National Theatre uses Orion in live virtual production for Tribeca Award

Many of us are thrown life-changing curve balls at various stages, and you’ll discover in this immersive virtual portrayal, Draw Me Close that Canadian playwright and director, Jordan Tannahill caught his earlier than most. It’s a story many of us will connect with as the effect of Cancer is at the crux of their emotionally driven live theatre rendition – crystallized is the last moment shared between Tannahill’s five-year-old self and his mother before her death.

It’s through the virtual lens where Tannahill and NT’s Immersive Storytelling Studio have chosen to best convey his memoirs. The production is a finalist for the Storyscapes Award at 2017 Tribeca Festival – and by harnessing our latest VR motion capture system Orion, they’ve achieved convincing, realistic animation and fuller immersion for a much more engaging one-to-one audience interaction within the virtual and live illustrated environment.

“The development cycle for Draw Me Close has been intense in a very interesting way, we have all learnt a lot. HTC introduced us to IKinema part way through and we very quickly realised that their Orion solution, which was still in development at the time, was a simple yet graceful interpretation of motion capture data. Just what we needed. Our creative technologists All Seeing Eye have worked very closely with IKinema in what has been a really symbiotic relationship. We were getting the MoCap solution we were looking for and they were getting to work on a live project, with a pretty imminent deadline. I think it is fantastic that an affordable MoCap solution like this is going to be on the market sometime soon.”
Toby Coffey | Head of Digital Development | National Theatre

Excitingly, the NT and ISS are the very first arts organisation to introduce the power of IKinema Orion to this growing new-era of live virtual storytelling. It’s in this momentary snapshot that a member of the audience can take on the animated persona of  young Tannahill and interact in real-time with his mother, played by an actress whose movements are motion captured and translated to the virtual world. Both participant and audience experiences mother and sons’ intimate emotions through narrative and touch – what unfolds is their memory brought to life through the seamless blend of virtual with physical world.

How IKinema Orion works
The user is fitted with a HTC Vive VR headset, motion controllers and just three new Vive Trackers, Orion is used as a high quality, flexible and accessible motion capture system. The same approach can be harnessed to provide virtual reality body tracking, meaning a VR user can have their movements captured and reproduced while they are within a given experience, taking immersion to new levels.

Operational flowchart

IKinema Orion: Full body MoCap using HTC Vive hardware. Full body animation is delivered with the help of 6 HTC Vive Trackers and controllers. This video uses raw data without post production.

Draw Me Close collapses the worlds of live performance, virtual reality, and animation to create a vivid memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son in the wake of her terminal-cancer diagnosis. Canadian playwright-director Jordan Tannahill partners with the National Film Board of Canada and the National Theatre to create a deceptively simple and human approach to immersive technology that allows audiences to experience life as five-year-old Jordan, inside a live, animated world.

Jordan Tannahill, Playwright and director

Tribeca Film Festival, 2017
The first chapter of Draw Me Close world premieres at Tribeca 2017, Storyscapes, Immersive Virtual Arcade
Where: Tribeca Festival Hub, 5th Floor
Date: 21–29 April
Time: 12:00 PM daily
Duration: 10mins

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