Vertx » Live Visuals – ATAWA

Live Visuals – ATAWA

What is All The Animals We Ate?

All The Animals We Ate is the second theatre collaboration between poet Sean M Whelan, musician Damian Stephens, and theatre-maker James Tresise as Nothing Hurts.

Myself and my producer Maize Wallin collaborated with the trio to create the visuals.

The visuals are running in real-time using Unity. Scenes could be progressed using the space bar, and skipped to with assigned keys. Sound and lighting was handled separately.



I love you so much I could eat you!

29 individual animated slides depicting What We Think About When We Think About Animals starts the show.

This scene is actually composed with all objects in a delicious mess in front of one static camera:


Each object is modelled, coloured (and sometimes animated) in Modo and animated via position/rotation in Unity with varying techniques. Additionally there are animated alpha-clipping/uv materials and particle systems. I extend a class (Slide) to add any behaviour that isn’t Text, Background, Material or GameObject enabling.

This was the most time intensive part of the whole project. Modelling, colouring, compositing, animating and scripting 29 objects takes a lot of time.



We will eat, and we will love, and we will suffer, and we will lie about it. (Because we are liars.)

For the scenes that are lit I am using a custom shader that lets me define shadow colour and turn hard-edge shading on or off.


This enabled me to create a stylised look, creating duller shadows and differing lighting on objects that are lit in the same way.

Each scene in the park is differentiated with camera angles, progressing from casual (looking up at falling leaves), through foreboding normality (medium distance, flying crows), to a warm sunset cast onto the tall branches, finishing on a strange, tilted, and upward-facing view.



Just like the smaller model of cats, a lion will play with its food -a bit- at first.

Water, as cartoon-y as I want it. This task is fairly easy, the complicated part is re-calculating surfaces for smooth shading once you have moved their vertices, which is what most of the bottom half of this shader is doing.


To get high mesh detail in front of the camera whilst keeping triangle count low, I have a foreshortened plane that rotates with the camera as it makes an arc around the radio tower.

The radio waves are generated by pushing a stepped sine wave into a texture strip, and aligning it radially to a circular mesh using its UVs.



Your white teeth puncturing black suburban tires.

I quickly developed a linear camera tracking and panning script to visualise and sort camera paths. It has easing, the ability to trigger functions mid-path, and time and camera settings.


The elements of the backyard like the swingset, dunny and shed are drawn from my grandma’s house in Swan Hill, hinging on memories as a kid, and all the fantastic details in that old rusty swingset. The choices of camera angles were made to at first disguise the down-to-earth nature of the poem, then to highlight familiar details, feelings, and referenced objects.

Choosing to use smooth shading on curved objects lets the scene feel less like a cartoon and more like a homely world; whilst maintaining flat shading on would-be curved surfaces like corrugated iron was a choice of aesthetic, helping me disguise the introductory camera paths.


Hills Hoist

She walked out into the backyard and she lay down in the sun, right by the Hills Hoist and she died.

I built a Hills Hoist; it raises from the centre pole and extends its arms, lifting its supports upwards, extending its wires, reaching from arm to arm and becoming whole.


It’s striking imagery, and it’s strength as suburban Australiana is unrivalled. Panning across the sky and watching it move is a remarkably entrancing and meditative experience.

The tech behind it is simple enough: it randomly spins, choosing a direction, a velocity to reach, and a force to get there. It grows by scaling elements of the mesh, and it extends its wires with an alpha-clipping shader. If you want to see it in action you’ll have to come see our play when it’s on next!

After the sky turns to night, Damian’s creaking soundscape closes out the hoist scenes to total darkness, the impact of death hopefully truly apparent.



I knew my world was bigger than all this but I didn’t know about this.

Comets, park benches and dog bones floating around the cosmos. Randomly spawning in fog on the edge of a sphere and being pushed towards the middle, entering the view and colliding with each other; all scaled and rotated with different forces and torques applied.



All The Animals We Ate showed at Melbourne Fringe 2015, and is hopefully planning to tour soon.


If Whelan’s words alone are not enough to imagine the environment and emotions being described, the music and projections more than do that, transporting us away from the performance space and into their storiesMyron My (Theatre Press)

Eerie visuals in a Tim Winton-esque snapshot of Australian suburban bliss, where the spot under the hills hoist in the sunshine is as good a place to finally rest than any… Ghetto Kitty

…dream-like video projections and cute animal figurines… Freya Dougan (Melbourne Spoken Word)