Digital Production

The team at Human Studio have been contracted to develop the digital aspects of the performance which will be screened behind Rousang and interact with her throughout the performance.

Project Screenshot

The development has been scheduled in two phases. The initial phase was to create the main Shanghai window view and historical documentary images in time for the April Rehearsals. Animated sequences will be created to complete the performance in time for the August opening.

In order for a UK based team, with a limited knowledge of Chinese historical development, to generate documentary sequences from differing timeframes the footage to be used was sourced and compiled by the project student assistants. Timeframe One was to show the early development of Shanghai, the textile industry and Shanghai All Female Yue Opera – from the early 1900s through Mao’s era and the Cultural Revolution. Timeframe Two was to show the post-industrial reforms instigated by Deng Xiaoping and conducted by Shanghai Mayor Zu Rongjun, as the Shanghai textile industry was dismantled and Shanghai was transformed into the international metropolis we see today.

Project Screenshot

On initial viewing the Chinese team appeared happy with the developing work. However, after further consideration, the project was threatened with censorship and, following lengthy discussions, major changes to content were required. The Human Studio team, and the wider project team, had a quick lesson on the intricacies of Chinese political correctness.

The Timeframe One sequence dwelt too long for comfort on Cultural Revolution themes and included scenes of a rally in which posters were displayed in Chinese. They were actually posters calling for the denunciation of key political figures who are not mentioned today in China. Whilst footage of Chairman Mao declaring the formation of the Republic from the Tianamen Square platform in 1949 had highlighted a Yue Opera Singer, honoured by her presence on the platform, the highlighting was thought to distract from the importance of Mao and his declaration. A separate insert of the opera star negated the requirement for highlighting.

Project Screenshot

The Timeframe Two sequence had Zu Rongjun featuring on the screen above Deng Xiaoping and too much footage of demolition, rather than creation.

From the artistic point of view the sequences contained more Model Opera than Yue Opera, the importance of the ‘Ten Sisters’ performance required highlighting, media logos needed cropping from images where possible and the magnetic train needed to move faster across the screen.

Thanks to Abby and Nick, the threat of censorship appears to be averted. They redesigned the documentary footage, in response to the feedback, in record time, and the Chinese response was “明” (Brilliant). Phase One was completed on schedule and we all look forward to the development of the Phase Two animation sequences.

Project Screenshot