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Digital Scenery @ High School

Discussion in 'Multimedia, Projection, and Show Control' started by MNicolai, Nov 10, 2016.

  1. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm afraid you're too late. Not only have several dolls already been fashioned but quite a number of pins have already been inserted at various painfully detrimental points.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
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  2. AudJ

    AudJ Active Member

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    I actually like the concept, and hope to implement something similar in the near future. In an educational setting, it would be great to be training kids to be prepared for projection scenery-related jobs that are likely to be increasingly available when they graduate. Might even see some STEM money for that.

    In the same breath however, I also feel it would be important to have a fly system where students can be trained with traditional scenery, painting, lighting, loading, rigging, scene change, safety, stage management, apprenticeship, etc. We know those jobs are out there, and won't be going away any time soon. Add projection to that palette, and you have an awesome over-all program.

    Please keep use updated if you come up with a slick system that students can operate efficiently. Would love to dive into this.
     
  3. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    How exactly does one dramatically slam a projected scenery door?

    See the 1965 brochure by Hub Electric Co. and James Hull Miller.
     

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  4. chausman

    chausman Chase Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Very quietly.

    I like the idea, and would have loved to have something like that in high school, with a fairly active group of students. But I'd expect it would end up being used so rarely, it wasn't 'worth' the expense and relatively short life, compared to a fly system.
     
  5. EdSavoie

    EdSavoie Well-Known Member

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    Come to think of it, it would take up a massive amount of time to draw up scenery good enough for the projection to appear realistic, in comparison to building something out of real materials. Time is something which is not freely available in highschool productions!
     
  6. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    This is really the crux of it. May I add that just being able to create content does not make a good live event projection. You have to be looking at two separate ideas here. You need a program that has the ability to design the content, then you need a program that understands how to present content. I agree that having the ability to have this learning opportunity is paramount. High school students need the opportunity to explore and make mistakes.

    If I were involved and the administration wanted to eliminate the fly loft (safety, money, or to spend it on other things), I would definitely go for wing space first and foremost. I would still encourage a system of motorized battens for soft goods and electrics. I would provide them with at least two additional travellers besides the main curtain. If possible, a scenery track or two so that small scenic elements can track on and off (I think Rosebrand was showing off some of this at LDI). I would make sure that all of the rest of the technology is as flexible as possible. One of the most frustrating things that I have encountered when working with high school theaters is the lack of patch points and convenient power.

    Definitely give them projection equipment. It is an important part of an educational experience. Don't make it too static of a system. When you are looking at FOH lighting positions, look at flexible positions for projectors as well. It is great to have a permanent position with a drop down screen so that presentations and movie nights are possible (which could also fit in with some front projected effects for shows), but keep in mind that one position will not work for all productions. I would look at being able to put a projector on either side of the house as well (possibly on a temporary structure as long as it didn't interfere with egress). Rear projection is such a pain due to limited space. Short throw lenses are difficult to blend for wide screen, as are mirror systems. The LED wall solution makes up for that, but when they are glitchy, it takes considerable knowledge to make it work. This doesn't rule that out, just make sure that it is from a company that will be around and support the product (especially remotely).

    What kind of lighting package are you considering? A good percentage of the video in live entertainment is controlled by the lighting desk. Not knowing what type of use this auditorium will have, this might be a consideration. The reason I mention this is that having control through the light console can sometimes simplify operation.
     
  7. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Here is the thing though... Broadway is till trying to figure out how to use projections effectively. Vegas is also still trying to figure it out. The university systems have just begun the process of trying to lay out a path for it in their programs (and absorbing the massive costs). Regional houses are starting to dabble but its not always there or always good. There are not even close to enough people out there who can do this well to go to a high school and do it. Sure, you can get plenty of people who can setup a system and run it but the skills that it takes to design projections are so outside the wheelhouse of 95% of theatrically trained designers. You won't be able to attract someone with these skills and pay them 30k a year. If you just want a glorified powerpoint presentation go nuts, but thats not really teaching anything.
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Mike I didn't make an important point earlier. I work a 35-40 hour week and I barely have enough time for booking rentals, building sets, and doing maintenance as it is. I've considered installing a rear projection system and at the top of my concerns is I would need that system to be REALLY easy to operate. I would need to be able to tell people bring in photos of a specific resolution and quickly plug them into my software for playback. My rental clients would love it, but most of them struggle to afford more than about 5 hours of rehearsal AND show. As for our own school productions I would love to work with our art and photography teachers to have kids create backgrounds. But again it's got to be really quick and easy to setup and use.
     
