Virtual 20-Foot Dinosaurs To Be Part Of HFC Theater Production

Roush, Matt/CBS Detroit/January 31, 2014, 4:31 PM: Online

     Theater technology is taking its next step at Henry Ford College.

     This fall, HFCC’s groundbreaking, award-winning Virtual Theatricality Lab will stage Dinosaurus!, a children’s play about two oil engineers who find a surviving colony of dinosaurs. The play features a 20-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex, created by projectors, as well as a host of other images projected onto the stage, with which live actors interact.

     HFCC has used cutting-edge technology before in other productions, including a staging of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that was modeled on its 1950s sci-fi movie version, Forbidden Planet. The 2003 production won a regional award in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. HFCC also used motion capture technology in a production of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker which was a finalist for the National Bellwether Award, which recognizes outstanding and innovative programs at community colleges.

     Dinosaurus! will combine what Popovich calls virtual reality animation, classic animation, and real-time motion capture technology, in which the motion of a person is captured by a camera and transferred to an animated puppet.

     Beginning Nov. 1, two sets of performances will be offered — one for the general public, and one for elementary schools. Recommended for grades one through five, Dinosaurus! is the story of two geologists looking for oil underneath Wisconsin. They stumble on a lost world of dinosaurs. Are the humans the heroes? No: this story is told from the viewpoint of the dinosaurs, who must struggle to deal with the intrusion of these pushy, noisy, troublemaking little humans. The dinosaurs try everything to get rid of the intruders until finally, history repeats itself with a solution that at first seems tragic — but just wait.

     The audience for Dinosaurus! will be limited to 80 people per show.

     The images of the dinos are projected in 3D and the animated dinosaurs appear to be next to the actors. The 3D stereo effect will make the dinosaurs appear 10 feet from the closest spectator. The audience wears 3D glasses. The audience sits onstage, creating an immersive environment. Popovich said the effect is achieved through the projection of two bright images from different directions. High-definition digital 3D projection, audio and show control systems will be combined with special effects, such as wind, smoke, mist, lighting and a surround sound system.

     To further the immersive environment, several “4-D” effects will be created. “4D” refers to a real, physical effect that complements an animated or virtual effect. When the trex sneezes, duck!

     The show will be presented in the Adray Auditorium on the HFCC Main Campus, 5101 Evergreen Road, Dearborn.All school performances are closed to the public. All seats are $4; there are no other discounts , prices or complimentary tickets. Early reservations are advised; seating is limited to 80 persons per show.

     School performances will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25 and 26.

     Public performances will be at 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 1; 2 p.m. Nov. 2; 7 p.m. Nov. 7; 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 8; 2 p.m. Nov. 9; 7 p.m. Nov. 14; 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 15; 2 p.m. Nov. 16; 7 p.m. Nov. 21; 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 22; and 2 p.m. Nov. 23.

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