by David G. Fraser

Tesla Electric, the1998 offering from i.e.VR and KU's University Theatre opened in the William Inge Memorial Theatre on February 12th and ran through the 20th.

Tesla Electric chronicles the career of inventor Nikola Tesla in an exciting surreal style. The play invokes vaudeville, carnival sideshows and acts of magic as it weaves an industrial revolution morality play. The play also suggests various special effects that pose interesting challenges to our investigation into computer generated scenography.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla is credited with the invention of many world-changing technologies including AC power, radio and the tesla coil. However, it was other shrewd capitalists such as Thomas Edison, and George Westinghouse that reaped the profits from Tesla's work. Tesla has become something of a cult hero with inventors and fans of science. You can find lots of information on Tesla on the web, particularly from the International Tesla Society.

In this production, we tested a new method of immersing an audience into a virtual scene. In the past we have relied on real-time graphics to give our audience a sense of moving along with the on-stage characters. In order to optimize the real-time animation of the computer generated virtual worlds, the detail and complexity of the scenes needed to be limited. Now, we reversed the principle and created computer generated scenes that did not move but were lavishly detailed and textured. In order to add life to the scene we experimented with interjecting animated objects into the scenes. Live actors played in front of a panoramic triple screen on which the scenery was rear-projected. Once again we employed stereo imaging so that the audience saw the scenes in 3-Dimensions with the aid of special 3-D "sunglasses". Thanks to the generous support of Artifice Inc. we created computer models for each scene with the aid of DesignWorkshop software.

rough radiance testTo achieve the highest quality of computer graphics possible, much of the rendering was done with Radiance. Radiance is an application that renders something like more common ray-tracing programs but much more accurately. Radiance is engineered to depict specific light sources and to calculate all reflected light. This way, the lighting in every nook and cranny is accurately rendered. Leading the rendering stage of the process was Martin Moeck, a faculty member of KU's Department of Architectural Engineering and an expert in using Radiance in lighting simulations. Check out his student's award-winning lighting designs on the web.

Due to circumstances beyond our control the live web-broadcast of the show has been cancelled. We hope to webcast a video tape of the show later in the spring. Check back often!

show photo

THE TEAM (so far)
Mark Reaney - Designer/Technologist
Lance Gharavi - Director
Martin Moeck - Lead Renderer/Virtual Lighting Designer
Ronald Willis - Venerable Associate
Brad Hull - Lighting Designer/Modeler
Danny Rogovein - Stage Manager/Modeler
Mike Senften - Assistant Designer/Lead Animator
Jason Knowles - Modeler/Graphics
Steve Hudson-Mairet - Modeler/General Factotum
Nate Hughes - Modeler/Communications
Karen Dillon - Webcast Director
Stephen Pite - Webcast Director
John Garretson - Assistant Director

rough radiance test

Nikola Tesla - Jeff Bachura
Thomas Edison - Mat Hostetler
Abby - Gina Grad
George Westinghouse - Nick Zube
Mark Twain - Damon Klassen
Larson - Matt Chapman
Anne Morgan - Becca Booth
Commissioner Duel - Gary Morrison
Willy Kemmler - Mike Collins

rough scenery rough scenery
Click on the pictures above for larger images!

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