Professional Lighting & Production - Summer 2022 - Page 19

“ The foundation for these shows is always establishing scale , because the biggest variable in these designs is how big or small we want it to be ,” explains Alex Nadon , InFrame ’ s owner and a prolific production and lighting designer . “ Obviously , the venue , the Avalon Theatre , has a certain scale to it ; that room felt right , it had that red vibe to it that ’ s rich and lush and sort of had the brand identity built into it already , which is really nice . But at the same time , like any theatre , it has an established structure – it has a proscenium , it has hard seats around the edges , it has specific hang positions ; it ’ s not like going into a warehouse or an empty studio where you ’ re building from scratch .”
When it came to actually conceptualizing the look of the show , Nadon explains that InFrame was given a lot of leeway from the production companies to “ put their own stamp on it , but at the same time , there ’ s a balance to it – you ’ ve got this brand , you should use it . So , there ’ s a few key elements to the brand ,” he notes as he begins to detail the ethos of the design . “ Really , the first thing that jumped out at me was the star – I mean , there ’ s nothing more iconic to this [ show ’ s ] brand than the star shape , and that ’ s where we started from , saying , ‘ Well , what if the whole stage was inside of a star ?’”
The result was a massive video wall comprising just over 900 LED panels , combined with some clever integration of the Got Talent star in physical form to frame the video content as well as add depth , Nadon details .
“ We needed to create some depth , because the one thing about the Avalon Theatre is that the stage is not very deep . So , the first thing we wanted to do was create a sense of false perspective ; and so , the design is actually based on a star within a star within a star within a star , right ? And it starts from the digital content [ in the middle ], and then there ’ s a physical star , and then there ’ s another star shape that ’ s so big , you don ’ t even notice it ’ s a star because it ’ s much bigger than the stage . So , there are also far left and right pieces of the star , and then what we call the ‘ camera hides .’ The camera hides are an essential part of the design , because to shoot the judges and to have their singles at all times , you need two or three cameras up on stage .”
Mike Kapler , technical production manager and director of operations at InFrame , mentions that , naturally , the video wall presented its fair share of challenges with regards to its integration . “ That upstage video wall is 20,000 pounds ,” he laughs . “ It ’ s the biggest video wall , I think , ever put in a venue like that – it is massive … So , we needed to do some extra engineering ; we had to get the venue to strip every single piece of equipment out of their roof that
they had in-house so we could get every pound [ available ] to build a wall this size .”
This obviously meant there was a lot of work to figure out how build this colossal video wall , Kapler notes . “ And we also had to find a way to build those little camera holes , build ways to get the lights around it , but we got through all those – and for [ the production companies ], they didn ’ t want the show to look small for auditions and then grow ; they wanted the show to be big from the beginning and wow the audience . But in the end , I think it really paid off .”
Returning to the video wall , and the camera hides in particular , Nadon explains ( with an excellent comparison , I might add ) how they discreetly snuck them into the wall . “ We used the Lego nature of video panels to remove a few panels . So , that slot is just a few removed LED video panels in the screen .”
He explains that the pieces of black trim that make up one of the design components mask the jagged corners of the LED panels , which allowed the panels obscured by the trim to be removed without creating an unsightly edge in the video content , leaving only black space – which from afar , simply appears to be part of the look .
“ And then right in the middle of it , we removed some panels at camera height , and the cameras shoot through that gap ,” Nadon mentions . “ And then we put some black fabric behind the cameras so that when you see in that gap , you just see pure black ; we wrap the lens in black , and the camera operators wear black , so it just looks like a little black slot that barely anybody notices , but it ’ s where the most important thing in the show is : the cameras that shoot the judges .”
And while the goliath video wall is spellbinding and certainly makes for a huge look ,
the massive star set piece it shares the stage with is what ultimately drives the design and creates the sense of depth that Nadon noted was so important . “ The whole background is video wall , although right in front of that , there is the custom star-shaped frame that ’ s covered in [ Martin ] Sceptrons . And that star-shaped frame is rigged , we built it out of aluminum , it ’ s bolted together on-site , and we pre-mounted the Sceptrons on the face of it . So , there ’ s a real graphical element , which is the Sceptrons , in front of a video element ; so , as the camera moves around , you get a sense of parallax , and you start wondering , ‘ Well , what of this is part of a flat video wall , and what part of this is extruded in front of it ?’ So , by adding those layers in front of the video that look like they ’ re part of the content , but they ’ re not , it fools the eye into thinking there ’ s way more depth here than it looks like .”
Another big consideration was keeping a distinct separation in presentation between the weeks of auditions , to the subsequent semi-final and final rounds of the contest . Part of this separation meant that the main stage would actually lean on the same look for multiple weeks , before the designs would really begin to run wild during the elimination stages . And so , for the first leg of the season , it ’ s largely been a stately and sleek red , white , and black colour palette with a splash of gold during the big moments and a constant subtle lavender in the auditorium haze – but ultimately , it ’ s highly reserved . “ There are a lot of tricks coming ,” Nadon chuckles . “ That rig does a lot more than what you see it do in the auditions , for sure .”
That was the design approach from the start — to “ build an amazing stage and give everybody a great impression off the top ,” Nadon says . “ Because what we really want
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