The Y-3 show at The Roseland Ballroom during New York's semi-annual Fashion Week featured designer Yohji Yamamoto's showcase of his sportswear line for Adidas, but sportswear wasn't exactly the main attraction at this stark showcase of what hardly seemed sporty. Instead, guests were treated to an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired environment created by event producers OBO with lighting design by jkld, inc., projection design by Elaine J. McCarthy, staging by KadaN Productions, set design by Mike Brown, rigging by Sapsis Rigging, and technical support from Scharff Weisberg.
With a giant double-hung window, measuring approximately 20'×26' and set at an angle to the stage, and a twisted tree on the stage, ominous images, mostly from Hitchcock's The Birds and Psycho, were projected onto the window as models stepped through a crack in the bottom half of the window “glass” onto the runway. Brown's set was based on concepts developed by Villa Eugenie, Adidas' show producers in Germany, who also contracted OBO to stage the show in New York.
“This was not the typical fashion show,” says Walter Elzey, senior account executive for Scharff Weisberg, who also provided lighting and video gear for the production. “It was dark and edgy and ominous — very black. Everything was black. Roseland, as a venue, is a little tired, but funky and different, maybe more edgy than some other places. The whole set was black. All the carpeting was black; the seating risers were black. Rather than hundreds of lights, it was more stark pools of light. Even the fashion was dark.”
Jan Kroeze, managing member of OBO and president/lighting designer of jkld, describes the show as “strongly atmospheric,” with its runway of black glass gravel, a black curtain that opened to reveal the main entrance, and the window with opaque black backing. “Artistically, we were striving to build a single, coherent image with scenery, sound, light, projection, and décor,” Kroeze says. “No single element took precedence; they had to integrate holographically.”
Integrating lighting and video involved the normal technical issues, according to Kroeze. “Keeping the projection and lighting at the same color temperature was key,” he says. “We were projecting video onto black curtains and scenery, and lighting a very gothic atmosphere, but we had to make the video projections and patterned light readable to still cameras and video recording the event.”
To pull this off, jkld usually aims levels of f2.8 at 1/250 second at ISO 160, but because of the necessity of integrating video and lighting in a black environment, and after some testing at Scharff Weisberg, they determined that they needed the light level to be two stops less. “We eventually arrived at f2.0 at ISO 320, with the video images reading between one and two stops lower,” he says. “We notified all the photographers of this departure so that they could be prepared.”
These sorts of time issues affect the entire production design, as Kroeze and his team try to think of the entire show as a 1/250 second snapshot and consider what must be achieved in that frame. Sometimes, a fashion show is launching a campaign that may follow in print, and other times, there are corporate goals that involve politics and market strategizing. “These are the most challenging and interesting creative and intellectual exercises,” he says. “In that time, you have to deliver the inspiration, intent, image, and corporate goals of the design house.”
For this evening's design, when each model entered the runway, he or she was lit only by the video projections and then proceeded down the staged stairs accompanied by a rise in light levels until each model was under more focused white light. Ben Salzman and his team at Scharff Weisberg Lighting managed the lighting account, furnishing a moving-light complement of Vari-Lite VL3500™ Spots and VL3000™ spots. A Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 2 controlled the lighting rig, programmed by Brendon Boyd.
Steve Brady was the supervising designer for jkld. Three rigging companies were also on site: the house riggers, Sapsis Rigging, and Stone Pro Rigging, brought in by KadaN to erect the window. Joshua Hellman served as OBO's project manager, John Harmon as jkld's production manager, and Joe Volpe was Scharff Weisberg's project manager.
“We did something unusual for a fashion show,” says Kroeze. “The entire show featured patterned projections and broken light moving over the models. We used a fairly saturated blue for the preset so that the use of no color during the show would support the black and white filmic intent. During the preset, we had some lights generating bolts of lightning and flying negative crows intermittently for fractions of a second.”
Kroeze called the technical cues during the show, while Etienne Russo of Villa Eugenie called the model rotation, a challenge, Kroeze notes, as the technical and talent elements of the show are called in different languages.
For the video element, projection designer McCarthy created the moody, high-contrast content, looping and manipulating very short clips from The Birds and Psycho, licensed from the Hitchcock estate. The imagery flew around the audience during pre-show and on the runway during the show via two Christie LX100 projectors attached to two High End Systems Catalyst™ mirror heads and controlled by Green Hippo Hippotizer media servers. Three Hippotizers, in total, were used on the production, one for the main screen and one for the two moving projector heads, with a backup in line. All of the media servers were controlled by Art-Net via TCP/IP from the console. KVM network switches were also used in the Hippotizer rack. In addition, three Barco R12 projectors triple-converged to project onto the window set piece. Scharff Weisberg also provided cages and trussing to hang the Catalyst mirror heads.
