Tips & Tricks

Video Displays Automatically Adjust to Changing Ambient Light Levels

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The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which opened in 1910, was updated with the opening of a new visitor center earlier this year for the 725,000 people who tour the 52 acres of artfully-arranged horticultural beauty every year. Designed by Weiss/Manfredi with a 10,000-square-foot “living roof” covered with grass and plants, the center also includes large glass windows that let natural daylight stream in. To deal with the constantly-changing levels of ambient light, the pavilion and exhibition areas, which were designed by Thinc Design and Hadley Exhibits with support from Electrosonic, feature Samsung’s DX series of monitors, which are equipped with sensors that automatically adjust to different light levels, according to Bryan Abelowitz, Electrosonic account manager.

—From “Projection Connection,” PLSN, Sept. 2012

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How to Amaze Your Audience: Start with Two Rigging Systems

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Global Creatures, the masterminds behind one of the highest-grossing tours of 2010, Walking with Dinosaurs, are once again amazing audiences and pushing the entertainment technology envelope. Having teamed up with DreamWorks Animation, they are now sending dragons soaring through arena skies and immersing audiences in the mythical Viking world of DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular... There are two rigging systems on Dragons. For the animatronic dragons themselves, there’s the first-ever touring flight track system, which weighs over 28 tons. The other rig is a static conventional truss system with stage right and stage left truss that extends the entire length of the show floor, with a cross run of truss at mid-arena that runs between them. “The rigging required a lot of focus at the start,” says production manager David Wright. “PRG’s first task was the rigging and they delivered a system that has really worked for all the departments; it is the building block for the whole show. They then integrated all the lights, sound, video, and special effects packages.”

—From “Production Profile” by Michael S. Eddy, PLSN, Sept. 2012

 

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Don't Just Hug Trees, Bathe Them in LED Lighting

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“There’s something enchanting about the forest, and that’s part of why we picked this site,” says Andy Carroll of Synergy Event Production Inc., who handled lighting and video duties for the main stage and Sherwood Forest areas of the four-day Electric Forest Festival, staged at the Double JJ Ranch & Golf Resort in Rothbury, MI. “The forest is one of the headliners of the event,” agreed event producer Jeremy Stein, who calls the LED-uplit and laser-animated surroundings “zones of experience,” not just stage areas. “There’s a sense of mystery, where lighting unveils different parts of the forest at different times to you. Remember, the forest is 14 acres. There’s a lot to explore in there.”
—From “Production Profile” by Will Romano, PLSN, Sept. 2012



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Media Servers Can Handle 3D Playback Now

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As more and more movies are being created in 3D, and 3D is beginning to make its way into the home theatre market as well, I thought I would take the pulse of where media servers geared for live entertainment stand in this area of digital content… Media Servers with 3D stereoscopy playback capability include Watchout from Dataton (dataton.com/watchout) and Pandoras Box by coolux (coolux.de). Both have full DMX control capability and stand-alone interfaces... Playing a 3D stereoscopic movie within Watchout requires that two video files specially created using a stereoscopic camera (or even two cameras) are played back simultaneously while overlapping to create the 3D image. Pandoras Box from coolux also allows S3D content to be played using both outputs from the media server. Like Watchout, the appropriately rendered content as well as polarized filters on the projection devices and glasses are required for viewing.
—From “Video Digerati” by Vickie Claiborne, PLSN, Sept. 2012

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Trend-Spotting: Music Festivals at Sea

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In December, Coachella, the festival, also becomes S.S. Coachella, climbing aboard the Celebrity Silhouette, a 1,000-foot, 122,000-ton ship with room for 2,800 fans who will sway to the beats of Pulp, Hot Chip, Girl Talk, Yeasayer, Sleigh Bells, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and about 15 other acts on two cruises leaving from Fort Lauderdale, FL. The cruise-music-show production connection, building for years, now includes themed cruises such as the Rock Boat, an alt-themed cruise with Sister Hazel, A Rocket to the Moon, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Junior Doctor, Ponderosa and Saints of Valor, and the all-Weezer-all-the-time Weezer Cruise. Coachella is a logical extension of this trend, as are the EDM events that are also migrating to cruise ships. They’re also priced in line with the upper-end land-based festivals, with four-to-a-cabin for Coachella at sea costing $500 per person for the backpack set and Sky suites available for high-rollers starting at $9,000 per person…The latest wrinkle is themed cruises that have their performances both on the ship and on land, often on private Caribbean islands the ship operator contracts with. That’s changing the logistics of the business: for the Kid Rock cruise, for instance, Stammel had to have an entire stage, sound system, lights, video and backline flown in from Miami and waiting for the ship when it docked in the Bahamas.

