Thursday, December 01, 2005

Brave New World of Puppetry, Part II

Andrew over at the Puppet Vision blog is starting some exciting projects regarding digital puppetry, and it got me thinking again of my blog entry back in May 2003 (see archive) on this topic, the articles I wrote for the Puppetry Journal, and the early digital puppetry attempts that Ranjit and I did in Lifeformz back in 1993. From what I can tell, Andrew has been building two engines for displaying and triggering both flat and dimensional puppets. This is very cool! But as I mentioned in my blog, there is still much work to be done:
For real-timers like actors or puppeteers, there are few options to manipulate the virtual world that virtual puppets live in. Products do exist, such as the DataGlove™, various 3D coordinate tracking sensors by Ascension™, Polhemus™ & Vicon™, and even musician-oriented mixing boards, or remote-control car joysticks and videogame controllers can be coerced into a form of puppetry interface. However, this is not ideal for the Puppeteer, whether shadow, hand, rod, talking mouth, or marionette.
We need real-time TWO-handed computer controls built specifically for puppeteers, and software written that can enhance the motion in ways impossible with real puppets.
It sounds like Andrew's working on the latter. Are there any tinkerers out there who are up for the former?

Nazooka over in Belgium is doing some neat stuff, and my friend Dave Barclay over at PerformFX has invented a nifty glove controller. But like nearly everything I've seen (protozoa, mediaLab, Jim Henson Co, etc), it's proprietary and unavailable for sale. What we need is an open-source platform to develop real-time controlled 2-D and 3-D puppet applications with environments, props, lights and camera. It sounds like Panda 3D is a good start, but now we need ways to interface it with wacom tablets and other inputs, preferably ones that we can all afford!

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posted by Brian at 7:57 AM

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