Sweet Home Argentina, Evita Part 3: The Projection

“The projections in Evita provide historical information, an emotional tone, and a sense of movement, or lack thereof,” explains projection designer Zachary Borovay, who, like lighting designer Neil Austin, joined the creative team for the Broadway version. “The beauty of the design is that it is very deceptive, especially the transitions,” he says. “Projections turn into scenery, scenery morphs between interiors and exteriors, actors magically appear and disappear, and costume changes happen in seconds. Things move so quickly that it looks like we have a cast of thousands.”

Ensuring the footage was from quality sources to translate well to the large screen was of the highest importance. “Ultimately, our researcher found the bulk of what we were looking for from a stock footage house called The Producers Library,” Borovay says. “They actually had 16mm film of Eva Perón’s funeral that we had scanned in Los Angeles by Point 360. We also licensed still images from the Associated Press and other news photography organizations.”

The footage was telecined (digitally scanned) and converted to Apple ProRes 1080p files. “All files were exported as 720p H.264 Apple QuickTime files,” Borovay adds. “The screen has a 4:3 aspect ratio, and the projector resolution is 1,400x1,050. For the opening section, [Dataton] Watchout is simply playing each clip at full screen and waiting for the next musical cue. We timed the cues and built each clip to either loop, if that was possible, or to last approximately two seconds longer than the cue to allow for varying tempos show to show.”

To match the dirge-like requiem, the clips were slowed, some by as much as 300%. “The cuts are synchronized to the beat of the music,” Borovay says. “The pallbearers walk in sync with the bass drum, mourners march on the beat, or, in one case, the wheel on the carriage carrying Eva’s coffin revolves with the repeated lyrics. We treated the footage extensively in Adobe After Effects and Apple Final Cut Pro to slow it down as smoothly as possible while keeping the natural feel of the period’s handheld cameras.” Once the cuts were selected, the clips were color-corrected and mastered to make them look like they came from one source.

As “Requiem For Evita” transitions into “Oh What A Circus,” the projections take on a different role. “They become part of the world on stage as they have a more physical relationship to the actors, especially the narrator, Che, who often makes specific references to the imagery,” Borovay adds. “The relationship between the actors and projections shifts from informative to environmental in that they begin to meld into one another. Ultimately, toward the end of the song, we are left with four women singing stage right and Che watching from stage left against a full stage image of a candlelight vigil. The goal was for it to appear as if the live actors are extruded out of the imagery.”

Two Christie Digital DS+10K-M projectors, mounted next to each other on the balcony rail, converge to make a single image. “I always come back to the Christie M-Series 10Ks for theatre because they are so quiet,” says Borovay. “We used the coolux Widget Designer to create a projector control interface, as well as IP commands in Watchout to open the shutters on one or both projectors at various times in the show, depending on what surface we wanted to be focused on.”

In London, there was just a very short clip from Evita’s funeral at the top of the show. “We were looking for a stronger, more dynamic, opening to the show on Broadway, one that gave the audience a better sense of the enormous scale of Argentina’s mourning at the passing of its first lady,” says Oram. “Zak helped us achieve that.”

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