ZFICTION.20 – Virtual Production

March 20th 2020, 09:15-18.00h, Theater der Künste, Zurich

With real-time simulations, Virtual Production enables playful access to fictional narrative forms, can make new worlds visible and promotes creative collaboration. The increasingly cost-effective tools lead to a democratization of previously exclusive work processes and are now also coming within the reach of European and Swiss productions.

The first edition of the feature film conference ZFICTION presents the versatile promises of the new tools for discussion. Filmmakers and researchers* will explore the question of how virtual production will change the near future of fictional storytelling in film and what new challenges this will bring.

More info: www.zfiction.ch
Get your ticket here.
Contact: zfiction.info@zhdk.ch


Presence & Absence

Augmented projection mapping with virtual characters

Photo by Davide Arrizoli, ZHdK ©2019

This artistic research project focuses on the interplay of presence and absence of real dancers and virtual characters. It is based on augmented projection mapping, motion capture and movable stage elements. Dancers disappear behind stage elements while their avatars are projected on these elements. When the dancers step from behind the elements, their virtual characters vanish immediately. This principle is varied, when the body of a dancer is only partially hidden by an element. In this case, the spectators witness a figure who is half avatar and half human being.

Further variations of presence and absence are made possible with stage elements that allow dancers to walk or jump through the walls made out of elastic ribbons. Thus, the avatars appear immediately when the dancers are covered by the ribbons and vice versa.

Photo by Christian Iseli, ZHdK ©2019

The technical setup includes a motion capture system with a large tracking space that also covers non-visible areas of the stage. Furthermore, a projection mapping system with multiple projectors and a performative 3D mapping software is needed as well as game engine that guarantees real time performance of up to eight virtual characters.

#Keywords: Motion capture, projection mapping, virtual characters, real time rendering, game engine, modular stage elements, dance performance.

The project ‘Presence and Absence’ is connected to the workshop and performance Dancing Digital.

Live-Performce ‘Dancing Digital’, Sept. 26th, 2019. Photo by Davide Arrizoli, ZHdK ©2019

Research team:
Visual artist: Tobias Gremmler
Set designer: Mariana Vieira Gruenig
Augmented projection artist: Martin Fröhlich
Motion capture & Unity: Tobias Baumann, Norbert Kottmann, Chris Elvis Leisi, Oliver Sahli
MoCap coaching: Corinne Soland
Project manager: Kristina Jungic
Performers: Chantal Dubs, Aonghus Hode, Svenja Koch,Lucas del Rio Estevez, Johannes Voges
Project lead: Christian Iseli

SNSF-Project: Virtually Real

At the shoot of the short film LUX (Director: Wendy Pillonel, DoP: Ramón Königshausen) at the ZHdK studio. (Photo by Christian Iseli, ZHdK 2019)

The research project “Virtually Real – Aesthetics and the Perception of Virtual Spaces in Film” is the first IASpace project to be financed by third-party funds. The project concerns itself with the increasing virtualisation of film production, focussing on the transition to 3D recording of real environments and objects using laser scanning and photogrammetry. For a comparative study, short feature films will be recorded both virtually (in previously scanned 3D spaces) and conventionally (in the corresponding real spaces). The film variants are used to investigate the effects on perception and changes in work processes.

Studio shoot in front of green screen with real-time display of the scanned location (compare top center with the monitor on the bottom right). Project: LUX by Wendy Pillonel. (Photo by Christian Iseli, ZHdK 2019)

Project lead and principal investigator: Prof. Christian Iseli. Co-applicant: Dr. David Weibel (Institute of Psychology, University of Bern). Researchers: Tom Gerber, Wendy Pillonel, Miriam Loertscher, Martin Fröhlich, Valentin Huber. Project partners: Michael Schaerer, Max Rheiner. Industry partners: InstaLOD GmbH, Stuttgart; Leica Geosystems, Heerbrugg. Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) / Call: Digital Lives


ZHdK Research Day (2019)

Discussing previsualization in film production with Christian Iseli (Photo by Betty Fleck, ©ZHdK 2019)

The Research Day of the Zurich University of the Arts in 2019 was dedicated to the Research Cycle. Two workshops took place in the Immersive Arts Space:

WORKSHOP 1, November 28th, 13:15-14:30
Actors, Avatars and the Countenance: About the many faces of the SNF research project Actor and Avatar. Prof. Dr. Dieter Mersch, Prof. Anton Rey

WORKSHOP 3, November 28th, 14:45-16:00
Knowledge Transfer into Education and Public, based on the projects Expedition 2 Degrees, Virtual Production und Virtually Real. Jonas Christen, Prof. Niklaus Heeb, Prof. Christian Iseli

Art and Digital Change (2019)

Experimental staging concepts with virtual charactes. (Photo by Davide Arrizoli / ZHdK ©2019).

