Joining the long list of Broadway credits for WorldStage is "Lucky Guy," Nora Ephron's play about tabloid journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Mike McAlary, which stars Tom Hanks in his Broadway debut. WorldStage provides video support for the drama, which has garnered six Tony Award nominations for best play, lead actor, featured actor, director, scenic design and lighting design.
Video projection plays a key role in the play helping to establish a sense of time - it spans a 12-year period - and location, including newsrooms, bars and the streets of New York during the 1980's and '90s. Projection designer Robin Silvestri, creative director/partner in Batwin + Robin, worked with director George C. Wolfe to develop images composed of film noir-style fragments, shadows and elements rather than literal video clips.
The video system was comprised of a multitude of display devices and screen surfaces encompassing the stage, each of which were fed from a centralized Dataton WATCHOUT media server system. Each of the projection surfaces was atypically sized and oriented, which presented a number of difficulties. One such challenge was designing the projector array for the header banner that flies in and out landing at various predetermined trim heights each time. Measuring approximately 24 feet wide x 3 feet high and running across the top of the back wall, the header banner displays various newspaper headlines during the show.
"The difficulty was in trying to project imagery onto the banner in two different positions," says Lars Pedersen, Director of Emerging Technology with WorldStage. "We used an edge-blend solution to fill the width of the banner and overshot the banner screen top and bottom so we had enough raster to provide coverage for the different trim heights. The accuracy of the automation system allowed us to pre-program the position of the content within the raster so it fell in the exact location of the physical screen." Double-stacked Panasonic HD 6.5K projectors supplied the required resolution, brightness, and redundancy.
In a serendipitous moment Silvestri discovered that the black scenic slider panels that move across the front of the LED wall, allowing the wall function as a full piece or be sectioned off, could also be used as a projection surface. By using the header banner projectors and manipulating the media in WATCHOUT - including elevated train track elements and a subway animation -the design team was able to accomplish projections on another surface with using the same toolset.
An additional technical challenge was posed by the forced perspective ceiling panel above the set, which offers additional display surfaces: It starts as a slightly raked flat ceiling, then drops down to become an angled display for the NY Post newsroom and finally is lowered to serve as an almost vertical backdrop for the end of Act One.
"In its default position the panel, which is on an articulated arm, is laid almost parallel to the stage floor. Then it moves to a 45º angle to the audience and finally lowers to be perpendicular to the projectors," Pedersen explains. He positioned two Christie DS+10K-M projectors side by side at the middle of the balcony to hit the panel and deliver maximum brightness and redundancy. He partnered with WATCHOUT programmer Bill Lyons to determine how to warp and map the imagery onto the panel as it travels to and assumes the various positions.
As a way to deal with the endless understudy possibilities WorldStage provided a separate control system comprised of a Coolux Widget Designer Pro package. The user interface, designed and programmed by WorldStage Technology Specialist Raul Herrera, afforded the operators a quick and efficient method of accessing and launching the appropriate Watchout show file. Comprehensive projector and playback control and status monitoring were included in the user interface as an added bonus.
Silvestri, who first worked with Pedersen 25 years ago, reports that, "he never lets us down. WorldStage was fantastic. It's important to have confidence in a supplier, which I do in WorldStage."
WorldStage Inc., the company created by the merger of Scharff Weisberg Inc and Video Applications Inc, continues a thirty-year legacy of providing clients the widest variety of entertainment technology coupled with conscientious and imaginative engineering services. WorldStage provides audio, video and lighting equipment and services to the event, theatrical, broadcast and brand experience markets nationally and internationally.