A comet flashes across a 360-degree screen, a series of images depicting a company’s history explode, the screen goes to white, turns to snow and the participant is dropped into the middle of a football huddle. “It was a chills-down-your-spine moment,” says Matthew Ward, Chief Technologist at event engineering and technology company WorldStage.
The WorldStage team calculated how fast objects in the video should move across the screen to deliver the greatest impact and ensure the audience could read the image. Chills were delivered using video processing to create a warp inside an external projector cage and nine HD projectors to create a blend in a 60-foot-diameter cylinder. “That was a result of us seeing how we could elevate the technology, a client willing to do it, a period of time where content producers could develop video content, iterate on it, do tests, and make changes.” Ward admits those opportunities are unusual.
WorldStage provided an extensive d3 Technologies media-server driven video package for the hit Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” WorldStage also supplied Panasonic PT-DZ21K projectors, Panasonic PT-RZ12K laser-phosphor projectors, and a pair of Panasonic pan-tilt-zoom cameras that are used to create live interactions on stage. The d3 systems also feed video to several dozen 32- and 40-inch LCD monitors and are connected to the automation computer for tracking moving scenery.
CREDIT: Photo Courtesy of WorldStage
Building on the Story
Audience engagement and social interaction are becoming part of the integrated experience. A recent WorldStage project called for a mobile engagement of students outside the gates of a local high school and college football games to promote purchasing tickets to a larger game.
The creative team developed four mini-competitions between students such as football throwing distance and running. “A software developer created a custom software solution, and we worked with them to provided monitors, audio and USB cameras to capture all of the moments,” says TJ Donoghue, Director of Integration and Engineering at WorldStage. Participating students receive a series of photographs to post to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. “It was a great example of a total collaboration.”
It’s not unusual for an end user to go direct to a technology design and production company with an idea to execute, but it’s not the ideal. “At the end of the day we supply technology,” notes Donoghue. “We need a creative agency to be engaged, and we’ll help make those connections. At that point the back-and-forth between us, the creative team, and the client begins. Then we talk about the possibilities.”
WorldStage provided AV support for an exhibition of the work of Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, “Pixel Forest” that filled the main gallery floors of New York City’s New Museum. The company provided a large complement of projectors, including Panasonic PT-RZ970 10,000 lumen solid-state projectors outfitted with ET-DLE030 ultra-short throw lenses, and Christie HD14K and HD10K M-Series projectors. A fully redundant Dataton WATCHOUT system handled content playback in several areas of the exhibition.
CREDIT: Photo Courtesy of WorldStage
Clearing the Fog
Creating experiential moments requires collaboration between the client, content creators, and technology designers—all working to develop and tell a story. It always goes back to the “why?”
“We live or die based on how well people integrate the technology into what they're doing,” says Ward. The WorldStage team works with clients to maximize their budget and only include technological elements with a purpose. “We have eliminated a lot of requested fog screens. We try and get rid of the splashy stuff that doesn't have anything to do with the client's story — unless it is a story grounded in fog.”
As large as some budgets are, there’s always a limit. Large LED walls have become a popular display choice, and clients automatically say they want the finest resolution. “We have this conversation on an almost weekly basis,” says Donoghue. “If your audience is sitting 50 or 60 feet away in a big general session, we’ll let them know that's too much.”
Not all experiential technology needs to be bold and interactive. “What's fascinating is the most compelling uses of technology are quite often things we don't even notice. Little touches, sounds, a shift in light that draws your eye from one place to another,” Ward adds. “That goes back to making time for iteration, integration and having the time to finesse.”