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 made an animated short film and an interactive VR experience out of it, and applied unique methods of Virtual Production. 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.  

Andreas Dahn first constructed the locations, his character and all other digital assets in 3D. With the help of Motion Capture technology he animated the complete story. And finally he shot the 2D film with a virtual camera that he operated in the 3D space with VR goggles. So, he literally shot the film in the virtual space. After the 2D film was finished, Andreas made an interactive VR experience based on the same 3D assets and the same story.

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

The character was sculpted by hand with dough and photogrammetry was used to create the virtual 3D 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 was 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.

Shooting the 2D movie with a virtual camera in the virtual 3D space.

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 


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


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