Webinar for European Theatre Convention

In this Webinar for the European Theatre Convention, Franziska Ritter will show different approaches and possibilities based on the research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces” by digital.DTHG, the digital competence centre of the Deutsche Theatertechnische Gesellschaft.

Theatre has always been a pioneer for the development and application of new technologies, it is a place for artistic and technical innovation, experimentation and research. How can immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality unfold their potential in front of, behind and on stage – as a creative design tool, as a construction aid for virtual building rehearsals, as a teaching and learning space, or as an extended stage for the arts?

Tuesday 27 March 2024, 14:30 – 16:30 CET (Online)

REGISTER HERE (for ETC Members only)
Kindly register by Friday 22 March 2024.

Franziska Ritter is a scenographer, researcher and educator in the fields of art, culture and theatre. After studying architecture and film and photography in Berlin and London she co-founded the master programme Bühnenbild_Szenischer Raum for Technical University Berlin and works as assistant professor. She teaches and researches scenography, theatre architecture and technology at various international universities. She was in charge of the DFG-project »digitalisation of the collection of theatre architecture« in the Architekturmuseum of TU Berlin. In 2019 together with Pablo Dornhege she founded digital.DTHG – the digital competence centre of the Deutsche Theatertechnische Gesellschaft. In the first research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces” they investigated the potentials of Immersive Technologies like VR and AR for theatre. At the moment she is doing her PhD about the Visual Image of Theatre Architecture at the department of art history in the research project Theaterbauwissen. Besides that Franziska is flute player and Artistic Director of 1:1 CONCERTS, the smallest but most intensive concert format ever.

Final publication of research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces”

The research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces – Augmented and Virtual Reality for Theatre” has been successfully completed after 2.5 years. This publication summarises the findings of the project and provides insights into the interdisciplinary, practice-oriented research work. Download publication (pdf 8 MB)

Continue reading “Final publication of research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces””

Welcome to the Future – Perspectives and Insights of the Project Participants

The main goal of the sub-project “Virtuelle Lehr- und Lernräume” was to initiate necessary structural changes at the universities. In the long term, access to XR laboratories is needed, such as those currently being established in neighbouring disciplines at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, as well as dedicated financial and technical resources in the respective degree programmes. In order to work on VR projects, which are fundamentally interdisciplinary in nature, cross-disciplinary cooperation with external partners and academic networks is needed. For this purpose, the „XR Academic Network“ was founded last year at the TU Berlin – also on the initiative of the digital.DTHG – a cross-university network in which academic staff from Berlin and Brandenburg universities regularly exchange information about teaching and research in the field of XR technologies. The challenge in the future will be to create our own flexible structures within the university and to skilfully combine these with external practical knowledge.

Live coding session with Pablo Dornhege and students in small groups via Zoom. Both semesters took place exclusively online due to the pandemic.

In this respect, the two practical seminars at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences were an impulse in the right direction. Project leader and lecturer Franziska Ritter emphasises:

„It was very enriching for all participants to think together so experimentally and openly about how to prepare for the new professional challenges with good digital teaching.“

For many students, this way of working was new, unfamiliar and challenging.  Student Lukas Runge summarises: 

„Pain is temporary – Glory is forever! Through the seminar, our small team of three students – despite little previous knowledge – was able to get started with the game engine Unity3D in a short time and thus develop a functioning prototype. With our contribution „Sound Space“, you can train skills in the field of microphoning virtually.“ 

digital.DTHG team and Prof. Rolfes visit an architecture simulation in the CAVE at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences

Student Gilbert Adamek also sums up:

„The last academic year under pandemic conditions was extremely challenging, so it was very motivating to put ourselves in the role of a teacher for once in this seminar and to think about how we would like to be taught in the future. The seminar was extremely varied, from designing a task, to developing a didactic mediation strategy, to coding and implementing (which we had all never done before). And on top of that, I not only learned something in the subject area of theatre technology, but also about agile working, virtual working worlds and game design! It would be great if there were more offers of this kind in the future.“ 

An essential guarantor for the success of the project was the close didactic-conceptual cooperation with the teachers of the subject areas of the study programme „Theatre and Event Technology and Management“. Prof. Stephan Rolfes, head of the degree programme and professor in the subject area of machine elements and construction exercises, describes the work on the prototypes:

„We developed the first concepts for virtual learning spaces based on existing courses. In the process, the advantages of the technology became apparent very quickly: the possibility of making teaching content tangible, for which otherwise a considerable spatial, technical and also financial effort would be necessary. This is demonstrated, for example, by the exercise on the configuration of electric chain hoist systems, which would not be feasible in „real“ reality: students learn the requirements and safety-related components of electric chain hoists and their controls. They can then configure and use systems in a virtual exercise.“ 

