Wednesday, November 30, 2016
EXTENDED REALITY, THEATER AND THE TRU STREAMING PANEL
Theater Resources Unlimited (or TRU) is one of the two most important groups training potential producers (and writers and other creators) for professions in the theater. (The other is CTI, the Commercial Theater Institute.)
TRU holds regular panel discussions on many issues of importance to theater professionals. Recently, they held a panel on “Live Streaming and Digital Capture: Bringing Theater into the 21st Century”.
This panel, oriented towards producers, concentrated on the producing challenges necessary for capturing theatrical performances, either for live streaming or later presentation.
Moderator and TRU President Bob Ost
And Panelists Kathryn Jones, Stewart F Lane, and Bonnie Comley
AT THE TRU STREAMING PANEL
Photo by Eric Roffman - QPORIT
One panelist, Kathryn Jones, CEO of VirtualArtsTV, discussed designing a show so that it can incorporate modern social media into the show organically. She works largely with independent theater productions and commercial presentations.
Also on the panel were Broadway producers Stewart F. Lane (Tony Award®-winning producer for A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, War Horse, Jay Johnson: The Two & Only, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Will Rogers Follies and La Cage Aux Folles) and Bonnie Comley (Tony Award-winning producer for Jay Johnson: The Two and Only, War Horse and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder), co-founders of Broadway HD.
Broadway HD is a company they founded specifically to video capture Broadway theater for live streaming presentations, and for later presentations on the web or in movie houses.
In fact, they recently captured the Roundabout Theater Presentation of SHE LOVES ME, with Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi and Jane Krakowski, and, partnered with Fathom Events, will be presenting it in movie theaters on Dec 1. (See below & Check your local listings!)
Much of the discussion centered on two basic issues – first, gaining the rights needed to video capture and release the video of the production: unions want to make sure the actors and crew are compensated and the shows’ producers want to be sure this video will not cannibalize their audience. Secondly, the video producers have to recoup their investment, as well as manage the technical and creative details of filming a show with a minimum of time and cost; not disturbing the production if it is still running; and being true both to the nature of the show, and the special requirements of something that will be seen on a screen.
Advocates of video capture of theater believe it can help, rather than hinder, the success of a show; can provide an additional revenue stream to the show; and, of course, provide a lasting record of theatrical performances whose details would otherwise vanish after they close.
There was also some talk about Virtual Reality as the next stage of video presentation of shows. Here is my take on the importance of XR.
EXTENDED REALITY (XR) is my term for all the new ways to extend storytelling with new technologies, including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality, spatial sound, and more…
At this point, capturing shows already on Broadway is challenging enough. There is still even more resistance to XR than to videotaping at this time. However, the promise of XR for the future is tremendous!
XR is closely related to immersive theater.
Film, even 3D film, gives you the feeling of watching a story. Proscenium theater is also something you watch from a distance. By contrast, XR can provide the feeling of being right there, where the action is taking place. There can be the impulse to reach out and touch the people (or even the animated characters) that are “living” right next to you.
One consequence, when shooting live action, panoramic, 3D XR content, is that you want the entire space to be accessible to the viewer. So, you have to get the crew & lights & tech stuff out of the way -- out of the picture; and you often want long takes so the viewer has time can look around and feel they are in a real space. To do that, the script, the set design, and the actors all can best treat each scene as if they are living it. In other words, the techniques of creating immersive theater are very valuable in creating XR content.
Similarly, theater – even proscenium theater -- often tries to create real life in each scene (even though the audience is looking in from more or less one single direction and from varying distances). XR can take theatrical stories, and with just a little restaging, present the play to the viewer as if the viewer were actually right there in the space with the actors. It can bring the participant into the presence of a story in a far more intense and intimate way than simple 2D film in a frame, or any other mode of storytelling.
But, as I noted before, there is still resistance. For example… Broadway HD has on their site a video of Julie Taymor’s brilliant production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that opened the TFANA theater in Brooklyn a few years ago. Shortly after the show was filmed, I happened to talk with Julie Taymor and I asked her if she had considered filming it in Virtual Reality. (It was a production that would be perfect for VR.) She screwed up her face just a bit, and mimed putting her hands in front of her eyes, and asked Do you mean that thing you put on… that covers your face?
In fact, several shows, including Sleep No More, Hamilton, and Cirque De Soleil, have experimented with capturing XR. Mostly, however, these and other shows are, so far, just experimenting with short scenes, demos, and promos.
Perhaps the most exciting merging of XR and theater so far occurs now on Broadway in The Encounter. Simon McBurney & Complicite have incorporated spatial sound (using earphones) as an integral and essential part of the performance.
As XR headsets (from Oculus Rift, Gear VR, HoloLens, Daydream and other systems) improve their resolution (and their accommodation to eyeglasses); as cameras for 3D panoramic capture improve and become more affordable and available; and as post-production software for creating and editing 3D panoramic video improve; all, over the next year or two: I believe that the natural symbiosis between immersive theater and XR will become more and more enjoyable, important, and ubiquitous.
THE NEXT TRU PANEL
VIRTUAL ARTS TV
SHE LOVES ME
MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
WED, NOV 30 - DAY OF DECISION: WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CHESS MATCH
WEDNESDAY NOV 30, 2016
The World Chess Campionship was decided in a four game rapid chess tie-break.
Magnus Carlson won a decisive victory to celebrate his 26th birthday and retain his position as the World Champion and number 1 rated player in the world.
