Multistage Acting

I’m currently away in Porto, Portugal for ECLAP 2013, the 2nd International Conference on Information Technologies for Performing Arts, Media Access and Entertainment. The conference aims to provide a forum in which individuals and institutions carrying out innovative research in the performing arts can share findings.

One particular presentation, on multistage acting, might be of interest to the readers of this blog because it could easily be adapted as a remote working tool. The presentation entitled Multistage: Acting Across Distance was delivered by Fei Su of the High Performance Distributed Systemsgroup (HPDS), University of Tromsø, Norway. He and his team have been looking at ways of enabling actors in different locations to act and interact together on one stage. Enabling acting across distance support interesting new performances but can also make it possible for actors to rehearse together when not physically in the same place.

Multistage acting - image courtesy of

Multistage acting – image courtesy of Fei Su, University of Tromsø

Enabling multistage acting is not straight forward and requires having hardware and software systems in place, setting up radio and wired networks, organising sensors to capture the actors and computers to receive and analyse the data. The main hardware used are kinect motion sensing input devices designed by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 console. The separate stages must then be ‘bound together’. The main challenges are dealing with delays (distance always causes some delay in video streaming) and issues with causality (an event must happen before it can be observed and reacted to – so more delays). There are times when synchronisation is critical, for example if actors are dancing together, and times when it isn’t so critical. The research team are working on masking the effects of the delays using the idea of a ‘remote handshake’ as a test. The process is helping them ascertain how much delay is acceptable.

The research project still has a way to go before all the tools are ready to be delivered but I think it will be an interesting one to watch.