Photon leads the dance in Frame by Frame, a ballet inspired by Norman McLaren’s film animation masterpieces.

The National Ballet of Canada’s latest production, led by Robert Lepage and Guillaume Côté, took to the stage the life and work of Norman McLaren. In this stellar production, Photon’s playback and FX system were instrumental in transposing the visual language of Canada’s greatest animator to the world of dance.

Pas de deux is one of Norman McLaren’s best known work. Created in 1968, this animation film presents a choreography executed by two ballet dancers transformed by analog film special effects such as optical printing. The result is a mesmerizing experience, in which echoes of a ballerina’s movements create the impression of a dance duo.

This visual experience had a profound impact on VYV’s creative and development team who years ago developed a series of real-time digital visual effects that would mimic McLaren’s technique and allow its integration in live performances. Coincidentally, VYV was contacted to supply the video media system for Frame by Frame.


Thomas Payette, a long-time collaborator from Montreal’s HUB Studio, was called forth by the production to act as its video designer. His thorough knowledge of our systems and prior work experience with Robert Lepage’s theater company led him to believe Photon was the go-to choice for the project.

“Photon is one of the industry’s most versatile and powerful creation tools. It surpasses classic media servers as its design focus is not a strictly restricted technique but also covers creative needs, notably through its flexible fx-building system. When working with Robert Lepage, things have to move quickly. He is a demanding stage director who rapidly generates visual ideas and needs quick on-stage feedback. Photon was the perfect tool for this production context.”

-Thomas Payette, Video Designer, HUB Studio

Six projectors, two cameras, and one server were set up to capture, transform, and project onto multiple screens movements and figures created by the dancers. These performers were physically re-creating images taken from Norman McLaren vast visual repertoire. The silhouettes of the dancers and the objects they would manipulate would be captured and then fed to about sixty different visual FX. A custom-designed lead screen fragmented into twelve independant wireless sticks manipulated by the dancers was also driven by VYV’s system to illuminate the stage and show moving images. The results were striking as the audience could recognize animation classics such as Synchromy and Pas de Deux.

VYV’s technology has been developed through contact with creators whose needs inspired us to build a tool that would not restrain them. Our love of art and culture also guided our team when the time came to think of the possibilities our toolsets would offer to the world of the stage. We will strive to keep this direction as it led us to create the best visual creation tool available in the industry.

A ballet based on the life and work of Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren

By Robert Lepage and Guillaume Côté

Frame by Frame is a collaboration between The National Ballet of Canada, Ex Machina and The National Film Board of Canada.

  • Production Company

    Ex Machina

  • Director

    Robert Lepage

  • Choreographer

    Guillaume Côté

  • Creative Direction & Design

    Steve Blanchet

  • Lighting Design

    Etienne Boucher

  • Image Projection & Concept Design

    Laurie-Shawn Borzovoy

  • Video Design

    Thomas Payette (HUB Studio)

  • Photos

    David Leclerc (Ex Machina)

  • When

    From the 1st to the 10th of June 2018

  • Where

    The national ballet of Canada - Toronto, Canada