Guildhall School’s Video Design for Live Performance Degree

Guildhall School’s Video Design for Live Performance Degree
December 2, 2014 Rajinder Sodhi

Folks from the Guildhall School’s Music and Drama department in London, UK wrote to us about this awesome new program in Live Performance Design. Part of this is an advertisement for the new program, but we get an inside look at what the school offers and how students work. While we understand that most of you won’t be travelling out to London for school, this will hopefully inspire educators in structuring future projection mapping programs. We also get requests from artists and designers everyday for information on courses and degrees in projection mapping. This one’s for you!


[By Dan Shorten, course tutor]

Many people will know the Guildhall School of Music & Drama for our acting and music degrees, but did you know we’ve launched a brand new degree focusing on Video Projection Mapping? Our BA (Hons) Video Design for Live Performance will be taught from autumn 2015 and is suitable for those who want to become VJs, video programmers, 3D designers and many other video-based roles. We want to play a part in the advancement of education in Projection Mapping and 3D design as the need for skilled technicians and artists within the performing arts increases over the coming years.

As a degree, our Video Design programme is unique, delivered at a world-class music conservatoire and drama school where students learn on the job, rather than via classroom-based delivery. Students here enjoy top of the range facilities: we are committed to keeping our equipment up-to-date and state-of-the-art, and have recently invested £90 million in a new building and facilities. Although this is not all projection equipment, it does indicate the very high level of priority given to our student learning resources. We will continue to invest in and develop our already very well-resourced video department, currently boasting 14 projectors, 5 media servers and two computer suites for production work. As the department grows, and the work we produce increases in scale and frequency, we will look to ensure that the necessary equipment and resources are in place to deliver the projects to the high professional standards we are known for.

In terms of our equipment, we have a range of projectors available to our students, from 500 Lumen Q5 Picos, and 5000 Mitsubishi 3D-ready studio projectors, to 16000 Lumen large format Panasonic ones. We hire in more as and when projects require them – our students have a project in the diary for June 2015 – Glastonbury Festival – where we will be running a system that uses 19 projectors: 6 x 5k, 4 x 16k and 9 x 20k. We took our setup to Glastonbury 2014, and you can watch a video of our students in action here (also see below).

Glastonbury Festival Video Mapping 2014 – The Common from Guildhall School.

We provide projection mapping software to our students, working with a range of software/hardware set-ups on which our students get fully trained. To name a few this includes: D3, Hippotizer, Catalyst, Mad Mappper, Resolume, Qlab, Isadora, Heavy M – and we also have a range of media servers (Mac and Windows) running different platforms. Students don’t need to own their own projectors – although several do – they can borrow projectors from the department free of charge.

An important aspect of the course is that we teach our students how to do interactive projection mapping, with an extensive range of interactive set-ups. This may be using midi controllers, lighting desks, iPads or Kinect cameras and infra-red cameras, but we also build bespoke circuits using things like Makey-Makey and Raspberry Pi or sound responsive systems doing frequency analysis for example. We have licenses for interactive software such as Isadora, Z- Vector and Bazik.

The new degree has been borne out of industry demand – and from the need to provide our most video-hungry Technical Theatre students with a specific course for them to learn and expand their creative talent, which benefits both our actors and musicians, as well as the industry. Within the last year we’ve been fortunate enough to take our students to present their Video Mapping designs at Ministry of Sound’s Beatbreakr, and Walthamstow Garden Party – one of our students submitted a Projection Mapping of King’s College London, performed as part of their 2013 Arts & Humanities Festival – you can watch the video here (also see below). I cannot wait to see what is in store from our next cohort of students!

Beatbreakr 2014: Ministry of Sound from Guildhall School.

Light Fantastic by Gwilym Huws – Guildhall School from Guildhall School.

As designers, what frustrates us the most, as I’m sure our fellow Projection Mapping colleagues will agree, is daylight, as we’re often at the mercy of the weather when we work outdoors. A magic tool to temporarily block out the sun would be useful – but in the meantime we’ll settle for continuing our culture of trying to deliver artistic excellence through technical expertise and innovation.

Dan talks more about Video Projection Mapping at the Guildhall School in this video:

Bending Light: Video Projection Mapping at Guildhall School from Guildhall School.

Full course details are available here.