Excellence Award Nominee: Projecting Subject-On-Subject In Screen Test

Theatre Production

Creative Team

  • Rob Roth, Concept and Director
  • Ben Kato, Lighting Designer
  • Caden Manson, Video Control System
  • Theo and the Skyscrapers, Music and Performance
  • Sean Pierce, Sound Designer
  • Vangeline Theater, Choreography
  • Todd Thomas, Costumes (with additional costuming by Jane Kennedy)
  • Ready Set Inc., Set Build

Rob Roth conceived Screen Test, a combination rock show and video installation piece featuring actress and singer, Theo Kogan and her band, the Skyscrapers. When staged at the Abrons Art Center in the Harry De Jur Playhouse on Grand Street on New York’s Lower East Side, Roth removed all the legs used for masking around the stage and the back cyc to reveal the raw space—including the fly system, exposed brick walls, and the metal gate to the set shop—to create the feel of a Hollywood soundstage and a post-apocalyptic look. The show opens and closes with two “live body projection” monologues.

Roth shot Kogan with a Panasonic DVX100 24p camera and then brought the footage into Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Pro. The monologues were affected by sound designer Sean Pierce using ProTools, and then the whole piece was pressed to DVD. Roth projected the imagery onto Kogan live, using a Casio XJ-360 DLP projector. The projecting of an image of Kogan on to the live Kogan creates a ghostly double exposure effect, confusing to the audience, but producing a distinctive, rather hypnotic beauty.

The entire show is run from a MacBook Pro using Isadora. Caden Manson from Big Art Group designed the system to control three Pioneer DVD-V7400 players that deliver all the media, including backing tracks, video projections, and the drummer’s click track. Isadora syncs the three DVD players to start at the same frame. Because Kogan is set on stage as the audience enters the theatre, two additional DVD players project a “looping” image that is crossfaded with a simple switcher when the show started.

Ben Kato’s uses sidelight and backlight angles as the primary lighting. Maintaining the control of the incident and reflected light, he strikes a balance between the stage picture and projected image. He also takes advantage of the fly system by lowering all the lights and using several as scenic elements. The scoops, 10" studio Fresnels, and the massive far-cyc units are used as functional scenic fixtures. They act as softlight for the “studio” transitions, while the other conventionals (ellipsoidals/PARs) light the “movie shoot” itself. A scenic electric upstage flies in during a transition, to be “refocused” by a character playing a stagehand in the show.

Screen Test uses two different types of body projections, both front-projection. One is projected onto fabric, the other onto bare skin. Kogan’s body projections, at the beginning and end of the show, are static, singular tableaux, so Kato can use a single high backlight to halo her head and shoulders. The second body projection, onto the nude soldier, poses more of a challenge because of the movement of the projection itself and of the live dancer portraying the soldier. For this, a combination of center backlight specials are used, then a slow looping pulse sequence that would “breathe” with the video. The tone of this section, which was harsh, raw and electronic, lends itself to this type of super-slow pulsing light, and again, the angle of the backlight is critical to maintain the projected effect.

Selected Gear

  • Panasonic DVX100 24p Camera
  • Casio XJ-360 DLP Projector
  • MacBook Pro
  • Isadora
  • Pioneer DVD-V7400
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Final Cut Pro
  • Digidesign Pro Tools
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