For Stephan Rolfes, the introduction of virtual teaching and learning spaces is trend-setting:

„The innovative approaches and excellent results that have emerged have shown how sensible it is to continue with VR in teaching, but also in research. We still have a long way to go. At the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, we are currently building our own laboratory for this purpose, in which VR and AR will be used in teaching across all courses.“

Prof. Joachim Villwock, who heads the „CAE and Simulation – CAVE“ laboratory and the project „Interactive Teaching in Virtual MINT Labs“, also sees great potential in the use of immersive technologies in teaching:

„The learning tools presented here are an important milestone in the profiling of the degree programme. Beyond the project, the VR scenarios created form an important basis for further developments in the direction of hybrid teaching at the university. The goal here is to consistently link the possibilities of virtual laboratories with digital teaching and learning concepts and to bring them to the university at large. These innovative interaction formats in the virtual area must be anchored and thus strengthen the university through digitalisation. I was particularly impressed by the maturity of the virtual learning tools developed by the students. It shows how profitable the cooperation between IT experts and specialists in event technology and theatre can be and how quickly applications can be created that can be implemented in practice.” 

In addition to the potentials, the cooperation has also made clear which framework conditions will be necessary at the training institutions in the future. Prof. Dr. Alexander Lindau, who has supervised the content of two virtual teaching projects in the field of media technology, states:

„The potential of virtual teaching spaces can only unfold when technical and operating barriers for online or face-to-face users are minimised. We have gained valuable experience in this regard within the framework of the project. In my opinion, a successful integration of virtual teaching into higher education requires long-term investments in personnel and technical infrastructures. Only then can virtual reality fully exploit its advantages in higher education.“

This sub-project and the prototypes created show in a convincing way that this practical type of cooperation requires an agile and creative way of working and the strong commitment of everyone involved in order to be able to react quickly and flexibly to constantly changing conditions. In this way, a new way of learning could be tested together with students and digital teaching could be advanced. Welcome to the future!

Presentation at Bühnentechnische Tagung Ulm

In June 2022, the 61st stage technology conference of the DTHG took place in Ulm: with an extensive program of presentations, panel discussions, round tables and lectures, the theatre landscape was finally able to celebrate its industry meeting live again.  71 companies and more than 1,100 guests were on site, got to know each other and exchanged ideas. Continue reading “Presentation at Bühnentechnische Tagung Ulm”

Results of the project Virtual teaching and learning spaces 

The current situation shows how important digital teaching and learning formats currently are and will be in the future at universities, but also in training and learning situations in the theater and event sector. In cooperation with teachers and learners of the Theater and Event Technology and Management course at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, we have developed prototypical new teaching and learning tools in virtual reality. In a practice- and project-oriented approach, we developed and tested specific scenarios and tried out new ways of learning. The result is a series of digital, interactive training units.

Individual articles on the developed prototypes

Open source code on Github

Link to the project


Training institutions, like large theatres, move only slowly. The digital competences needed now and in the future must therefore be urgently anchored in the curriculum of training institutions and universities. Above all, this includes a critical and value-based approach to digitality. Here, new competences are clearly needed in all disciplines, if not completely new job profiles, for example virtual scenography, digital event technology and hybrid real stage work. 

The DTHG has already processed some research results for a sustainable further training offer for the theatre landscape and offers online impulses and workshops. Within the framework of the EU programme „PACT FOR SKILLS“ the prototypes are currently being tested and further developed with international further developed. 

At the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, two of the prototypes developed are currently being further developed within the framework of the funded project „Interactive Teaching in Virtual MINT Laboratories“. The project, which is funded by the „Innovation in University Teaching“ foundation, started on 1 August 2021. In order to enable students to use their skills in applied, scientific work and carry out experiments despite limited access to laboratories, so-called virtual laboratories were created at the BHT. 

Here, students have the opportunity to carry out experiments virtually and step by step before they will then practise them in reality. This has the advantage that material costs are reduced and fewer errors occur. In addition, students can repeat experiments as often as they like, which in turn results in a high learning effect. Additional AR and VR options for gesture and voice recognition offer realistic interactions. The innovative idea of the project is to consistently link the possibilities of virtual laboratories with digital teaching/learning concepts and to carry them into the breadth of the university.

