Two Entertainment Technologies Meet in a Theatrical When Harry Met Sally


Stage Technologies

and XL Video are supplying equipment to Marcy Kahan’s stage adaptation of When Harry Met Sally playing through May 29th at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London. The popular ‘80s movie starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, which featured the now classic in-restaurant orgasm scene ("I’ll have what she’s having"), is causing "excitement" on stage and off.

Helping to create a seamless transition from screen to stage is the video content for the play, devised and designed by cinematographer Jon Driscoll. XL Video has worked with Driscoll on a number of other West End projects including Madonna’s Up For Grabs, the Madness musical Our House, and most recently Jerry Springer The Opera.

When Video Meets Automation

The set features two video screen elements: a front screen projection and rear projected imagery. The front projection is provided by XL Video’s Barco SLM G5s. The two SLM G5 front projectors are rigged onto the front of the dress circle, and fed by two Doremi V1 hard drive sources. They are projected onto a downstage screen, which is formed from two solid halves that are rolled onto stage from opposite sides, and when joined together it measures a full 23x10 feet.

The front projection screen comes alive during scene changes. Replicating the documentary-style transitions in the movie, a series of couples are shown sitting on a sofa talking about their relationships and marriages. The footage was shot specifically for the show. These transitional film-clips not only entertain, but are a clever way to hide the crew during scene changes.

These creative transitions would not be possible without the rental automation supplied by the engineering specialists Stage Technologies. Two of their LittleTow winches and the famous BigTow gracefully move the downstage footer and multi-positioning projection screens to form the solid 7x3 meter screen.

For the rear projected imagery, the production uses XL Video’s NEC XT5000s. They are located behind the set with wide-angle lenses, projecting a single wide-screen image onto a 23x10 feet upstage surface. The 10 feet-deep set frames this rear projection screen, which portrays scenic elements and locations. The rear-screen content runs off of two Blade MPEG 2 hard drives and are streamed through a Micro Vision digital video mixer, enabling specific cues to be activated in real time, coordinated to the actors timing on stage.

Again Stage Technologies helps create these impressive scenic-projections with the LittleTow winches and the BigTow. The audience moves seamlessly from the windows of the diner where Sally performs her famous public ‘orgasm’, to oversized projected maple leaves in the autumnal scenes in the park. Stage Technologies award-winning Acrobat control console, used on productions like Miss Saigon and the Witches of Eastwick , is also responsible for the scenery control.

An XL Video AMX NetLinx controller, triggered by MIDI commands from the sound console, controls the vision mixing, all four SDI sources (Blades and Doremis), and opening and closing the projector shutters. The solid-state, fully embedded NetLinx system was chosen for its robustness and reliability. It allows XL Video’s programmer, Quintin Willison, to set up a touch screen panel for the operator. This provides feedback and reports facilities, which ideal for ongoing system maintenance and for executing any command at any time if required.

For a play discussing the differences between men and women in relationships, XL Video and Stage Technologies, two separate specialists in separate fields, create a unified vision on stage.

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