Posts tagged “Virtual theater design

IU Opera Akhnaten

Indiana University’s outstanding Opera department teamed up with the Indianapolis Opera to produce Philip Glass’ masterpiece “Akhnaten”, a first in many ways for opera in the midwest. It was the first time the collegiate program has staged a Glass opera, it was the first time a Glass opera has been seen in Indianapolis, and it was the first time I got to lay my hands on the venerable Barco FLM 22+. There’s an excellent article over at NUVO- worth a read…but I’ll focus mainly on the projection. I’m a huge Philip Glass fan (occasionally OD’ing on the Qatsi trilogy is a fave pastime) so I was stoked when I learned I would be the tip-of-the-spear for an actual production in the 30th anniversary year of the seminal work. For the last week I’ve been hunkered down at PFHQ breathing 98 degree air- sitting behind two of these behemoth DLP projectors. The rig was originally designed to have both projectors doing different things, but with the shot from our venue slightly (!) different than the original presenting venue, we decided to converge and let ‘em rip.


I know, you’ll all want to see gorgeous panoramic displays of the actual imagery, but all I had time for was the down-and-dirty tech porn. Sorry- you’ll just have to find it on Youtube. Playback was achieved with HogPC software on a laptop feeding Artnet to the PJ’s and to another machine (a beefy Dell Precision) running Arkaos MediaMaster Pro. Mike Schwandt was kind enough to cue the show with a Hog Playback wing, so the run was super easy and quite accurate. We shot about 120′ onto a tight-weave white scrim for an image roughly 50′w x 32′h. There were a few unique shapes…one was the scrim flown out to a trim of about 8′h x full width for a scrolling Book of the Dead. Another was an open, unfocused nebula during a Firefly effect that was quite pretty. All in all it was a piece of cake and the IU Opera was great to work with. Hope to do it again someday!

Stay tuned in May when the IO presents The Flying Dutchman, heavy on the projection!

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Northland Church Battle of the Bands 2012

I’ve been really looking into the whole cost/quality axiom that plagues projection and set design. I work at a theatre so I see this problem daily- it’s a business that is constantly running up against more for less. I just ran an article on Tom Beg, a graduate student who overcame this conundrum with a few good ideas and some relatively inexpensive gear. I also featured the Indianapolis Opera a while back using nothing but white canvas panels and readily available VJ/DJ software (Modul8, Madmapper, PF faves). With the following, it looks like Steven Hall and crew at the Northland Church have achieved a pretty decent end result with an eye towards cost as well.

Every year Northland church hosts the Battle of the Bands, and this year they wanted to step up the look of the stage by using projectionmapping. You’d think “pricey” right off the bat, but with a little elbow grease and some good ideas they pulled off a great looking stage.


For a BOB format, you need flexibility to keep things fresh. For projection they used two DL2′s FOH and utilized the on-board AXON media servers to fire content. These units, while not exceptionally bright, are readily available and relatively inexpensive to rent (and buy for that matter). The units were controlled from a lighting console via DMX, and they used the collage blend mode in a 2×1 to cover the stage. The screens are where the big creativity came in- using simple 2×4 construction covered in white muslin, they were able to suspend these from their upstage truss. Then, using simple masks (created in Paint.net) they were able to separate each shape onto a different layer, letting them create all kinds of looks. Check out his blog for some video and more pictures!

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Tigrelab Talk Show Set Mapping

In what is, perhaps, not so much “videomapping” as “audio-reactive virtual set design”, TV3 produced two very special interviews featuring the scientist and broadcaster Eduard Punset and the presenter and humourist Andreu Buenafuente. The programmes, which generated considerable expectation and required a significant investment, consisted of conversations between Punset and Buenafuente about a range of issues concerning everyday life set against a video mapping projection of almost 100 m2. Tigrelab was chosen to develop the contents of the backdrop, an audiovisual “wall” 24 metres wide and 3.5 metres high. This reactive and continuously changing scene allowed the two men to continue to talk comfortably whilst they were taken from place to place…from a modernist library, to a New York building, to being surrounded by a futurist mesh created using images of codes.

Words like love, city, brain, future formed the basis of the production that was accompanied by live conversation. A total of 20 different spaces were created. The programme was recorded in front of a studio audience for subsequent broadcast, allowing Buenafuente and Punset to talk freely whilst the producer “transported” them to different scenes based on where their conversation took them. Tigrelab proposed an audio-reactive backdrop developed by WeLoveCode using Processing. The system was reactive, allowing for the images to change depending on what was being said. This broke new ground in the field of interactive set design for television. The image was divided into two parts that were connected to left-right stereo audio, one side for each of the participants.The technical department created the montage for the projection and management of the video mapping using three Barco FLM 20K HD projectors and the WatchOut 5 program, offering considerable flexibility to the producer. While ‘green-screen’ technology has been around forever, I love that this concept flips that idea completely around…

Com va la vida, Video Mapping TV3 from Tigrelab on Vimeo.

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The MIDAS Project

A synesthetic exploration of traditional artistic performance and digital art, MIDASpaces was devised as an interactive projection mapped space for the Creative Arts. Using the latest tracking technology, the space learns and reacts to performance, allowing the artist to explore new improvised choreography live and in time. The team worked in tandem with dancer Tom O’Donnell. Given a narrative revolving around man’s ever-changing relationship with technology; the movements challenge assumptions within performance and the evolving role of the performer within art.

