Projection designer Darrell Maloney discusses his video and projected images for Broadway’s American Idiot
It’s certainly impressive when The New York Times refers to projection designer Darrell Maloney’s video and projected images as “witty.” He also worked on the project since its early days in Berkeley. “Christine Jones [the set designer] and I went to graduate school together,” he says. “I had stopped doing theatre in 1997 and was doing post-production and high-end motion graphics. With all those TVs on the set, we started to discuss ideas for content and programming. I am very happy to be back working in live theatre and collaborating with such great people. I feel back home with my first love, where I belong.”
Maloney notes that the TVs represent the influence of media on society. “You can’t escape it,” he says. “They also help tell the story in terms of place. The images range from war and terrorists to Britney Spears, from news to nonsense, as well as graffiti art, animation, and live video.” The imagery is different for each song. “That’s what makes it so exciting,” he adds. “The images are very integral, not interstitial.”
With individual control for each of the 43 monitors (many dressed to look like older TVs), each TV can have a different image, which was tough to achieve. “The 43 channels represent an enormous undertaking,” says Maloney, who created storyboards to show which image is on which TV at any given time—not an easy task since he created over 600 pieces of media, some running at 30 frames per second with a cut every 10 frames, and over 200 cues. “This was an organic way to see how it all worked, especially in terms of transitions and compositions,” he adds.
Seventeen Green Hippo Hippotizers control the content for the show. The first 12 are Hippotizer HD V3 media servers used for the 43 Sony Bravia HD monitors built into the set. An additional three use Green Hippo’s new UberPan™ feature to create one large HD scenic projection across the surface of the set via three Barco FLM R20+ projectors, mounted sideways along the balcony rail. Another is a HippoCritter running a standalone Eiki XT-5 10K projector for a single scene, while the last is a master Hippotizer running Zookeeper software.
The 12 Hippotizers controlling content for the 43 Sony monitors are specially configured to run custom software, with each outputting four 1,280x720 feeds. All of the HD Hippotizers and the HippoCritter are networked via HippoNet to the master Hippotizer, which contains the Zookeeper control software, running a timeline triggered by the ETC Eos console. The Hippotizers were supplied to the production by SenovvA and supported by Green Hippo’s special projects division. They are stored in racks in the trap room.
“We spent more than two weeks preprogramming at Hudson Scenic,” says Maloney, who notes that the content was the challenge. “I created more content for this show than I did in an entire year at my own company,” he points out. “The last scene is a flashback of everything with some pretty complex compositing and editing.” Jeff Cady served as the media programmer.
For the full story, including set, sound, and lighting design of American Idiot, check out the May issue of Live Design.