A theatre show that straddles the line between reality and fantasy
Dragon model by sapsan008. Rigging, texturing, lighting, animation and compositing by Quinn Connell.
In the fall of 2022, I was brought on to the production of the theatre production She Kills Monsters, about Agnes -a young woman in Ohio who sets out into the dangerous fantasy realm created her dead teen sister in Dungeons and Dragons in order to learn about what the game meant to her while she was alive.
I used six simultaneous projectors to map out a fantastical stage environment to depict this portal to an alternate realm. Along the way I used After Effects, Blender and a little help from Midjourney to build compelling and kick-ass scenery.
Bringing the fantasy realm to life
In discussions with the production crew, we came up with the idea of a fluid arch that frames the complex unravelings of both a D&D campaign and a quest through grief. I projected onto the surfaces of these panels to add depth, movement and scope to the realm.
I used Midjourney to generate scenic paintings that could reflect the artwork made for 90s role-playing games. I selected several variations, comped them together and added different levels of displacement based on AI-generated depth maps. I used after effects to composite all world scenery into projectable files, and piped media into Qlab to operate all 170 cued operations for the duration of the show. For the assets that would overlay with the scenic background (like the magic spells frequently used to epically take out monsters), I created bespoke and highly-editable animation systems to control illustrated assets to the production's exact demand. These were piped into Qlab with an alpha channel and triggered live.
To create the flying five-headed dragon seen on the poster, I bought an excellent dragon model from sapsan008 on Turbosquid. I then rigged, textured, lit and animated it in Blender. I rendered multiple passes of backlit, sidelit and frontlit styles then composited them in After Effects. Using the frontlit pass as a track matte to tint the scales to match the colorful lightning cloud background, I additionally boosted the backlit pass to create effective light-wrap and place the creature against its environment. I was intending this to be obvious and recognizable on a projector screen so it does look more exaggerated than realistic.