Digital Twins

Digital Twin «Stella», screenshot by Tobias Baumann, ZHdK ©2020

The goal of is to develop a simple production pipeline to create photorealistic digital humans for Virtual and Augmented Reality applications. The project includes a workflow optimization from 3D capturing to body and face rigging and real time animation by means of motion and performance capture. One of the prototypes is the digital twin of Stella Speziali, a research associate of the Digital Human Group.

Crew:
Florian Bruggisser (lead), Patxi Aguirre, Tobias Baumann, Stella Speziali


The Umbrella Project

Photo by Regula Bearth, © ZHdK 2020

The Umbrella Project is an ongoing research project that explores the use of 3D audio and projection mapping to achieve a sense of immersion without isolating participants from the real world, essentially, enabling an imaginary fantasy world come to life in our own. We employ multiple levels of 3D audio and projection mapping (both directly within and on the umbrella, as well as throughout the room itself) in order to transport the participant into this virtual world.

The end goal of the project is to create a series of navigable compositions in the form of exploratory sonic worlds, as well as intereactive experiences where the participants’ behaviours (relative to each other and the world) shape the sonic and visual environment. Furthermore, we are investigating sonic and visual paradigms where the umbrellas can function both as objects existing in and can interact with the virtual world, as well as being windows onto these other worlds.

Naturally, these environments are best experienced from directly underneath the umbrella, where one can best appreciate the various levels of MR.

A spin-off of The Umbrella Project was presented at the REFRESH conference: An installative performance with the title A Day at the Beach.

Crew:
Eric Larrieux (lead), Stella Speziali, Martin Fröhlich, Corinne Soland, Mariana Vieira Grünig


Helium Drones

Photo by Lars Kienle, ZHdK ©2019

The Helium Drone project seeks to explore the aesthetic properties of installations based on floating devices that can autonomously navigate in space. In its complete state it will be a flocking swarm of diverse drones in different forms and shapes, each behaving in its individual way and interact with each other and the spectators on the ground. It will use the tracking system for location and navigation and the projection mapping system to wrap them into dynamically created ‘skins’.

A technological groundwork is laid out, with the goal to design a framework to quickly prototype and build helium drones with different shapes and propulsion concepts that integrate easily with the current technical setup of the IASpace. This involves the research for suitable materials and processes to build the floating volume, design of mechanical structures, electronics and network protocols, the evaluation and testing of motor and servos and the integration of motion and sensor data for autonomous flying capabilities (among many other things).

Involving many different skills, from designing and building physical structures to programming behaviors and creating interactive textures that are projected onto the creatures, it will be attractive to a wide spectrum of disciplines and a playground to experience multidisciplinary teamwork. There will also be an open source toolkit with instructions that can be made accessible to the public.

Photo by Lars Kienle, ZHdK ©2019

A spin-off of the Helium Drones project was presented at the REFRESH conference: A short performance with the title Floating in Dancing Lights.

CREW

Project lead, motion tracking, projection mapping: Martin Fröhlich
Robotics, motion control, sensor integration: Max Kriegleder
Micro-controller, networks, protocols: Joel Gähwiler
Materials, rapid prototyping, construction: Roman Jurt
Theory: Serena Cangiano


Kusunda

Filmmaker in Residence Gayatri Parameswaran

KUSUNDA is a virtual reality documentary experience about what it means to lose a language and what it takes to keep one alive.

Narrated by two of its co-creators — 86-year-old Kusunda shaman Lil Bahadur and his 15-year-old granddaughter Hema — the experience contrasts two generations set apart by their lifestyles and brought together by the struggle for their indigenous identity.

In the VR experience, you join Hema as she reminds her grandfather of his forgotten mother tongue. You navigate by speaking words in the endangered Kusunda language and join an audible fight against its extinction.

Most of Lil Bahadur’s story happens in the past — especially his life in the forest as part of a hunter-gatherer group. The recreation of this non-existent past lends itself naturally to the use of animations within virtual reality.

With the help of the motion capture facilities at the Immersive Arts Space at the Zürcher Hochschule der Kunst (ZHdK), actors were recorded recreating these sequences from Lil Bahadur’s past. This not only simplifies and speeds up the process of character animations but also offers unique possibilities for the documentary storytelling form.

