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Applications: Theatre Performance

I-CubeX offers a vast array of sensors to measure virtually anything occurring on a stage and the capability of wireless transmission of sensor data, which allows for convenient placement and easy concealment of the sensor system. Checkout this video about using I-CubeX sensors on stage !

How is the measurement of actions on a stage useful in theatre performances ?

With digital audio and video playback becoming a norm in theatre production, many theaters have adopted the use of specialized software programs that allow audio and video cues to be programmed in a sequential manner for playback. Typically, these cues are triggered by an offstage operator, who is viewing the action on the stage from a front-of-house booth. During technical rehearsals, one of the main tasks of the production team is to find the most appropriate moment for the execution of each cue, as their timing plays an important role in the delivery of a story. Some cues are more sensitive to timing than others and can be challenging for the operator to trigger accurately every time, particularly if they are tied to a specific action or event on stage that the operator cannot easily see or anticipate. In those cases, the ability to trigger a cue directly from the stage can be advantageous. Sensors, ie. on/off switches or continuous controllers, can be placed on stage to measure the actions used to trigger a cue, and this data can be transmitted via a sensor interface to an offstage computer for cue playback. See below for examples.

  • Synchronization of repeated actions linked to audio or video playback:
  • Due to the absence of the real physical elements, actions like walking in the snow, rowing in a lake, and chopping down a tree, could be theatrically represented with the aid of audio or visual media. The repeated and unpredictable nature of these actions would make it hard for an offstage operator to trigger their corresponding cues accurately every time, instead sensors could be placed inside the snow boots, on the paddle, and on the axe to have the actions themselves trigger the necessary media.

  • Synchronization of time-critical events that cannot be properly seen by the sound/video operator:
  • A knife stab could be blocked in such a way that the audience seated nearby can clearly see the moment of impact, but not the operator in the front-of-house booth. A knock on an imaginary door could be staged in an area outside the line-of-sight of the operator, for example in a vom near audience member seats. Again, on-stage sensors can be employed here to directly trigger the corresponding cues.

    What do I need to use I-CubeX in theatre performances ?

    I-CubeX hardware was designed to be as small as possible so it can be comfortably worn on the body or hidden inside props, costumes and set pieces. The sensor interface, WiDig or Wi-microDig, is roughly the size of two 9-volt batteries. The WiDig's wireless communication takes place via WiFi or BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). The Wi-microDig communicates wirelessly via "Classic" Bluetooth. Sensors come in many varieties and capture virtually anything occurring on a stage.

    Software options

  • SensePlay
  • I-CubeX offers an easy-to-use sensor mapping software called SensePlay, which maps the sensor data to audio, video or image slide events, and includes the ability to save settings for future use.

  • Link
  • For more advanced applications, I-CubeX offers a sensor data translation software called Link, which converts the sensor data into MIDI or OSC messages, and includes helpful filters and settings that can be configured for more accurate results and saved for future use. The software can work with both real and virtual MIDI ports which can be recognized by any application that accepts MIDI.

  • OpenFrameworks
  • For even more creative freedom, the I-CubeX openFrameworks addon enables an immense amount of options to add audiovisual effects to theatre performances.

  • Show control
  • QLab, developed by Figure 53, is a MacOS show control software program with extensive playback capabilities for sound and video. Since its release in 2007, it has quickly been embraced by numerous theatres and theatre professionals around the world. It's MIDI functionality allows for any cue to be triggered via MIDI messages. I-CubeX has created a few examples to show its easy integration with QLab, see video at the top.

    Other show control software (see also (MIDI Show Control Wiki page):

    More thoughts ..

    The possibilities for triggering events in theatre via sensors does not end with just audio and video playback. MIDI show control messages, to control other show equipment such as lighting desks and mechanical scenery, are also possible with QLab (as well as other show control software) and therefore I-CubeX.

    The successful implementation of sensing technology does require careful selection of the parameters to sense and sensor placement. It is important to be conservative in the use of this technology, as there are countless possibilities, yet some are much more complicated to reliably execute than others. Contact force and acceleration sensing are by far the easiest to work with.

    Sensors in theatre can also be used in more experimental ways, for example to allow performers and audience members control over the soundscape and visual media in a performance. Equipped with sensors, a performance space can be transformed into a dynamic and responsive environment for an interactive theatre experience.

    User experiences

    Since we first posted this page, many theatres around the world started using I-CubeX. In this section we'll post links to their experiences as we find out about them:

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