New-media theatre is an invented space that relies on human invention—a meta-medium in which projection designers work in tandem with directors, actors and other designers to create worthwhile audience experiences. New-media scenographers work with one foot in virtual space and the other in the built environment. They paint theatrical space with moving and still images.
Their tools are hardware, software and projectors. Their canvases can be front or rear projection materials, set pieces, props, costumes, floors, walls—virtually any surface that reflects light. Moving and still images can be employed to alter scale, time and location, disregard gravity, commingle with live performers and connect with remote ones. New-media theatre is not video pasted onto theatre, or an exercise in technology for technology’s sake; it is not stock or clip art, but a meaningful montage.
New-media scenographers have the overall responsibility for design, production, testing and delivery of digital scenography. They determine equipment specifications, installation and show-control requirements; they use processes of research, idea generation and visual-concept development. They create storyboards, concept drawings and image banks to convey their ideas. During tech rehearsals they ensure that the media and interactive technologies work seamlessly with the live actors and overall production.
Here are some guidelines I’d suggest for students of new-media scenography:
- Create original art whenever possible.
- Focus on how actors fit into projected spaces. Use scale actors as reference objects in storyboards and virtual maquettes. Determine how actors interact with new-media scenography: Will they emerge from or vanish into projected environments?
- Avoid “screens”—discover alternative projection surfaces. Consider reflected projections, scrim work, LED or flat-panel displays. Contemplate alternative forms: Could there be live feed, surveillance cameras or remote locations? What about animations, simulations or mixed realities?
- Analyze each scene to determine if new media are called for. Find balance among actors, lights, projections and other components of the theatrical environment. Color, levels, sound and timing must be in sync.
- Pay attention to transitions. How media starts and ends is important.
- Develop images to their highest artistic and technical level, free of unwanted distortion or poor craftsmanship.
- Learn from theatre, dance, cinema and visual art history.
- Experiment with illusion, metaphor, allegory and simulation.