Roberto Bolle & 3-D Ballet

It’s unlike any ballet you’ve ever seen – a swarm of swirling particles gradually form the shape of a dancer and transform into a lifelike model before they explode into digital bits for the grand finale. This performance, dubbed “Dancing Atoms,” is the result of a collaboration between ballet dancer Roberto Bolle and a team lead by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bolle’s body was digitally replicated with a 3D laser scanner, producing a computer model that the team could manipulate at will. He then danced in a black suit with 42 reflective markers attached at key points, such as the joints, while 12 motion-capture cameras recorded his every move in 3D space. The team combined Bolle’s body scan and motion-capture data to create a digital avatar that can be displayed in a number of ways, from just a few particles to the full-resolution image of his body.

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