The legendary do-good activities of Robin Hood pale in comparison to those of his namesake, the Robin Hood Foundation, whose recent annual gala netted almost $88 million in donations dedicated entirely to programs helping poor New Yorkers. Scharff Weisberg was part of the merry band of supporters that helped make the evening a success, designing and implementing projection elements for the cocktail area that brought home the foundation's impact on real neighborhoods.
The Robin Hood Foundation has been targeting poverty in New York City since 1988. Known for applying sound investment principles to philanthropy, the organization partners with more than 240 of the best poverty-fighting nonprofits in the city and initiates and runs projects where community needs are unmet. On May 10 the foundation held its gala fundraiser at the Jacob Javits Convention Center where 3,600 attendees gathered for cocktails, dinner, a celebrity auction and performances by Sting, Jimmy Fallon and Stevie Wonder. NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams emceed.
Scharff Weisberg teamed with Peter Crawford, of Crawford/Sherman Design, on the cocktail area, which was designed to personalize the impact of donations. Crawford art directed the 18,000 square-foot area, working closely with Jim Samalis, managing director of events at the Robin Hood Foundation, and lighting and video designer Doug Brant to deliver the organization's messaging in a unique and entertaining way.
"Working with thousands of square feet of the Javits Center you can't make small statements," notes Crawford. "But you need to create a feeling of coziness so people forget they're in a cavernous convention center." In his collaboration with the foundation Crawford found that the programs often hinged on the six verbs that the nonprofit uses to describe its funding: Robin Hood teaches, heals, feeds, nurtures, trains and shelters.
"It was important for us to show that Robin Hood empowers; that people shouldn't be overwhelmed by the enormity of poverty in New York," says Crawford. "So we created a neighborhood with streetscapes that showcased each verb."
He designed six generic building façades that represented foundation-supported programs. The buildings measured as large as 42x22 feet and featured three-dimensional reliefs following the building architecture. Scharff Weisberg was charged with projecting realistic video textures, like bricks and limestone, onto the façades and displaying video clips of the people and projects affected by the foundation's donations.
For example, to illustrate Robin Hood "teaches," Scharff Weisberg mapped red bricks and windows onto a charter school façade and projected videos of classes and student testimonials from various successful programs.
To showcase Robin Hood "shelters," Scharff Weisberg mapped textures onto a five-story apartment house designed by Crawford and fabricated by Atomic Scenic and added projections showing the inside of an array of apartments as well as Google Street View images. All of the neighborhoods were set against a night sky backdrop with a silhouette cityscape, also designed by Crawford.
For the six buildings Scharff Weisberg provided ten Christie SX+20 projectors: Four pairs were used to created edge-blended images on the four widest buildings; the other two buildings each required one projector. Each projector was driven by a channel from a Pandora Media Server and transmitted over fiber. The content was then warped to precisely match the visual elements to the architectural elements - cornice to cornice, door to door, lintel to lintel.
"The extensive image mapping took preparation and choosing the right gear," says Scharff Weisberg president Josh Weisberg. "Pandora provided a robust platform that allowed the work to get done very quickly and on a reasonable budget. The results were very, very good."
Crawford says, "I've worked with Scharff Weisberg for many years, and it was obvious to me that they were the people to solve the technical issues of the architectural mapping and video interface. They joined the conversations with the producers, the content designers and the fabricators and used their expertise to make our ideas a reality."
Liz Kelly, a co-producer with Alex Coletti Productions, which oversaw the technical and logistical production of the gala with Jim Samalis and, more specifically, the video production for the cocktail area, was impressed with Scharff Weisberg's thorough approach. "They walked us through the process of delivering the creative correctly and, what was key, did a test of the process at Atomic Scenic in Lititz, Pennsylvania where the sets were built.
"I've used Scharff Weisberg as a lighting vendor in the past," she notes, "but the gala gave us a chance to work with them in a very different way. We were all extremely pleased with the outcome and have only rave reviews to give them."
Crawford also gives kudos to Scharff Weisberg. "Everything worked flawlessly. I can't tell you how important it was to have a partner like Scharff Weisberg that was as enthusiastic and committed to the project as we all were."
Scharff Weisberg credits included Josh Weisberg, Principal, Lars Pedersen, Account Executive, TJ Donoghue, Project Manager, Michael Kohler and Raul Herrera, Pandora Technicians, and Michael Alboher, Engineer in Charge
Scharff Weisberg and Video Applications are collaborating partners to clients requiring unique and imaginative solutions for their event, spectacle and large-meeting lighting, sound and video needs whether local, national or worldwide. For more information visit www.scharffweisberg.com or www.videoapps.com.