Depth Perception At BlackBerry World

Research In Motion® (RIM®) wanted to take things up a notch. A global leader in wireless innovation with the BlackBerry® brand, the company was entering into the tenth year of planning its annual international users’ event and set out to create an unforgettable experience for the audience, while showcasing the true nature of its new line of products. With that, BlackBerry World™ 2011 was born. Previously known as the Wireless Enterprise Symposium, the event was rebranded in 2011 as “BlackBerry World” to encompass the full spectrum of everything BlackBerry, acting as a platform for delivering products and solutions for wireless, enterprise, consumers, and applications to users. Held at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, FL, in May, BlackBerry World 2011 welcomed more than 5,000 attendees from across the globe, the largest RIM event in company history.

Concept Design, Then Redesign

The Atlanta-based team at Hartmann Studios was challenged with creating the revamped event experience. “Our team started in January. It was a collaborative effort with RIM to produce an event that conveyed its commitment to innovation,” says Scott Lowry, vice president of Hartmann Studios. In addition, live on-stage product demonstrations were an integral piece of the event, as two weeks prior, RIM released its signature tablet, the PlayBook™, the features of which include the ability to output 3D content. “We started talking about 3D after they had an exciting response to some pre-release PlayBook demos at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which led to the discussion of how we might bring that to life on our stage,” adds Lowry. With concept design in full swing, the 3D discussion became a reality four weeks before the event. “The show was completely designed before 3D came into play, which didn’t leave much of a timeframe to get the content produced and technical requirements in place to accommodate the 3D video,” says Karim Kassab, technical producer at Hartmann Studios. “3D became the iconic element of the show that represented RIM’s commitment to emerging technology.” Three parts of the show were presented in 3D: the pre-show, the entire keynote from RIM’s Mike Lazaridis, and a live demonstration, fed directly from the PlayBook, of a 3D application by a third-party developer. For the Hartmann Studios team, this was the first venture creating 3D content for an event. “It was a steep learning curve that we acknowledged right away,” says Michael Dalton, creative director at Hartmann Studios. “Working in 3D is a new creative space that not only requires additional plot and development, but there is also a lot more consideration of the audience’s perception of the content. It doesn’t just add depth; it raises the bar on how they will be entertained.” Adding a third dimension also altered the overall content communication strategy for the event. “Essentially we were playing to two audiences,” says Dalton. “The 3D was an exclusive benefit for the audience in the room, but we created a separate stream on the center screen with complementary 2D content for the press feed and archive purposes, as well as for any audience members that didn’t care for the 3D.”

Breaking New Ground

Before 3D even came into the picture, BlackBerry World 2011 was already an event that required a complex technical solution, as a large majority of the presentations incorporated live on-stage demonstrations from approximately 16 handheld BlackBerry devices, in addition to prepared 2D video content. Now on top of that, the 3D elements, which had become a crucial centerpiece of the show, added a new layer of technical complexity. Hartmann Studios worked with LMG, Inc., to provide the video, audio, and lighting support for BlackBerry World 2011 and to develop the technical execution plan to seamlessly incorporate the 2D and 3D video and live product demonstrations. “LMG is at the forefront of 3D technology, and we had confidence that we were getting great guidance in a delivery strategy, while doing some groundbreaking things,” says Kassab. Although LMG had worked on several 3D corporate events in the past, incorporating a live 3D demonstration directly from a handheld device for over 5,000 people would be an industry first. LMG provided a 22'6"x40' Stewart Filmscreen LumiFlex center screen to support 2D content, two rear-projection 18'x32' 3D Stewart FilmScreen 150s for the mains, and two 10'x22' front-projection AV Stumpfl 3D screens for delays. Four double-stacked projectors, equipped with polarizers, supported each of the 3D screens: Barco FLM HD20 projectors for the main screens and Panasonic PT-D12000Us for the delays. “For passive 3D, you need to isolate the left eye and right eye content as discrete elements, so the two left projectors get signal A, and the two right projectors get signal B,” says Neil Morrison, director of Video Services at LMG. “When it’s 2D, both the left and right eye receive the same content from the projectors, just doubled up.” The four outboard screens could not only display 2D or 3D content, but also were used to project 2D and 3D content simultaneously throughout the keynote presentation. “Our system was designed to allow projection of the speakers’ 3D content on each screen, along with vertical I-Mag of the speaker on the screen in 2D, which really enhanced the 3D elements.” LMG used Grass Valley T2 Intelligent Disk Drive Recorders (iDDRs) to play the 3D content for the opening pre-show and keynote presentation. “The T2s provided a synchronized playback solution for the left eye/right eye discrete videos,” says Morrison. “Normally for any playback device, you only have one output, but with 3D, you have two outputs with separate routing paths to each set of projectors, and they have to play in perfect synch.” For the live 3D portion of the event that was fed directly from the BlackBerry PlayBook, LMG used a Doremi Labs Dimension 3D conversion box to format the signal path to make it viewable for the audience. “The PlayBook outputs 3D content as a side-by-side delivery, where the left and right eye components are within a single picture frame,” notes Morrison. “The Doremi was required to split that content in two, so we could have a full picture of the left and a full picture of the right.”

