The planning and development of a free online resource –
‘A Trifling History of the Moving Image’
Hello. I’m Alan Hudson, a freelance developer mostly working in Second Life and a former college and University lecturer in IT, Multimedia and E-Learning.
‘A Trifling History of the Moving Image’ will be a free to use resource for education and entertainment. It will exist in the virtual world of Second Life building on previous New Synthetic Theatre (NST) developments. It will tell the history of story telling from bards around the camp-fire to 3D cinema and of course virtual world applications.
Second Life is a free to use virtual world available via the Internet. Anyone with a PC Mac or Linux computer and an Internet connection can use it. There are also viewers with limited functionality for some tablets and phones. A very large number of Universities and colleges around the world use Second Life along with private companies and individuals. Users can create their own imaginative environments for static displays such as conventional art galleries, product promotion, live theatre, music concerts and social gatherings.
Various defence organisations use it too – but if I told you more about that I’d have to kill you.
I created New Synthetic Theatre (NST) two years ago to explore the possibilities of creating an automated theatre environment in which the audience’s avatars are the performers in the show. Their avatars are manipulated and animated in time with scenery changes and streamed sound and music to create a dynamic environment to tell a story.
Two shows are currently running, Ninety Nine Percent, and Jabba Jabba Jabba. Ninety Nine percent is a comment on the recent Occupy protests. In New Synthetic Theatre we can stage a riot. The avatars can get hurt but we don’t actually hurt real people.
In Jabba Jabba Jabba we hunt for the moon, visit Colleridge’s / Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome, and finally hunt for the Jabberwocky with our vorpal swords.
The next production, Gilgamesh’s flood story is in production. Gilgamesh is said to be the first story ever written down, originally on cuneiform tablets, but now available on paper and even Kindle!
Using NST we can tell a story on a computer screen but engage the audience in a much more immersive way than using a conventional web site. The audience can view the changing scenes from any position or angle and because their avatar is involved in the action it gives them a greater sense of being there. Even in live real life theatre there is a distance, both physically and emotionally between the audience and the action. In NST they are the same place and by being physically involved (albeit virtually) they are also emotionally involved to a greater degree.
In order to attempt to fund these productions the audience first buy a ticket at the ticket office. This is a barrier for educators. Students and teachers have to have some funds which means someone has to put their credit card information into the Second Life system. Although the cost is tiny (approx 30 US cents per ticket) entering credit card information into a system is often a barrier. Additionally the Lindens (the currency used in Second Life) have to be distributed around the class. Students make mistakes, and there is often a reluctance to view a show a second time if this incurs a second ticket cost.
To counter this barrier the project will be funded by Kickstarter funding allowing it to run for at least a year. If this works I have other idea for further shows, for example, the Assassination of the Arch Duke Ferdinand, and my father’s last bombing raid over Germany in the Second World War in which he was shot down and later captured. I hope these will show that NST can truly ‘bring history alive’. Perhaps a cliché but I know from my own history education, it is very easy to turn students off even when the material you are trying to teach is truly fascinating.
I am reminded of the opening sequence in the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHvqS2kk1rs It was only by watching this that I appreciated what it must have been like for soldiers at the Normandy landings in the Second World War. Using NST techniques I should be able to bring a similar reality to subjects.
‘A Trifling History of the Moving Image’ will engage the audience by involving them in experiences of how we have told stories and how these methods have changed with the introduction of new technologies. Thus we begin with the bard visiting our village and telling us stories verbally around the camp fire (perhaps making the best moving images in our minds). Then we take part in a scene from a Greek tragedy in an amphitheatre, then a dynamic and dramatic scene in Rome’s Colosseum, followed by The London Coliseum in London’s west end and a traditional proscenium arch.
Nearby we visit a Diorama and the Panorama. These were experimental installations using static canvasses with natural light and viewing platforms so the audience could see e.g scenes from history, myths and legends. In the Diorama the whole seating area for the audience was rotated to see one image while a second image is prepared, then the audience are rotated to the second allowing stage hands to change the first image with a third. The building is constructed to catch the natural sunshine (yes there is some sometimes in London) and we have a the Panorama in Leicester Square now converted to a church.
Next we stand inside the camera obscura near Brunel’s suspension bridge in Bristol and see a moving image of the outside world projected onto the inside of the building. This ushers in the new technology of photography. We attend a lantern slide show, sit for a photograph and then attend a cinema and see moving images of factory workers leaving at the end of the day and are nearly hit my a steam train!
As we attend the series of performances we can also see how the technology works. The Geneva cam of an early camera and projector, the optics for a camera obscura, the rotating seating area for the Diorama. All of these will be built within Second Life so that visitors can experience what it would have felt like to be within these experiences.
At the end of the show our avatar is taken to an exhibition area giving more information about the technologies we have just experienced in allowing them to ponder and view in their own time.
This free to visit show should be up and running during 2014. It will then be available 24 hours a day, every day of the year for visitors: individuals, classes of students, anyone with an interest.
I’m sure even with diligent research, I will get things wrong and visitors will correct me. But this is software and the system can be changed and improved as my short comings are revealed.
Do please bring your students, and to monitor the development of the project see this web site: http://newsynthetictheatre.co.uk .
Linden Research, Inc, (2013) Second Life [Online], Available at <http://secondlife.com> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Linden Research, Inc, (2013) Third Party Viewer Directory [Online], Available at <http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Third_Party_Viewer_Directory> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Linden Research, Inc, (2013) Second Life Education Directory [Online], Available at <http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Second_Life_Education_Directory> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Hudson, A. (2011) New Synthetic Theatre [Online], Available at <http://newsynthetictheatre.co.uk> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Hudson, A. (2011) NST Ticket Office [Online], Available at <http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/ZoHa%20Islands%20E/91/228/22>
[Accessed 12th October 2013]
British Museum, (2012) The Flood Tablet/The Gilgamesh Tablet/Library of Ashurbanipal [Online], Available at <http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/me/t/the_flood_tablet.aspx> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
George, A. (1999) The Epic of Gilgamesh, London: Penguin Classics.
Sanders, N. K. (1972) The Epic of Gilgamesh, London: Penguin Classics.
Hamilton, L. C. (1884) The Epic of Gilgamesh In Plain and Simple English. [Kindle], Bookcaps.
Kickstarter, (2013) Kickstarter [Online], Available at <http://www.kickstarter.com/> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
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Jones, T. (1774) The Bard [Painting], Available at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Bard_%281774%29.jpeg> Accessed 12th October 2013]
Wood, R.D. (1993) The Diorama In London in the 1820s [Online], Available at <http://www.midley.co.uk/diorama/Diorama_Wood_1_1.htm> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Punch, (1855) Sebastopol in Leicester Square – Panorama. [Online], Available at <http://www.victorianlondon.org/entertainment/panoramals.htm> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Keene, G.T. (2007) Camera Obscuras [Online], Available at <http://www.cameraobscuras.com/> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Lumiere, A. and L. (1895) Exiting the Factory [Movie], Available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYpKZx090UE> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Lumiere, A. and L. (1895) L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat [Movie], Available at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_9N68MO9gM> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
Taimina, D. Historical notes for N08-Geneva Wheel. [Online], Available at <http://kmoddl.library.cornell.edu/tutorials/10/> [Accessed 12th October 2013]
End of Doc.