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The Last Dance
The Last Dance is an immersive mixed-reality theatre experience that combines Virtual Reality and real-time Motion Capture technology. It is an experimental narrative that challenges the boundaries of space and storytelling, inspired by the enduring regrets and unfinished stories in life. Through this experience, an audience will take on the role of the father in VR, confronting unresolved regrets. In the end, the participant will share “the last dance” with the departed daughter physically with Mocap actress Yixin Wang.
Unlike conventional theater performances or VR experiences, "The Last Dance" is a dynamic and unpredictable journey, shaped by the audience's unique emotional responses. Each performance is an open-ended and interactive exploration of the human experience of grief and loss, as seen through the lens of the father's story. Through the innovative use of live motion capture technology, "The Last Dance" creates a seamless fusion of the virtual and reality, blurring the lines between them to create a more intimate, engaging, and profound form of storytelling. This immersive experience is a testament to the limitless potential of the creative arts, inviting audiences to participate in a transformative journey of self-discovery and emotional healing.
I used real-time motion capture technology, specifically the OptiTrack system, to capture live data from the actor's movements in Motive, which was then imported into MotionBuilder and finally into Unreal Engine. Unreal Engine, Maya and Blender were used for world building and character design. The floor lamps on the stage used MR16 bulbs, which were connected to an Arduino that transmitted data to Max/MSP, which then fed into Unreal Engine, allowing the VR and on-stage lighting to be synchronized in real-time. For the dancing portion, I experimented with attaching a rigid body to the VR headset so that the OptiTrack camera could detect its position.
Character Design And World-building
Symbol Of Light
The light act as a conduit between the virtual and real world in The Last Dance. In this narrative, despite the daughter and father inhabiting distinct worlds where visual contact is impossible, they are able to perceive one another's existence through the medium of light. Employing Arduino, I connect signals between Arduino, Max/MSP and Unreal Engine, enabling the creation of dynamic, interactive lighting in real-time.
Real-time Virtual Reality and Motion Capture
To enhance the immersive experience for VR users, in a particular scene, the daughter's avatar will appear on the player's VR hand, enabling real-time interaction between them.
During the four playtests, I discovered something interesting. Each audience member had a different personality, resulting in varying levels of activity and liveliness during the performances. Some participants actively engaged with the actors, making the performance more entertaining, while others were less expressive. However, the live audience experience was not diminished for those who were not good at expressing themselves, as it portrayed the reality of some fathers in the world who struggle with self-expression. This added a level of authenticity and emotional depth for some viewers.
Furthermore, some audience members who attended all four performances remarked that the scene's spirit was revitalized and intensified each time it was played. The improvisational and open nature of the performance created a unique emotional experience for each audience member, based on the behavior of the different VR experience participants. Each performance was truly one-of-a-kind.
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