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Testimonial: Lowell Peterson, ASC


Testimonial: Lowell Peterson, ASC

Dave,

I’ve been assembling the viewing copy of our ASC Awards, and I wanted to send a huge thank you for the great work you did. You used the wild camera in front so well. I am amazed at how you employed three simple angles so thoughtfully, especially to enhance the host segments. And your live edit of the show with the QuBit elements was great.

Thanks to you and your guys for the tremendous contribution to our show.

 

Lowell Peterson, ASC
Director of Photography

 

Testimonial: The Oscars® Nominations Announcement


Testimonial: The Oscars® Nominations Announcement

Frank, Dave and all of your crews,

Congratulations! Thank you so much for a successful day yesterday. I know there were a lot of requests in the 11th hour and we so appreciate your flexibility and everything that you do for us. From moving mult-boxes, changing scenic, adapting graphics, and….well….everything!

Everyone is really happy with the result. You made it happen. A BIG ol’ THANK YOU to your crews.

 

Lauren Selman
Publicity Logistics Manager
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

 

Sign Language


Sign Language

Walk into any bar, and it’s a safe bet you’ll find at least two things: digital signage and a mirrored wall of booze. The bar at Wolfgang Puck’s Trattoria del Lupo restaurant in Las Vegas is no exception, but it also bucks the stereotypes about what that signage can add to the experience.

Tucked inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Trattoria del Lupo opened in 1999 and recently completed a major remodel that included adding interactive digital art to the bar in the middle of the restaurant. Four 42in. displays now adorn the top of the bar, but they’re not there to show ballgames or talking heads. Instead, they show streams and balls of light that, thanks to infrared cameras, ebb and flow based on bar patrons’ movements. For example, reaching for a drink can be enough to make the streams move in a way that mimics the breeze of an arm.

Interactive art is a rarity in bars and restaurants. So the artwork—titled “TRAILERS_LUPO”—was a test case not only for the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, which owns 14 other restaurants in cities such as Beverly Hills, Dallas, and London, but for the rest of the industry, too.

“It’s something they’re doing to change the way people look at digital signage and digital art,” says Curtis Kelly, who leads the systems design group at SenovvA, the Los Angeles-based integrator on the project. “I really applaud them for it. That’s been so successful that they’re now planning to do more restaurants. We’re getting ready to do another commission.”

Behind The Scenes

In a way, the Trattoria del Lupo project got its start backstage at the Academy Awards, where SenovvA did the LED wall behind the stage. Digital artist John B. Carpenter was there, as well.

“The thing that really impressed me about their work at the awards was the seamless integration of the technology into the stage design and the way they were able to get a non-pixelated image for the audience by using a slight diffuser in front of the wall,” Carpenter says.

When Carpenter received the Trattoria del Lupo commission, he asked SenovvA to help execute his vision. One challenge was selecting the right hardware. Although many commercial AV installations now use consumer-grade monitors because they’re inexpensive, SenovvA and Carpenter agreed that approach would be shortsighted.

“It would be cheaper to do it that way, but you’re going to replace them four times [as often],” Carpenter says.

One reason is because “TRAILERS_LUPO” requires displays that are in portrait mode.

“You have to have a commercial display if you’re going to run it in portrait orientation because consumer displays don’t run properly in portrait,” Kelly says. “They’re designed to run and cool in landscape mode.”

SenovvA chose LG 42VS20-BAA LCDs. Kelly had used LG displays on other projects, but not this particular model. After comparing specs and talking with LG reps, this model stood out for several reasons:

  • Its cooling adapts based on orientation, helping maximize its lifespan and avoiding downtime. A high-quality video card and power supply also help ensure reliability.
  • It provides the high contrast ratio necessary to avoid washouts and blooming, as well as ample control of contrast and brightness. “With plasma, we probably could have got better black levels, but we wanted something that was going to be more robust on a commercial level running 24/7,” Kelly says. “Most digital signage displays are all about the nits. For us, it was more about contrast ratio and the black levels for a really natural look.”
  • It includes a broad, deep menu, including options for scheduling and auto reboot, all accessible remotely from a Web browser.
  • It offers an Ethernet port for remote access and monitoring, a feature that Kelly liked from other LG models. “I love them because they have a very good control protocol over IP or RS-232. Very robust. A very easy language to work with,” he says.

