Zendeh – FOUND

I’ve been meaning to blog this for a while, and as usual, time appears to have escaped once again in the madness of work! So, ZENDEH!! Zendeh are a Northeast based theatre company lead by the brilliant Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh and her fine team, have a look around the Zendeh website for more info. I recently worked with Zendeh on their recent production Found which played Northern Stage & Berwick Maltings.  To give a brief explanation on what the piece is about here is an excerpt from the maltings website:

Take a walk in Anna’s turbulent imagination, where the modern world collides with memories of her Jewish grandmother in Paris during World War Two. FOUND explores the places and times when we find ourselves at our most vulnerable, and feel truly lost. It marks the journey of beginning to hear your own voice, finding the strength to listen to it, and move forwards.

Informed in part by the story of Abdol Hossien Sadari, an Iranian statesman and diplomat, who gave assistance to Jews in occupied France and saved many lives.

I was responsible for realising the digital projection aspect of the piece. In early January I had a meting with Nadia & Nazli to begin to get down some of the projection ideas and begin with a framework for the piece which turned into rather a nice hour long chat over coffee and fruit teas! After that I would be working remotely, as I was away in Berlin for 7 weeks working for59Productions. As I was away the Zendeh team were developing the piece and we were in communication via email & Skype (although not a particularly good internet connection at my end:-/).

Philippa Nazli & Nadia developing the piece in rehearsals at DanceCity

After finishing the daytime work on AlGran in Berlin on the evenings I had been getting basic framework from the ideas and began slowly bringing together different footage/media which could be edited down and used.

It was decided that we would map video onto various elements in the piece from several hanging orbs to the voile at the beginning of the piece. James managed to get me some measurements, photos and put together a great Sketchup so i could create a mask and begin to place the elects of video so they would line up with the real word orbs.

The above was one of the earlier setups before it was decided to cut some of the orbs used, but you get the general idea. We later, once orb numbers and positions were finalised did a LiveTrace* of the orbs in their position to get the most accurate mask. Well, when I said we, I really mean James kindly did the trace for me.

It might have been around this time I met Al Orange, over a very intermittent Skype meeting who was stage managing Found and now I can say is great fun to work with!
Also, Al did a FANTASTIC job of the soundtrack for the piece, good work on squeezing in that deep dark and dirty house track in there, t’was perfect!

It wasn’t until Late in february where things began to move pretty quickly, I was uploading content to Dropbox and we were exchanging emails and I was making changes, re-rendering and uploading. I can safely say it was a very productive week, doing technical rehearsals for AlGran during the day and then working on video content on the evening. Eventually I managed to turn all of the folders for the master project video files in the DropBox green which meant that was complete!

I finally got to meet up with the lovely Zendeh team at Northern Stage for the install of Found and put my input in with the projection setup. Louise Gregory had done a very complimentary design for the piece and didn’t seem to tire of my requests to “dim that lighting state, just a little” to help the projection punch through, (Cheers ;-) ).

I finally saw the show on opening night at Northern Stage, it was strange because I had been involved in the process but had never seen the whole thing through, only fragments. The piece came in at under an hour but really didn’t feel that long, the story was sometimes hard to follow in some places but at the end left you with something like you didn’t fully need to understand everything but were left with the exact feeling it portrayed, definitely a WIN in my oppinion!

I haven’t had a proper chat with anyone on how the berwick shows ant but I expect everyone done a sterling job again!
It was great working with, Nazli, Steven, Nadia, Philippa, James, Al, Molly, Nichole, Phil & Louise top team, lots of work & great fun.

LiveTrace is what I call it anyway, other people pay call it other things but this makes sense to me! Basically, to create an accurate mask  so we only projected onto the things we draw directly onto the object via the projectors output.
Step 1: Is to set up the scene and the projector position, in this case it was the orbs and, a measured projector position from the orbs (height & Depth).
Step 2: Is to use some illustration package such as photoshop, hook your computer up to the projector as a second output.
Step 3: Make sure your resolutions mask, if you are going to be creating content at 1024×768 then the canvas must be fullscreen with no borders @ 1024×170 at 100% zoom.
Step 4: On a black background draw out or colour in the areas which you want to project onto, in this case it was several circles. This gives us a pixel accurate mask.
Step 5: Use this mask in an animation package or image manipulation suite to begin animating your video content which when played back fullscreen @ 100% will lineup perfectly if you get all of the real world elements in the correct place.

This is a very brief overview and i may do a full post on this method later, as always there are may other ways to do the same thing.

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