Introduction: Maya + Circus: Birds-eye Acrobatics

About: Theater Director, Art + Tech Event producer,

This instructable is on how to create a certain "impossible" matrix-style perspective for live theater and circus. By suspending a live performer horizontally against a wall and then animating camera paths in Autodesk Maya sculpting and animation software, choreography between the auimation and the performer to give the illusion of movement.

The most notable uses of horizontally suspended aerial dance are the dance troupe Project Bandaloop. This effect is used to great effect in the Cirque du Soleil show "KA," where up to 20 performers climb a tilting hydraulic stage.Fortunately, you don't need expensive multiple-performer rigging set ups for multi-million dollar shows. You can cheaply and easily explore this effect with a single performer and create your own never-before seen effects with Autodesk's easy to use software. the incredible effects that horizontal rigging can give you for acrobatics such as slow-seeming super jumps and flips can seem to give your performer matrix-like super powers.
The boundaries of live performance projection mapping are still being explored, and with these powerful tools, the sky is the limit!

Step 1: Aerial Dance

Time to train aerial dance! First purchase a standard rock climbing harness and WHITE climbing rope (so it will blend into your projection as much as possible).

WARNING! Rigging, climbing and acrobatics can be lethal if you are uninformed or to not train with a qualified instructor. I myself, as well as instructables assume NO legal liability for damages incurred while attempting to practice this. By clicking the "next step" button, you indicate assent. Use your common sense people!

To practice your rigging basics please visit an REI or other indoor rock climbing gym for professional instruction and safe practices. You will be asking for a top-roped climbing rigging.

Measure the size of your intended projection. Place your dancer equidistant between the horizontal edges. Rig your harness and brake in accordance with professional instruction. Position yourself blow the wall, and pull in the slack till your dancer reaches the vertical center of your projection area. To lower your dancer into place vertically, pull your rope over the beveled edge of your belay device, and turn the brake lever. Pull down on the rope to allow your dancer to lower themselves down into the middle of the projection area. Now close the break lever again. For more instruction, watch this video.

Now you are able to complete a simple top-down walking and jumping effects. For more complicated effects like cartwheeling, flipping and double flipping, please train responsible at a gym that teaches acrobatics AND Aerial dance, like the Circus Center.

Step 2: Animating in Maya

First create the environment where your performer will be moving. I chose to make a custom city scene, but you can also generate one from this simple code "city builder" as a short cut!

Draw the curve for the camera path. Create a camera under the "rendering" menu, and check the camera icon.Shift-click the curve, and select Animate > Motion Paths > Attach to Motion Path.

It is recommended that you animate in time with a soundtrack. The performers perspective will not always be optimal to see what the overall effect is, so a soundtrack will help your performer coordinate with the animation.

Step 3: Enter the Matrix

Once your performer is in place suspended within the projection surface, and your draft animation is created, its time for your director to coordinate between animator and performer. Use your straight line to create a walking effect. Use a curved camera path to jump over rooftops or do a freeze-frame perspective change. Its up to you to create the performance of the future! Good luck!