Networkability also was key for connecting each display to an Apple Mac Mini over HDMI. The infrared cameras—mounted underneath each display—connect to their respective Mini via USB.

Although they’re designed for the consumer market, Minis are increasingly common in pro AV. They were an ideal fit for Trattoria del Lupo partly because they have a solid-state drive (SSD), providing more reliability than a hard disk. SSDs also enable faster boot ups, which was a factor because the system is cycled off once a day. This clears the memory to ensure everything stays performing smoothly. After all, artwork that’s meant to mimic human movement and the wind can’t exist in fits and starts.

“It’s a very natural, smooth flow,” Kelly says. “So there had to be some specific things that had to be in the design development to make sure that the displays had a fast refresh rate so there wouldn’t be any jogginess. The computers had to have SSDs instead of [hard drives] because it’s running 24/7. They had to have fast refresh rates on the video cards.”

The infrared cameras also had to be flexible.

“The Kinetic cameras aren’t just standard ones you buy off the shelf,” Kelly says. “They’re professional models that can handle custom drivers.”

Thinking Small To Push The Envelope

When the system was ready for installation, Carpenter didn’t simply hand SenovvA a thumb drive or DVD of code for them to load into the Minis. Instead, he was hands on, which isn’t surprising considering his background. Carpenter’s day job is as an engineer at Oblong Industries, a company whose founder inspired the gesture technology seen in the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. Carpenter also has a private art practice, and in both, much of his time is spent programming.

“TRAILERS_LUPO” uses a program called Processing, a creative coding environment that Carpenter developed for artists and designers. The algorithms change the artwork based on environmental factors, so it never looks the same way twice. “It means you’re not dealing with a looped video,” Carpenter says. “You’re always getting something different.”

For Carpenter, the Mini is an ideal environment for realizing his visions. “One of the things we talked about is whether to use a simple video player or whether we needed a computer,” he says. “I like the Mac Mini because I’ve worked with them a lot, and they’re small and reliable.

“It’s the best solution for me right now. It’s a good space to write code in, and it behaves fairly predictably and reliably. I know a number of artists and creative coders that work with them just for the ease of installation.”

New Life For A Dead Space

Trattoria del Lupo is an example of some of the ways that pro AV is changing. First, the use of Mac Minis instead of specialized AV hardware is part of the ongoing trend of AV-IT integration. Second, the project highlights the benefits of having the integrator work early, often, and well with a specialist from a different field. In some cases, that’s a building management engineer or an architect. Here, it was an artist. “Good open conversation, plus trusting that each group is good at what they’re doing” is what Carpenter believes is key for a great working relationship. “The expertise that they brought with the hardware and installation was fantastic. Working with SenovvA allowed me to focus on the code and artwork. I knew they were going to take care of the hardware and integration.”

“TRAILERS_LUPO” has been enough of a success that more interactivity is coming. The bar currently has four displays, but there’s room for another two if Trattoria del Lupo decides to expand the artwork. In the meantime, SenovvA and Carpenter have begun work on the area just behind the bar. Currently there are several French doors that lead to a small storage area. Those are being modified so that patrons see what appears to be a live street scene, with people walking by and trees moving in the wind. During the daytime, the scene will be lighter. The artwork is called “FIELDS_sinapis.”

“It’s a feeling of being somewhere else,” Kelly says.

In future interactive art projects, SenovvA will apply what it learned with “TRAILERS_LUPO.” For example, Carpenter currently accesses the system via a VPN, a design that SenovvA probably will avoid in the future.

“Since it’s more involved now with the systems, we’ll probably get involved with their IT department to plan on having a port opened just for us to keep it easy,” Kelly said. “They’re going to do more of these down the road, so maybe it’s time to start talking to them about integrating our allocation in their network for taking care of things. That’s becoming a trend. Everybody has to give people ports for the outside world to come in.”