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  9. themuzicman

    themuzicman Well-Known Member

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    This hits the nail on the head. I have done a handful of large off-Broadway productions with video in the last few years. A typical video team is 1. Video Designer 2. Video Associate Designer 3. Video Programmer 4. Illustrator 5. Animator 6. Projectionist/Systems Technician. If you thought Sound people had dedicated positions for tiny things, video blows this out of the water. Every single person has their place in the grand scheme, and on a lot of shows if you are down more than two or three of these positions you compromise everything. You can lose the associate at a smaller level, and if you are sure the system is rock solid then maybe the projectionist, but the rest are really what you need if you plan on having moving digital imagery.
     
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  10. Morte615

    Morte615 Active Member

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    Just for some input, a video team at a large amusement park (scale down as needed to work) on the convention side, so not a daily operations show, would have anywhere from 2 to 10 (and sometimes more for bigger shows) techs working an event.

    A little background, this is a venue that has infrastructure already installed, including venue wide switching and routing, 5 playback machines (both Mac and PC) with routing for up to 15, Fiber and SDI backbone run throughout venue (we still had to do the "last mile" connections, to steal a term from the telco.)

    Depending on the complexity of the event it could be run with one engineer and one tech (if it's just put a logo up on an existing screen and don't change it then just a single person) but those were mostly just power points or similar. For most events that was switching, video playback, and maybe live camera that would go up to 4 or 5 (not including camera operators or their support people (shader, grip, ect.) That's an engineer (who may also switch, if not then an extra switcher) one or two graphics/playback people, and one or two projectionist/general techs for install/strike.

    For larger events with lots more equipment, remote booths, and lots of content the number of techs on the video crew could shoot way higher. Oh and we also didn't make any content in house, it was all provided by clients. There is an editing bay but that's mostly just to configure logo's and videos to work with the system. Hard fast rules that not allowed to change modify content beyond that without client approval, in writing.

    Now to loop this around a bit to a smaller community theater that I worked with recently. Their video team consisted of 3 people. 1 Engineer who did most of the work of creating the content, deciding what needed to go where, and programming it. Then 2 techs who kinda knew the rig who could assist with install and strike as well as operating. But it leaned really heavy on the engineer who did all the work. I hate situations with a single point of failure like that but as has been stated above people with those skills are few and far between and most won't put in the amount of hours needed for the small pay that most theaters can come up with.
     
  11. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    At my friend's high school PAC he's got a full fly system. They added a 30' screen with a single front and rear projector. They use it for showing a movie, video backgrounds for music groups, and projected backgrounds occasionally. But the majority of the time they still use traditional sets and drops. My feeling is, that's the way to go.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  12. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    A concept is forming in my mind of a place this might work.

    Several schools in my area have black box (sadly mostly used as drama class rooms, desks and all,) and TV studio spaces in addition to a proscenium theater. If a school were to create an animation/video curriculum then a performance venue for some of that work would be nice. It would also merge in with the green screen video applications. Adding some screen/projector capability to the black box would bring all these curriculum together, cross pollinating the learning and the separate student groups.

    Hmm, maybe needs more of a community college level program.
     
  13. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Supposedly Ion/Neo is what the district has been asking for in previous projects. Not necessarily what this project will use but is what the district is accustomed to. From what I've heard so far the district wants all LED, but if projection is involved my recommendation would be more ellipsoidals and fewer wash fixtures to avoid issues with spill -- or wash fixtures with a healthy stock of louvres, barn doors, and top hats. If they deployed the downstage scrim often, that would put more pressure on the side lighting requirements.

    Where it becomes tricky is that some times the RP would be used for video, and other times for lighting-by-video. I don't see this type of application calling for full-powered media server -- and I think going that route would make building the simulation lab more costly and difficult -- but they do need to be able to use the RP screen as a cyc without having to first set up all kinds of gradients up in Photoshop first and then dropping them into a Qlab stack.

