Dakh Daughters: Love, Freedom and Beauty. Be onstage with them in 3D/360°.
Sometimes life hands us the greatest gifts, and when a friend sent me a one-line email last week about Dakh Daughters playing across the Bay in Berkeley, I paid attention and… immediately checked them out. Whoa. Dahk is seven female actresses who have created a life-affirming musical “freak cabaret” performance about how love, freedom, beauty and truth will save the world. They’ve become one of the most provocative and unusual acts in Ukraine and they’re both theatrically powerful and musically fascinating.
Our local arts website describes Dakh Daughters as creating the “atmosphere of a French saloon, where Mireille Mathieu befriends Marilyn Manson. On occasion, armed with full set of strings, keyboards and percussions, the women shake the audience with a roar in the manner of Laibach, but can swiftly change anger for kindness, turning into fun-loving Hollywood beauties of the 1950’s that dream of tropical vacation in the Caribbean.” I didn’t know who Mireille Mathiew was before this, but now I get it…. I get it!
I heard about them on January 8th, the show was scheduled for the 9th and so I immediately looked for them on Facebook and sent a message asking if I could meet up with the band at the Freight & Salvage venue in Berkeley to capture their show immersively with the V1 camera… and I got a response from their manager Iryna Gorban within an hour asking me to come on down and give it a shot! I arrived the next day during sound check and set up the V1 at the edge of the stage center. Of course given the short notice I had no time to contact the venue’s stage manager and as soon as he saw me setting up he walked over and asked “what the heck are you doing putting a thing like that right up front?” We talked about it for awhile and after I showed him how small and unobtrusive it was he gracefully agreed to let me continue as long as there were no complaints from the audience. (I agreed to take the camera down if there was even just one complaint.) All of the camera’s green LED status lights were taped off to not disturb anyone and we were on our way. Here’s what it looked like at sound check tucked right up against the stage apron.
Iryna handed me a set list but of course it was all in Ukrainian except the title of a song about a little cat! I had no idea what to expect so I just captured all 15 songs on the list. (The V1 can capture 100 minutes of 7K stereo footage using 10 64Gb cards.) I asked them to play to the camera whenever possible and you’ll experience these incredible little moments when they do — it’s tremendously embodying. You’ll get a little jolt every time one of them makes eye contact with you.
I ended up stitching and finishing 8 songs because the other 7 didn’t include much action downstage center. The V1 camera likes having people in close proximity because it makes the scene feel more immersive and otherworldly intimate. Without downstage action the scene just doesn’t have the kind of oomph I’m looking for.
The entire set was stitched in MistikaVR because its stereo edge point feature gives me total control over Optical Flow, which was important because the performer’s heads are frequently silhouetted against the high-frequency visuals on the projection screen — and of course Mistika is just so fast. It handled the entire set overnight. And no rig removal for this shoot… would’ve taken way too long and the presence of the rig doesn’t detract from the immersiveness of the experience.
After stitching all 8 pieces I made two 6-minute montages to give people an abbreviated sense of the full experience in case they don’t want to sit through all of the full songs (which I recommend you do if you have the time — every one of them is amazing).
Here are those montages, both available on my SamsungVR channel.
1) I thought that maybe it would be possible to enhance some of the performances by adding subtle visual effects because their music and dance routines were so unusual. This, however, was not true. I tried various effects with Mettle’s MantraVR in a number of very subtle but visually interesting ways, but each effect directed the eye more towards the effect itself and away from the performers and the projection screen behind them (which was vital because the words on the screen were the English translations of the songs). I did use Mantra’s Turbulence function in the third song in a way that I felt brought a deeper emotional connection to the climax of the piece and you can tell me if you think it worked. Always consider the gestalt of the image, which is true for flat photography and video as much as it is for 360 work. Experimenting is a great thing to do but if the effect is distracting and unmotivated, dump it.
2) It’s important to contact the stage manager of a production as soon as possible, even if it’s just hours before showtime. In this case I had no idea who to contact and it would’ve been difficult to do, but I should’ve tried. That said, maybe it’s better to ask forgiveness rather than permission but as a policy, asking permission is the right thing to do. Even though the band was endorsing the shoot, the house is responsible for their customer experience. That said, everyone in the audience I spoke to before the show was intrigued by the camera and nobody felt that it was intrusive, so I got away with it… this time.
3) Pay attention to incoming opportunities. What started with a one-line email from a friend became gold. Always listen to the possibilities and you’ll get to take advantage of the “produced by the universe” effect.
Here are some of my favorite Dakh Daughters videos on Youtube:
Dakh Daughters are going to be performing at the Edwardian Ball in San Francisco next week on 1/25. I look forward to seeing them again in 10 days!