That’s also yet another example of why AV integrators need IT skills these days and why they need to come into a project early on, when it’s cheaper and easier to make fundamental decisions about networks and other aspects.

“People call us to do a lot of black-box, weird things,” Kelly says. “We’re lucky enough to sit at the owner’s table at the stakeholder level to help them figure out if things can become reality and help them save money from the beginning. We value engineer it before it even gets to the RFP.”

Article
Published: July 26, 2013

 

MPC NY & SenovvA Scan Bodies For Fracture.io Installation


MPC NY & SenovvA Scan Bodies For Fracture.io Installation

MPC Digital teamed up with The One Club via JWT New York to create Fracture.io, an installation experience for The One Show’s after-party at New York’s Bowery Hotel.

The installation allowed guests to enter the digital space, taking 3D scans of pose-striking partygoers to generate abstracted, full-body 3D renderings, with technical production and management by SenovvA.

Article
Published: July 16, 2013

 

SenovvA Expands To Canada


SenovvA Expands To Canada

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 07/15/13

SenovvA Expands to Canada; Hires Dave Crainford as GM

Los Angeles, CA (July 15, 2013) – SenovvA, Inc. (“SenovvA”), a leading production and media systems design and management group offering services to the entertainment, special event, architectural and building, and media services industries, today announces the expansion of its operations into Canada through a newly established entity, SenovvA Canada, ULC. Through the new company, SenovvA expands its foothold in the North American market to provide its service offerings to a greater number of clients.

“This expansion further demonstrates our commitment to provide groundbreaking productions to not only North American, but also international markets,” said Kevin Lee Harvey, CEO of SenovvA, Inc. “We are also very excited to announce that Dave Crainford has joined SenovvA Canada as General Manager. With such a dedicated professional at the helm, we feel confident in our expansion efforts.”

Dave Crainford brings 12 years of experience conceiving, managing, and producing live events ranging from national sales meetings and product launches to high-stakes, multi-city road shows. His vigorous production management experience and ability to adapt to constantly changing deadlines and deliverables, enables him to create and manage events that far exceed his client’s expectations. Throughout his years of producing events, Dave has mastered the ability to develop and execute productions in numerous cities and venues across North America, the Caribbean and Europe.

“I am excited to bring the breadth and depth of experience SenovvA brings to all their endeavors to a new market here in Canada,” said Dave Crainford, General Manager of SenovvA Canada. “I look forward to working with the team to elevate the productions we design and manage for our new and existing clients.”

About SenovvA
SenovvA is a world-class design and management group offering services to the entertainment, special event, architectural and building, and media services industries. Specializing in production solutions, SenovvA provides solution driven services focusing on live production design & management, specialty media systems design and installation, media facility management, and specialty media content design and management. SenovvA has created stunning visual productions and state-of-the-art media systems for a diverse portfolio of clients ranging from the Academy Awards broadcast, the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar Party and Mercedes-Benz, to Marquee, Wolfgang Puck and Google, to name a few.

 

Testimonial: m. joel designs


Testimonial: m. joel designs

Frank & Dave,

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to you and your amazing team for all of your hard work on Billboards. Everyone you’ve selected to be on your team was nothing but kind, professional, and incredibly hard working. We had a number of obstacles that popped up throughout the load-in process and we were able to overcome them together, thanks to the positive attitudes and creative thinking of you and your team.

I have to say, you both are extremely pleasant to work with. From the bidding process to the installation, I always felt as though I had an ally in you and your team. For this, I can’t thank you enough. We truly could not have pulled off this show without you!

 

Matt Steinbrenner
Art Director
m. joel designs

 

Reinventing The Academy Awards


Reinventing The Academy Awards

The Oscars has always been one of the most interesting gigs you could land– after all, what better platform to demonstrate your technical chops than the most prestigious entertainment/technology awards ceremony there is? Over the years we’ve reported on the video technology used at the Academy Awards– and we’ve seen different mixes of video with traditional staging technology. We’ve seen the venue itself evolve its technology resources with the changing needs of the Oscar production as well as for other live event needs. This year’s Oscar ceremony saw brought some interesting twists to the narrative.