    This functionality would be part of the presentation system using the front projector and a motorized screen. Unless they swap lenses to do a full proscenium width image this part of the system would be fairly static so if the principal comes in and needs to do a presentation it doesn't get in the way of the show and vise versa.

    However, if they wanted to show a large movie on the RP then I would want a functionality of being able to spit a single HDMI connection into the system and use a preset to define the image scaling and position on the surface so that everyone in the theater had an unobstructed view of the image in a presentation/film scenario. Whereas in a scenery application the farthest left/right seats would have partially obstructed views of the image just as you would see with a backdrop.

    I would want to see infrastructure throughout the theater for being able to deploy projectors elsewhere. This puts more pressure on the TD though because in the rigging frames these things would weigh 200lbs/ea and every time the rear projectors get used somewhere else they would have be reinstalled, aligned, and blended when they got put back. Obviously something this person would have to be familiar with regardless but it's time suck whenever it has to be done.

    This school does have a built in CCTV studio and media center. That could help provide additional support to this type of program or it could end up being a bunch of students recording infomercials and poorly cut together newscasts.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  14. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Oh man. I hate this even more right now. You are asking a kid out of college who built scenery in a converted gym to come in a deal with this kind of system is rather insane. Let alone someone with a theatre ed degree.

    I remember my days teaching at a VERY well funded performing arts magnet school. You barely had time to make sure the kids were doing stuff and you had enough lesson plans together to keep moving. With that too the idea of teaching someone who knows nothing about scenic design how to design only digitally is insane. Scenic design is a lot more then just pictures. We gave up drop and leg design years ago for a reason. I remember my kids getting getting hung up on moving lights. We taught the technology but they got overwhelmed with it because they didn't know the basics yet.... so it was used just to be used. I'm not against projected scenery but it is rather varsity level stuff. Its great to have the capability but it should not be the only way forward.
     
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  15. Rose Steele

    Rose Steele Member

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    Thanks for all who contributed to this thread; I'm on a design team debating the same decision and this is great information, particularly the fact that this discussion is out there and so many of you working in relevant facilities have contributed.
     
  16. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Hi Rose,

    Just as a quick update on where my project is that was being discussed here. We did a demo with the Panasonic 13K 3-chip DLP lasers. Everyone was thrilled and thought it looked great and in the 2x2 configuration we were looking at, if we were going to do projection, that would be a good way to go. It was at that point everyone was ready for the hard conversation about the long-term viability, maintenance, and system life-cycle costs in the 6-figures.

    We eventually landed on a catwalk system with removable floor sections that allowed the single projector used as part of the presentation system to be readily deployed on-stage with an ultra short throw lens, versus at the back of the theater with a long throw lens for presentations where it would live most of the time.

    Project is still in the design phase and likely to change. Possibility we'll resurrect the 2x2 13K projector concept for one of the next schools. Sounding like one of the next ones in the pipeline may be specifically a performing arts school with curriculum and facilities tailored to heavier, more in-depth use with the staffing and student commitment to take advantage of this caliber of opportunity. On the other hand, if that much money is available I can think of a dozen other ways to provide a diverse, well-rounded opportunity for the students than spending $250K on a projection system only a handful of students will be able to become familiar with to any depth over the course of a school year.
     
  17. Rose Steele

    Rose Steele Member

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    Thanks Mike, this is all great info. So you decided on catwalks over the stage in lieu of fly tower, or do you mean one of the FOH catwalks? And you also have a back of the stage location? A "garage" in the rear wall, or.....? We did the garage concept once but it needed ventilation, as it was an enclosed box, essentially
     
  18. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Some other things to think about. If you present a "digital scenery" option as a way to counter the cost of a fly loft, what else does the client hear? Well, it sounds like we also don't need a big scene shop, if we are going to project scenery, we don't need power tools and shop space, so we save more money on space and on liability.

    Just like that, in one swoop, you have inadvertently eliminated all the stagecraft opportunity from the curriculum. Then, 5-10 years down the road, when the projection system is in disrepair and someone wants to build a real set, they will be fighting for closet space and a table saw. You brush off future serviceability of your proposal ans not a great concern, or not you problem now, but how many theatres have you walked into and wished that the designer had thought about the long term applications of the design? You can't design for today and hope that everything will be peachy tomorrow. You need to design for tomorrow.

