The performing arts have been around as long as humans have been able to communicate. What started out as gestures to show the transfer of ideas and thought evolved with our species. Oral traditions and the passing down of stories and cultural practices opened a new door for human culture. Not too much later (relatively speaking), humans began to perform. Perform in dance, song, acting, and competition. In ancient Greece and Rome times, people would gather in amphitheaters to watch comedy and drama for entertainment. This has lived on, with a resurgence in Shakespeare, and a celebration in our modern era. Even with movies, television, and the internet, live performing arts are an integral part of society and entertainment. Everyone wants to visit Broadway, and people come far and wide to experience it. But, for a long time now, there’s been a gap between the live performing arts and film that keeps them as separate entities. What if that could be bridged, though?
Virtual reality is currently taking the world by storm. It’s a very new and rapidly growing technology with nearly endless implications. VR can make additions to or transform the space around you, or take you to a whole new place or world. One minute you could be sitting in your living room, the next you could be floating down the canals of Venice, Italy. I remember recently looking through Google’s very affordable VR device, at a diagram on a piece of paper of the human body, where certain parts and descriptions would pop off the page and float in mid air. This got me thinking: could VR be the new 3D?
3D technology opened a new door for movies, bringing the world of the movie right in front of your face. Directors, animators, and special effects artists suddenly had a lot more freedom and creative licensing. I think virtual reality could transform how we watch the performing arts, namely plays. I think it could bridge the gap between live performance and movies.
In this article, (https://haptic.al/virtual-reality-performance-art-a6d15a90b8da#.spao85z0d), Michaela Holland explains how VR can put you into the show.
Watching that video (ideally with a VR setup, but a computer works too) puts your right in the middle of a performance. Holland even explains in the video above, fog was added post production to enhance the viewing experience. This is what I think is the beginning of VR immersion into live performance. The only problem with this video, and ones like it, are that they aren’t live. That’s the main component that separates plays and movies. What I envision and see happening in the somewhat near future is live performing, where VR is used as a supplement. The audience would wear VR devices (which could almost be as disposable as 3D glasses now are, shown by how cheap Google’s cardboard VR device is), and the virtual reality would provide live CGI. The idea is that you still witness and enjoy how raw and human the performance is, but the setting and environment can be larger than life. We see how this could be done by a company called Wonder Vision. On this page of their website (https://www.wonder-vision.com/services/3d-visualisation-cgi/virtual-reality-cgi/), they explain how they can create a static, 3D, 360 degree image to be immersed in. That isn’t where it ends, though. They can use CGI animation to add more realism to the experience, and even make the experience and the environment exist in real time: I see this happening in live performance. Set design can be rethought and would incorporate animators and computer graphics designers. Imagine a play set in the winter where you could see snow fall around you. Or, a stage and the seats around you turn into a completely different place.
Enhancing Multiple Humanities
I also see a three-way cross between VR, performing arts, and even digital mapping and history. The ability to give a group of people the experience of sitting in an ancient amphitheater and watching a live play, like the Romans and Greeks, is something achievable by people in these fields. This would open new doors for people in multiple fields of humanities, and let people experience and view their work in a new way. I’m no expert in any of these fields, but I think something like this is on the very horizon of virtual reality. Obviously there would be challenges along the way. The number of people from different fields who would have to come together for a project like this would take a lot of planning and precise organization. It would probably be a lengthy project to create the interactive experience for even just one performance project. Like all new technologies, it will just take some time before it becomes part of the norm.