In 2009, the Brucknerhaus in Linz (Germany) has celebrated not just the Bruckner Year and the fact that Linz became European Culture Capital, but also a very special performance with Joseph Haydn's opera "Il Mondo della Luna". Pascal Maresch, Director of Media Performance at Ars Electronica Futurelab, was quite busy at the premiere, for which he had prepared for a whole year.
Yet, the Creative Team of Ars Electronica Futurelab did neither make music nor sing, rather they created the media production, in which the team had been tasked to visualize the music itself, to outline a world of pictures which the artists on stage filled with life during the performance. Stars danced and figures jumped across the moon - in 3D, mind you, and with 24-channel control of the singer's voices, the orchestra's instruments, and the baton of Martin Sieghart, conductor of the Bruckner Orchestra. Its movements were recorded with the help of a stereoscopic camera kit.
Even though there have already been two co-productions in 3D, "Rheingold" and "Sacre du Printemps", in the past few years, in which Ars Electronica and the Brucknerhaus cooperated with one another, the baton itself had not been visualized in them before.
The more impressive, but also the more confusing, the more musical, the more theatrical the new production of the rarely staged Haydn opera became, which - like productions of Ars Electronica Futurelab before - will also be staged in London, in Poland and Denmark, as well as possibly in Taipei and Shanghai, too.
All of this became visible through four Christie Roadster HD18K projectors which had been provided and installed by the projection specialists of Ton + Bild. Two of the 3-chip DLP projectors served as safety backup, just in case, since this was, of course, a live production during which everything simply had to work flawlessly.
The projectors were located on the floor, in the rear on the gallery, two above another, two next to each other and, at a projection distance of approx. 30 meters, played the full wall surface of exactly 16 x 9 meters behind the musicians. Normally, a total of 1,420 visitors would fit into the auditorium, but since all of the sophisticated technology was located on the gallery, a few seats were not available. Effectively, more than 1,000 polarizing pairs of glasses were distributed to the enthralled audience.
For Maresch, when choosing the projectors, reliability and brightness played a decisive role: "That's because we projected fully in stereo, which takes a lot of light. In addition, the projection area was located behind the orchestra so that we could not completely darken it since otherwise the musicians wouldn't have been able to see anything anymore." Robert Cicek of Ton+Bild Medientechnik GmbH added: "A lot of emphasis was placed on optimal picture quality and definition, which is why we used the HD projectors with HD lenses. Furthermore, the signal processing between the computers and the projectors had to perform at the highest level. This ensured that there would be only a low latency. Especially when visualizing the baton, this was of special importance.“
In Linz, the 3D effect was generated through polarized filters and the matching pairs of glasses for the audience. This passive stereo method also was the first choice because the audience did not just want to watch the projections but it should also be able to follow the live action on stage.
While the first act, with figures in the form of shadow plays, was still quite realistic - the starlit sky in Ecclitico's garden, the second act played in a fantastic moon landscape which was not only visualized three-dimensionally, but the whole language of the images became more liberated as well as more abstract, singing voices became visible as colourfully moving blooms and ribbons.
The whole performance was controlled by eight high-end PCs, running software that was developed in-house at Ars Electronica Futurelab, directly coded in C++. The production became quite lavish already by the fact that a multi-track recording of the whole show had been made previously and was then analyzed piece by piece. Only then was the team around Pascal Maresch able to define visualizations, create matching images and turn them into movements.
Ars Electronica Futurelab as the initiator and performance company of the whole event is a media art lab of a new kind, in which artistic and technological innovation mutually inspire one another. The team, led by Horst Hörtner, combines the most diverse specialties and has a work method that is characterized by crossing disciplines and international networking. Design and realization of exhibition projects, artistic installations as well as cooperations with universities and the private sector constitute a broad spectrum of activities. Opened in 2009 in a "creative temple" located directly at the Danube River in Linz, the research and development lab alone keeps about 40 people busy; the city itself is sponsor of the Ars Electronica, founded in 1979, which time and again attracts innovative people to Linz. This is how you become the Culture Capital of Europe.