    Consider also that no matter what height you build the loft, you need either a fly system, or manual or automated winches. Dead-hung drapes of any kind are the bane of any theatre. You need to be able to trim softgoods, you need to be able to store your projection surface in a way that doesn't damage it, and you need to be able to manipulate placement of goods. You also need a way to move electrics. By lowering the ceiling height, all you are really doing is bringing your problems closer to the floor.

    Another thought on digital scenery.... There are far more people in the world who can help and teach children to design and construct traditional scenery. Not to mention that traditional stagecraft teaches useful life skills.

    I am not against teaching and using digital scenery in general, but I don't think it is something that many high schools have the infrastructure to support. It isnt even something you see offered at all of the top college level theatre programs because it is not an easy program to support. Don't forget that most high schools don't even have people who understand how a lighting console works beyond pushing up the fader that turns the lights on for the band concert. It seems like a long stretch to hope that a digital projection system is going to be something that could be understood and used on a regular basis.
     
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  19. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Probably will end up with catwalks and something that feels more like a black box with a lecture hall finish than a true proscenium theater. Needed to shave 8 figures off of the campus cost and downsizing the campus and the scaling back the theater was the only way to make it so they could have a theater at all. We can justify projection that's based off of the presentation projector they'll have in place no matter what, with a little extra support infrastructure. Cannot justify a speciality projection system.

    Haven't begun massing the revised concept for the theater yet but the plan is to give them a large scene shop. Next school/theater going up in the district that goes into design as soon as this one's slab is poured will likely be performing arts school and would be built under a "school-supported roadhouse" model. If this first school has shows that exceed the size of their stage, they'll have the scene shop space to build their show at their own school and transport it over to the performing arts school for performances.

    Before we went through VE, I concluded the Panasonics with the ultra short throw lenses were the only viable, albeit expensive, solution that would not leave an absurd amount of dead space upstage of the cyc that would cut into possible crossover and shop space. Because these lenses illuminate a rear surface unevenly, they would have to be front projected in something that would look like this:

    Proj Front 2x2.jpg

    In this scenario, what would otherwise have been dead space behind the cyc becomes dead space in front of it, that for non-projection events could be trapped-over and used for extra floor space. I would refer to this as the "if you were going to do it, this would be the most efficient use of floor space" option, which has obvious shortcomings in usability. As opposed to doing conventional rear projection, this option avoided some 21' of dead-space between the cyc and the upstage wall if rear projection with standard short throw lenses was done. Saving all of 6' of throw distance with mirror structures and rear projection would've been like $115K in and of itself and was not viable.

    Obviously, not a completed nor is it an elegant solution. For the time being though, I'm not exploring a specialty digital backdrop system any further.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2017
  20. ALT2870

    ALT2870 Member

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    As mentioned, digital media in theatre is still in it's infancy. We decided to try it out this year and we learned a few things.

    1.) It is a complement to scenery on stage, not the other way around. Having a stage with just a projection looks boring and empty. (Okay, we knew that, but I want to throw that out there.)

    2.) While we used professional projections, at least for the school I work at, those can be done in house. It's a great chance for other parts of the school to get involved and we plan on doing this next year if we move forward with the idea.

    3.) If you have the budget, get a projector that can throw enough lumens out. We could only afford a 7k one, and that was pushing it. Many lights push out 12k to 20k, but projectors that can match that are prohibitively expensive.

    Overall we felt that is was a good investment for the show. The only thing that we truly didn't buy was the system that translated between the light board and the projector. It is called an ImageCue and that is very new technology that we were not sure of. However based on feedback from cast, crew, and audience, we feel that it it could be a very worthwhile investment in the future. Here is a link so you can get an idea of what things look like: https://www.facebook.com/GSHSTheatreProgram/posts/583095248562502

    I should mention for our space we DO NOT have a fly system. Rather set pieces are stored in the wings and rolled on and off.

    This technology has a long ways to go but I do feel that it will be the next big thing. It is cool to be part of something new. But, the flip side is that you know if you invest in it now, it will be outdated with a matter of years.
     

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