blog 2022 3 min read

'Keep Breathing at Zero' pushes theatrical boundaries

'Keep Breathing at Zero' pushes theatrical boundaries with disguise

Embracing the possibilities of projection mapping technologies, a theatrical collaboration in Hong Kong took on new life and explored what the future of theatre might look like.

When the East Kowloon Cultural Centre (EKCC) sought to stage a run of 'Keep Breathing at Zero' - a playful exploration of media, music and robotics - they saw an opportunity to further develop the ideas that had first been researched and presented during the original production, 'Breathing at Zero', at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA).

Created by Hong Kong media artist GayBird, 'Keep Breathing at Zero' was an ambitious immersive performance in which non-human elements like robot arms, sound installations and dazzling visuals were every bit as vital as the human performers. Seeking to build on the original production in HKAPA, GayBird and video designer Mick Yip were confident about disguise’s leading video projection technology and sought to use it for the show.



Whilst the original HKAPA staging had been developed over six months, utilising the expertise of the School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts, and the talent of dozens of students, EKCC and production team had just five days in theatre to programme and load the complicated technical elements that sit at the core of the show.

“The disguise system helped us to overcome the challenge presented by such a short timescale,” says Allen Fung, Production Technical Director & Lecturer in Media Technology at HKAPA, who worked on this new production with a team of professional designers, HKAPA students and graduates. “We were able to map our projections onto our set and previsualise the end result to ensure it looked right.”



The staging of the show was incredibly complex, mixing both performing arts and media elements, which the team were keen to incorporate seamlessly throughout the production. The aim was to blend every individual element together to create a unique experience for the audience. From lining up different timed components to matching projections with the frequently moving on-stage set and props, disguise’s gx 2c media server allowed all of the show’s varied graphics to be planned out in-depth and in advance.

The system’s compatibility with big-name rendering and graphics tools offered another benefit for the production team.

"One of our biggest challenges was connecting the actions on stage to our virtual world. We wanted our projections to interact with the gestures of our performers, and the ability to use Notch within the disguise system enabled us to realise this.”
Allen Fung, Lecturer (Media and Technology), HKAPA

Compatibility sat at the centre of disguise’s role in the new production of 'Keep Breathing at Zero'. As well as its functionality with Notch, the gx 2c was connected to six different projectors and cameras, enabling the entire production to be controlled and operated from a single unit. “This meant that the second run of the show could manage everything the premiere had achieved despite a smaller production crew and a significantly shorter period of preparation,” said Denzel Yung, Student System Engineer and disguise Programmer.

The end result was an ambitious immersive show that combined impressive physical performances by humans and robots alike, working in perfect unison with dazzling disguise-enabled imagery.

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