Vista Systems’ Spyder Helps Streamline Primetime TV Shows

An expert at streamlining the multi-format process, Robb Wagner has recently paired content creation and implementation with Vista Systems’ Spyder on a number of high-profile television projects: the game shows 1 vs. 100, Moment of Truth, and Duel plus the Ellen’s Really Big Show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

Wagner’s Burbank-based company, Stimulated Inc., creates original screen content for TV award shows, major TV music & event specials, concert tours, and game shows. Its first gig utilizing Spyder video processing technology was Al Gore’s Live Earth for which Stimulated created the screen content at Giants Stadium.

“We’re increasingly working in a multi-format world,” says Wagner. “There’s no better example than a primetime game show set. The Spyder can simultaneously be connected to any combination of HD and/or SD broadcast devices including cameras, tape machines, and media servers, along with any array of computer-based signals that are desired. 1 vs. 100 called Wagner when it added a new high resolution LED screen to the stage. Background Images provided the screens to the show featuring a grid of 100 contestants. “Each member of the ‘mob’ had a large LED tile behind them. For the new season the show added a 16 x 9 high-resolution LED screen to the center of the mob. They wanted to fly graphics through the whole thing, incorporating the mob tiles and center high resolution screen in a seamless look,” Wagner explains.

“The center screen would feature question material as well as close-up shots of contestants. So on a wide shot the high-res LED displayed both people and information,” he continues. “We created some content for them which played from media servers, through the Spyder to the screens. We also took feeds from the video truck and the game play computers. We even took triggers from the game control computer to enable synchronous cues between screens, lighting and sound effects. We used the Vista Spyder to feed all the screens and integrate all the elements going into all the screens.”

Fox’s lie detector-themed Moment of Truth featured a game computer with a PAL/HD matte and fill output. “With Spyder we were able to mix the native PAL/HD with an NTSC signal from a media server, and seamlessly output to a number of screens,” Wagner reports. “The real magic of the Vista Spyder is that productions can send just about any format to us without externally up-converting, down-converting or cross-converting. We’re multi-format and native on the source side as well as the destination side. It really streamlines the technical process.”

Stimulated recently completed round two of Moment of Truth for Fox.

ABC’s Duel also required Stimulated to perform synchronous switching between screens, lights, and sound effects. “CBS Electronics wrote code that sent triggers to the Spyder,” notes Wagner. “Sound-effects devices, lighting consoles and even the production switcher in the truck were simultaneously activated so when a contestant hit a button, the switcher would cut to a wide shot displaying the synchronous effect of the screens, lighting and sound.”

Wagner was also in demand in Las Vegas for Ellen’s Really Big Show, a TBS special hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and culled from star-studded performances during the HBO Comedy Festival at Caesar’s Palace. “It was on Celine Dion’s stage which, at the time, had the largest LED screen in Vegas,” he recalls. “The entire stage was a screen. We brought in the Spyder to serve as the screens-control room. We took HD camera feeds from the truck and graphics played from Profiles. The Vista Spyder fed seven separate signals to the stage.

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