At the mention of theatre productions, one would picture a stage full of props with intricate settings, extensive use of lightings and all the elements that go into a major production. This is not the case for a local musical, ‘Blue Willow House’. Portraying Chinatown in the year 1904, was just a screen! There was no need for massive backdrops, troublesome furniture or vehicles, all the stage need was a screen for the 3D animation and digital effects to be projected.
For the first time in Singapore, theatre-goers experienced the fusion of a traditional musical with 3D technology. The musical, by writer Stella Kon and composer Kenneth Lyen was presented by IM Innovations (IM), in collaboration with Musical Theatre Limited (MTL) and Temasek Polytechnic. The innovative project, ‘Beat-by-Beat with 3D!’ is supported by Creative Community Singapore (CCS), a key initiative by the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts.
Blue Willow House was staged at Temasek Polytechnic’s Auditorium 1 on Saturday, 1 March 2008. Doors were open at 2pm for teachers and students and 7pm for the industry and invited guests. “The staging of this musical with 3D digital backdrops illustrates how we can imaginatively expand the use of 3D Interactive Digital Media (IDM) tools beyond games, broadcast and movies to bring about dramatic change in the creative and other mainstream industries through collaboration”, commented Mr Vincent Ong, Managing Director, IM Innovations.
Unlike big-budget productions such as ‘Golden Compass, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Spiderman’, theatrical productions often lack the resources needed to engage professional digital animators and incorporate expensive digital projection systems required to create digital animation and effects for a stage setting. By showing how advanced technology had made these digital animation and effects affordable and easy to create in a short time, more people would be able to join the poll of professionals in this field and enlarge it.
Kenneth Lyen of MTL said, ‘such exciting technology allows the digital designers and animators to create and project breathtaking scenery and fascinating worlds, limited only by one's imagination’. It would also unleash much creativity, encouraging many local musicals and stage productions to use and explore a new genre that may have previously been thought to be impossible to produce for the theatre.
As part of this project, IM worked with students from CHIJ St Joseph’s Convent, Holy Innocents’ High, Bukit View Secondary and Temasek Polytechnic Engineering School. Stella Kon of MTL noted that the students ‘meticulously crafted these glowing vistas and interior views. They learned to manipulate new technology, to engage with our past, and build images of own heritage. IM evoked their enthusiasm and dedication for this engrossing project, and the successful results can be enjoyed by us all!’
Affirming their unstinting support for very exciting innovative initiatives in the creative industry, Mr Joshua Chan, General Manager of Creative Community Singapore, said, “The application of innovative technology in the performing arts underlies IM collaboration with Musical Theatre's Beat-by-Beat musical incubation program, which CCS believes is a triumph for the creative community. This is aligned to CCS's vision of a creative and connected community where the arts and technology converge. Students and arts practitioners alike could adopt such technology to lower the cost of their productions, while engaging a new range of audiences and opening up new possibilities in the Creative Industries. CCS continues to support such new creative prototypes which encourage cross-disciplinary approaches to rejuvenate interest and enhance participation in the Creative Industries."