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The stage of the International Theatre Program took a unique turn as it offered students the chance to learn about the notable careers of some of its alumni in the first ever ToddX event held during the spring semester on the River Campus. The workshops, panels, and talks featured alumni in a range of fields, including new media, business development, and video game motion capture.

On a Saturday morning, Noshir Dalal ’03, an actor and motion-capture artist, provided motion capture training to 10 students in a workshop in the dance studio and theater of Spurrier Hall.


University of Rochester photos by Matt Wittmeyer

Noshir Dalal ’03 leads a motion capture workshop in Spurrier Hall.

A brain and cognitive sciences major at Rochester, Noshir Dalal ’03 performed in several plays for the International Theatre Program including Hamlet in 2003. He moved to New York City after graduation and spent the next 10 years on stage at such theaters as LaMaMa Experimental Theatre, Classical Theater of Harlem, and Lincoln Center. His motion capture credits include the character Charles Smith in Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 as well as numerous roles in Spider-Man PS4, and as Lt. Zayed Khalil in Call of Duty, Black Ops 3.

Widely used in filmmaking and the video game industry, motion capture is the process of digital recording people’s movements. In performance capture for video games, a performer wears a body suit and soft cap on the head attached with sensors or trackers. They don’t track face movements or voice. “It’s very challenging,” says Dalal.  “Television performances are very much grounded in being natural and realistic. There’s not a lot of pushing, because the camera can move in tight and force the viewers perspective wherever they want. All I need to do is feel what I need to feel, and it’s conveyed to the camera. I don’t need to push that at all,” says Dalal. “In motion capture, I get to dictate where the camera goes, because the camera is essentially the player.”

Olivia Banc ’21 works on developing a motion-capture character.

As the students push forward with their movements, Dalal points out human actions versus animal-like actions, where the slightest change in shoulder and chest position means different things or by walking on the pads of your feet versus walking on your toes could be more bird-like.

“I decided to take the motion capture workshop because I’ve scratched the surface of physical theater before and I know how useful it can be in building dynamic characters,” says Oliva Banc ’21, who studies English with a concentration in theater.

Members of the ToddX workshop review character rendering on the screen.

large group of students gather around a computer screen.

Between actual physical movements, Dalal had his class convene in front of colorful art renderings of non-human characters resembling video game villains as a prompt for students to explore further. “Look at this dude! What has the artist done to give us clues about how this guy moves?” asks Dalal.

“This is my first time doing theater work,” said Haytham Abdelhakim ‘20, a computer science major. “I like video games and I’m looking into becoming a developer. But I never worked on character development to this extent in my life.”

“His passion for the field left me with a great interest that I would absolutely love to explore further,” says Banc.

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