The first game, with challenger Karjakin as white, ended in a draw. In the second game, Carlson had white, gained a strong advantage, but Karjakin held a draw.
In the third game, Carlson forged a strong attack and won. Needing only a draw to clinch the title, Carlson, nevertheless, pressed for a win and, finally, concluded the match with a stunning queen sacrifice which forced mate. A great end to the match!
Congratulations Magnus and Happy Birthday!
BEFORE THE FINAL GAMES
On Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016, the next World Chess Champion will be decided.
After 12 games, the World Championship Chess Match is tied at 6-6. Current World Champion, Magnus Carlson, and challenger, Sergey Karjakin, each won one game. The rest were tied.
On Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016 (coincidentally Magnus Carlson's 26th birthday), they will play a series of mini-matches with increasingly short time controls. The first to win a mini-match will be the new champion. If no-one has won (after 14 mini-match games), there will be one final game. In the final game, White has more time than Black, but White must win. If the game is drawn (or Black wins), Black is declared the champion.
AFTER GAME 10
In the World Championship Chess Match, being held this year in New York, Champion Magnus Carlson, in the tenth game (after losing the eighth), opening with his King's pawn, successfully evened the match.
Sergey Karjakin defended with the Ruy Lopez defence. While the game stayed roughly equal for many moves, Carlson was able to maneuver freely, creating threats, until Karjakin made a minor error. Carlson was able to win a pawn and press his advantage until Karjakin, missing opportunities to force a draw, finally succumbed.
The score is now 5 all with two games left to play. If the two players are equal at 6 all, there will be a tie breaking series of games which must be played faster and faster.
The match can be watched live over the web (with live commentary!), and can be watched live from an observation room.
Go to worldchess.com for more information.
AFTER GAME 8
In the World Championship Chess Match, being held this year in New York, after seven straight draws, challenger Sergey Karjakin from Russia won the eighth game.
Playing white, World Champion Magnus Carlson, from Norway, opened with his queens's pawn. After a long game, in which Carlson seemed to have the possibility of gaining a slight edge, Karjakin kept holding him off (with seconds to spare before the time limit for the first 40 moves ran out). Trying to win, Carlson made a risky move, and again Karjakin defended brilliantly, as he has been doing for the whole match so far. This time, however, he was able, not just to hold a draw, but to capitalize on Carlson's risky move and, threatening to queen a pawn, win a queen, or mate Carlson, he emerged with the win.
The match is 12 games long. If it is tied at the end of twelve games, there is a tie breaking series of games that must be played faster and faster.
The match can be watched over the web (with commentary!), and can be watched live from an observation room.
Go to worldchess.com for more information.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Review: RULES DON'T APPLY
RULES DON’T APPLY is an old-fashioned love story, set roughly fifty years ago. Warren Beatty, who also directs and wrote the script, plays Howard Hughes.
The story hits many of the bullet points of Howard Hughes' life story, without being too careful about the details. In fact, the film starts by suggesting that interesting “facts” should not be checked; and closes with the usual disclaimer that any connection to real people and events is purely coincidental.
Hughes was a major figure in the first half of last century, a pioneer in the film industry, a pioneer in the development of flying and the airline industry, a major defense contractor, and a key figure in a series of intense legal and corporate battles. He was also more odd than is suggested, and far more odd than Warren Beatty portrays him in the film. Hughes has been a character in so many films that IMDB not only has a page for the real Howard Hughes, describing the films he made, but also has a full page of Howard Hughes as a character, listing the many actors who have played him and the films in which he has been portrayed.
Alder Ehrenreich and - especially - Lily Collins are excellent as the young people to come into Hughes' orbit.
Lily Collins, 27 (5’ 5” - Mar 18, 1989) is the daughter of Phil Collins, the singer. Her screen debut came when she was 2 years old. In her teens, she wrote for Seventeen, The LA Times, and other publications. She is also a model and a singer. Recently, she played Snow White in Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts, and she has three movies currently in post-production, coming soon.
Warren Beatty, 79 (6’ 2” – Mar 30 1937) is well known as the writer, director and actor of many excellent films. Shampoo, Reds, Bonny and Clyde, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Parallax View, and Heaven Can Wait, are some of my favorites of the films he has starred in.
The film includes cameos from many other familiar actors, including Candice Bergen, Paul Sorvino, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen and Annette Bening.
As in many of Warren Beatty’s films, the characters must find their way in a world which is structured to deny them what they want. Unlike a super-hero movie, in which the characters take aim at a sea of troubles and vanquish them, here the heroes must find a way to navigate (realistically!) through the hazards and find a calm place to achieve their goals.
RULES DON’T APPLY is a well-made, fun film, perfect for the Holidays!
RULES DON’T APPLY - WIKIPEDIA
RULES DON’T APPLY – IMDB
HOWARD HUGHES - WIKIPEDIA
HOWARD HUGHES – IMDB
THE CHARACTER “HOWARD HUGHES” - WIKIPEDIA
WARREN BEATTY - WIKIPEDIA
WARREN BEATTY - IMDB
LILY COLLINS - WIKIPEDIA
LILY COLLINS – IMDB
ALDEN EHRENREICH - IMDB
Saturday, November 19, 2016
THE HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW AT NYBG
If you've ever loved model trains, or know any kid, the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens (NYBG) is one of the great places to visit this season!
This year's show begins today, Nov 19, 2016 and runs through Jan 16, 2017. It's easy to get to, and absolutely spectacular and magical!
All the information you need is here:
A few years ago I made a little video showing a bit of the train show. Since then the show has gotten better and better every year!