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Scharff Weisberg Supplies Video, Lighting for “Shrek”

PLSN Staff • News • January 21, 2009

NEW YORK—It was an ogre of a job, but Scharff Weisberg handily embraced video and lighting support for Shrek the Musical on Broadway. The show is a production of DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions Ltd. “We’ve had the great pleasure of spending the last few months in the company of the big, green, ugly guy known as Shrek and the production team behind his Broadway musical,” notes Josh Weisberg. “These folks have pulled some nifty tricks out of their hats using three Panasonic PT-D10000U 10K video projectors and a FLED 11io 11mm LED wall we provided. And of course, the only media server the big, green guy would want on his show is a quartet of Green-Hippo Hippotizer V3 HD media servers.”

“This show was built very organically: I didn’t come to Scharff Weisberg with a clear outline or structure,” says Laura Frank, media associate and programmer working for set designer Kim Hatley and lighting designer Hugh Vanstone. “I knew my clients really wanted to evolve projection and the use of media onsite. We had to create a working environment and have tools available to work fast and meet demands in realtime instead of having projection design rendered out. Scharff Weisberg set up a real working environment for me where I knew what the system was doing at all times and was never stressed with the behavior of the technology.”

Frank helped configure and create the content as well as program the control system. “Media content includes projected imagery that is predominantly scenic and lighting support from the projectors on the FOH rail,” she explains. “A system of Color Kinetics iFlex is embedded into 8 pairs of scenic legs comprising 45,000 RGB LEDs controlled by one 1024×768 video signal. This signal is managed by the Green-Hippo and is processed by Color Kinetics VSE Pro. For programming, one grandMA was used to control the Hippos with feed the projectors and iFlex. In addition, there is and F-LED 11mm LED wall the plays the role of the magic mirror. The mirror is approximately 12 feet high by 8 feet wide and uses 500 x 300 pixels.

The Panasonic 10K video projectors primarily provide scenic support enhancing sets and lighting. For example, the projectors furnish the rotating beams around a sun sitting upstage center. They display some tunnel imagery and ambient smoke for subtle, almost gobo-like textures around the set. They also boost the magic mirror’s gilded edge and display kitschy dating show-style flowers in a game-show sequence.

“With a Hippo assigned to each projector, we can use different layers in the Hippo and maintain our image convergence on multiple stage depths simultaneously through pan positioning,” Frank explains.

The Color Kinetics LEDs posed a mapping challenge in the opening scene where Shrek moves into a swamp, which grows up around him. “The grass grows up in sliders—six pairs of stage sliders 30 feet tall that move and two narrower pairs that comprise the proscenium edges. They slide from side to side, and when the dragon roars, flames burst through the sliders,” she says. “We had to take into account the physical movement of the scenic legs relative to the video movement. Josh Fleitel of Scharff Weisberg, my media assistant for Shrek, he and I came up with a system in After Effects that allowed us to track the physical position of the sliders onstage and output video files correctly.”

Frank says she’s “grateful” to Scharff Weisberg for “finding a front-of-house projection system that would remain quiet” during performances and was compact. “They’ve been really helpful. We’ve never had one complaint about the system.”

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