It is easy to get swept up into the talk and excitement of high resolution displays. High-def projectors are becoming more and more commonplace in production, and many shows use HD televisions as set pieces. In fact, in the Los Angeles production ofThe Pee-Wee Herman Show, we had both an HD projector and an HDTV. Now that I mention it, the projector was actually slightly higher resolution; it was a 2K projector, 1080p’s slightly larger cousin, at 2,048x1,080 pixels. It won’t be long before we will be discussing how to deal with 4K projections. However, today I want to share my experience dealing with a different kind of animal: the LED screen.
I wrote this in Atlanta, working with video designer Jeff Sugg forBring It On: The Musical, premiering at the Alliance Theatre. Set designer David Korins chose to use four 6' Everbrighten BR-07 LED walls that fly in and out on large beams and constantly change the composition of the scenery. Although each panel uses 36sq-ft. of stage area, each is populated with a mere 256x256 grid of pixels. Think about that for a moment. That means that all four panels can fit into a 512x512 square. Or, if you prefer, a 1,024x256 rectangle, which is just one of the many screen configurations that we use in Bring It On. Even though I’ve worked with LEDs before, I am always surprised at how good a tiny square of pixels can look.
For comparison, we use 262,144 pixels total in Bring It On, whereas a show like Sondheim on Sondheim, which used 54 televisions at 640x360, used a massive 12,441,600 pixels. That’s roughly 47.5 times as much information, yet somehow, it takes just as much care and planning to execute a beautiful looking show, no matter how much visual information has to be pushed through the computers.
While LED panels and processors can be very expensive, and their operation can be much more esoteric than projectors and televisions, they make up for their high costs of entry by allowing fewer and less powerful playback computers to operate them. Whereas on other shows, it could become a struggle to get a computer to play a single 1080p clip smoothly, on this show, our beefy Dataton Watchout system can fire through many, many simultaneous 256x256 chunks of video with ease. In addition, the rendering time to create content for such small clips is minimal, allowing the video team to make many versions of effects in very little time at all. That is definitely something you’ll want to consider when choosing a display for your next show. I can't show you pictures of Bring it On just yet, but if you're in Atlanta over the next few weeks, be sure to stop by the Alliance and check it out.