Credit: "No reality now" ©FlorianSalabert
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Interview with the team behind "No Reality Now", a show by Vincent Dupont and Charles Ayats

20 November 2023 Alumni News
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Graduating from the Mastère Spécialisé Designer d'expérience interactive et ludique - Cnam-Enjmin / GOBELINS Paris in 2012, Charles Ayats is animmersive experience designer.He co-created the show "No Reality Now" with choreographer Vincent Dupond .


Three other IDE alumni also worked on the project: Raphaël Chenais (class of 2023) as production assistant for Dark Euphoria, Pierre Didier (class of 2021) as tech artist and art director , and Sofiane Tihdaini (class of 2022) as network developer.


This hybrid work combining virtual reality and contemporary dance is scheduled for Wednesday, November 28, 2023 at 3pm at the Centre des Arts in Enghien-Les-Bains aspart ofLa Némo-biennale internationale des arts numériques de la région Ile-de-France .The show will also be presented at the CND de Pantin on December 1 and 2, 2023.


Produced by Dark Euphoria and the J'y Pense Souvent company, "No Reality Now" features a virtual reality device designed for 100 spectators.


A true double reading, this immersive experience reactivates "Souffles ", one of Vincent Dupont's previous pieces from 2010, offering spectators two simultaneous versions (virtual and real) to navigate between.


Viewers are invited to enjoy a parallel experience combining live bodies and 3D digital doubles, thanks to a VR headset they can put on or take off as they please.


The show invites spectators to a mysterious funeral ritual of appearances and disappearances.




How did you come up with the idea of combining VR and dance?

Charles Ayats: I met Vincent Dupont during the 1st edition of the CHIMÈRES scheme initiated by the French Ministry of Culture, in June 2018. This residency brought together a variety of profiles: directors, novelists, game designers, designers, scenographers, choreographers, etc...


We had to imagine immersive multi-spectator scenographies. This is quite a complex exercise, as virtual reality devices are temperamental when the number of participants increases. A first "roomscale" strolling concept called "Virtuelles réalités" took shape and seduced the jury during this residency.



"Souffles" de Vincent Dupond ©Marc Domage

"Souffles" by Vincent Dupond ©Marc Domage

How did you manage to link the two versions of the show (physical and digital)?

Charles Ayats: We took part in several writing residencies to refine our proposal. It was watching "Souffles", one of Vincent's first shows, that crystallized our ideas. The show spoke of ritual, the "beyond", the invisible, and was already flirting with a kind of questioning of reality.



Can you tell us more about your respective roles and missions on this project?

Charles Ayats: I co-created the show "No reality now" with choreographer Vincent Dupont. I imagined the staging coupled with the device and took part in the creative direction.


Pierre Didier: As tech-artist and motion capture supervisor for the virtual experience, I produced the special effects, lighting and editing.


Sofiane Tihdaini: I developed the network system and theUnity application,as well as the ancillary tools needed to set up the various performance rooms.


Raphaël Chenais: I've been delegated production manager on the project since November 2022. I'm responsible for ensuring that the executive production (carried out by Pierre and Sofiane, among others) runs smoothly. I'm in charge of funding applications and follow-up, coordination between partners (venues/company/studio), contacting service providers, ordering equipment and monitoring the budget.




"No reality now"- portes -©DA Florian Salabert

"No reality now"- portes -©DA Florian Salabert

What technical challenges, if any, did each of you encounter in creating the show?

Charles Ayats: The first phase of prototyping was laborious, as it was largely R&D-based. Several failures made us doubt. We were too naïve about the stability of certain technologies, in particular live motion capture , which we had to abandon.


Pierre Didier: The main challenge as a tech-artist is to guarantee consistency and visual quality, while respecting the optimization and performance of the experience. The phones on which we're broadcasting the experience are relatively weak in terms of graphics power, so I had to adapt the designs accordingly.


Sofiane Tihdaini: Getting 120 headsets to work in perfect sync with the action on set was a real challenge, and required a lot of thought and iteration . Producing executables incorporating the latest modifications (without breaking what was already working) during the work residencies with the dancers and choreographers was also a complex exercise.




No Reality Now -sang ©DA Florian Salabert

No Reality Now ©DA Florian Salabert

How does the XR live control system work?

Pierre Didier: The XR live control room consists of a midi console connected to the virtual experience. Anastasia, our stage manager, can control the playback speed of animations, change chapters or trigger various visual effects previously created in Unity.


Sofiane Tihdaini: The special effects developed by Pierre are attached to buttons on the control console so that the stage manager can launch an effect (e.g. a shock wave) precisely when one of the dancers hits a set element . The control room is set up in the same way as a lighting control room, so special effects can be changed according to the action performed by the actors on stage.




"No Reality Now" - tourment ©DA Florian Salabert

"No Reality Now" - torment ©DA Florian Salabert

What did you learn from the experience?

Raphaël Chenais:The process of combining live performance and digital experience is still relatively unexplored, so it was a very interesting experience .I also learned a lot about the new uses of spectators and their relationship to this technology in the context of live performance.

Charles Ayats: This type of project is a long process. You have to be resilient and flexible in the face of dead-ends. We're breaking new ground in artistic and scenic areas that are still relatively unexplored, which adds to the complexity. Collaborative work and "soft skills" are essential, as it's the combination of cross-disciplinary skills that brings the project to fruition.


Pierre Didier: The encounter between the performing arts and technology was really enriching and challenging. The working methods of these two worlds are antinomic: one is flexible and supple, while the other is relatively rigid and technical. But they're not irreconcilable - you just have to learn to talk to each other!


Sofiane Tihdaini: It was my first contact with the world of live performance, and I found the experience very galvanizing. This project takes the show in a new direction, which seems pretty obvious once you've experienced it.




Would you like to repeat this experience with other choreographers, or with other forms of live performance such as theater or circus?

Raphaël Chenais: Yes, that's the aim of the "Scène Augmentée" system, which can be applied to other live shows. I'm curious to see how different artists/performers can develop new uses for these technologies.

Charles Ayats: I'd love to work with circus artists.


Pierre Didier: I'd love to try it again! Whatever the subject, live performance remains an interesting playground in its entirety.


Sofiane Tihdaini: I'd love to work on virtual scenography projects for concerts.




Making off of the show

You're all 4 graduates of GOBELINS, so are you used to working together or was this your first joint project?

Raphaël Chenais: This is my first project, and probably not my last! Charles and I alsooccasionally run an "XR and Live Performance" acculturation and ideation workshop for players in the live performance industry.


Charles Ayats: "No reality Now" is the 3rd project I've worked on with Small Creative, the creative studio where Pierre and Sofiane are currently working. They know how to recruit the best!It would be a pleasure to work with them again.

Pierre Didier: I'd already worked with Sofiane at Small, but this was my first collaboration with Raphaël and Charles.


Sofiane Tihdaini: It was my first project with Raphaël and Charles, but I was lucky enough to work with Pierre on "The Roaming", another Small Creative studio project. It was great to work with Charles, Raphaël and Pierre, especially as we're each from a different graduating class: it's great to see that, across the generations, this group brings together talented people!




Interview by Sophie Jean

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