Real-time motion capture and game engine technologies in contemporary dance

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in New Media
This Master of Arts thesis is made for the New Media study programme in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture at Aalto University under the supervision of Matti Niinimäki and with advising from Nuno Antonio Do Nascimento Correia and Teemu Määttänen. This study is focusing on the topic of real-time motion capture and game engine technologies in contemporary dance with the goal to discover how these technologies can augment contemporary dance, both in the visual and audio domains, in a way in which sound, visuals, and choreography influence one another. The methods being used to achieve this goal include devising mixed reality audiovisual dance performance, as a part of practice-based research methodology, related work review as well as an interview with a field expert. Although the topic of motion capture in contemporary dance is fairly well-researched there is a clear shortage of studies on the ways game engines could be utilized in this segment of art and even less studies are conducted on modern hybrid club music and its influence on contemporary dance. Current research fills these gaps. This study includes a brief overview of Dance and Technology art movement, elucidates motion capture and game engine technologies as well as attempts to define modern hybrid club music. It covers a broad selection of case studies from contemporary dance segment related to each category as well as the writer’s own perspective and experience with motion capture and modern hybrid club music. Furthermore, this research includes an interview with pioneering virtual performer, Sam Rolfes, who is actively using real-time motion capture, game engines, and other real-time tools in his artistic practice and finally, it explains in great detail the whole design process behind the mixed real-ity audio-visual dance performance piece "ROCK/STAR Vol.1", an artistic component of this research. Using various game engine technologies together with the real-time motion captured data can help to establish a greater connection between different artistic domains of the performance, as well as provide a much stronger feeling of a world and a story for the performer who is wearing a suit. The ability to execute things in real-time, that this tech is offering makes it possible for performers to respond to one another, as well as the audience and the current moment in time, thus embracing and crystallizing the originality and specificity of the moment.
Niinimäki, Matti
Thesis advisor
Mättänen, Teemu
Correia, Nuno
motion capture, game engines, contemporary dance, dance and technology, mixed reality, audio-visual art