Object of the week: Camera on threads

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Raise the curtain

In the research project “puppet & microcamera” we explored the interplay between camera, animation and puppetry in different ways.

Camera as a co-player

One question was: What happens if the camera becomes an actor? Its recorded image projected onto different screens in the stage space.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The “puppet camera”, i.e. the one on strings, plays the restless Puck, who forms a scenic contrast with the calm “tree” of Oberon.

A first insight: the camera can not swing uncontrollably, but must be held consciously and controlled.

It may also whirr or stop or be held at an angle; however it’s movements must always be precisely guided and concluded, allowing new perspectives of the impatient but still quite static Oberon. 

In the green-screen box, the play is performed before a green background, while what is performed is projected onto a screen in real time. The green background is replaced by video recordings (e.g. of nature).

Perhaps a newer, lighter camera would be better suited for this, with a more powerful zoom. The camera could be small and mounted on a plank, which could then be held on a relatively short line. In the green-screen box or on stage, the camera could then get very close to its film subject. Allowing for other larger movements; also connected to a stick or rod, different movements could be tried. We experiment with the camera held directly in the hand. In doing so, the cables interfere considerably. There are cameras without cables with a battery life of up to 5 hours.

A torch, an antenna LED or spotlights accompany the camera eye through the stage.

How does one clothe the camera as an actor so that it can embody a theatrical character?

How will the audience react to an electrical device that is suddenly supposed to be an active role in the play? Where does the perception of the animation process start for the audience? The choice of what the camera films could be quite emotionally charged. We could even assemble Puck in front of the viewers’ eyes and thus involve them in the design. If Puck were a drone, he could be perceived as an insect.

What does the projection look like when the camera is directly connected to the projector? 

We could connect the camera to a battery-powered LED projector that could move throughout the stage. The role-playing camera, in this case “Puck” could become part of a mobile system of it’s own incorporating light, projector and camera.

The connection between camera and projector could be achieved through a careful choreography of film image and projection on stage and could be made very interesting dramatically in a role such as Puck. There are now projectors so small they can be combined to work well with a camera. The best thing would be an autofocus, but this is not always built into a small projector: this would be something to look out for.

Vorhang auf für noch mehr Figurentheater