—From “The Biz” by Dan Daley, PLSN, Sept. 2012

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Dealing with Loss

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As I am sure most of you reading this are aware, all too often, cues and looks get programmed and never used. Hours of programming time go unseen by audiences, producers, artists and even LDs… Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to stop the devastation. As professionals, we must remember that these lost cues are part of the process and should not be look upon as a waste of time. We must keep in check with our emotions and realize that the removal of some programming is usually done in the best interest of the overall production. With this understanding, you too can come to terms with the loss of hours of work and continue on to craft more creative and productive programming.

—From “Feeding the Machines,” by Brad Schiller, PLSN, Sept. 2012

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Tracking and State

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Automated Lighting Programmers must be aware of many concepts when programming a show.  One of the most important concepts with any automated lighting console is known as tracking…In order to fully understand the idea of state, we must first look back at tracking.  Tracking on an automated lighting console simply means that the cues you write only store the changes you have made for your fixtures and not ALL parameters of all fixtures.  Data that is not changed from one cue to the next will remain the same, since no new values are present.  This is where the tracking comes from.

—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, June 2011

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The Starting Point for Video Content

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“I start every project no differently than if I were lighting a show. It’s important to receive the necessary documents like the resolution of the screens and their respective placement onstage prior to doing any work. There’s not a lot I can do if I don’t have this information, and it can take some time to nail down the final specs, as it usually is in budgeting while I’m trying to begin my work. Once I listen to the music, I usually already have a clear idea of what I want to do. Sometimes I may get direction from the artist or creative in production; which is very helpful. Regardless, I then create rough sketches and breakdown the music into a visual narrative. I may also create renderings as a visual aid for myself, the animators and for discussion purposes. I also look closely at the production design to develop looks that complement the set and the overall feel of the show. I then approach the design team and/or artist with my design intent. If all goes well, I then begin producing the content.”

—Michael Zinman, owner of Zinman Co., as interviewed by Vickie Claiborne for PLSN’s “Video Interview,” May 2011

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Adjusting for Missing Color Syndrome

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The human eye (more accurately, the human brain) creates patterns. Add the evolution of the eye to see the full visible spectrum as white, and you end up with a piece of technology that expects to see all three primary colors in its field of vision at all times. A look on stage composed of only two of those colors leads the eye to turn the least saturated into that missing third color. Using only red and blue, the eye desperately searches for green, and will take liberties to turn non-green light green if it has to. The shadow color of a light is perceived to be its complement. Consider a sodium vapor (orange) streetlight. The shadow has a faint tinge of blue or cyan, depending on the exact color of the lamp. Missing color syndrome is the perceptual phenomenon that occurs when one or more lights with more saturated color plays against a less saturated or clear light. The less saturated light takes on the appearance of the shadow color of the more dominant light. Clear, intended as white, playing against L106, appears cyan. A pale tint of cyan, but cyan nonetheless. Using a pale pink (more precisely a minus green) like G108 or G109, the clear looks white again. This minus green is not a perfect white, but it is white in relationship to the red. It is a reference white.

—Lucas Benjaminh Krech, from “Focus on Fundamentals,” PLSN, May 2011

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Resurrecting Caesar, and Deciphering Ancient Software

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The Caesars Forum Shops have two animatronic fountain shows that involve talking statues.  The larger of the shows is rather involved, with water, fire, video effects and more.  They recently decided to update the installation with brand new, brighter fixtures, and I was brought in to handle the change over…I have hand-copied many shows in my time, and there are always errors that can occur.  Some data just does not translate from one fixture type to another; particularly when using an older console.  Most modern consoles have very sophisticated “change type” features that allow programmers to easily and instantly change from one fixture type to another while retaining all data.  Since this console was from the mid-1990s, it did not have such a feature.  After the data copying, I was left with spinning color wheels and invalid rotating gobo information throughout.  When hand-copying, I always leave the original fixtures in the show file so that I can refer back to the original data to see what they were doing compared to the newly cloned fixture.  This proved invaluable, as I was able to easily look back and understand what color or gobo was originally selected.

—Brad Schiller, from “Feeding the Machines,” PLSN, May 2011

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