Since the venue previously known as the Kodak Theatre – with its 3,400 seats, the theatre has hosted the Oscars since 2002– was rebranded the Dolby Theatre in June 2012, the venue has hosted premieres for the Oscar-nominated films like “Brave” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” It has also hosted Cirque du Soleil productions, and a wide variety of concerts. In preparation for the 2013 Oscars ceremony, Dolby came in and working closely with this year’s Academy Awards producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, Oscar telecast director Don Mischer, the film studios, and ABC– made sure everyone was on board for retooling the show to be broadcast in Dolby Surround 5.1, including every movie clip and taped segment. That included mounting 187 new loudspeakers in the theatre. In addition, new for this year, there was a new VIP lounge with a fabric ceiling designed to create the look of a sound wave, a 7.1 channel Surround Sound installation and a 84-inch flat panel display that showed a live feed of the Oscars broadcast. The process actually started last summer with the installation of a Dolby Atmos system, for the release of the movie “Brave” that was the first film to use the system (in fourteen theaters in the U.S. and Canada).

“Atmos, at any one time, can have 128 sound objects running,” said Dolby’s David Gray. “Pieces of sound can be placed anywhere in the room. Pieces of sound can be placed anywhere in the room. The Dolby Theatre has so many speakers–187– receiving so many commands, including, for some showings, an array that runs vaulted overhead–that it takes three processors to control them all.”

For the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, held Sunday, February 24th, at the Dolby Theatre, the buzz in the press was that the producers chose to go with a more traditional set design than in recent years. In its ongoing effort to retool the Oscars– always chasing new viewership– this year Tony Award-winning Production Designer Derek McLane was tasked to “add a fresh perspective to the set of the Dolby Theatre.” So would that translate to more live musical numbers, more theatrical lighting, etc, and less use of video projectors to ‘paint’ sets as we saw in some of the recent years’ productions?

Who reading this magazine could not have loved the trend that reached a peak at the Oscars in 2011, when many of the seventy-three projectors were used to “create sets,” i.e. digitally “paint” flown scenic elements, as opposed to just projecting film clips etc. In that 2011 production, the designers wrapped images to “make the set come to life.” The most impressive part of that was projecting onto four arched portals with rear-projected content framing the main stage, involving 40 Christie 10K HD projectors driven by an UberPan system of 40 outputs from twenty-two HD Hippotizers. That was the 2011 Oscars. The good news is that the same company that did that video production in 2011, SenovvA, was involved in the 2013 production. And heading up SenovvA’s team: Oscar veteran Dave Taylor, SenovvA’s Senior Technical Producer. While SenovvA has been providing the projection (and LED) for the Oscars since 2005, Dave Taylor has twenty-four years experience working on the event. Taylor first did the projection for the event at the 61st Academy Awards, and he’s been on the job ever since (first, working with AVHQ, later with Creative Technology, and now with SenovvA). But it was a somewhat different gig this year. Dave’s official credit this year was “Projection LED Supervisor”. LED? What about the video projection? This year’s production designers– in their attempt to get a more traditional, even Broadway, look and feel to the show, went a bit different direction. (But Taylor reminded me that there were other very LED-intensive years. “2005, 2006 and 2008 were all very LED-heavy years,” commented Taylor.)

Projection lovers– hang in there, there was still enough interesting projection to go around at this year’s Oscars, despite the semantics of production credits (and in an era where the public is enamored with everything “LED”.)

Dave Taylor explained that LED, indeed, played probably its biggest role to date, in the Oscars show. And as you saw if you watched the telecast February 24, 2013 while there was a good deal of video on the stage– it mainly was the old-fashioned kind in terms of content: IMAG, or film clips on screens. Anyone watching the telecast (or sitting in the Dolby Theatre) experienced, indeed, a more music-heavy, if not Broadway-style, production. Even before the many musical numbers kicked in, you could see the stage was more traditionally theatrical. Tony Award-winning Production Designer Derek McLane incorporated over 100,000 Swarovski crystals (weighing over 1,500 pounds) into the Oscar’s stage design. More than a thousand (1,051) replica Oscar statuettes– each a little larger than the real award– was nestled in its own cubbyhole in traditional proscenium and could be lit separately or in sections as needed.

