Translating Live to Online – Martin McCormack

Much like many people who work in the arts I was anxious to get back to working in a collaborative space. When I read about this workshop programme I immediately applied. Trying to capture live performances in interesting and engaging ways had been something that I had been thinking about for some time and it would be fair to say that I came into the week with preconceived notions about what translating live to online would be like. Many of these ideas I had were challenged and more interesting notions on how to accomplish this task were introduced. It felt incredible to be back in a space working with others and learning all the time from them as we approached this largely unexplored aspect of live performance.


The first day was dedicated to familiarising ourselves with the space, the project outline/goals and each other whilst also sharing our ideas on how to translate live to online. The workshop was led by Simon Thompson. There were two participants this week; Andrew and myself.  After we discussed all of this we explored movement and how exploring how one moves through a space we can begin to develop characters. This is something I had been shown before in theatre workshops but I can’t begin to tell you how great it felt to be back developing characters and creating moments of theatre.


On the second day we further explored movement and this is when I discovered that through movement a performer can create empathy. Empathy is one of the tools we would utilise to connect with audiences and capture their imaginations. Simon then introduced us to mask, specifically neutral mask, and directed us through a series of exercises that helped us understand the body’s personal architecture. We played with movement, rhythm and stillness. By the end of this second day I was physically exhausted but extremely motivated by the work.


By the beginning of the third day I was looking at this project in a whole new light. I began to think more about how the audience perceives live performance. Whilst choosing the right light, sound and camera angles is of course important to capturing an engaging live performance, there was way more to it than that. We explored larval masks which had a vague animalistic nature and I found myself totally engrossed in character when I wore one. Simon explained how imperative it is to ‘keep the mask alive’ which means to always have the face of the mask pointed towards the spectator. This is what forges the connection to the audience and ultimately this was what we were attempting to achieve in this project. To connect to people, be it through conventional live audiences, behind a mask or through a laptop screen. For the first time in my theatre career a learned how truly important it is to acknowledge everyone and everything when you enter your playing area.


On the morning of the fourth day we created a small performance using the larval mask. Our goal was to create a comprehensible narrative whilst also achieving complicite with the audience to forge that connection. We also began exploring camera work and how to capture live on camera. We began by working on creating a short sales pitch and as performers attempted to connect with the camera as the spectator. Next we worked on a fundraising film for a charity. This was a challenge as we used a single camera with multiple takes/camera placements and also had the difficult task of creating a piece of empathetic performance. I attempted this by exploring a room through the camera and establishing the space. I then had my character move through that space in a solemn fashion and before even speaking a word I attempted to create that connection with the audience.


This was our final day at the Belltable. Individually we spent the morning out in the city of Limerick with a single camera and attempted to capture live performance. I tried this again by establishing space, welcoming the spectator in through camera angles and movement and attempted to form empathy through character movement. I found this much more challenging in an outdoor area. There was something inherently theatrical about the space we were previously working in and when given the task of defining your own borders for your performance I struggle but it is something I am still attempting to capture every day. We then took the stage of the Belltable and explored how through using different positioning of shots and multiple cameras filming at once we might make a captured performance truly feel live. I left the Belltable that day with a invigorated spirit to create.


This was dedicated to the technical aspects of performance capture. Nathan Campion assisted us through a zoom call on all of the interesting ways to film and develop a scene through a camera lens. He guided us through light, sound, shot composition and the ways in which you can make a scene look, sound and feel more interesting. We were then shown some video editing software and Nathan walked us through the editing process. This 2-hour zoom call was invaluable as it gave me the tools to actually capture and release some of the many ideas that had been flying around my head all week.

In a week of workshops, I feel like I have grown as an artist and am now looking at live performance in ways I never have or would have without this programme. To conclude I would like to share some of my findings throughout the week on how I discovered ways to connect with an audience and capture live.

  • Imperfection= Human
  • 1 take performances feel more live rather than over edited captures
  • Give the audience a mystery to solve, allow them to play a role in the game in front of them
  • Explore movement of the body more than movement of the camera. On stage the actor moves to the spectator not the other way round.
  • Ease the audience into a show. Explore preshow/entering into the playing area
  • Capture the space
  • Acknowledge the spectator be it an audience member or the camera.
  • PLAY