ATOMIC and WorldStage once again partnered on the upfront for Turner Entertainment Networks’ TBS and TNT, which returned to The Theatre at Madison Square Garden with a bang. Or maybe it was a “Boom” as TNT launched a new, edgier tagline for its drama programming, which includes the new “The Last Ship” from Michael Bay and “Murder in the First” from Steven Bochco.
ATOMIC has been producing Turner Upfronts for more than a decade and was responsible for the lighting, rigging, production design, staging and set fabrication for this latest presentation to marketers and advertisers. For many of those years WorldStage has worked alongside ATOMIC supplying critical video support to various New York City venues.
“We’ve been an incredible team of partners for a long time,” says ATOMIC CEO and event executive producer Soren West. “We were together at the Garden with evening upfronts that featured The Eagles and Lenny Kravitz and at The Armory with Sting. Then we moved to the Hammerstein Ballroom and now we’re back at the Garden, which can accommodate the increased attendance for the Turner upfront.”
ATOMIC was tasked with “creating an environment through scenic, video, lighting and audio that could be transformed from one brand to the other, from one message to the other,” as the comedy and drama networks introduced new and returning shows and their stars.
The stage at Madison Square Garden featured a single big rear-projection screen, which featured informational content about the networks’ upcoming seasons. ATOMIC entertained the idea of using an LED screen but opted for a “high-quality rear projection solution with lots of lumens” to deliver the content.
Surrounding the screen was a band shell-style series of concentric aluminum arches, clad with neutral gray fabric, onto which WorldStage warped decorative video elements.
“The band shell was designed by Mike Rhoads, our production designer, who has done the upfront for at least eight years,” notes West. “The arches were quite complicated to draw and fabricate with those compound curves. I had serious concerns about the shape and the ability to cover it with projections and not create dead zones on the stage where people couldn’t stand. But WorldStage and screen producer Laura Frank of Luminous FX assured us that warping content onto the arches was totally within the realm of do-ability. We trusted them implicitly, and they delivered.”
WorldStage project manager TJ Donoghue, who has worked on the last three Turner Upfronts, says “the shape of the band shell surface with their compound curvature made alignment and warping of overlaps rather challenging.” In addition, “there were limited options for the projectors’ locations. But thanks to a great team effort by media server programmer Alex Bright, media server technician Shawn Duan, and projectionists Juan Mateo and Sean Kelly the warping and blending worked very well.”
A Pandoras Box media server drove Christie Roadster HD20K-J and 10K-M projectors. The HD10Ks were embedded in the show deck and pointed straight up at the arches, one of the more unusual projector placements for a one-time event.
WorldStage provided six Sony HD cameras, which fed a Ross 4 ME switcher for IMAG and capturing the upfront for a live-streamed webcast and a simulcast on tape delay targeted to advertisers and agencies in Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta. A final cut of the event was made for archiving and for distribution to Turner’s sales and marketing groups.
WorldStage also provided a full editing suite so the editing team had on-site capabilities at the Garden. “Delivery dates for content get later and later every year,” says West. “Having editorial on site enabled us and Turner Entertainment to fine tune the presentation and tweak the animation, graphics and video clips closer to show time. We could also ingest any new material quite late in the game.”
West notes that “One of the great things about this project is that Turner Entertainment recognizes the value of preparation, so we were able to involve WorldStage earlier than we typically would on other projects – about three or four months out. Then things got really involved about one month out.
“Part of our success over the years is due to the time we and WorldStage spend with the client in Atlanta,” he continues. “Two to three weeks out we do a table read there, the executives rehearse their speeches and we review the video content created thus far. So we get a good sense of how things are coming together and where the tricky transitions are from a technical and a stagecraft perspective.”
Subsequently, everyone reunited at ATOMIC’s headquarters in Lititz, Pennsylvania where they did a previs of the show in Pandoras Box, the lighting and video teams preprogrammed cues, and show management rehearsed the principals. “This really is the right way to work,” West says. “By the time we got to the Garden everyone knew the show.”
With another successful upfront concluded, West says, “WorldStage has been a strong partner of ours for many years. We’ve been through a lot of challenges together and are still making it happen as a team. It’s always great to work with them!”
“Everything went very smoothly,” agrees Donoghue. “It was great to be back in the Garden with ATOMIC, and the crew there was fabulous. We’re so pleased that everything went so well.”
At WorldStage Dennis Menard was also a project manager, Mike Alboher EIC and Encore operator, Pete Cerreta playback operator, August Yuson camera EIC, Alex Donaldson projectionist, John Denion APM and Ryan Eysner, Shannon Robinson and Pete Sokov utilities. In addition, camera operators were provided by Slate.TV, LLC and Locals One and 306 furnished crew.
WorldStage Inc., the company created by the merger of Scharff Weisberg Inc and Video Applications Inc, continues a thirty-year legacy of providing clients the widest variety of entertainment technology coupled with conscientious and imaginative engineering services. WorldStage provides audio, video and lighting equipment and services to the event, theatrical, broadcast and brand experience markets nationally and internationally.