Scharff Weisberg recently supplied projection designer Michael Clark with a video and show control package for Billy Crystal’s Broadway debut, 700 Sundays. The company enlisted Dataton Watchout, three video projectors, and Medialon Manager to create the projected scenery integral to the show.
Playing at the Broadhurst Theatre, 700 Sundays is performed and written by Crystal with additional content by Alan Zweibel; it is directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff. The two-act play is an autobiographical journey about family and fate with Crystal playing numerous influential characters in his life. It covers his youth, growing up in the jazz world of Manhattan, his teenage years, and adulthood. On stage, Crystal stands outside his childhood home, while images are projected in the windows and across the stage.
"When we originally did the show in California, we realized that Billy was going to want to improvise some of each night’s performance, and we needed a way to manage the media to adapt to the changing scenario," explains projection designer Michael Clark. "I suggested Watchout, which offers instant access to stored video clips, as a way to archive and playback segments as needed, and that worked great."
"When the show moved to Broadway," Clark continues, "we wanted to streamline the show’s production. Employing Medialon allowed us to take light board commands and execute Watchout without the need of a separate video operator. The show operator simply pushes a button on the lighting board triggering Medialon (via MIDI) which in turn controls Watchout."
Clark immediately thought of using Scharff Weisberg since the show involved the integration of many presentation technologies plus projection. "I have a long relationship with them, and they have advanced integration experience," he says.
Scharff Weisberg employed a three-screen Watchout system controlled by Medialon and featuring three Christie LX100 projectors: two project on rear projection sheets that form part of the windows of Crystal’s house set; the third projects across the entire front of house. The projectors switch back and forth between virtual windows, transitional window-blinds effects, videos, and montages of images from Crystal’s childhood. Tom Whipple serves as projectionist.
"We used Watchout as the video source because it was the easiest way to coordinate three projections and have lots of easily-editable footage and stills," says Scharff Weisberg’s project manger Derek Holbrook.
"Other control systems only allowed us to access the timeline by timecode; consequently, if you changed the timeline you might have to change every show-control cue," adds Scharff Weisberg’s Lars Pedersen. "With Medialon, you can talk to Watchout by the network, which allows you to trigger cues by a named ‘control cue.’ This enables you to change whatever you want on the timeline–and you don't need to change the show control. In the theater, you're always changing the duration of cues to adapt to the live performance. In addition, Medialon’s built-in MIDI Show Control support allowed us to facilitate triggering the Watchout cues via the lighting console."