Thursday, 7 November 2019, 12:00 to 13:30
ZKB Freiraum, Bahnhofstr. 9, 8001 Zurich

At a lunchtime event, Christian Iseli, head of the ZHdK Immersive Arts Space, and Melody Chua, ZHdK student and co-founder of Null-state, Inc., talked about the significance of digital change for art and culture and provided insights into projects of the Immersive Arts Space.

A cooperation between the Zurich University of the Arts (Z-Cubator and Game Design) and the Zürcher Kantonalbank (Cantonal Bank of Zurich).

Hosted by Z-Kubator und Büro Züri


Immersive Landscapes

Interdisciplinary workshop with BA students , September 2019 (Z Module)

In painting, photography and film, landscapes are often transformed into dream images and stylized into archetypes. Landscapes are contemporary witnesses of collective longings and dystopias. With the new possibilities of virtual reality and immersive media, they can become overwhelming media experiences. In the workshop, real landscapes or self-built miniature landscapes were captured and prepared for VR experiences or spatial projection mapping. In both formats, the results appeared in the three-dimensional space.

Project lead: Thomas Isler, Miriam Loertscher
Lecturers: Jyrgen Ueberschär, Norbert Kottmann, Simon Peter Pfaff, Martin Fröhlich
In cooperation with the Immersive Arts Space.
Students: Giulia Hess, Yangzom Sharlhey, José Manuel Zacate Lizárraga, Aylin Cagri Acikel, Nemo Bleuer, Suphansa Buraphalit, Yvonne Haberstroh, Sonjoi Nielsen, Vanja Victor Tognola, Danuka Ana Tomas, Flavia Trachsler.

Phenomenology of the Third Body (2019)

Perfomance Lecture by Kamran Behrouz

‘Breathe’ is the name of my Motion Capture avatar —aesthetically related to the concept of “body without organs”—designed as part of my PhD research entitled ‘cosmopolitics of the body’. This research deals with the performativity of queer/trans/nonbinary bodies in exile, diaspora and refugee camps.

The performance lecture Phenomenology of the Third Body reflects on the creation of this avatar as part of this research. It poses several philosophical and psychoanalytical questions in relation to the performative role of VR and MoCap avatars in queer-feminist activism and art today.

The main part of this research deals with the notion of Untranslatability: for instance, the lack of sufficiently precise words to address transgender or queer people in Persian language. In this experiment the avatar realized as a new form of (alphabetic) coding language. It is considered as a third body for political intervention in order to distribute and perform the translation of those linguistic and cultural lacks which otherwise won’t get permission to be published and expressed in Iran. In fact, the avatar is an instrument to multiply, conceal and protect the identity of the performer.

The perfomance lecture took place on Thursday, October 17th 2019, at the Helmhaus in Zürich.

Website of Kamran Behrouz

Phenomenology of the Third Body is a cooperation between ZHdK PhD candidate Kamran Behrouz and the Immersive Arts Space.
IASpace support: Corinne Soland, Stella Speziali


Dancing Digital

Live performace on Sept. 26th, 2019. Photo by Betty Fleck, ZHdK ©2019

Together with visual artist Tobias Gremmler, choreographer Nadav Zelner and set designer Mariana Vieira Gruenig, students of the Contemporary Dance program at the Zurich University of the Arts explored the connection between real dancers and virtual characters in a modular stage design.

The prototype presentation took place during the REFRESH #2 conference on Thursday, September 26th.

# Keywords: Motion Capture, virtual characters, real-time performance, projection mapping, augmented reality.

Photo by Betty Fleck, ZHdK ©2019

Dancers: Freeda Electra Handelsman, Rabii Hadane, Aonghus Hode, Pornpim Karchai, Francesca Lapadula, Liza Lareida, I-Fen Lin, Rozemarijn Louwerse, Lara Müller, Stefanie Olbort, Elena Paltracca, Lucas del Rio Estevez, Kristin Tims, Suzanne Vis
Visual artist: Tobias Gremmler 
Choreographer: Nadav Zelner
Assistant choreographer: Denise Lampart
Set designer: Mariana Vieira Gruenig
Augmented projection artist: Martin Fröhlich 
Motion capture: Tobias Baumann, Norbert Kottmann, Corinne Soland, Benjamin Thoma
Sound: Eric Larrieux, Hans-Jürg Hofmann
Production manager: Kristina Jungic 
Project lead: Christian Iseli