XL Video is supplying video equipment and services to Bat Boy The Musical that just opened at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre. The show originally premiered Off Broadway in 2001, and is inspired by US supermarket tabloid stories sighting a mysterious half human/half bat creature.
Video artist Mark Logue of Punk Films produced the visuals, after recommendation by cinematographer Jon Driscoll. Both have worked with XL Video on previous occasions, and the project was coordinated for XL by Malcolm Mellows. Logue produced over 70 effects in total and the show contains approximately 130 video cues.
The video operates on two distinct levels: one refers to the world of the Bat Boy himself, which Logue created as a grainy, surreal monochrome video look complete with distortions and fisheye lens effects. The other represents a genteel, bourgeois lifestyle with super-saturated colors, and flat looking images created using a long lens. Often the clips are only a few seconds long, just enough to suggest a moment of panic or excitement. Video distribution at The Shaftesbury is via Cat 5 Ethernet cable, which eliminates any conventional problems caused by long cable runs (e.g. voltage drop), and serial control from the Catalyst computer is also used to remote control the projector irises. A mini Ethernet system set up between the Macs and the video servers allowed Logue to edit ‘live’ on his laptop during the technical period, and to upload material immediately – a very flexible work method.. Projection is also used for more literal internal scenery onto the set wall.
The projection for the musical utilizes two 6-layer dual output Catalyst Digital Media Servers, controlled by a Hog500 console slaved to the Strand 520 master lighting desk. Video sources are displayed on the Catalyst DL1 moving light projector, two Barco SLM G8 video projectors, and a 50" Plasma Screen fitted to a scenic wall on the onstage "revolve." The imagery is used throughout the performance for atmospheric "implication" effects, and for supporting narrative.
The Catalyst DL1 projector is positioned on a front truss. It is used principally to project onto two screens that move into three different positions up or down a scenic tower/lift shaft.
The Catalyst was the only system flexible enough for Bat Boy The Musical – with the visuals all produced in the very tight time-frame of 6 weeks. Logue worked on the stills material in PhotoShop and edited the moving images – including specially shot footage from his own DV cam - using Final Cut Pro on his laptop. He also used Adobe After Effects, and then much of the final working was completed in the Catalyst itself – including the keystone and perspective correction.
Bat Boy’s off kilter surface projections utilized precise projector line up, and the Catalyst’s versatile keystone correction, image masking and soft edge capabilities were absolutely invaluable. Onstage, a series of angled surfaces (set design by Madeline Herbert) include uneven layers of corrugated plastic and in the second act, tent fabric that’s stretched diagonally across stage in different formations. All contribute to a generally bizarre, skewey look. In fact, there’s only one straight surface in the entire set: the wall. The actors also move "through" the projections at specific times–a highly dramatic effect in its own right. A plasma screen on the wall performs different set roles: sometimes it is a window revealing weather conditions, time, or location; at other times it acts as signage for environments, like a slaughterhouse.
XL’s Malcolm Mellows comments, "It’s been an immense pleasure working with Mark on such an important project – the show is fantastic and has ‘cult status’ written all over it. Simon Pugsley’s devoted attention to detail has been terrific". Bat Boy The Musical is a co-production between Michael Alden Productions, West End International, Kevin Schon, John Newman for Newpalm Productions and The West Yorkshire Playhouse, and had been co-ordinated by Iona McCorquodale for the general manager’s, Blue Box Entertainment..