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Catch Me If You Can in Tech... The Live Blog... Chapter 1

I've been fortunate enough to be asked to collaborate with David Rockwell in the creation of the scenic video for Catch Me If You Can. The show is a musical version of the excellent Steven Spielberg film, documenting the unbelievable life and adventures of Frank Abegnale Jr. The creative staff includes Jack O'Brian in the Director's chair; Jerry Mitchell Choreographing; Ken Posner Lighting; and Mark Shaiman and Terence McNally handling the score and book. Blue chip, in other words...

The process of developing a brand new show is always exhilarating. The process is completely open at this point. The literal structure of the show becomes malleable in accounting for and including design decisions.

The show utilizes two full stage LED walls. The downstage wall is in the classic oleo position, at the border of in-one and in-two. Built from BARCO iLite 6mm tiles, it's sharp and rezzy, with a native pixel resolution exceeding HD. It also enjoys the benefit of flying in and out at a jaw dropping four feet per second maximum speed. If you've never seen four hundred plus tiles of i6 moving at that speed, let me tell you, it has you checking for the nearest escape route ! Upstage, the set has a full stage rear wall of BARCO iLite 10mm. At the audience viewing distance it's equally rezzy, delivering beautiful HD resolution. In both cases we're limiting the maximum potential output to around fifty percent.

As usual, when the stakes are high, I am rolling with super star video programmer Sean Cagney (aka Mr Amazing).

David has conceived the sets to be accomplished via a very illustrated content style that evoked the graphic style of early 1960's television extravaganza. Pulling from influences ranging from the wonderful Googie TWA terminal at JFK, to the delectably incandescent backdrop's of Judy Garland's television specials, the show content had to be scenic, musical, but restrained. As always, screens of this size tend to become 'the loudest voice' and we are charged with the delicate balancing act of being part of a larger whole. The true stroke of genius on this show is the complex, highly automated sets of masking panels that slide and combine to create amazingly shaped apertures for physical masking of the screens. The added dimensionality of these content apertures creates a magical depth and theatricality to the video.

After a spring filled with content development and show re-writes, we finally find ourselves in Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater to produce the first version. The progression towards Broadway is going a bit differently here. Rather than NY producer's engaging in an "Out of Town" development process, the 5th Avenue Theater is producing the show as part of it's normal season. This affords the Broadway producers an opportunity to explore the production at a regional theater scale and budget, identifying the challenges and the things that work, before we commit to the larger effort of creating the Broadway version.

We've been spending the last two weeks building the walls, getting signal path and control established, and loading content onto the Hippotizer HD Media Server. Over the weekend, Sean and I laid in cueing for Act 1, with Act 2 beginning to take shape as we speak.

We'll be rolling into dry tech as the week progresses, and I'll be doing my best to document our ongoing adventure.

Stay tuned !

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