SNP Supplies Catalysts for Pet Shop Boys Pandemonium tour

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In May 2009, Milton Keynes, UK based video control solutions specialist SNP Productions supplied leading video rental house Creative Technology with 2 x Catalyst v4 PRO media servers, complete with 250 Gb solid state hard drives for the Pet Shop Boys' “Pandemonium” world tour - for which CT was the video contractor.

The Catalysts were housed in one of SNP's unique Catalyst System flight-cases. In addition to their new Catalyst servers, CT supplied 6 x Barco 20K HD projectors and all necessary cabling/distro, which were overlaid to produce one bright image for film projections onto the spectacular stage set designed by Es Devlin.

The Pet Shop Boys' live shows are renowned as being among the most visually innovative, exciting and fun on the planet. Video was always integral to the set design, and in close collaboration with the band, Devlin commissioned Onedotzero to produce the series of films projected onto two video surfaces - upstage and downstage - that ran for most of the performance.

The whole show was conceived as a movie from start to finish, with the set - an installation of approximately 500 x 800 x 800 mm fire-proofed white cardboard boxes.

The downstage surface consisted of 2 walls of 25 boxes each in 5 x 5 format, left and right of centre. The upstage surface varied depending on the size of the stage, but in its largest form was 16 boxes wide by 9 high, with the top broken up by smaller boxes giving an abstract skyline effect.

These provide two constantly changing and contrasting planes and surfaces onto which the films were projected.

SNP's Simon Pugsley spent a week in production rehearsals at Three Mills in London at the start of the tour, loading the video content onto the Catalysts and programming the show with touring projection and Catalyst operator, Robyn Tearle. They also worked very closely with lighting designer Rob Sinclair and Es Devlin to ensure a seamless harmonisation between the mediums of video projection and lighting.

Video was all synchronised to SMPTE timecode, generated from MD Pete Gleadall's "box of tricks" onstage. Pugsley programmed a series of presets into the Catalyst for each song and a SMPTE synchronised Cuelist was then used to playback each cue.

Synching everything was a challenge - but once it was all set up, running the show became a simple task ... just a question of pressing ‘Go' and watching the timecode trigger all the cues. SNP kept in touch throughout the various legs of the tour, and provided Catalyst support as and when needed throughout.

With the two upstage and downstage planes of projection, the projector convergence changed throughout the show.

While the Catalyst could have easily handled the convergence changes, due to the complex setup of Mix Windows which were necessary to line up the video elements on specific parts of the set, SNP used the 'view switching' function on 6 Barco Image Pro signal processors - one linked to each projector - to quickly and easily swap convergence "on the fly". This was triggered by an RS232 command from the Catalyst cuelist.

The switching is instant and was automatically triggered a few frames before the next cue. The Image Pros converted the HD resolution DVI signal from the Catalyst to HD-SDI which then fed all the projectors. Each Image Pro held 2 'view' settings, so the images from each of the 6 projectors could be converged onto either the upstage or downstage projection surfaces.

In November 09, when the tour returned to the UK and Europe for a run up to Christmas, some updates to the programming were necessary to incorporate new songs that had been added to the set – a task that was extremely straightforward to achieve using Catalyst.

Robyn Tearle comments, "Simon has been brilliant - they way he set up the Catalyst covered lots of bases, so when new content was added to the performance as it has progressed, I could very easily integrate it into the show".

SNP slightly re-configured the Catalyst rack for this final section of the tour, and also supplied another identical sized rack to house all the Image Pros and their associated distribution.

SNP Productions has supplied a further 2 x Catalyst v4 PRO media servers, complete with Solid State Drives for a tour of Dorian Grey, which CT build in to their own custom system rack.

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