In 2019 Plan8 started working with the world famous Minack outdoor theatre in West Cornwall on a 3D scanning project of the site. Initially this was commissioned by the Minack in order to enable theatre companies and their set designers, lighting & sound engineers, production managers etc to explore an immersive and accurate 3D model of the outdoor theatre’s unique layout enabling them to work remotely and pre-design sets saving them money and time. The resultant 3D scan and photo textured model was then deployed in various CAD software platforms as well as on immersive VR headset googles, which allowed actors and designers to explore the Minack in first person 3D immersive Virtual Reality as if they were there in reality.
Having had positive feedback from the theatre companies, the Minack realised the potential of this technology to be of great benefit to visitors with mobility issues who couldn’t physically navigate the 100+ steps down the cliff to the main stage areas. After several meetings discussing the best way to deliver this visitor friendly VR tour, we initially settled on a 360° fixed point photo tour loaded onto VR headsets. After further discussion, we soon realised that there were potential financial issues around staffing and sanitation of the headsets leading us to solve the problem by recommending an immersive 180° projection system.
The advantage of the 180° projection system over the headsets, not only solved the requirement for additional staffing and the hygiene issues, but it also allowed visitors to access the VR tour unassisted, giving them more freedom of choice and independence over their visitor experience.
The following video filmed in December 2020, interviews members of the Minack theatre staff who discuss the project in a little more detail.
So I’m Zoë Curnow I’m the executive director at the Minack theatre.
We first worked with Woody and Luke on our band tent actually, which is a a tent that sits on the side of the stage to keep our musicians dry. From that then, we got involved because they brought a drone out here to site and did some scanning and they showed us the scans and what they were able to achieve with those scans and actually at that point we were like ooh! that’s actually potentially really exciting the Minack as a space, was hand built from the 1932 onwards and it’s not uniform and it was not built to plans when we have companies who come to perform here they have set designers who will actually design what set sits around the action to take us to the right location obviously if your that set has to come be carried down lots of steps at the minute and it has to actually fit the space. Having the potential to be able to send these designers really accurate plans of the stage area in terms of literally because the stage four will slope in different ways in different places it enables those designers to be really accurate in what they’re creating and what’s being built off-site so when it comes to site then it can actually be put in place much quicker and much more efficiently also as we’ve started to produce more of our own work professionally so we’re working with professional designers and actually you know obviously in this time of COVID now we’re all very used to working in ways where we people don’t have to travel so much it was a real cost for us when we worked with a new designer to have to bring that designer down to Cornwall so they could come and be in the space
so I’m Simon Hutchings I’m technical manager Andrew and I met a few years ago under a different project and part of the technology that Andrew used to carry that out uh I became very interested in uh as far as having uh information developed that we could send to companies because our theatre companies are spread across the country and if we get anybody that’s new working they CANNOT really comprehend what it’s like to perform here to carry sets and materials down to the stage, so the thought of being able to develop a piece of software to give them an idea of how this place seems when you’re standing down on the stage was just it really piqued my interest so we started talking
along the AutoCAD or CAD lines and to develop a theatre walkthrough
and the the more we looked into it um every time we we thought we’d reach the end of the the sort of the practical limits of what we could do we sat in a meeting and somebody would say ooh! it’d be nice if it could do this so we developed a a walkthrough that could be loaded onto um VIR goggles and the first version that I tried uh you actually walked through the theatre and made most people that wore it rather queasy, so we sat down and thought how can we get over that, and then we started to look at fixed point 360 camera pictures.
and so we built on that uh and the new VIR system was fantastic and we’ve we’ve sent off to a few designers now um and they’ve it’s just been uh invaluable to them. Once we got that far we suddenly realized actually this has got far wider uses and just to do with the performances that we put on the stage and we started to evolve an experience which will help people who cannot manage steps you have to be able to walk down 100 steps to get to the Minack stage from the top of the cliff so the fact now that we’re actually able to offer people for whatever mobility issue it may be the chance to experience what it feels like down on the next stage exploring around the backstage areas moving halfway down the minute looking turning around and looking back it’s been a really really powerful experience and having started that on the VR headsets we struggled over many many meetings with Woody and Luke talking about well how does the hygiene work with those headsets and obviously now in the time of COVID that’s even more relevant you can’t wear a headset and then pass it to the next person to where you’ve got to sanitize it really well and make it really clean so we started talking therefore about how else could we do it and hence this 360 display sorry 180 display that we’ve got here now but you can actually almost feel like you’re within that experience but without having to have the headset on and have the disorientated nature of that headset and also operationally for us to be able to make the experience um accessible to as many of our visitors as possible if we were handing headsets out and about we’ve got that’s got a huge staffing requirement for us which actually is a big cost so if we could find a way that visitors could just sort of sit within the experience then that was going to be far more attractive to us going forwards.
I’m Alex I’m the duty manager so I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of the site and sort of the experience the customers get when they come through once the the installation was installed it really opened up um the café in that point and it gave a visual representation of the theatre for people that weren’t able to go all the way down so they could see the theatre from all angles and enjoy it no matter what. The reaction we got from the customers was just amazing they really enjoyed being able to see the the bird’s eye view of the theatre and it rotating and then the wire frame structure that was on on the projection they enjoyed that fact of it as well they could see how it was built and how it came to its final final creation on the wall it resolved access issues, but it gave a wow factor to everybody else so no matter no matter whether you could go down you still got to see a view you wouldn’t get to see because of the um the bird’s eye drone footage. People people were really reactive of it they really enjoyed um being able to come in and see see this projection um and it was it was an eye catcher because the minute you came through the door it’s the only thing you wanted to look at.