HFCC's Virtual Theatricality Lab one of the best in the nation
By Kurt Anthony Krug
The Virtual Theatricality Lab (VTL) at HFCC is one of the best theatrical labs in the state and U.S., winning worldwide acclaim and attention.
'This is an excellent program for people interested in careers in multi-media theater production, movie production and video game development,' said Dr. George Popovich, founder/director of the VTL and director of Theater at HFCC.
VTL integrates traditional stagecraft with virtual characters, scenery and props with live theater production. Thanks to the efforts of Popovich, HFCC’s VTL has established itself as a cutting-edge leader with the development of a curriculum that combines the disciplines of computer science, art, music, theater, dance, film and video.
Popovich experimented with virtual reality (VR) and live stage production for almost a decade before making it a reality with a very unique production of Shakespeare’s 'The Tempest' in 2003, using 3D stereoscopic projection and real time VR-navigated scenery. 'The Tempest' received plenty of media attention and was a regional winner in the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival.
In 2006, HFCC’s production of the 'The Shriker' was the first full-length theatrical production of a stage play in the nation to successfully combine real time motion capture and 3D stereoscopic projection. 'The Shriker' also received a great deal of media attention. For example, the production won the League for Innovation in the Community College Award in 2007. In addition, Popovich was named in 'Who’s Who in America' in 2007 and 2008 for his work in digital theater development. Dr. Guangyao Bai, vice president of the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts, visited the VTL in 2007 to determine how it can be used in traditional Chinese opera.
E. Alan Contino, VTL chief engineer, maintains the VTL technology, as well as manages technicians working in the VTL. He has worked with Popovich for eight years.
Based on the achievements of the VTL, Popovich developed a Motion Capture Certificate program in January 2009 for students interested in becoming a Motion Capture Technician. The first Motion Capture Certificate students graduated in 2010. Additionally, the VTL formed a partnership with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), offering workshops and training to SAG members.
Plans are currently underway for the development of the VTL’s newest stage play 'Dinosaurus!' This play is tentatively scheduled for a 2012 release date.