The beloved children's fable The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, came to life this holiday season at the State Theatre in Austin, TX, December 4-29, 2002, under the direction of Scott Kanoff. Well-known Broadway lighting designer Richard Winkler (Evita, Fame: the Musical Tour) used the High End Systems Catalyst™ System for the first time. He also specified eight Studio Spot® 575s and four Studio Color® 575s, controlled by a Flying Pig Systems Hog 500 console.
"Catalyst is a new tool that will help revolutionize the industry--it will take us to the next level of theatrical presentation," said Winkler. "Sound in the last 10 years has become the major important design element, along with lighting, scenery, and costumes--and video is on its way. The advent of the Catalyst will help move things forward at a very rapid pace."
The Catalyst system combines the power of digital media with the creativity of automated effects lighting. In The Little Prince, Catalyst is called into play when a character must draw various images--a sheep, a rose, and others--which are illustrated in the book.
Said video designer Colin Lowery, "The script has little line drawings that one of the characters draws on a sketch pad during the show, so we wanted to have it appear like the audience was seeing what he was drawing in real time. What the original stage directions say is to have an artist backstage with an overhead projector doing the drawings with grease pencils. Instead, we enlarged the drawings from the script so that they would be bigger, put them under the transparency sheet and a Wacom Tablet--a pressure-sensitive drawing pad that enables you to draw in Painter and Photoshop. I have a computer that's hooked up to the Wacom Tablet, so I plugged the video out of that computer into a deck so that anything that was happening on the computer screen was also being recorded on a tape."
Lowery's son traced the artwork. "A complicated drawing would probably take three or four minutes and you probably have 30 seconds of onstage time in which you would see the drawing," Lowery explains, "so we had to speed it up like crazy--in some cases 900%. The drawings were white on black, so we'd make changes with the background color, drawing speed, shape, and other parameters, and create a new movie. My programmer would just replace the file in Catalyst with the new file."
Winkler marveled at Catalyst's features. "Catalyst allows phenomenal flexibility as long as you have a video content creator and a lighting programmer who are capable of making the content changes available to you in the theatre," he adds. The speed at which changes can be made is important. "We had ideas and we changed and modified images within three minutes," Winkler says. "Without Catalyst, any changes would typically be done out of the theatre, usually overnight, it would be costly, and you were never really sure exactly what you were getting until the next day. By having Catalyst and Apple's Final Cut Pro software on-site, we could make the changes and load them into Catalyst immediately."