Results, licences, sustainable usage

The solutions we developed as part of the research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces” (2019-2022) serve as sustainably transferable concepts due to their prototypical model character. The gained insights and developed model solutions were published on various channels and are made available to the entire cultural landscape for free and flexible use. 

For this purpose, all software developments created in the research project appear under an open source license (GNU GPL, MIT License, etc.). If partial components subject to licensing (plug-ins, copyrighted image and sound documents, etc.) were used in the overall work, we make the newly developed code components available as open source without the components subject to licensing. In the code documentation, we refer to the license-required subcomponents.

Open source code of prototypes and sample solutions
We primarily use Github as a platform for publishing source code: https://github.com/digitaldthg. Some of our projects are hosted on the DTHG web server due to very high data volumes.

Augmented Reality in event technology

Interactive user manuals of complex constructions and systems

Highly complex equipment is used in the event sector and on theater stages. The technologies and products used are so diverse that their operation cannot be taught comprehensively in training. In addition, assembly and operating instructions available as paper documents are often too unspecific and – especially in the working environment on stage – impractical to handle. At this point, digital instructions can support the work of stage technicians and create a decisive added value by increasing the readability of digital 3D models.

As a basis for a practical examination of the requirements of such assembly aids and for discussion with the various stakeholders and dialog partners, we created a first functional prototype for the AR-supported assembly of a curtain rail. The instructions – in the form of an interactive website – guide the user through the assembly in ten simple steps after an overview of all required parts used and tools. A short accompanying text (theoretically also possible in several languages) describes the procedures and points out pitfalls. The individual construction steps are stored as three-dimensional animations and can be sequentially triggered, whereby the viewing angle and zoom factor can be determined by the user. 

Open source codes on Github

Link to the project

Virtual teaching and learning spaces 

The current situation shows how important digital teaching and learning formats currently are and will be in the future at universities, but also in training and learning situations in the theater and event sector. In cooperation with teachers and learners of the Theater and Event Technology and Management course at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, we have developed prototypical new teaching and learning tools in virtual reality. In a practice- and project-oriented approach, we developed and tested specific scenarios and tried out new ways of learning. The result is a series of digital, interactive training units.

Individual articles on the developed prototypes

Open source code on Github

Link to the project

Digital twins of the history of theater technology

This subproject is dedicated to the challenge of making theater heritage visible and finding new virtual forms of mediation that do justice to “theater” as an immaterial art form in its entirety. The use cases arise both in the context of exhibitions / in the museum or in teaching situations in training or studies.

In the digital.DTHG team we designed the requirement profile for an augmented reality application based on 3D learning materials and developed a feature set. For this purpose we partly used existing material (e.g. digital reconstructions of historical theater architecture like Shakespeare’s Globe) and the results of other subprojects (e.g. the cloud machine from the Großes Schauspielhaus). In some cases, we have also digitized entirely new objects, including, for example, a wind machine including sound.

Open source code on Github

Link to the project

Bringing theatre heritage to life

Virtual reconstruction of theater architecture as an immersive experience

On the occasion of the 100th stage anniversary of the Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin, the goal was to bring the no longer existing predecessor building “Das Große Schauspielhaus Berlin” and its stage art back into public awareness. The VR project “An Evening at the Großes Schauspielhaus – Virtual Reality Time Travel Berlin 1927” opens a digital experience window into the past: the history(s) of the theater, its architecture and its art can be spatially experienced in the here and now. The special feature of this project: historical objects from the Stadtmuseum Berlin and other archives are integrated into the virtual narrative. In this way, the digital exhibits such as posters, props or stage-technical apparatus convey theater-historical knowledge in a poetic way.

Link to Steam / Download VR Project

Links to the open source code
2.6GB Unity project without assets

4.8GB Assetfolder: Audio and FMod

1.9GB Assetfolder: 3D Models

700MB Assetfolder: all other assets

Link to the project

Hybrid-Real Stage Spaces

Cocreative performances in analog-digital interstices 

The central field of investigation in this subproject is the relationship between physical reality and virtual space and interaction processes between spectators and musicians/performers. With the development and realization of the VR performance “Spatial Encounters” we explored the extent to which the linking of a real/physical space with a digital/immaterial space can be used as a design tool, thus enabling new spaces of experience. The aim was to explore cocreation processes in the context of artistic stagings and performance spaces, with a focus on musical experience.

A web-based XR application we developed, controlled by a local server, serves as the software foundation for the performance. Mobile VR glasses (e.g. Meta Quest 2) can access a shared virtual space via the integrated browser. This is where the live performance takes place: One or more musicians, a visual jockey as “Master of Virtual Scenography” and up to nine visitors meet in an equal dialogue. On an open space of about 150 square meters, the audience is immersed with mobile VR glasses into a virtual scenery, which is played, designed and experienced together during the following 20 minutes. The users move freely in these digital landscapes and generate visual effects and sculptures through their encounters and spatial relationships. 