Bringing Out the Big Guns

For the main switching, LMG used a Barco Encore system to handle the 2D and 3D content that fed to the screens and a Snell & Wilcox Kahuna HD broadcasting package for I-Mag and recordings. To manage the 3D content, the Barco Encore system was loaded with two Encore 3 Mix/Effect processors dedicated to each screen. “Adding two processors for each 3D screen allows you to create a stereoscopic workspace, since you are sending twice the amount of information to the screens at the same time,” states Craig Muir, LMG’s senior account executive. With two demonstration areas onstage throughout this event, wired with 16 handheld devices, along with cameras for close-up shots of the products, LMG also had to design a switching system to accommodate the vast amount of inputs. “We determined that the stage elements would have to be managed by a separate sub-switching system,” says Muir. LMG designed a “destination management system” using an Analog Way Pulse switching package to handle the multiple demonstration devices, which routed high-definition feeds to the main switching system. “We had a dedicated technician to make sure the on-stage signals were live, mapped correctly, and the resolutions were consistent, and he then routed and switched to the main system for the screens or records,” adds Muir. Aside from a fully loaded video system for BlackBerry World, LMG also provided audio and lighting equipment to support the show. Wrapped around the top of the stage, Hartmann Studios designed an LED banner for messaging to reinforce the BlackBerry brand. This comprised 240 lightweight BasicTech FLED-io11 high-resolution 11mm LED tiles, while the lighting rig included a mix of Philips Vari-Lite VL2500 and VL3500 units, High End Systems Showgun 2.5 units, Philips Color Kinetics ColorBlaze 72s and ColorBlast 12s, and Elation Opti Tri Par fixtures, controlled by an MA Lighting grandMA console. The sound system included L-Acoustics V-DOSC and dV-DOSC line array speakers, as well as Meyer Sound 700-HP subwoofers.

Show Time

Working in parallel to develop content and a technical approach within the challenging timeframe, Hartmann Studios and LMG delivered BlackBerry World 2011 with flying colors, both literally and figuratively. “We had a lot of homework to do to make sure we delivered on the promise to our client,” says Les Goldberg, CEO/president of LMG, adding that extensive beta tests were performed to make sure the correct workflow was in place to manage the content onsite, as final delivery of the content would not occur until load-in of the show. “Working with new technology, there is always a certain level of risk, but we had the right team and a solid execution plan in place to make it happen,” he says. For Hartmann Studios, the months of planning, design, and production, along with some sleepless nights, came together at the end to deliver an event that lived up to the BlackBerry brand. “The company felt it shined as an industry leader,” notes Lowry. One of the most celebrated moments of the event, when Lazaridis announced during his keynote that each member of the audience would receive a PlayBook, was backed by a 3D animation of one PlayBook replicating into thousands. “It was the perfect blend of moment and 3D technology,” states Lowry. “Doing 3D for the sake of doing 3D isn’t something I would recommend, but when part of the story is enhanced by 3D, it makes a lot of sense.”

Robyn Baker has been the marketing manager with LMG, Inc., a national provider of video, audio, and lighting support, since 2005. She has been handling PR, marketing communications, and promotions for over 15 years, and graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Science in marketing.

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