All content was prefabricated from the Hitchcock material for the show, with no live footage of the runway used. McCarthy prepared test edits and the final selection of clips with the support of the Scharff Weisberg Media Resource Center (MRC), the production company's post-production facility in midtown Manhattan, and loaded them into the Hippotizers on-site, where they were treated, layered, and tilted to fit the angled window frame. Some of the more complicated sequences were broken up into several clips to provide many different playback options. “This proved handy for building abstract looks and looping things over other images,” says Cory FitzGerald, who programmed video for the show on an MA Lighting grandMA, which controlled all content via the Hippotizers.
FitzGerald spent a day at MRC with Randy Briggs with the Hippotizer and console setup in order to start setting up a show disk and a generic disk that could be used on the show. “Randy loaded all the content on the Hippotizers onsite, and we stepped through it there, setting each specific clip up as a preset for playback,” says FitzGerald, who was brought in by Scharff Weisberg because of his extensive experience with both media servers and the grandMA console. In addition to Randy Briggs at MRC, Lars Pederson also managed and operated the media technology.
When show time came for the video team, FitzGerald ran the grandMA, while McCarthy called the cues. “The Hippotizer was the perfect tool for the job,” says McCarthy. “In the fashion show environment, I had to be able to make changes up to and including show time. Cory and I prepared a set of palettes, and ultimately, I edited the show in real time, VJ style.”
“It was a bit chaotic, since we got the cues and instructions from the director about 15 minutes after doors were supposed to open,” adds FitzGerald. “Elaine called the show to me, and I ran the various songs, throwing in a few totally on-the-fly things as we went.”
The grandMA, therefore, was programmed and set up to work mostly on the fly. “The show kept changing, as far as what was happening when, so each section or song in the fashion show was set up as a separate cue list or series of cue lists, so that I could run all of them out of order, if need be,” says FitzGerald.
McCarthy also wanted many hits and fades on the fly, so FitzGerald set up each list with a few effects and then overlaid the clips in order, so they were able to switch back and forth without breaks in the video. Since each layer and clip had to be preset using the media servers, it was a challenge to cue and keep the loops of content seamless, so they could be run out of sequence. “Having eight layers plus a master layer meant I could use a few layers per song and still be able to cross-fade at will to the next song without scrambling what was running previously,” says FitzGerald.
“Using a media server in a live, on-the-fly situation with specific ordered content is usually the hardest thing for me, setting it up so that we could grab almost any clip and have it cross-fade up, as though we were running an Encore system or some video mixing software,” adds FitzGerald. “Once we knew the order of the show and how it was going to run, I set it up and just ran with it.”
As for final thoughts on the production, Kroeze says, “We were generally pleased with the results, with the caveat that using breakup light or video on high-gloss black set pieces, such as the blasted tree and flock of blackbirds, renders them too abstract on camera.”
Other than that, Kroeze says he sees huge potential for integrating media into shows “now that the digital age has arrived.”
|12||Vari-Lite VL3000™ Spot|
|8||ETC Source Four® Ellipsoidal|
|16||ETC Source Four PAR|
|2||Le Maitre G300 Hazer|
|2||Barco SLM-R12 Projector Kit|
|3||Barco TLD 2.8-5 SLM Zoom Lens|
|2||Green Hippo Hippotizer Stage Package|
|2||NEC XT5000 Fly Cage AVS-12N|
|2||Christie LX-100 Projector Kit|
|2||Christie L8-2.0-2.6:1 Zoom Lens|
|2||High End Systems Catalyst™ Mirror Head System Kit|
|1||Green Hippo Hippotizer Stage Package|
|2||Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 2|
|1||MA Lighting grandMA|
|1||Motion Labs 200A Distro and Cable Package|
|1||200A Distro and Cable Package|
|4||Magenta 450 Receiver Kit|
|2||Magenta 450-T4 Transmitter Kit|
|5||NEC LCD2080UX 20.1" Monitor Package|
Flying Pig Systems: www.highend.com
Green Hippo: www.green-hippo.com
High End Systems: www.highend.com
KadaN Productions: www.kadaninc.com
Le Maitre: www.lemaitrefx.com
MA Lighting: www.malighting.com
Motion Laboratories: www.motionlabs.com
Sapsis Rigging: www.sapsis-rigging.com
Scharff Weisberg: www.swinyc.com
Stone Pro Rigging, Inc.: www.stoneprorigging.com