Open source code on Github
Server: https://github.com/digitaldthg/Web-XR-Spatial-Encounters-Server
Client: https://github.com/digitaldthg/Web-XR-Spatial-Encounters-Client 

Link to the project

XR-Editor for visualization of theater architecture 

Complex building projects, new buildings and renovation projects for theatres and cultural venues bring great communicative challenges for all involved. Not everyone is trained to read floor plans and many find it difficult to translate a plan drawing into a three-dimensional image. To what extent can digital technologies such as augmented reality be used to support communication on models, on drawings and in real space and to present complex architectural transformation processes in a comprehensible way? 

Together with the Luisenburg Festspiele in Wunsiedel we outlined an easy-to-use, „augmented“ presentation format: Using a tablet, smartphone or AR glasses, users can present three-dimensional content on a drawn floor plan or a physical terrain model, for example the current planning status or variants of a stage design. The physical-real objects serve as anchor points for the overlay of digital three-dimensional content. The presentations can be prepared in advance by the presenters and contain a wide range of information. Similar to the slides of a PowerPoint presentation, the presenter and viewer can then click through the different 3D models. The developed application consists of two related components: On the one hand, this is the WebXR editor, in which the „slides“ are compiled and prepared, and on the other hand, the WebXR viewer, which can be called up online to display the presentation. This browser-based and device-independent use allows the same content to be played out in different ways. 

  • The WebXR editor, where the “slides” are compiled and prepared.
  • The WebXR viewer, which can be accessed online to display the presentation.

Both applications were designed in such a way that they are not only specific to this subject area, but can also be transferred to other areas: Thus, with this application, we were able to develop parallel adaptations for the topics „Augmented Reality in Event Technology“ and „Digital Twins of Theatre Technology History“.

The technical basis for the application is the new WebXR standard, which allows three-dimensional content to be displayed on a wide variety of devices, whereby the type of display depends on the technical capabilities of the hardware. This browser-based and device-independent use allows the same content to be played out in different ways.

Open source code on Github
WebXR editor (backend): https://github.com/digitaldthg/Web-XR-Editor-Backend
WebXR viewer (presenter): https://github.com/digitaldthg/Web-XR-Editor-Presenter  

Link to the project

Workflows and Guides for Virtual Bauprobe

In this subproject, methods and tools were sought for conducting Virtual Bauprobe – building rehearsals that do not take place physically in the theatre and on stage, but can take place in virtual space and independent of location. How can VR technology be integrated as a visualization, design, construction and communication medium in one’s own work process at the theatre? 

For this purpose, we developed the workshop format “How to go Virtual” in order to test possible applications in an uncomplicated way with theaters and venues on site. Together with our cooperation partners, the focus was placed on practice, both in trying out existing applications and programs, as well as in developing theatre specific usage scenarios: for example, adapting a stage design to a different venue, presenting construction variants, or visualizing a spatially particularly complicated design. 

The result of the collaboration was a series of workflows and methods that are now being made available to the theater community as guides and tutorials:

Workflow 1 – Sketchfab / Zoom “Semi-Virtual Pre-Rehearsal”
https://digital.dthg.de/workflow-1/  (german)

This scenario uses the free internet platform Sketchfab to present models. Here, meetings can be presented via screen sharing in a video conferencing tool or made available time-shifted for illustration via a link across different end devices. This scenario does not allow live editing of the Virtual 3D Model during the meeting, but is convincing as a starter scenario due to its easy accessibility and implementation for all production participants.

Workflow 2 – Mozilla Hub’s “Bauprobe for Everyone
https://digital.dthg.de/workflow-2/ (german)

This scenario uses the free Internet platform Mozilla Hubs with the associated editor Spoke. Meetings can be held simultaneously in the virtual room via various end devices with several participants. This scenario does not allow live editing of the virtual 3D model during the meeting, but is convincing as an entry-level scenario due to its easy accessibility for up to 30 people.

Workflow 3 – Virtual Bauprobe with VR sketch
https://digital.dthg.de/workflow-3/ (german)

This scenario uses the paid plugin VR-Sketch for the program SketchUp. Meetings and build rehearsals can be conducted in Virtual Space via VR headsets simultaneously with multiple participants from different locations. This scenario enables live editing of the virtual 3D model during the meeting and also offers many other possible applications. 

Link to the project