Nancy Lee & Emmalena Fredriksson
| 4 min
360-video VR dance piece
Tidal Traces is a 360-video VR dance piece that places viewers in the centre of the performance. In it, three characters explore a new and uncertain world—moving between tranquility and ominousness, beauty and peril. Entangled in this tension, the viewer becomes the fourth character, directly composing the dance through their gaze.
Tidal Traces is a 360-video VR dance piece where the viewer joins in—directly composing the performance through their gaze.
Captured offshore on intertidal mudflats near Vancouver, Tidal Traces is a collaboration between new-media artist Nancy Lee and choreographer Emmalena Fredriksson. The two merged their practices through a year-long artist residency to explore the opportunities VR offers for viewing and experiencing dance.
In a traditional stage presentation, the conventional separation between audience and performers places constraints on the intimacy of the experience. Dance films allow for a closer, visually more dynamic experience of movement—as well as possibilities of breaking continuity, time and space—but there is still a divide between viewer and performer, and the performance happens in a different time and space than the viewing itself. So it can lack the physical empathy and immersion of senses that comes with watching live dance.
With Tidal Traces, Nancy and Emmalena aim to surpass these limitations and blend the best of live performance and dance film, placing the viewer viscerally in the middle of a real-time experience in a way that has not been possible previously.
Shooting 360 video
Given how central the relationship between choreography and camera/audience is to Tidal Traces, camera tests began in a rehearsal studio to gauge dancer distance, dancer rotational position relative to the audience’s start position, and camera height.
Shooting 360 video in ocean water revealed several corresponding issues. Despite consulting tide charts for optimal timing and choosing a location specifically for the expansiveness of its tidal flats, there was no way to avoid rising and falling water levels. As such, the crew only had a few minutes to shoot before needing to pick up the rig and find a new suitable location.
Additionally, with 360 video there is nowhere to hide the production team. Being a kilometre offshore made this even more challenging. So for each take, the production crew had to run to the horizon and lay flat in the water. The dancers were the only line of defence if the camera tripod began to tip, or if the 25-pound external camera battery—buoyed by its waterproof casing—floated into the shot.
Tidal Traces is a stereoscopic 360 video captured with the GoPro Odyssey camera and stitched with the Google Jump platform, which generated the 8K footage and depth-maps used to create this 3D virtual reality dance experience.
Editing and colour correction were done using Adobe Premiere Pro. Rotoscoping was achieved using Mocha VR’s stereoscopic tools along with depth-map mask compositing and nadir/zenith hole patching in After Effects.
Working with 8192 x 8192 resolution footage was a data management and processing challenge. Even with 2K proxies, it was impossible to edit with real-time playback, so footage had to undergo long renders before it could be evaluated for timing and pacing.
Spatial audio was designed using Reaper and the Facebook Audio Workstation plugins. Multiple audio formats were generated to accommodate different delivery platforms. The binaural audio was encoded in 1st-order AmbiX as well as 8-channel TBE and 2-channel head-locked stereo.
Photo : Chris Reed
Nancy Lee is a curator of interactions. Her crafted spaces stimulate behavioural dynamics, inviting their release into a broth of intangibles. In setting the stage for these action experiments, she is as much an observer as an artist. The notion of staging is a constant in Nancy’s work, underpinning her projects from her early days as a more traditional filmmaker through to her conception and planning of live events, and into the realms of VR and new-media performance and installation, where her art practices continue to coalesce and evolve.
An award-winning filmmaker, Nancy has worked as a documentarian and advocacy journalist with various global health initiatives, as well as with Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian community, among others. The considerable responsibility she bears as not only the capturer but also a co-author of events while behind the camera has never been lost on her. Her dance films, Let It Go and Faux Solo, have been selected to screen at international and Canadian film festivals.
Born in Sweden, Emmalena Fredriksson trained at Balettakademien in Umeå and the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance in Austria. She holds an MFA degree from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
Emmalena has presented her choreographies, performed, and taught in countries throughout Europe—at the Daghdha Dance Company, Canaldanse, Pact Zollverein, the University of Malta, and Falmouth University, among others. She has been based in Vancouver since 2013, and her work has appeared at Dance in Vancouver’s Choreography Walk, curated by Justine A. Chambers, as well as at the Dance Centre’s Discover Dance Series, the Dancing on the Edge Festival, and the Audain Gallery. Emmalena regularly teaches at Modus Operandi, the Harbour Dance Centre, Simon Fraser University and the Training Society of Vancouver. Continuing her research into choreography as a relational practice in the expanded fields of dance, her current and upcoming work includes collaborations with filmmaker Nancy Lee, lighting designer Kyla Gardiner and dance artist Arash Khakpour.
Nicholas Klassen is an Interactive Producer with the National Film Board of Canada’s Digital Studio. Drawing from over a decade of experience creating and producing online content for the social and cultural sector, he works with filmmakers, writers and artists to produce interactive storytelling projects that push the boundaries of story, form and platform.
Prior to his work at the NFB, he co-founded the creative and online strategy agency Biro Creative, where he advised leading movement-building organizations like Greenpeace, WWF, and Avaaz.org on a number of Webby Award-winning and -nominated projects. He has also served as Senior Editor at Adbusters, overseeing editorial content for the acclaimed and globally recognized magazine.
Rob McLaughlin is a Canadian producer and journalist most known for his work in interactive media. He is currently the Executive Producer of the National Film Board of Canada’s Digital Studio in Vancouver. From 2008 to 2011, he was the Director of Digital Content and Strategy at the NFB, where he led the development of the institution’s digital programming strategy and pioneering interactive documentary work, including Welcome to Pine Point and Bear 71.
From 2011 to 2015, he was an editor, publisher and senior executive at Canada’s largest newspaper chain, responsible for leading newsroom staff through a time of radical transformation in the newspaper industry.
Prior to working at the NFB, Rob was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. There he focused on developing new forms of audiovisual content designed to attract new audiences for public broadcasting, including the interactive radio service CBC Radio 3. He also served as the CBC’s director of digital programming, responsible for the creative development of digital platforms in the areas of documentaries, arts and entertainment shows for television and network radio programming.
A former tree planter and fishing guide from small-town Saskatchewan, Rob now lives in North Vancouver with his wife and the world’s two most brilliant girls, aged 8 and 12.
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada
By Nancy Lee, Emmalena Fredriksson and the NFB Digital Studio
Composed by Kiran Bhumber
Hair and Make-up Artist
Katja De Bock
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won 100 awards, including 21 Webbys. To access this award-winning content and discover the work of NFB creators, visit NFB.ca, download its apps for mobile devices or visit NFB Pause.