“Brachetti che Sorpresa” – Animation


“The characters of a comic book are the many souls of the author come to life”
Arturo Brachetti

“A spitful of Dollars” is a scene from the theatrical show Brachetti Che Sorpresa. A four minutes quick change performance, in which the protagonist appears and disappears from the stage, playing 7 different characters, with more than 20 costume changes. The performance had already been made by Brachetti in 1993, using as set a wall with three doors, a bar and a piano, in order to re-create the interiors of a Western film saloon. As the performance had already been broadcasted on TV, it was necessary to modify it to give it a more modern design and a surprising effect on the public.

The main goal was intact to renew the scene, to make it more “alive”, and to add some elements to distract the audience during the quick changes and make them appear even quicker. Animating the scene digitally was a good solution to achieve those goals. Using the projection mapping techniques, allowed us to precisely map a saloon on white set elements, while by using After Effects it was possible to add the animated elements, that should be synched and related to the artist’s movements and actions. We started by filming the whole performance during the rehearsals, as soon as the music composing was complete, from a frontal point of view, as similar as it could be to the one that had to be used for the projection. This video was the starting base for the synching the action with the pre-produced animation.


The saloon was composed in Photoshop, with particular attention to the surreal vanishing point on the ceiling, thus enhancing the 3d illusion. The active elements (comic baloon, characters, a random raccoon…) where animated and synched to the soundtrack in AE, basing on Arturo Brachetti’s movement from the rehearsals. Trapcode Particular was used as a particle generator for the cartoon-looking musical notes and the hearts on top of the “lady” and the pupet tool to animate the raccoon. All the elements where intended to be as cartoon-like as possible, using as reference style that of the old west-based comics, such as Tex, Lucky Luke and The Lone Ranger: animated balloons, visualized sound fx, comic-styled fonts, full and saturated colors.

This performance was a huge success in all the representations all around italy, nonetheless from a merely technical point of view, there still are some issues that need to be solved with specific improvements. Because of the nature of the performance, the artist and the projections are never perfectly synched, as the pre-production footage was used as a base for the timing of the animation. One solution should be making the interaction in real time by using the kinect technology for the motion capture, thus exponentially growing the possibilities of making spectacular the performance. For example the visual and sound “bangs” could be automatically generated by a specific movement of the artist. If moreover the direction of the gunshot intersects the buffalo head or other elements, those could be reacting accordingly, making the interaction real and appealing.


“Brachetti che sorpresa” – Video Mapping


All the luggage lost all around the world and never found is gathered in a huge hangar. An imaginary, oniric place, where the dreams and the memories of people is stored and brought back to life by a wild bunch of comedian and illusionists. A crazy team with the international quick change artist Arturo Brachetti as a captain. This is the outline of the show “Brachetti Che Sorpresa”, last theatrical season’s success.
Garybald was made in charge of creating this imaginary world, using projection mapping techniques any giving them something barely seen in Italy: a narrative added value.
The scenography consisted basically in five different depth layers: two couples of stage wings, a tulle curtain, a removable background and the main background. The wings were not merely intended to frame the scene, but as a set element representing a pile of stacked luggage, with sculpted volumes and softly painted over white polystyrene. All the layers were coloured with a white base to act as a projection screen.



During the rehearsals at the Odeon Theatre in Biella it was possible to define the projection mapping project. The software chosen for controlling the projection layers was Millumin on a 2,4 ghz retina MacBook Pro. This choice was made considering two main issues: in smaller theaters it could be very difficult to place more than one projector at the same time without interfering with the audience or blocking the emergency exits, so a single projector from a central point of view is easily controllable with a small and prosumer machine; there was the necessity of making the projection flexible, easily adjustable and re-usable in lower budgeted shows like private conventions.
This choice of course gave some limits to the development of the mapping, opposed to the use of a media server with dedicated software (e.g. for real-time effects and overlapping projections), but appeared to be the most cost-effective ad flexible.
As Millumin is a software that works with a layer-cue-timeline—based approach, each element was assigned to a different layer and a timetable was created working with the lights and sound departments.

Schermata 2014-08-30 alle 15.53.07

Basing on the projector-screen distance and the projection angle, a 3D model of the scene was rendered, placing the virtual camera at a distance of 36 meters (the average projector position in different theaters) with isolated items. By adding a strong ambient occlusion to the base render, it was possible to softly darken the seams and the limits of the projection, this limiting the work to the front face of the luggage. The base layer was afterwards painted in Photoshop.
Using this kind of approach to the set decoration offers a huge advantage. The environment doesn’t have to be painted anymore and can change as fast as a click from night to day, from realistic to comic style, from being a pile of luggage to being a pile of wooden case to an old column with posters attached. Projections have of course some equally huge limits: they need a very strong and high definition projector(s) to be clear and sharp, there is a focus issue as the scene is based on different depth layers, and most of all the stage light have to be carefully placed so they do not interfere with the projection creating faded grey areas. And this happens anyway.


Chinese shadow play


The shadow Play is a form of theatrical art of long tradition , part of the pre-cinema works .

The term pre-cinema means all those experiments and entertainment related to the projection of images and illusory movement , dating from ancient times up to the first public screening of cinema , organized by the Lumière brothers December 28, 1895 .
The shadow play are a very old type of show (second century BC) which was played in itinerant theaters moved from one country to another , similar to “gabbiotti” of Sicilian puppets or marionettes . It was common to find these theaters near the temples during religious festivals , but also in laic festivals such as New Year’s day or at county fairs .
In the shows the figures can not be seen directly but, as the name suggests , you only can see their shadows.
The viewer stands in front of a white semi-transparent screen behind which the actors maneuver the figures and recite the various parts. A powerful source of light casts the shadows directly on the screen with the effect of get them bigger and make them animated .
A legend tells that the Chinese Emperor Wudi ( 140-85 BC) had become gloomy after the death of his concubine Li Furen . To console the king , his eunuchs did carve a figure in wood similar to the woman and projected the shadow on a curtain. The Emperor believing that it was the spirit of his beloved that came to visit him and feel comforted . Obviously today the figures are not more made of wood, but of leather , lighter and easier to handle.

Created by:

Albertin Davide, Chiani Livia,

Monteverde Gelsomino, Vigoroso Lucia