Company Post

Interactive Dance Performed with Blacktrax Reactive Visuals

"V" is a superbly crafted and magically 'reactive' and 'interconnected' dance performance which took place in Rimini during the 3 days of MIR, the most important Italian trade fair for Live Entertainment Technology."

"The project started out as a showcase for Blacktrax and RealTime visual interaction" Mattia Diomedi, project art director and TouchDesigner artist tells us, "but it rapidly developed into a full-blown dance performance!" 

Diomedi explains that the choreography wasn't so much story-based but that rather certain concepts - like birth/origin, separation, and the joy of reunion that the team wanted to convey to the audience through the visuals and dance.

The project which came together quickly and with striking results used TouchDesigner in every aspect of visual development and interaction programming with Andrew Quinn brought is as Special Consultant.

Mattia Domedi: All the action and choreography was conceived by thinking about how interaction would be developed; in the same way the visuals were developed keeping in mind the choreography.

It was like a bidirectional stream, a relationship that is co-developed between the dance choreography and the visuals where each draws inspiration from the other - and the more time spent on this stage of development the more interesting the interaction could be!

The live motion tracking is achieved with the Blacktrax system using 9 infrared cameras and 8 LED markers for the 2 dancers, 2 for each hand. Blacktrax which is supported by TouchDesigner sends out coordinates of each hand together with rotation, velocity and acceleration data, all packed inside the proprietary RTTrPM stream.

Content was projected onto a translucent screen using 2 superimposed christie 20K projectors.

Scene Description

In the first part, called "The Birth", I'm using a sound-reactive Geo as particle emitter geometry, the dancers appear in silhouette over a ramp dawning on the LED screen.

In the second part, "The Separation", we have the female dancer seduced by the interaction. Like in a game she starts to play with the interactive element while her partner is confined by grid-like jail bars. Most of the interaction is achieved by using a Force SOP.

The third part, "The Reunion" starts with a scene where we use the rotation and position of the hand to drive transformation over scattered points.

The last scene closes over a sound-reactive panorama where a polygon's vertex position is driven by tracked data.

One of the most handy features of TouchDesigner was the Record CHOP, which was used to record the Blacktrax data from the dancers' performance so that we could later develop content working 'offline' without having the dancers present.

We also used the EtherDream CHOP inside TouchDesigner to control a 30 watt RGBY laser. A separate instance of TouchDesigner was used to send content to a 5-panel LED wall which formed the backdrop. TouchDesigner time was controlled remotely from a master timecode using the LTC In CHOP. 3 Audio channels arrived via the Audio In CHOP: stereo, audio + SMPTE.

We also used MIDI to control basic parameters such as force/mass/audio-reaction.

About the Artists

Mattia Diomedi

Mattia comes from a multidisciplinary background, his studies and interests ranging from scenography, lighting and vfx. He has been working with Touchdesigner for two years and finds it to be the perfect tool for integrating different technologies and quickly prototyping ideas for immersive installations.

Mattia studied set design at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan as well as lighting design at Academy of Teatro alla Scala.

Andrew Quinn

Andrew is an Australian computer graphics artist and musician living in Milan. He has worked on digital effects for films such as "The Matrix", "Tomb Raider, ", "Dark City", "Nirvana" and "Vajont". In the last few years he has specialized in video installations for multi screen and immersive environments and also digital graphics for interactive dance productions and contemporary music.

Andrew is one of the most prolific TouchDesigner teachers having run workshops at IUAV Venice, IED and NABA Milano, Quasar Institute of Design Rome, the ANU Canberra, the Australian Film School Sydney and UCLA's summer school as well as designing an innovative course in interactive media for teenagers.


Producer: Laserentertainment s.r.l

Performer: Ivan Zappetti and Jenny Godano

Art Director: Diomedi Mattia

Touchdesigner Programming: Mattia Diomedi, Andrew Quinn Touchdesigner special consultant: Andrew Quinn

Laser Programming: Lorenzo Pompei

Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Kangding Ray