Students working at the Champlain College Emergent Media Center (EMC) are partnering with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO) to create an innovative, new experience for concert-goers using projection mapping.

The three-year partnership is providing Champlain students with hands-on experience collaborating with a local client from start to finish on an exciting, creative project that will change the landscape of the orchestra experience in Vermont. A student team comprised of various majors are leading ideation, strategy, filming, animation, production, editing, tech support, and all other facets of the endeavor.

“Meeting deadlines, working with each other and our respective methods, creating these long animations … These are skills we’re all going to carry into our lives and professions,” said Graphic Design & Visual Communications major James Maron ’24 in this Seven Days story published in its annual Tech Jam edition.

“It’s just so cool to see them in their creative process,” EMC Academic Director and Associate Professor Robin Perlah is quoted saying. “If we do our job right, the students feel like they have just as much ownership and buy-in on the project. We’re not just assigning them tasks; we’re watching them come up with their own concepts and create their own process to make them.”

L to R: Emergent Media Center students James Maron ’24, VSO Executive Director Elise Brunelle, VSO Music Director Andrew Crust, Ruby Singer ’25, and Jack Duffy ’24. Photo by Rachel Hooper.

Maron is joined by fellow graphic design students and motion graphic producers Ruby Singer ’25 and Jack Duffy ’24. In March 2024, the project will come to life at VSO’s The Hollywood Sound performance at the Flynn, an event exploring film scores from the past 80 years. The EMC team is focused on Bernard Hermann’s Psycho Suite for Strings. Using motion graphics and projection mapping technologies like MadMapper and TouchDesigner, the students will map their masterpiece onto the brick wall behind the stage.

The First Stage

In February 2023, a EMC student team kicked off the first iteration of this project by projecting two experimental pieces they filmed, edited, and produced onto a screen behind performers at the joint Vermont Youth Orchestra and Vermont Symphony Orchestra winter concert titled “¡La Fiesta!”. The first film was natured-based and accompanied a piece called Huapango. The student’s creation followed the story of a caterpillar’s journey of turning into a butterfly, evoking appreciation for the cycle of life.

Pictured L to R: Associate Filmmaking Professor John Rasmussen, Michelle Hernandez, EMC Project Manager Rachel Hooper, video producers Sam Simpson ’23 and Megan Buckley ’23, Champlain President Alex Hernandez, EMC Director Sarah Jerger, and EMC’s social media intern Vivi Torontali ’25.

The second film accompanied the orchestra’s performance of Danzo. The EMC contracted two professional dancers to freestyle dance to the tune as students filmed. The dancers’ movement, at the students’ direction, represented the push and pull of a relationship; the ups and downs and the moments of tranquility and fighting. Through the orchestra’s music and the EMC’s visual art, the team hoped to further evoke emotions of anger, connection, understanding, and happiness.

“The Vermont Symphony Orchestra reached out to Champlain College because we knew their students had unique insights and excellent training in creating visual displays,” said Elise Brunelle, Executive Director, Vermont Symphony Orchestra. “Auditory and visual experiences go hand in hand, as we can see in everything from film to video games to immersive art installations. I wanted to see Emergent Media Center students interpret the music we play and augment our audience’s experience by creating something unique to watch.”

The students’ short films were displayed behind the orchestra, marrying the audio and visual experiences.

Beyond creating something original and fresh, the hope is these new innovative technologies and media will attract audiences of all ages to the orchestra.

“Working on this project through the EMC was a good opportunity to explore the film industry before graduation. We really pushed the boundaries of the creative environment we were working within, and had great mentorship from the EMC staff and our faculty advisor,” said Filmmaking major Sam Simpson ’23, who co-led video production for the February 2023 concert.

This is just the beginning. Learn more about what motion graphic designers Maron, Singer, and Duffy are creating for the March performance by reading the Seven Days feature. Spooky season spoiler alert: it involves murder.

Explore the Emergent Media Center, a Center of Experience at Champlain, and our majors within the Division of Communication & Creative Media.

Kaylee Sullivan