In February, the Canadian artist Roch Voisine gave an acoustic concert series at Casino Montreal and Casino de Hull in Canada before hitting the road in Europe in the fall. I was hired as the lighting designer, but the production gave me carte blanche for the production design. The aim was to use the equipment already in the venues; both casinos are well equipped with several Vari-Lite fixtures, AC Lighting Chroma-Q Color Block LEDs, an MA Lighting grandMA console, and lots of conventional fixtures. Because we've seen so many acoustic shows with the same kind of design, I thought that adding video to this show, in a theatrical way, would be a great idea.

Since last year, I've been merging video and lighting through media servers on almost all of my projects. It gives me more control of the visual results. Even if the images are coming from a video designer, I can adjust them live and make sure that they fit with the looks and that the cues are tight together. In this case, the casinos had a Christie Digital S12 Roadie 10K lumen projector, so I planned to use theirs. The only problem was that they don't have a media server, and the production didn't want to rent one for more than a month. So I went looking for affordable software and came across ArKaos.

This program has eight layers of video, several effects, live input, and can be triggered by DMX. I found a guy who had been using ArKaos software, and we developed the device for the grandMA. We chose the 3.5.1 HW (hardware acceleration) version. For the cable connections, I used the VGA output of the computer to send it to the projector. I added a VGA-RGBHV interface in between, and it also helped to boost the signal. My laptop was linked to the grandMA with the Art-Net protocol through a network switch. The setup in the laptop and the grandMA is pretty simple.

I was using my personal computer to run the show, and it felt a bit scary because, even though I own a Toshiba P30 with a 256MB ATI video card, some pictures lagged when I was playing with multiple layers and effects. So I uninstalled the anti-virus program and ran a registry cleaner to make sure that my computer would run at 100%. I have an external hard drive attached to my laptop, so if there was a problem with my primary hard drive, I could route it to my external drive. After making those changes, everything worked fine.

For the screen, I didn't want to have standard PVC white screen, so my screens were five (6'×20') legs of mosquito netting. This material reflects light very well, and it also worked well with video. When nothing is projected, the legs disappear like black tulle, so I was able to make several layers of lights and video.

I know that this program is not the same quality as the big media server programs and that there aren't many images included, but it was more than enough for the size of the project. By programming video like moving lights, I could recall videos quickly, program effects with the console effects engine, and add the rates separately. This was perfect for touring. Even if the venues were different sizes, with this software program, users can adjust the scale and positioning with very little manipulation. I used the X, Y presets to set all the images. So if I needed to go wider with my screens, I only had to update the presets. Basically, I had two kinds of layouts: the full screen and the five separate legs. I was able to project five different images on the five legs with my rig. Using the grandMA also helped because you can control every parameter with 16 bits, and, therefore, can be extremely precise.

Having the chance to use this kind of new technology gives an edge to today's events. Even if an artist wants to create a soft and intimate look, it is possible to balance technology and artistic needs. I think the fact that LDs have control of video doesn't mean that we don't need video designers; if anything, we need them more than ever. It is going to create new partnerships.

Email Matthieu Larivée at info@e-luz.ca or visit his company website at www.e-luz.ca.

Credits/Equipment List

Venue: Cabaret du Casino, Montreal, Canada

Production Designer: Matthieu Larivée, LÜZ

Head Electric: Benoît Devaux

Programming video assistant: Hubert Gagnon

Head Video: Alexis Laurence

TD: Jacques Foulem

Ligthing:
14 Vari-Lite VL2416
12 Vari-Lite VL2202
1 Vari-Lite VL1000 AS
48 AC Lightng Chroma-Q Color Block LED
8 ETC Source Four® 19° leko
4 ETC Source Four 26° leko
7 ETC Source Four narrow PAR
12 Robert Juliat 614 SX (leko)
2 Robert Juliat Cyrano followspots
Video:
1 Christie Roadie S12 10K lumen projector
1 VGA-RGBHV interface
Control:
1 MA Lighting grandMA
1 MA Lighting grandMA Ultra Light (back up)
1 Ethernet Switch
1 Toshiba P30 laptop with ATI 256MB video card
1 Arkaos 3.5 HW software