Over the two and a half hour live performance, the ideas and interchanges varied widely as did the theatrical/filmic genres explored: from kitchen sink drama to political satire, and from hospital drama to magic realism and the theatre of the absurd. Each individual performer, or in some cases group of performers, had received technical instructions in advance to either set up a green-screen backdrop or to use a virtual green-screen background, to allow for the compositing (chroma-keying) of their incoming video image with that of Sermon’s. They were provided with no further instruction, other than a specific time to call.
Techniques and solutions
The encounters that followed were entirely improvised, with a combination of software and chromakey compositing the incoming Skype callers with Sermon’s image in his living room with greenscreen backdrop. By enabling NDI (Network Device Interface) in Skype it was possible to feed the incoming video to Resolume Avenue 6, a live video mixing software package, which incorporated further recorded background scenes and foreground objects into the final composited output. Sermon and the remote visitors were layered on background scenes, upon which foreground props and clips were placed.
Reflections and outcomes
Each background was drawn directly from video recordings from Sermon’s home, with painterly video filters offsetting the photo-realist narrative and allowing for more playful agency, particularly with the foreground props and overlays. Many of these emphasised the sombre undertones of COVID-19, such as delivering a Downing Street briefing in the bathroom at a lectern in the form of a fruit machine which rotated strident safety messages, a moving graphic showing a ‘flattening’ infection curve, and through Sermon instantly relocating two participants from his living room into its television set, whereupon he put them on the spot to answer questions on coronavirus within a BBC Newsroom set. Throughout each episode, he controlled different effects live through an iPad, changing the room environments and activating a series of foreground layers via OSC (Open Sound Control).