Concordia College in Moorhead, MN recently produced its 80th Annual Christmas Concert featuring a 425-voice choir and full orchestra. Since 1978, the show’s visual centerpiece has been an original mural by liturgical artist David Hetland. Hetland passed away in the spring of 2006 and as a tribute, the year’s concert featured digital slides of his past murals projected on a custom-built screen behind the choirs and orchestra.

Concordia lighting director Bryan Duncan chose six DL.2 fixtures from Ruehling Associates, Inc. in Minneapolis to project the images onto a 20’ x 63’ screen during the concert. Duncan originally planned to use traditional fixed projectors for the concert, but when he saw the capabilities of the DL.2 fixtures running Collage Generator Software, he realized the potential of digital lighting not only for this year’s event, but for future projects as well.

“For this year’s concert we kept things pretty simple with no movement and basic cross fades for transitions,” Duncan explains. “As event producers on campus see the quality of image projection and the flexibility digital lighting fixtures can provide, I can envision us potentially incorporating this technology in the future. The creative possibilities are really amazing.”

Ruehling Associates not only provided the DL.2 fixtures, but also supplied a total production service package including system design, content manipulation, programming, and onsite operation. Ruehling’s digital media specialist Travis Slyter oversaw the design and programming of the system and assisted Duncan with customizing content. “This was a ground-breaking project in many ways,” Slyter says. “We did a lot of experimenting with image size, resolutions and projector placement. Even though we didn’t move the projectors during the show and only used one or two layers at a time, the DL.2s provided more control over image attributes, easier projector alignment, and simplified media playback more than a traditional fixed projector system. Plus, we were able to key a video clip of a dove flying over one of the digital slides in realtime within the DL.2 which would have been difficult to do without pre-producing a separate video loop or using a complex video switching system to produce the layering effects we needed.”

The six DL.2 fixtures were configured in dual arrays 3 wide x 1 high which were overlaid for brightness and redundancy. Control of the digital fixtures was handled by a Wholehog III Console and a Hog PC system was used during set-up and rehearsals as a wireless remote focus unit. Ruehling’s Andrew Atienza, who serves as the company’s digital lighting technical support specialist, traveled onsite to complete programming and operate the system during the show. “The DL.2s performed very well,” notes Atienza. “We simply updated the palettes we had pre-built in ½ scale in our showroom to match the full-scale of the venue. The Collage Generator Software combined with the keystoning control of the DL.2s allowed us to compensate for minor differences in throw distances and projection angle without moving projectors or climbing up on a truss to tweak settings. The wireless Hog PC system networked to the Hog III worked great and was very helpful as it allowed me to be close to the stage while fine-tuning the arrays during set-up.”

Content preparation is an important part of digital lighting and Slyter said the success of this project was attributed to collaboration and careful preparation of the media before loading them into the digital fixtures. “It was a team effort and our pre-production work was the key to things going smoothly on-site,” says Slyter. “Bryan selected about 60 slides from the 6,000 photos he had of the murals. Fortunately, the images were very high resolution digital photos or scans. He sent a few images to me, I calculated the pixel count of the collage layout we were using and we sized the images to fit. Consequently, when we loaded the stills into the DL.2s and put the fixtures into 3 x 1 collage mode we were actually showing the images in their native resolution. The increased resolution of the new Collage Generator Software allowed us to keep the images sharp even when spread across three projectors showing very large images. Because we were trying to recreate the murals as accurately as possible, image quality and aspect ratio preservation were crucial. The DL.2s delivered a sharp, vibrant image even from our final throw distance which was about 48 feet.”

Additional support for the project was provided by Ruehling’s service manger Joshua Wood and rental manager Jeff Gallenbeck. Company president and owner Ron Ruehling was excited to see digital lighting introduced to a new market in a unique way. “This project showed the flexibility and image quality of the DL.2s,” Ruehling says. “They are just as impressive producing subtle effects in a theatrical or presentational environment like this as they are in a concert or club application producing special effects. This was a great opportunity to introduce digital lighting to a new community of potential clients.”

Duncan was also very pleased with the results. “We can’t replicate what Dave did, but this allowed us to give people a taste. High End’s equipment allowed us to showcase the intricate details of the murals. It wasn’t just big splashes of paint.”

In addition to the images used during the concert, additional photos were displayed in an automated presentation prior to the performances that ran in December at the Memorial Auditorium in Moorhead, MN.