Phil Gilbert is the video programmer on Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, about which he says: “The show looks amazing and is getting a couple of final touch-ups before the mid-June grand opening.” He joins designer Howard Werner on a Spider-Man “technical, how they did it” panel at the Broadway Projection Master Classes on Monday, May 23 (along with Jason Lindahl and Sarah Jakubasz). Live Design chats with Gilbert on his role as a programmer:

How did you start doing media server programming?

I've been programming media servers (alongside automated lighting) for a little over ten years. I had a couple of opportunities to use Catalysts early on and I found that I had a pretty good understanding of the way they 'thought.' The concepts of layers, pixel mapping, and the relation of the screen to the output device were very logical to me. When I moved to New York in 2007 I had already done some work for Lightswitch in Chicago and John Featherstone connected me with Howard Werner. Howard has always been on the cusp of projection design and is always doing interesting projects that involve media servers. I've been fortunate to work with him on many of these projects in the past four years.

What is the most interesting and/or challenging part of the job?

I enjoy building a great relationship and design language with a designer when I'm sitting behind the console. I find this especially important when dealing with media servers as there are so many possible ways to manipulate a piece of content. A designer and a programmer can have a very deep understanding of every parameter on an automated lighting fixture. However, on a server, one of the big challenges is that there are so many possible effects that can be applied to a piece of content. This means that I have to be very good about communicating how I'm manipulating the content. Howard's not going to say "turn up the rotation speed on gobo 1." He's going to say "Can you add some blur to layer three?" And there may be four different blur modes available on that layer, with two additional adjustment parameters on each. There has to be a large amount of trust in the relationship.

What is your role on Spider-Man, and how is it going?

I think I'm listed in the program as video programmer. I programmed the bulk of the cues in the show, and some additional programming was done by a couple of others including my good friend Jason Lindahl. We have a very tight-knit team and all of us are cross-trained in a little bit of everything. Sarah [Jakubasz], and Jason dealt with the bulk of the content management on the server side, while I generally dealt with the content after it was loaded. Depending on the day, you could find Sarah or Jason in the associate designer or content management seat. You might also have found Jason or me dealing with server management or console programming.

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