Wonder Dome: Live Surround Mixing with Digital Puppets

Leo the Geodesic Dome and his friend The Storyteller are eager to spin some tales. Together they team up to help Pinky, one of the Three Little Pigs, get back to his brick house. BUT they end up in all the wrong stories. Will they find their way back to Pinky’s home?

Mixing hand puppets, digital puppets, live actors, movies, video games, and interactive visuals, lights and sound, this show gets the kids out of their seats and moving in order to help set the story straight.

Wonder Dome premiered at The SPARK! Festival of Creativity at Mesa Center for the Arts. It was commissioned to perform twenty-five shows, five shows a day, over the five day festival.

In 2014, Daniel Fine and Adam Vachon asked if I would sound design their master’s thesis project Wonder Dome. On track to receive their MFAs in Interdisciplinary Digital Media and Performance, and Performance Design from Arizona State University, they were looking to create a project that was both large in scope and would push their limits as designers. They were both interested in working in immersive environments and after some research chose to pursue working with a geodesic dome structure.

The project partnered with Vortex Immersion, a company with a history in immersive technology- specifically developing projection software for geodesic domes. The team- Daniel, Adam, Matthew Ragan, Alex Oliszewski, and I traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Vortex at their headquarters and get introduced to how they deal with media in 360 degrees.

While the partnership with Vortex was extremely helpful in developing Wonder Dome’s understanding of how to map and blend on curved surfaces- it did not give us any leads on how to work with the acoustics of a geodesic space nor how to mix for this kind of immersive environment.

The mixing engine control was heavily influenced by an ambisonics control system while the mixing itself was a rudimentary multichannel gain-control system. The media team had decided on using digital puppets controlled remotely via Wi-motes by actors in a tent next-door to the dome. The actors could move their characters freely around the dome with their position data streamed in real time to the audio mixing engine, effectively moving the live audio from the actors to match the position of the character. We used this same technique to control the location of the majority of the sound design in the piece- with Qlab as our playback software and Max/MSP as our mixing engine.