So we’re now one week out from opening, and I dropped into the laboratory / performance space to have a look at the bump-in. Jack, Mick and designer Gillian Schwab were working away, and everything is coming together in a sort of terrifying order. Looking around at the extraordinary array of equipment, I thought it’d be a good idea to have a chat about how all this stuff works in practice – what are all the different parts of the Word Play machine and how do they fit together?
1. Performers are filmed
First of all, the audience are in one space (the CSIRO Discovery lecture theatre) and the performers are next door to NASA in the Yarralumla Forestry Labs, performing live on camera. The show uses about eight cameras – action-cams mounted on performers, security cameras that operate over a network, more traditional handicams. As well as that there’s an array of prerecorded video and information slides.
2. Video is mixed and streamed to the internet
All of these video sources are brought into a controller computer in the Yarralumla labs and director Marisa Martin (with the assistance of an operator) decides which camera is sent through to the live feed and when. There are a selection of visual overlays (maps, diagrams and so forth) which are added to the vision at certain points. Throughout the show, Marisa is live video-mixing (literally calling the shots) based on what’s been rehearsed, with some room for improvisation.
3. Video footage is received and audio overlaid
In the biobox of the Discovery lecture theatre where the audience, Jack and Mick receiving the feed from the Yarralumla space over the internet. (This is a nice touch as it means that the show can technically be linked in to from anywhere in the world.) At this point, Mick is mixing the sound effects and his original score into the feed. Jack is in charge of synching up the instructions for the audience, which appear on a second projector screen in the theatre, as well as appearing on the audience’s phone app. These intructions inform the audience how and when to interact with the performance.
4. Audience interact via phones
The audience send SMSes using their phones OR they use the purpose-built app (which you can download upon arrival at the show) to enter different kinds of input: text questions, votes and sometimes a joystick controller.
5. Audience input transmitted to Director
Marisa receives the audience input on a separate controller computer which collates the votes automatically. She can choose from the different submitted questions and select which to pass on to the actors and when.
6. Director communicates with performers
Marisa calls through the instructions to the actors, who are each fitted with a radio receiver and earpiece.
7. Performers respond
The actors have rehearsed a wide variety of scenarios responding to different audience decisions. Sometimes, though, the audience will give them something totally unexpected and they’ll be improvising something new.
For anyone who skipped to the end of all that, the short summary is: There’s a lot going on in this show. Now come along and check it out.