Crew at ZHdK:
Cast: Yan Balistoy, Offir Limacher, Johannes Voges, Ferhat Türkoğlu, Liliana Heimberg, Corinne Soland, Oliver Sahli, Kristina Jungic
Mocap coaching and production: Corinne Soland
Mocap recording: Tobias Baumann
IASpace producer: Kristina Jungic
Further ZHdK support: Chantal Haunreiter, Martin Fröhlich, Stella Spezialli

ZHdK Residency
The residency at the Zurich University of the Arts has been made possible by the Ernst Göhner Foundation, Switzerland, as well as by additional support of the ZHdK film program (led by Sabine Boss) and by the Immersive Arts Space (led by Prof. Christian Iseli).

Further crew members:
Co-creators: Gyani Maiya Kusunda, Hema Kusunda, Lil Bahadur Kusunda; Storytelling/Production coordination: Felix Gaedtke, Gayatri Parameswaran; Executive Producer: Rene Pinnell; Associate Producer: Mia von Kolpakow; Co-Producers: Emma Creed, Aliki Tsakoumi, Sönke Kirchhof, Philipp Wenning, Kuan-Yuan Lai; Lead Developer: Tobias Wehrum; Art Director, 3D designer & animator: Moritz Mayerhofer (and team); Volumetric Video post-processing: INVR.SPACE; Photogrammetry post processing: realities.io; AI speech recognition: Valerio Velardo; Sound designer: Mads Michelsen; Project website: Tom Lutherburrow | Nepal Production team: Direction/Production: Felix Gaedtke, Gayatri Parameswaran; Line Producer Nepal: Deepak Tolange, Sandeep Bhaju; Volumetric Video & Photogrammetry: Felix Gaedtke, Gayatri Parameswaran; DoP and Drone pilot: Aditya Thakuri; Sound recordist: Mia von Kolpakow; Kusunda linguistics researcher: Uday Raj Aale; Driver: Dharmendra Shakya


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


Co-located Multi-User VR

Photo by Stefan Dux © ZHdK 2020

The aim of the project is to develop a versatile co-location multi-user system, with which several users can dive into virtual worlds together in the same room. The system can be used for many different areas. As a multiplayer game in which the users feel even closer to their fellow players through increased physical presence. As a virtual film set to try out camera movements or interactions of actors without much effort. Or as an interactive experience that transports the user into a new dimension of immersion.

An iPad also serves as a window into the virtual world. The user can use this virtual camera to move through the room and in some cases even interact with the virtual world. The virtual world can also be placed on an interactive screen. This gives outsiders the opportunity to change the entire scene.

The co-location multi-user system can be used wherever the headsets can connect to a network thanks to the Mobile Vr-Headsets. The system is developed by IA-Space staff members Chris Elvis Leisi and Oliver Sahli.


Home in the Distance

Home in the Distance is based on a short story, written by director and vfx artist Andreas Dahn when he was about 17 years old. In his residency at the Immersive Arts Space he turns his story into a 3D animated short film.

In contrast to the traditional animation and vfx workflow, which is heavily based on storyboarding and previsualization, the conscious decision was made to leave out these steps, in order to find out if new technologies make it possible to create a more emotional and spontaneous film experience.  

The character was sculpted by hand with dough and photogrammetry was used to create the virtual model. Rigging was done with Human IK in Autodesk Maya. Students from the 3D Akademie Stuttgart helped to model the set and props. In addition, an actor`s performance was motion-captured with OptiTrack in the IASpace at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). The camera work will be done with a VR tool, developed by Mirko Lempert (Stockholm University ot the Arts) and Simon Alexandersson (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm) and rendered in realtime in Unity.

Andreas Dahn (writer and director) on the left, with Pascal Holzer (actor) on the right, during MoCap recording.

Crew at ZHdK
Cast: Pascal Holzer
Mocap coaching: Corinne Soland
Mocap recording: Norbert Kottmann
Further ZHdK support: Valentin Huber, Robin Disch, Marco Quandt, Lucien Sadkowski, Andreas Birkle, Chantal Haunreiter, Claudia Hürlimann, Thomas Gerber, Stefan Jäger,  Martin Fröhlich

ZHdK Residency
The residency at the Zurich University of the Arts has been made possible by the Ernst Göhner Foundation, Switzerland, as well as by additional support of the ZHdK film program (led by Sabine Boss) and by the Immersive Arts Space (led by Prof. Christian Iseli).

