Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Avril Lavigne, Jewel, Michelle Branch, Tim McGraw, Beyonce, Michael Jackson and more top artists are all sharing one set. Each has a distinct style. How do you accommodate them all? You create a virtual set.

LD Allen Branton and production designer John Calkins did just that. They envisioned using High End Systems’ new Catalyst® Version 3 media servers and DL1™ digital light fixture as tools to create a virtual set when designing the production for the Radio Music Awards. Airing Oct. 27 on NBC-TV live from Las Vegas, the show celebrated hot music on the nation’s airwaves. Digital media gave them the flexibility they needed to change the look of the set from one artist to another.

Photo: Kevin Lawson

Christian Choi, lighting director and Catalyst visual effects producer, was pleased to use the new Catalyst Version 3 software in the show. “It gets me excited just talking about it,” he says. “It's is a quantum leap over Version 1.2. It’s incredible what you can do with this software. Functionality has exponentially increased and all of the effects channels were so brilliantly conceived that it really marries technology to art. This was a living, breathing Catalyst set.”

Photo: Kevin Lawson

A main difference in the new Catalyst Version 3 software is the ability to use four layers and cross-fade between them all. "This feature is an invaluable tool," Choi says. "In the video world, everybody wants dissolves, and Catalyst Version 3 gives you that ability,” he explains. “It enables you to do play with multiple layers at once and masking out different parts of that layer and using up to four videos at once, playing behind each other. That’s really a cool thing to do, because it allows you to recycle old art into new art.”

Choi says the software was completely "bullet proof--very reliable. I put it through some paces, and pushed the limits on it and it held up great during the show.”

Following suggestions from Branton and Calkins, Choi shot most of the show’s video content, focusing on closeups of movie props, metal pieces, odd industrial structures, control panels, speakers, more. He then edited it and applied some effects on it, using dissolves, making it different colors or using the 3D effects. Christian Sariol handled the graphic content, which ran on its own or layered with video for some great effects.

The set featured three screens, with projectors rear-projecting behind each--all provided by American High Def. Behind each screen were the Catalyst Media Servers. Six DL1s, also outfitted with Version 3 software, added effects on the front truss behind the presenters.

VLPS provided lighting, including 26 HES Studio Color® 575s in the assorted moving light package. They also supplied the Wholehog® II console, Catalyst Media Servers, VLPS Content Library and production services. HES supplied DL1s.

“This was a landmark event, a real joint venture," Choi notes. "It was a great display of teamwork amongst all parties.”