Virtual Reality Hamlet Hits the Stage at the Tribeca Film Festival
Interactive Theater Experience, "To Be with Hamlet," Stems from NYU Tandon’s Integrated Digital Media Program
BROOKLYN, New York – Attendees at the Tribeca Film Festival will have the opportunity to step onto the battlements of Elsinore Castle and get a unique view of Hamlet as he is confronted by the ghost of his murdered father and learns the depths of his uncle's deceit.
To Be with Hamlet will have its North American premiere as part of the Festival’s Virtual Arcade, which is dedicated to exploring and celebrating innovative, interactive projects. Viewers will don state-of-the-art virtual-reality headsets to view avatars of Prince Hamlet and the ghost that are as dynamic and believable as live actors. That dynamism and believability come courtesy of two skilled actors, Zachary Koval (Hamlet) and Roger Casey (the ghost), who will be performing the iconic scene from a remote studio in real-time.
The project’s creator — Javier Molina, a graduate and current adjunct assistant professor of Integrated Digital Media at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering — designed his virtual Elsinore Castle with Unreal Engine, a software suite used by many video-game developers. Unreal was also used to create the ghost’s avatar, as well as that of Hamlet. To craft a convincing photorealistic representation of the prince, Molina made 3D scans of Koval’s body and facial expressions.
During their remote performances, which will take place several times a day during the Festival, the actors will wear fitted black body suits equipped with rounded markers that track their movements, which can then be sent to the virtual world platform. Thus, when Koval and Casey move, their avatars also do so, simultaneously.
The performance will be broadcast using a software platform called M3diate, which allows several viewers to experience To Be with Hamlet at the same time; facilities at the Tribeca Film Festival can accommodate three people for each eight-minute performance of the scene.
“We are proud to be taking part in the Tribeca Film Festival and pleased to be at the forefront of technology that will allow anyone, anywhere in the world, to experience live theater in an enriching, communal way,” Molina says. “Hamlet proved to be wonderful source material for our first foray, but we envision adapting other great works in the future. We look forward to the time when motion capture and VR technology are being employed regularly in the surgical suite, the classroom, and other settings in which experts working from remote locations can be of service.”
In addition to Molina, several other technologists and artists affiliated with NYU took part in To Be with Hamlet, including director David Gochfeld, a graduate of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and an adjunct at Courant; T. K. Broderick, also an alum of ITP and adjunct there; Christian Grewell, the creative lead of M3diate, who teaches Interactive Media Arts and Business at NYU Shanghai; and Ted Lee, an operations director at NYU Abu Dhabi, who was also instrumental in the development of M3diate. Several current IDM students have also participated in the project.
Images available at dam.engineering.nyu.edu
About the New York University Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, the founding date for both the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly). A January 2014 merger created a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within NYU, the country’s largest private research university, and is closely connected to engineering programs at NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates Future Labs focused on start-up businesses in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit engineering.nyu.edu.