Crew at 3D Akademie Stuttgart
Props & set modeling & texturing: Gerrit Gaietto, Katharina Rodak, Kimberly Niesner Pierre Urbanek (Head of 3D Akademie)

Further crew members
Unity VR support: Mirko Lempert, Simon Alexanderson
Junior producer: Jana Günther
Assistent director: Aimée Torre Brons
Sound design: Luis Schöffend, Marc Fragstein
Title design: Timo Kreitz
Screenplay translation: Karen Ma
Special thanks: David Maas, Renate Schirrow, Ella Steiner, Felix Bucella, Alireza Sibaei, Astrid Weitzel 


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


TwinLab (Pilot, 2018)

TwinLab Performance, October 25th 2018. Photo by Regula Bearth, ZHdK ©2018

For several years now, the ZHdK has maintained a lively exchange with cultural and educational institutions in Hong Kong. On the occasion of an official visit to the ZHdK from the head of government of Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam in January 2018, temporary partner labs were set up in both cities. The goal was to promote interdisciplinarity within a framework of research and development into technology-supported arts.
The resulting TwinLab project is premised upon the availability of the same technical infrastructure at both locations. The cooperation can thus be based primarily on data exchange and be sustainable. Real-time transmissions allow for synchronous experiments and productions.

The first TwinLab project “The Hidden Formula – The Heavenly Palace” was developed in cooperation with the experimental theatre group Zuni Icosahedron which is based in Hong Kong and the two performances could be experienced simultaneously in both locations. The movements of the dancers were recorded at both locations using motion capture technology to create real-time visualizations in a video projection. Despite the geographical distance of over 9000 kilometres and a six-hour time difference, the motion data was transmitted in real time, thus enabling virtual interaction.

Based on Plato’s cave parable, the ZHdK performance “The Hidden Formula” explored mechanisms of suppression and restriction as well as the human will to be free. The piece was made in close dialogue with “The Heavenly Palace” by Zuni Icosahedron, which refers to the 16th century Chinese novel A Journey to the West.
The live performance of “The Hidden Formula” took place on 25 October at the ZHdK in Zurich and simultaneously at the Community Center in Hong Kong and was broadcast live in Zurich’s Bahnhofshalle as part of the Swiss Digital Day.

For data transmission, the TwinLab project relied on the findings and technological developments of the SNF research project “Telematic Performance”, which is housed at the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology (ICST), ZHdK.

Cast & Crew of the ZHdK
Dance: Sophie Bertschy, Alex Ferro, Denise Lampart, Cary Shiu
Choreography: Denise Lampart
Visual Art: Tobias Gremmler
Music: Thierry de Mey
Digital set artist: Martin Fröhlich
Technical crew: Simon Broggi, Martin Fröhlich, Norbert Kottmann, Eric Larrieux, Olav Levrik, Hansruedi Näf, Marc Nathmann, Matthias Röhm, Marco Quandt, Viktoras Zemeckas and many others.
Production management: Andreas Birkle, Kristina Jungic
ZHdK producers: Chantal Haunreiter, Christian Iseli
Project steering: Hartmut Wickert
Project lead: Christian Iseli

Cast & Crew Zuni Icosahedron, Hong Kong
Dance: Chang Yu-chau, Rady Nget
Artistic direction: Danny Yung, Mathias Woo
Digital art: Dan Fong, Benny Woo
Lighting design: Mak Kwok Fai
Music: Steve Hui
Technical assistance: Dan Fong, Benny Woo, Lee Kin Tak, Tso Chi Yan, Ha Yan Pui, Ko Man Kit and many others
Production: Carmen Cheng, Chun Yin Chow, Satina Shum, Leung Kin Kai
Project management: WyWong Yuewai, Cedric Chan


Virtual Production (Pilot, 2018)

Virtual Production Workshop at  the IASpace 2018. (Photo byDavid Oesch, ZHdK)

Another IASpace pilot project focuses on the question of virtual production. Spaces and objects are captured as 3D models with laser scanning and photogrammetric measurements, which are then used for real-time simulations. Creative teams can thus pre-visualize and test audiovisual ideas before the actual film production begins. Real-time simulations are an important part of the future direction of IASpace.

A proven expert in previsualization and virtual production, the film producer Mirko Lempert joined the IASpace team  in the autumn semester of 2018. Mirko was recruited as Artist in Residence at the ZHdK. He also is an assistant professor at Stockholm University of the Arts.

The ‘Previs Table’ is used as a communication tool in pre-production and enables real time previsualizations of film scenes. (Bild: David Oesch, ZHdK)

Crew
Project lead: Christian Iseli
Team: Mirko Lempert (University of the Arts, Stockholm), Simon Broggi, Martin Fröhlich, Valentin Huber, Norbert Kottmann, Simon Pfaff, Max Rheiner, Michael Schaerer

3D model of the Toni areal based on photogrammetry and 3d laser scanning. The model is used for real time simulations for lighting or scene blocking. (Screen shot by Valentin Huber, ZHdK 2018)