digital Ariel could be mapped to an actor’s every move (even Tim’s lunges) and rendered live on a 40 foot canvas.

Sarah Ellis (@scarahnellis) Director of Digital Development at the RSC and Ben Lumsden (@benjlumsden) formerly of Imaginarium Studios and now at Epic Games, explained how their collaboration grew from humble beginnings. With the creative team inspired by a video of a whale, Sarah sent an email to Intel customer services and before long Andy Serkis’s Imaginarium Studios joined the fray.

That three very different companies formed a single high-functioning team is remarkable, but overcoming the technical hurdles they encountered is another feat altogether, requiring cutting-edge thinking from a vast swathe of disciplines; software and hardware engineers, CGI artists, actors, stage technicians, lighting artists and the list goes on.

“What we thought was possible, and where we ended up were entirely different places. We all had to learn what the right questions to ask were.” // Sarah Ellis

All parties were deeply excited by the project, each with their respective challenges and creative ambition. Any number of challenges could have ended the collaboration, not least the technical language barriers, but the impression from Sarah and Ben is of a culture of experimentation, irreverence and absolute trust.

The panel, chaired by Katy Beale (@katybeale) and joined by Tom Burton (@tbertz) Head of Interactive at BBC Studios, brought all speakers together to discuss the nitty-gritty of artistic and technological innovation. Some highlights:

  • Cross-discipline team members need license to contribute creatively using whatever language or format works for them;
  • Wide agreement that collaborators must be given permission to abandon what’s not working;
  • The benefits of artists adopting a business mindset are clear but any negative impacts far less so;
  • The onus is on bigger organisations to have an open door and support smaller enterprises;
  • As soon as you start talking about money, you stop talking about the creative.


Attendees weren’t short of things to see and do this time around:

An exclusive look (and play) with the top-secret motion capture setup behind Ariel’s mind-blowing performance in The Tempest. Developed by RSC in collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium Studios.

Holo-Gauze (@HoloGauze) an incredible system for 2D and 3D stereoscopic projection, developed by VJ Stuart Warren-Hill (@stuarthexstatic) and used by musicians, DJs and theatres around the world. The patented screen – made from silver – costs £200 a square meter!

Kick The Mic, a performance piece by Laura Kriefman (@elfkay) fusing tap-dance, looping audio, reactive LEDs and a Nintendo-like button box – Laura’s mission control – concealing a Raspberry Pi.


RAM Dance Toolkit, presented by David Haylock (@david_haylock) of the PMStudio (@PMStudioUK), is a low-cost motion capture setup, with powerful software – available open-source on GitHub – to augment the performer’s movements to your heart’s content.

We’ve got a few things in mind for the coming 2018 season but your thoughts and feedback are invaluable.

What are you interested in? Let us know.
Who do you think should speak/demo? Submit someone!

See you in the Spring!

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