An interactive projection mapped project- MIDASpaces employs a combination of light projection, sound and camera tracking to add a digital dimension to the Creative Arts in a real world space. The project made use of custom software written in openFrameworks (C++) running in conjunction with QuartzComposer (openGL) to create the visuals. (more…)

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Indianapolis Opera Das Rheingold Redux

I know….it’s a blast from the past….but since the Met is running the Ring Cycle (and Indianapolis Opera is presenting La Traviata soon) I figured I’d revisit it in a little more detail. Joachim Schamberger directed the stage as well as produced all the video. This production had the orchestra onstage, with the performers downstage utilizing our hydraulic pit elevator. There were two towers of scaffold left and right as well as a small bridge piece across center. We used a seamless cyc on the furthest downstage lineset to project on, and trimmed it about 8′ off the deck. Projection was from a booth about 128′ from the cyc. The aspect ratio ended up being roughly 2.8:1 or well above scope. We used two Panasonic PT-D7700 converged fro the main screen, and two PT-D5600 for super titles.. Playback was from a Macbook Pro using Vidvox’s VDMX. The pics tell the story below:

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Spotlight 2011

Tonight is Spotlight 2011, the annual fundraiser for the Indiana AIDS Fund. Every year, professional performers from all over Central Indiana come together for one reason – to raise money for HIV/AIDS education, prevention and testing programs across Indiana. They stand in the spotlight in order to keep the spotlight shining on HIV in Indiana.
It’s held at Clowes Memorial Hall on the campus of Butler University and all the performers and technicians (IATSE Local #30) generously donate their time to make it happen. Projection will include super titles and fundraiser totals over the stage on a 3′ x 24′ super title screen as well as various video playbacks onstage. We’re using 2 Panasonic PT-D5600′s, A Macpro tower, and a Macbook for playback. If yu’d like to make a donation to Spotlight 2011 click HERE

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Small Production- Big Projection, Indy Opera does both well

Just got back from a great meeting with Joachim Schamberger at the Basile Opera Center. They’ve wrapped the 2011 production of La Tragedie de Carmen and by all accounts it was quite a success. In a big departure from their normal productions-complete with grandiose sets, a huge performance hall, and a full orchestra- they’ve pared down the whole process and now use a former sanctuary of a church. This fact doesn’t take away from the quality of the performance however, indeed, it is a whole new vehicle. The format is tight and close and…..wait a minute- we talk about projection here!

Joachim has long been a practitioner of “virtual theater design” a process he describes here.  In practical terms it means lots of great projection.  They used two Panasonic PT-D5500, and one Panasonic PT-D7700- both single-chip DLP’s.  The 77 served as the main background unit with a 55 as online backup and the second 55 as the surtitles above the set. Why not converge the 55′s and use the 77 for surtitles you ask?  Because converging the 55′s is next to impossible and due to the depth and width (something like 32′), they needed the most pristine image they could get.  Those units are also very prone to distorting geometry and focus issues when the temperature goes up, so this configuration made sense to me. The backgrounds were driven from a Macbook Pro 17″ with Vidvox’s VDMX (soon to be reviewed here on PF).  The surtitles are of the generic Powerpoint variety. Using VDMX, Joachim is able to send stills as well as .movs with equal ease.  A lot of the moving imagery are very slow transitions, so control of the timing is paramount. He used FCP and Photoshop almost exclusively.  With the 7700, brightness was overall very good, and required very little sidelight for the actors to not appear to be “projected on”, at the same time allowing for some actors to fade into the background and be less noticeable during tacet parts.  There are a couple of projects coming up with the Indy Opera that’ll involve projection in the future, so stay tuned for more!  Here’s the prOn from the event:

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Software-based Projection/media Control: Part 1, Isadora from TroikaTronix

Any projection project will require some way to manage the content. The larger and more complex the action, the more capability you’ll need. This type of show will most likely utilize a hardware-based system like the Coolux Pandora’s Box or Green Hippo’s Hippotizer. What about other solutions? Don’t have $10k+ for a controller/playback device? Enter the software-based solutions. Not that any of these aren’t capable of large and complex control of displays and content, it’s just that these don’t neccessarily come in a rackmount piece of hardware. You get to supply the hardware and each will have it’s own set of minimum requirements. From a laptop to a tower they’re all capable of running your show….read on…. (more…)

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Projectionfreak is back!

After a few frustrating days with a new webhost under a new account- all is well! Projectionfreak is housed on a new, shiny, fast server and ready to go! Look for a hands-on report with the Barco DP2k-32 today as well as a feature on the Indianapolis Opera’s production of La Tragedie de Carmen featuring Joachim Schamberger. We’ll go inside and find out the lurid details of projection in a modern opera as well as his take on Virtual Theater Design.

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Coming Soon! Projection Goes to the Opera

The Indianapolis Opera presents La Tragedie de Carmen at the Basile Opera Center.  Stage director Joachim Schamberger, whom I collaborated with on some killer projection work a while back, will utilize some large projection to complement the action. This isn’t the first time they’ve played the HD projection card.  Here’s some shots from previous shows.

Joachim believes projection is an integral part of stage presentation and this production should prove no different.  
Here’s some prelim background. I’ll go inside the action and bring the info, specs, and some photos as well as some insight from the director.

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