The Vermont Symphony Orchestra plays on stage at the Flynn Theater.

At the crossroads of music and visual art lies the collaboration between Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center (EMC) and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (VSO). This project was a follow-up to the EMC’s initial venture in October 2023, which featured experimental pieces projected during a joint concert with the Vermont Youth Orchestra.

The first project, described in a Seven Days feature, was a resounding success, showcasing the students’ ability to translate narrative elements into visual spectacles that complemented the live music. This partnership, now in its second year, has transformed traditional symphony performances into a multimedia experience, captivating audiences with innovative animations that resonate with live orchestral scores. Graphic Design & Visual Communication seniors James Maron ’24 and Ruby Singer ’25, as well as alumni Jack Duffy ’23, made it possible this spring.

In March 2024, the EMC team presented a captivating visual display during the VSO’s “The Hollywood Sound” concert at the Flynn Center. The performance explored beloved film scores from the past 80 years, with a special focus on Bernard Hermann’s haunting “Psycho Suite for Strings.” The EMC’s visual interpretation, designed and executed by students, utilized projection mapping technologies like MadMapper and TouchDesigner to create immersive visuals that enhanced the orchestral performance.

Maron detailed the extensive creative process behind the scenes. “We were tasked with creating a 10-minute long motion graphics animation for the ‘Psycho Suite,’ drawing heavily on the geometric style of Saul Bass. Our team aimed to enhance the musical performance visually without overshadowing the music itself,” Maron explained.

Singer also shared her insights while reflecting on the scope of the project. “Our project revolved around creating a visual and auditory experience of the ‘Psycho Suite,’ including abstract animations that related to the movie while the orchestra played the music,” she said.

The EMC’s collaboration with the VSO varies annually, incorporating different themes and artistic mediums to complement the VSO’s performances. “In the previous year, the focus was more film-based, involving a lot of video work,” Maron said. “This year, we shifted towards pure animation. We developed the visual identity, storyboarded the entire sequence, and then brought it to life using Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro.”

The animations were projected onto the back wall of the stage, adding a dynamic backdrop to the live music. Highlighting the technical side of the display, “I primarily used After Effects for the animations and explored projection mapping tools like Mad Mapper and Touch Designer to ensure our visuals were perfectly synchronized with the live performance” Singer said.

The collaboration process was intensely cooperative and a significant learning curve for the team. “It was definitely a group effort,” Maron reflected. “Storyboarding 10 minutes of animation is challenging, but seeing our collective vision come to life was incredibly rewarding.”

Singer also touched on the challenges of aligning their work with the musical score. “We faced a significant hurdle when we realized we had the wrong version of the score. We had animated extra minutes that weren’t needed, which required us to rework a lot of our animations in the late stages,” she shared. Despite these challenges, the feedback from VSO and the audience was profoundly affirming.

“Initially, our animations were quite busy. Based on feedback, we simplified the visuals to ensure the audience could fully appreciate the music,” Maron recounted, emphasizing the importance of balance in their creative output.

Singer also appreciated the project’s impact on her career development. “This experience was a huge stepping stone for me. It was my first professional-facing graphic design job, and it taught me a lot about client communication, teamwork, and handling unexpected challenges,” she noted.

Looking forward, the EMC plans to explore more interactive and possibly 3D elements for future collaborations, reflecting an evolving landscape of multimedia integration in live performances. This ongoing partnership not only enhances the experience for VSO audiences but also provides invaluable real-world experience for Champlain College students. As they blend visual storytelling with classical music, both the EMC and the VSO continue to push the boundaries of traditional performance art, creating immersive experiences that resonate well beyond the final note.

To learn more about the origins of this collaboration and the specifics of the first project, revisit our previous coverage here. 

Hanna Blankenship '24
Law & Marketing