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Blue Borders

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” – Rousseau

 

How do invisible lines have such monumental impact? Based on my personal immigration experience, Blue Borders explores how whale communication and migration studies can create a path to understanding the complexity of immigration, the concept of borders, and our relationship to the world that we inhabit. Combining cutting-edge animation techniques and projection technology, Blue Borders invites the audience into a sensory experience never before imagined - a visual environment projected onto a dome and suspended over an audience floating weightlessly on the surface of a shallow pool.

Blue Borders will premiere at Calgary’s Beakerhead in 2020 as the final entry in Ghost River Theatre’s Six Senses Series.

Co-produced by Ghost River Theatre and Axis Z Media Arts (AZMA)

Credits:

Laura Anzola: Original Idea / Co-creator
Eric Rose: Co-Creator
Marc Lavallee: Technical Director
Juan Carlos Arias: Colombian Advisor/Consultant
Matthew Waddell: Projection Technology
Sasha Stanojevic: Animator 

Thanks to: All our funders and The West Village Theatre.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council of the Arts, Alberta Foundation of the Arts and Calgary Arts Development.


WORK IN PROGRESS BLOG
June 2018 - April 2019

Working on this project was an incredible and satisfactory experience for me, as well as a creative and personal challenge. I was able to research whale migration, ocean settings, global mobility and the impact of borders and migration policies. However, since this topic is so vast, I decided to focus on researching and creating material from my personal experience as an immigrant crossing many kind of borders in the last 7 years.

I understand borders not only as a geographically and politically defined lines, like those that determine the territory of a country, but also as lines that are everywhere, anywhere, visible and invisible. I have faced borders that are based in language, spaces, culture and tradition.

For 2 weeks in July, I worked closely with Ghost River Theatre’s Artistic Director Eric Rose. During this time, many ideas came out, including key images for the development of the story. After this session I created 4 different storyboards and decided to develop sketches and short animated sequences of the recurrent images that were present throughout the 4 storyboards.


ANIMATION

This project requires that I experiment with the integration of 2D and 3D rendered and generative animation into a cohesive aesthetic. To achieve this I started creating animated tests using After Effects, Photoshop, Maya and Cinema 4D. This approach to learning was very successful and allowed me to have a very accurate sense of workflow, understand the movement of a whale inside the dome, and play with different perspectives. I also experimented with full dome format and equirectangular renders.

I was happy to work closely with expert 3D Animator Sasha Stanojevic who helped realize my vision of seeing my 2D and 3D animations projected inside the dome.

WORKSHOP

I was able to undertake a period of dome research and workshoping to test content within an actual dome. This allowed me to put together a workshop where myself and a small team were able to test different calibration and dome projection software, test animated content and see how it will actually look in a dome environment.

We researched many different dome options and eventually found an affordable and reliable option with inflatables, that allows us to set up very quickly and with only one or two people.

CALIBRATION

In order to project inside a dome with multiple projectors you need some way of warping and blending all of them together so as to create a seamless image. This is not easy and requires special software that is designed for blending and mapping multiple projectors. The best software uses a camera with a fish-eye lens attached to your computer that records test patterns from each projectors and uses that information to calculate the correct perspective warping and blending. We explored many different options to achieve this including: Fly Elise NG, AnyBlend, and VIOSO. In the end VIOSO ending up working the best. Using the VIOSO calibration file in Derivative’s TouchDesigner software we were able to playback our pre-rendered content along with generative graphics.

PRESENTATION

We had an open presentation of our research with a small group of attendees from the Calgary arts community. It was great to receive feedback and comments on the development of the project. After the workshop, I will now focus on developing the 12 chapters of the story, writing , sketching and discovering which technique will be the best to tell each one of them.

With the substantial array of discoveries made from this workshop, I feel ready to move forward with the next phase of development for Blue Borders. Having the dome prototype in the studio, will help me and other collaborators test animations quickly, drastically improving the production workflow. My future goal is to make the knowledge I have gained during the workshop about dome projection openly available to other artists, as well as have the dome utilized in other creative ways.


“... There must be something of the intrus in the stranger; otherwise, the stranger would lose its strangeness: if he already has the right to enter and remain, if he is awaited and received without any part of him being unexpected or unwelcome, he is no longer the intrus, nor is he any longer the stranger. It is thus neither logically acceptable, nor ethically admissible, to exclude all intrusion in the coming of the stranger, the foreign.”

Jean Luc-Nancy