XL Video Cuts It With The Scissor Sisters

XL Video supplied projection, Catalyst digital media servers, a four-camera PPU and crew for the Scissor Sisters recent UK arena shows.

The main challenge for the projection was that the images were being beamed onto three elegant but quirkily shaped, custom-made video screens that were also curved and attached to a circular truss at the top. This was part of the stage set created by Marc Brickman, who also designed the lighting.

XL supplied a total of eight Christie 20K projectors, six of which were rear and side projected (with 1.1 lenses), with another two out front, giving them three main points of projection. Positioning of the Christie’s was absolutely crucial. The projectors also had to be hung on their sides to achieve the correct aspect ratio for the screen and to get the optimum amount of pixels onscreen.

Customized playback footage was created by Marc Brickman and cinematographer Seth Kirby and programmed into the Catalyst by Richard Turner, working closely with Hugh Davies-Webb who operated the show system via a WholeHog 2 console. All the masking to make the content fit the screens, plus keystone correction was done within Catalyst, which also took care of flipping the images 90 degrees so the projections came out correctly onscreen.

They used a Catalyst computer for the task which took 4 SDI inputs from the PPU, allowing them to send different images to the various different points of projection, all masked appropriately.

Christie’s Warp software was used to adjust the images for the curvature of the screen. The projectors were monitored after by Willis Spencer and Stuart Merser.

Kirby’s footage was filmed in NTSC at 29.97 frames per second and a serious amount of calculation and programming was undertaken by Turner and Davies-Webb to persuade the Catalyst computer to playback at that speed (it would normally favor a 60 Hz refresh rate). The footage had to run absolutely in time to the music, so some songs were triggered by timecode output by keyboardist/MD “Baby Daddy” Hoffman from his Mackie hard drive playback system.

Eight songs used playback footage while another 12 utilized IMAG. The Scissor Sisters are well known for preferring unconventional IMAG. So apart from the idiosyncratic shape and look of the screens, video director Phil Woodhead cut an an interesting mix using different angles and original combinations. Cameras were located one at FOH, two in the pit, and one hand-held onstage, and Woodhead used one of XL’s GV Kayak vision mixers. The system was engineered by Graham Holiwill.

Liquid projection—mysterious, organic, and rare—added an additional layer of dynamism to the visual mix. This was created by Seth Kirby in consultation with liquid projection guru Peter Wynne Wilson, whose experience with the art form dates back to the 1960s and Pink Floyd.

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