Technology as a Slave to Art: Hippotizer at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards

entirenetwork-2.PNG portaluberpan.PNG hippo_racks_oscars2011.jpg hippos_oscars-3.jpg music1-14.jpg music1-46.jpg music1-50.jpg hippotizerlogo-rgb.jpgThis year's prime-time Academy Awards Show was the most creative Oscar production to date. The production design by Steve Bass combined a look of vintage scenery and film clips with futuristic time travel, all accomplished by technical sleight of hand. In the words of Entertainment Weekly, “…… one thing is quite certain: The stage design – featuring an ever-changing tableau of projected images both abstract and specific to Oscar-lauded films from years past – was a stunning show-stopper.”

The “timeless” virtual reality tableau, featuring a mixture of movie and Oscar show content, past and present, plus many scenic effects, was driven and controlled by 34 Hippotizer HDs, using a total of 53 discrete active outputs.

Hippotizer's UberPan multiple display software component controlled video feeds for over 70 projectors. The varied projection surfaces included:

• Four arched portals framing the main stage (rear projected): 40 Christie 10K HD projectors driven by an UberPan system of 40 outputs from 22 HD Hippotizers. The overall image size for this canvas was 8k. Also, all warping for the portals' complex shape was generated by the Hippotizers.

• Upstage cyclorama curtain (rear projected): The upstage cyc screen was driven by one Hippotizer HD output to six overlapped, converged Barco FLM R22+ projectors. This was part of the UberPan system with the portals.

• Flying center stage main screen (front projected): Two Hippotizer HD outputs feeding a projection blend of six Barco FLM R22+ projectors.

• Traveling screens (front projected): UberPan system of four outputs feeding a ribbon of four edge-blended Barco 20K HD projectors, creating a projection band across the stage in which the two main traveler screens moved. Hippotizer synchronized the images with the motion control for these and the main screens.

• Moving acrylic “glass panels” (front projected): Six HD UberPan outputs to 12 Barco FLM R22+ projectors. To resolve complex geometry issues resulting from these projectors' locations on stage, a custom keystone was created by Green Hippo Special Projects to allow keystoning of separate portions of an output independently of each other.

To enable images on the traveling screens, the flying screens and the acrylic panels, a link was established, using Hippotizer's Automation tracking component, between the Hippotizer network and the PRG motion control system used to control movement of the screens. This allowed Hippotizer to both send command cues and track each screen's position and speed and then move the necessary images accordingly, often across projected edge blends and between different servers.

Twenty DVI Parrot EDID Emulators by Carallon were used to capture, analyze, create and control EDID settings and profiles.

Says Jason Rudolph, the show's Hippotizer Programmer, “What UberPan enabled us to do, was to work up two main working templates, one for the Portals/Cyc system, the other for the acrylic panels, and deliver these two templates to all of the content designers. This allowed them to deliver to us two files for each look of the show. Once we mapped everything out in UberPan on the Hippos, all we had to do is drop the files in and it would take care of splitting up the media into 47 separate pieces and sending it to their respective locations. Had we not been able to do this, the content teams would have needed to generate 47 pieces of content for each look of the show. Then if the drawings we were working off varied in any slight way from the realities of the set, every one of those pieces of content would have to be re-done. It simply could not have happened that way, given the schedule and budget of the show. The great thing about UberPan is that when you first load a clip into the system, it creates a single HD version of the clip, and scales it everywhere, so that you have a low-res version to work with until you split the media up. This enabled us to test things with the producers and make changes prior to taking all the time to do the splitting. While the Hippo does a fantastic job of this, we were still working with massive files, so all this took quite a bit of time.

“Additionally, the automation tracking worked fantastically. This is a credit to both Green Hippo and PRG, as both systems were extremely accurate, and just simply worked. It was one facet of the show we never had to think about once it was set up.

“Obviously, when doing something of this size and scope, you are going to run into issues, and the way the team from Green Hippo and TMB handled them makes it possible to tackle these types of jobs. I couldn't see even attempting to take on something like this without that level of support behind me”.

Show credits include: Director, Don Mischer; Production Design, Steve Bass; Screens Creative Director, Lee Lodge; Screens Producer, Lee Lodge; Hippotizer Programmer and Screens Coordinator, Jason Rudolph; Hippotizer Special Projects, Nigel Sadler; Hippotizer System Technician, Matt Waters; TMB Tech Support, Kris Murray; Screens Company, SenovvA; Projection Engineer, Dave Taylor; Graphics by Imaginary Forces, PIC Agency, DreamWorks, Disney Animation, and Pixar.

TMB is the exclusive distributor for Hippotizer in North America and Asia: www.tmb.com/products/hippotizer.

TMB is also exclusive distributor worldwide for DVI Parrot by Carallon: www.tmb.com/products/parrot.

Learn about other exciting products from TMB at www.tmb.com.

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