Taiwanese Dancers Project Memories with Motion Capture

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Hsin-Chien Huang’s Performance Art Piece Creates Visual Sculptures from Dancer Movements; 3D Printed Keepsakes Made from Xsens Motion Capture Data

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We wanted to give the audience a real sense of three-dimensionality.This way the dancers’ performance seems to extend to the tip of the audience’s nose.

An exploration of the past is nothing new to the art world; a performance that bends 3D projections to its will, however, is something to see. Blending complex imagery with dance, 3D printing and Xsens motion capture, “The Inheritance” is earning rave reviews for a story about the spiritual pains that remain in families after a state of national unrest.

Created by Storynest Director, Hsin-Chien Huang, “The Inheritance” wrestles with a time when Taiwan was under martial law. Closed borders, and the inability to communicate with people outside of Taiwan left many stranded abroad. Aid attempts discovered by the Investigation Bureau resulted in harassment at your home or on the street, leading to a state of constant fear in the populace.

Now that martial law is no more, Huang is still intrigued by state-sanctioned history and everything it conceals. Through “The Inheritance,” Huang grapples with his family’s struggle, using dance and various forms of new media to turn memories into a form of visual sculpture.

Set in front of a giant screen, the dancers navigate nine chapters of stereographic projections. Unlike some shows, though, the projections are governed by the dancers and the real-time motion capture data they are transmitting.

“We wanted to give the audience a real sense of three-dimensionality,” said Huang. “This way the dancers’ performance seems to extend to the tip of the audience’s nose.”

To achieve this, the team employed the Xsens MVN inertial motion capture suit, as it allows them to work outside of a studio. Movements are mapped to the virtual characters (think: DNA strands, twisted bodies, puppetmaster hands) so the dancer can interact with key sets in the piece. Pre-made animation and physics simulations are loaded into the system as well, giving Huang the opportunity to use predefined motions when it suits the story.

“Exploration is the only way for me to understand my personal history,” added Huang. “I want to use my hands to experience that journey, and by using the technologies like motion capture and 3D printing, I can transform the trails of my hands into tangible sculptures.”

To manipulate the motion capture data in the real-time, the performance data is streamed to the crew’s rendering and interactive software. There, the mocap data can be duplicated, mirrored, randomized, delayed, or accelerated in the moment, enabling collaboration between Huang and the dancers, even when communication is impossible.

While some may see shapes changing before their eyes, Huang sees a chance to make something physical out of the projections. “With accurate mocap data, human hands become a 3D scanner,” continued Huang. “Our walking paths record the contours of the terrain we have travelled; when I covert these paths into 3D models and print them out with a 3D printer, these once ambiguous memories become visible. They can be shared and re-touched.”

This desire has led Huang to 3D print many of the projections the audience sees in the show. What are interpretations of memories for him become active pieces that people can hold and engage with in a whole new way. Giving Huang even more control over a history that others have tried to define for him.

“The future can only be changed if we invent fresh and sincere ways to understand our past,” said Huang. “I want to find new ways to document my private memories.”

“The Inheritance” was sponsored by the Crossover Fund between Digital and Visual Art from National Taiwan Fine Art Museum, and produced by Ms. You-Chiou Chen of White Egret Foundation. The Choreography Adviser was Le Gend Lin of Legend Lin Dance Theatre, and its first performance was presented at the Chiang Kai-shek Auditorium of the old Taiwan Air Force headquarters in Taipei. “The Inheritance” is still in development.

About Xsens MVN
Xsens MVN is a full-body, 3D inertial motion tracking system that delivers fast, production-ready 3D data to professional animators. With faster set-ups, cleaner data, and tougher materials designed for demanding production environments, the MVN suits are at the cutting-edge of mobile motion capture technology. The new system also marked the debut of a modular price model that makes the systems accessible for studios of all sizes.

About Xsens
Xsens is the leading innovator in 3D motion tracking technology and products. Its sensor fusion technologies enable a seamless interaction between the physical and the digital world in applications such as industrial control and stabilization, health, sports and 3D character animation. Clients and partners include Electronic Arts, NBC Universal, Daimler, Autodesk, ABB, Siemens and various other leading institutes and companies throughout the world.

Xsens is a Fairchild Semiconductor company, an industry icon delivering power solutions for the mobile, industrial, cloud, automotive, lighting, and computing industries. Xsens has offices in Enschede, the Netherlands and Los Angeles, California. Please contact us on the web at https://www.xsens.com.

About Storynest
The Storynest is a team led by Huang Hsin-Chien. The team creates stories, digital prints, website art, digital music and interactive installations. Applying digital technology, Storynest combines photography, narratives, music and images into their projects and represents them with unprecedented styles. The logo of Storynest consists of a comma, a period and a semicolon; they suggest that in each story, there must be blank spaces for the readers to breath.

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Colin McLaughlin
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