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Digital Media Symposium Explores Using Technology To Enhance Theater Experiences

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After dark, Luma will light up the streets of Binghamton, but during the day, projection artists and other members of the industry spoke at a symposium highlighting the digital art form and the technology used to create it. 

The symposium is hosted by the United States Institute For Theatre Technology. Friday's keynote was delivered by Finn Ross, a digital artist who has done projection work for operas and Broadway shows. His resume includes work for Broadway musicals Frozen and Mean Girls, as well as digital magic seen on stage in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two. 

"I'm very interested in the interaction between the video media and the human being and that environment in which they sit in and then how that all sort of comes together to make this complete world," says Finn. 


The use of video and projection components in live plays and musicals has risen in the past 15 years or so. Ross says this allows for a more expansive set beyond the physical stage. 

"I think it can make a theater space that's really one of the mind and imagination, not just a room on stage, but a sort of psychological space for the drama to sort of unfold in," says Ross. 

This is certainly the case in the Harry Potter stage play, where digital media is used to achieve magical effects. While still sticking to the play's tagline "Keep The Secrets," Ross doesn't spoil the effects, but explains how he has to re-map each theater that the play moves to. It's currently running in London, New York City, and Melbourne. 

Ross says one of the challenges of his work is engineering the space to make sure it's not instantly obvious that digital elements are at work. This means hiding projectors from the audience and working with the lighting department to blend the two forms of effects.

The USITT Digital Media Symposium is a two-day event which kicked off on Thursday. The keynote speaker for Thursday's portion of the event was Ana Herruzo, who has done work with Samsung, Google, Nike, and NASA.