The technology, developed by The Imaginarium Studios, which is powered by Intel’s processors, takes audiences on a "never-seen-before journey" where performance capture technology renders a digital character — Ariel the sprite — live on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage.
This rendering of an entire digital environment — in this case an avatar in real-time format — eliminates the need to produce it in advance and project it on stage. At the same time, it enhances the spontaneous atmosphere of a live performance.
We are told the technology "works by capturing the actor’s movements and facial expressions to ensure that the actor’s full performance is translated into the digital character", which has "most famously been used in films and gaming".
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Intel and The Imaginarium Studios explain they have "undertaken more than a year of research to bring digital avatars to life on stage in real-time, interacting with live actors".
Directed by RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, with RSC Associate Artist, Simon Russell Beale, as Prospero, and designed by RSC Director of Design, Stephen Brimson Lewis, this partnership will "see the RSC’s skills at theatre-making come together with The Imaginarium’s digital innovation and the expertise of Intel in pushing technical boundaries to create a production for a new generation".
Penny Baldwin, vice-president of Global Marketing and Communications Group and general manager of Brand, Reputation and Partner Marketing at Intel, said: “At Intel we are excited to use our technology to add an extra dimension to such a rich cultural tradition as the theatre. Throughout this collaboration with the RSC and The Imaginarium Studios, we are bringing together the best of live theatre with cutting-edge technology to deliver an amazing experience to the audience.
“Together we have created a human-digital interaction that feels ‘alive,’ immersing the audience in a live environment, with a theatre company which has always been at the forefront of radical experiment.”
Gregory Doran, RSC artistic director, said: “I was inspired by the very latest stage machinery and lighting effects employed in the Jacobean masques of the 1600s, and started to think about the kind of theatre Shakespeare might have wanted to create if he were alive today.
“Thanks to the extraordinary innovation and imagination of the teams at the RSC, Intel and The Imaginarium Studios, we believe we have created a unique theatre experience, which marries our distinctive theatre skills with cutting-edge technology, to give our audiences something out of the ordinary to mark the conclusion of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary year and bring his work to a whole new generation.”
Ben Lumsden, head of studio at The Imaginarium Studios, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that we’re working with Greg and the RSC, along with Intel. We share the same values of performance, text and story being the heart of what we do. This production of the Tempest is unlike anything ever done in theatre before."
Here’s the video from the RSC on how this new production of The Tempest was made: