The Oscars: Multiple Layers of Images

LiveDesign’s article on SenovvA’s projection design on the 2011 Academy Awards.

The 2011 Academy Awards, broadcast live from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre on February 27 on ABC, saw the Oscars presented on a set designed with multiple layers of visual imagery. “Production designer Steve Bass wanted many different layers of projected images,” says Dave Taylor of SenovvA, who designed the large projection rig. “We projected on round portals, a massive 43’ Stewart Filmscreen cyc, a main screen, and translucent panels with Clearview film, referred to as the glass panels.”

Two 9×16’ traveling screens tracked with the images via real-time feedback to the Green Hippo Hippotizer media servers from the PRG automated winch system. “There were special sensors on the winches to read the data,” adds Taylor. “That kind of automation was new for the Oscars and worked seamlessly.”

The projectors for the traveling screens were 8 Barco FLM HD20s, in four sets of two, creating 16×9’ pictures overlapped at the ends and aligned to cover the width of the stage where the screens traveled. The 30′-wide main screen used a motion-tracking system and 6 Barco FLM R22+ projectors doing a two-segment vertical blend, similar to the traveling screens.

With 34 Hippos in the rig and 53 distinct feeds, programmed by Jason Rudolph and controlled via an MA Lighting grandMA console. “We’d used Hippos on the Oscars before but this was the first time there was a whole Hippo department as they needed more management and I had my hands full with 73 projectors. A new personal record for me,” adds Taylor. In addition to the Hippo feeds, there were also six other direct content feeds to various displays.

Images on the portals, each of the four arches over the stage, were projected via 10 Christie HD10K-M
units placed in an arc. To add to the challenge of lighting the large cyc, the orchestra was behind the cyc so four Barco FLM HD20
projectors were hung very high, or 34’ in the air shooting at 20° (mounted on a 20° projection platform). “The challenge was how to project on the cyc with an orchestra four feet behind it and not see the conductor,” says Taylor.

To project on the glass panels, which also tracked motion, 12 Barco FLM R22+ projectors were used and placed to the side of the cyc, which had to be able to fly out. To best hit the glass, which was in three horizontal rows with a right half and left half, the projectors were in two stacks of six, with one stack on each side of the stage to avoid what Taylor calls ‘blow by.’ “There was a lot of geometry involved, very tricky,” he says.

A visual gag with a projected image of Bob Hope used a Panasonic PT-DZ12000 projector to place his likeness on a 3.5’ circle of Plexiglas with Clearview film on the back. Other content was heavily based on clip packages for the current films as well as tributes to old movies. “There were certain looks where the entire set turned into a scene from a film,” notes Taylor. “It’s the magic of Hollywood.”

Published: March 10, 2011