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Metropolitan Opera uses 3-D set projections

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City will introduce 3-D projections for its production of “Siegfried” next season, the third installment in its “Ring” cycle directed by Robert Lepage.

The performers will appear to move inside a 3-D world created by projections; audience members will not need 3-D glasses to experience the effect.

The technology for the “Ring” cycle is used differently than it is 3-D films and TV. Normally, two images shot from different perspectives are projected on the viewing screen. Light and color filters in the glasses permit the passage of one image into each eye, and the brain reconciles the two into a 3-D image. At the Met, however, the set will use a bank of projectors, motion-capture cameras and computers to create the 3-D images. The tilt on the stage allows for hundreds of different projections, changing in fractions of a second, at the different depths to help create the color, shading and contour of the set.

The New York Times reported that the imagery is rendered using fractals. These are fractured geometric shapes that keep iterating reduced-size copies of themselves according to mathematical formulas. When the fractals are programmed into the computerized light system, the result is a dense symphony of geometric detail giving the illusion of 3-D.

The 3-D technology was developed especially for Lepage, a Canadian stage and opera director. His “Ring” is the most technologically intricate production yet put on the Met stage, the newspaper said. The scenery is mostly made up of sophisticated projections cast onto a 45T set composed of two dozen giant planks that rotate on a single axis and move up and down.

Witnesses said the new technology represents a notable advance in the richness of detail, shadows and shading as well as noted the ability of the images to move and interact with singers and actors on the set.

“I’ve been in this business for 35 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Roger Parent told the Times. Parent is the president of Réalisations, the Montreal-based staging company that is supplying the digital technology for the “Ring” production. “You get a realistic sense of 3-D without the drawbacks, without the glasses.”

Parent said he planned to use the technology to create digital effects for Cirque du Soleil and other theatrical productions as well as for architectural and interior settings.

“But I want to make sure the Met has the first bang,” he said.

The designer of the Met technology is Catalin Alexandru Duru, 26, whose company, Maginaire, licensed it to Réalisations.

“We can fool the brain into thinking it is 3-D,” Duru told the Times. “It’s very believable.”