Yue-Ling Wong, Ph.D
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Research :: Stereoscopic Viewing and Interactive Multimedia in Live Performance

The 2004 Production, The Bridge

About the Dance Production

There were two separate pieces in this production. My work was showed in the first piece, called A Link with the Darkness. Below is a description in the program. It describes what I intended to express in this piece.

A Link with the Darkness

Before technology... before telescopes... human and the night sky were once linked by human's imagination and creative mind -- myths and fairy tales. The Milky Way -- the "lane of white powder" -- is a sign of home -- Earth's home galaxy. The Milky Way and the rhythmic patterns of constellation have sparked so many ancient tales in different cultures. Now, technology and urban development come with "light pollution" and busy lives that make it harder and harder for us to stargaze. Most of us don't look up very often because we cannot see many stars in or near the city. Are we losing the connection with the darkness? Are we losing the dreams and imagination that once linked us with the stars and the night sky? Do we want to reconnect with the night sky, dreams and imagination?

To express these reflections, I created animation sequences of flying dragon, spiral galaxy, Earth and Moon, skyline, and cave drawings to link the night sky, imagination and the past in this piece. The flying dragon in this piece is used as a symbol for the Milky Way which in turn represents the night sky. The dragon's coming and going is used as a metaphor of our seeing and losing sight of our imagination and the heavenly view of the night sky. These animations were created as 3-D stereoscopic animation using Alias Maya and composted in Adobe Premiere. With stereoscopic projection on a silver screen and circular polarizer 3-D glasses, the audiences watch these virtual animated creatures and environments emerging on stage with the dancers.


There were also two publications in Winston-Salem Journal about The Bridge dance production -- one published in Relish was an interview before the show and one was a review after the first day of the show. A photocopy of the review is enclosed at the end of this report. Here are excerpts from a review by Susan Gilmor, Journal Arts Reporter of Winston-Salem Journal, December 3, 2004.

"...opens with 'A Link with the Darkness', a short but stunning blend of dance and 3-D imagery. Be sure to arrive early enough to grab one of the seats in the rear, where the 3-D effects are most vivid. Put on the glasses that you'll be given at the door and let the piece wash over you."

"You'll see the Earth and moon hovering before you. Later on, a tree appears, so close that it seems rooted to the shoulder of the person in front of you. And at one point, a dragon approaches and then darts away, leaving a trail of stardust in its wake."

"The 3-D effects, created by Yue-Ling Wong of Wake Forest, are far more striking than those in last year's collaboration, Fibonacci and Phi. Those were good, but not this good. You may find yourself getting so caught up in them that you lose track of what the dancers are up to."

Kids seemed to particularly enjoy the stereo animation with the dance. One young kid wore the 3D glasses to everywhere, even in the restroom. Some audience seemed to have read the newspaper review before coming to the show; when they purchased the ticket at the door, they emphasized that they had to sit at the very back row.

Activities Pursued

Construction of a 15-by-30-foot silver screen

Because the techniques of the stereo projection are based on polarizer, the projection screen has to be a silver screen in order to retain the polarization to give the stereo viewing effect. However, commercially available silver screen is too expensive and requires a permanent framing. So, I researched for information about silver screen and constructed an about 15-by-30-foot silver screen on muslin. The process was painstaking and tedious. A 16-by-33-foot muslin was laid on my driveway, ironed to remove wrinkles. It was then brushed with a coat of gesso. After the gesso was dried, it was painted with two coats of aluminum paint. The whole process took about two full days. Then the aluminum paint requires 10 days to cure and so the muslin was lying on the driveway for 10 days, rolled up temporarily to store in the garage when it rained.

Because the final results of the stereo effect were very successful and satisfying, and the review of the production about the stereo effect was exceptional, it was worth the effort.

3D Stereo Animations

I created total about 15-minute of 3-D stereoscopic animations, using Alias Maya and Adobe Premiere. This involved hundreds of hours just in the modeling and animation, not including the time taken for the pre-production planning and research. The time for rendering the animation sequence was over a hundred hours.

The animations are described briefly below in the order of their appearance in the show. Note: The animations were incorporated in the dance performance. The description below concentrated on describing the animation only. It will not be possible to describe the dancers' movement with the animation.

Galaxy fly-through: The piece opened without animation but with a stream of rice falling on top of a dancer for a minute or so. While the rice was still falling, the animation of a rotating spiral galaxy started. With the stereo effect, the galaxy was seen to have half in front of the screen and the other half inside the screen. It was positioned on top of the dancer and thus the same location of the falling rice. The galaxy was slowly moving away from the audience. The falling rice was visually similar to a band of stars and provided a sound of rain shower. In the middle of the animation, a comet flied from the audience side into the screen. The comet was a metaphor of a dragon which was in turn a metaphor of Milky Way or our connection to the night sky.

Earth and Moon in space: The dance continued into this second animation in which the audience saw the Earth hovering in front of the screen with the Moon rotating around it. The dancers were dancing right underneath the Earth. When they moved from one side of the stage to the other, they seemed to go right past the Earth.

Figure 1. A picture taken in a photo-shot session showing the dancers with the earth-moon projection in the background.

A blue tree moving in the wind: A blue-colored oak tree was moving in the wind with a night sky moving in the background. The stereo effect made the blue tree look like it was standing in front of the screen, and the dancers were dancing under the tree. Cave-drawing animals, such as mammal, horse, ibex, fighting rhinos, were then drawn slowly stroke by stroke around the blue tree. These cave-drawings were copied from the cave drawings found in Chauvet Cave. When the dancers were moving from one side of the stage to the other, it looked like they were passing right through the tree trunk and these animals. Then, slowly the animals faded away and the tree lost its leaves to become bare. The night sky in the background was moving as usual. Then, a city scene appeared. Then, the dancers danced without animation but with hanging tree branches for a few minutes.

Crystal and dragon: A dancer soloed within an arc of growing crystals (stereo animation). At the end, the crystal disappeared to reveal a dragon hidden behind. The dragon flew up quickly and circled once. It left a trail of star dust in its path. Then, it suddenly disappeared, leaving the last trace of star dust which fell down. The stereo effect made the dragon appear to circle on top of the audience and the last trace of star dust appear to fall on the dancer on stage; the choreographer timed the dancer's position with the final falling star dust.

Dragon: This was the last scene of this piece. The dragon came back out without star dust, circled twice, and then hovered over the dancers; again, the choreographer timed the movement and matched the position of the dancers with the hovering dragon. The dancers threw an imaginary ball up to the dragon. The imaginary ball turned into a glowing blue dragon ball in the animation. The dragon turned around to chase the ball. Now, the dragon was leaving a trail of star dust in its wake and flew off screen.

Figure 2. A picture taken in a photo-shot session showing a dancer with the dragon projection in the background.

How far the illusion of the dragon appeared to be in front of the screen depends on the audience's distance from the screen. The dragon would appear about half way between the screen and the edge of the stage. Therefore, the farther away the viewer is from the screen, the farther the dragon will appear to be in front from the screen. When viewed at the back rows of seats in MainStage, the dragon appeared to be flying on top of the 10th row of seats. When the dragon was hovering over the dancers for the ball, it appeared to be on the top of the edge of the stage. However, the majority of the audience did not sit so far back. The dragon would appear a little closer to the screen. It would be about where the dancers were about to make connection with the dragon and throw the imaginary ball.