Scharff Weisberg Brings Jay-Z Into Full Focus

VH1’s Storytellers lets singers and songwriters sing, play, and tell the stories behind their songs. And when Jay-Z recently appeared on the program, he wanted some imagery to back him up. So the network called on Scharff Weisberg to provide them with large-scale video projector at the last minute.

Says Josh Weisberg, “VH-1 wanted a very large, very wide projected image to be the main backdrop behind Jay-Z. After quickly exploring screen options, the most practical alternative was to use the studio cyclorama—a 28-foot tall wall that wraps 160 feet around a corner of the studio."

“It was a very complex projection configuration, because, not only would it be a blended image, it would have to blend and curve around a 90 degree turn,” Weisberg continues. “We only had a week in which to do it, which included coordinating with the production and content-creation people.”

Five pairs of Christie Roadster HD 18K projectors with the optional Christie Twist modules were utilized to provide adequate brightness and resolution in the brightly lit environment. The projector configuration was developed by Weisberg, in collaboration with Kyle Anderson of partner firm, Video Applications. Anderson, who has extensive experience with complicated blended projector arrays, was also the lead projection technician. James Sarro of Video Applications managed the project.

The Christie Twist module allows for reconfiguring of the geometry of the image and bend, curve, and warp surfaces from within the projector set-up application. The ten projectors were controlled via an IP network, which enabled adjustment and alignment from Anderson’s laptop. The systems were fed by five Mboxes and blends were done in the projectors.

Explains Ronelle Benck, technical manager for MTV Networks: “This was something that Jay-Z’s people conceived along with VH-1 producer Patty DiMaria. They wanted a cinemascopic look where he is engulfed or wrapped in a huge picture.” The artist had a 12-piece band behind him, and told stories of his life and songs—songs that take a chronological path. The content footage shows his roots in Brooklyn.

“We were talking about coming up with custom screens,” adds Benck. “The project was coming together so quickly. Then we found Steiner Studio—they have a huge cyc. Josh worked with us from the beginning, determining angles and how to work with the artist,” she says. “Scharff Weisberg worked seamlessly with Video Applications, who I have also had good experiences with before. The show, in HD, is going to be amazing.”

The video material was composed by Williams Heins. The Mbox programmer was Drew Finley. “They worked very collaboratively with us to design content, and Tom Kenny, the LD, bless his heart, worked hard to keep lighting off the cyc.” states Weisberg. “The whole show looked great. Everyone was really happy.”

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