Rain: Video Design Takes Center Stage

When RAIN: A Tribute To The Beatles was tapped for Broadway, Montreal-based projections designer Mathieu St-Arnaud was brought in to enhance and augment the original video created for the tour by Darren McCaulley, as diverse imagery plays a large role in the visual look of the show. Live Design chats with St-Arnaud about his participation:

How does video enhance the visual presentation of the show?

In my sense, the use of video in this show is essential. Not a lot of people have seen The Beatles live on stage—almost everybody visually experienced The Beatles on television, in magazine, on posters, etc.

Since RAIN is all about celebrating the love people have for The Beatles, it's important to integrate into the show what people remember about their own personal Beatles experience. This way, the show can bring them from what they know to what they haven't seen: The Beatles on stage. And that is where video projection comes in.

What research did you do for the images?

I did a lot of research in … the original show footage! There is a lot of video content in this show (a lot not in use currently also) and there are several different versions of it, so we needed to see what had been done before creating new images. We also watched the full Beatles Anthology DVD series to immerse ourselves in the legend.

How did you and Darren McCaulley work together (if you did?), also with the LD for a coherent look?

I actually never spoke with Darren; we communicated only by email and FTP server! He supplied me with all that as been ever produced for the show and we took it on from there.

The production planned three weeks of shows at the Canon Theatre in Toronto in July 2010. That's when I sat beside LD Stephan Gotschel for three or four days in order to go through the show and make it all work with lighting—the MA Lighting grandMA1 lighting console controls the InFrame Vixen Media Server running Arkaos Media Master, so all playback is handled via DMX. We made a lot of final tweaks and minor corrections.

Does the show have a 70s feel or more contemporary given the use of video?

It has a definite 70s feel. Although some of the video designs have a more contemporary feel (a "Google Earth" sequence from Armstrong on the moon to Abbey Road), the original show content includes many great sequences inspired by the Yellow Submarine/Peter Max style, and those immediately sets the tone for the show!

What was your biggest challenge in designing this show?

Our biggest challenge was creating new content for a show that has been running for so many years! Since we designed new content for around 30% of the show, we needed to make it all work visually with the existing video content. Not to mention that this show as quite a history, so it was not always easy knowing what could work or not (you might have a great idea but they may have tried it three years ago and it did not work at all!)

Our second biggest challenge was to recreate/reconstruct parts of the original show content that we needed to tweak or modify; some of the original editing files had been lost.

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