The set up consisted, first, of one big screen cyclorama, permanently upstage. It was 70 X 33 foot LED wall– a 9m Winvision 9, the same system SenovvA used in 2012. The cyclorama used five hundred ninety-five Winvision 9.375mm LED tiles. For all the sets, there was a diffusion screen that stayed in place just 3/8 of an inch in front of the LED. This clever use of a diffusion screen served to eliminate the Moiré pattern you would get if you tried to video capture the screen without one. The diffusion screen also served to dampen down the lumen output of the LED. “Normally we’d run that kind of LED at about 12% intensity to balance with the other lighting etc,” said Taylor, “but with that diffusion screen–that has the effect of turning the LED into thousands of tiny video projectors projecting 3/8 inch out to that screen– we ran the LED at about 60% because the screen of course cut some lumen intensity.”

Projection lovers will be pleased to know that there was one big projection screen– this year the crew and producers called it the “big picture screen” because it was used to screen the Best Motion Picture nominee clips, and for the Governor’s award segment– that did it with big guns. Three Barco HDF-W26 projectors– 26,000 lumens each– were stacked. One of them was a back up, while two were overlapped to get 50,000+ lumens on the screen. A Stewart Videomatte 2000 screen was flown down just in front of close down curtain (that shuts off upstage from down) four times during the show for this system.

Back to LED. The “cube” LED modules used a new product on the market. They are 3 millimeter format LED. Revolution Display 3mm or “RD3” is the name of a new product exclusive to VER. For the Oscars, the designers spec’ed in four LED “cubes”, and PRG supplied the automation for moving the cubes. For the “Captain Kirk” screen that flew in at the beginning of the show, two cubes– each was 11 wide X 13 ft tall– were butted for a 16X9 format screen. Later in the show, Barbara Streisand entered through all four cubes center stage–when she emerged, the two “wagons” tracked off to the wings, and the other stayed on stage for her rendition of “The Way We Were” in the Marvin Hamlisch tribute segment.

And if you loved all that use of video projection to “paint sets” in the 2011 and other Oscar shows, you no doubt loved the “Wavy Walls” in this year’s production. In act 2, and again in act 13, four Barco projectors were used to track four S-shaped walls. One wall was downstage, one upstage. The automation data was fed into a Hippo (just like in the 2011 production; Jason Rudolph was the show’s Hippotizer programmer). And for the James Bond 50the Anniversary tribute those same projectors were used to project onto the “Bond discs” on set, as the Bond footage played on the big LED cyclorama.

Given the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s purported new focus on retooling the now officially retitled “Oscars” ceremony to create a more Grammies-like fast-paced show not a stodgy “Awards Ceremony”, it’s hard to predict how much envelope-pushing new video technology will be brought to bear for the 2014 Oscars. I’ll bet Dave Taylor and team at SenovvA, PRG, and the Hippo folks will be involved. We’ll wait and see what Dave Taylor’s title for the show is next year.

Article
Published: April 19, 2013

 

“Lucky Guy” New York Times Review


“Lucky Guy” New York Times Review

SenovvA as Associate Producer on Nora Ephron‘s “Lucky Guy” at the Broadhurst Theater. Directed by George C. Wolfe & staring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, making his Broadway debut.

Read review…
Published: April 1, 2013

 

Testimonial: This World Productions


Testimonial: This World Productions

I just wanted to congratulate everybody on what sounds like a fantastic run at the Ahmanson! I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic set of show reports!
Team, video… Jim… Thank you so much for your hard work and diligence. I didn’t see video mentioned in any show report and I’m very proud to have been a part of the team.

Please send my regards on to everyone at the theatre and on the Backbeat Team.

 

Lucy Ockenden
Creative Producer
This World Productions

 

Testimonial: RealD


Testimonial: RealD

Walt,

The media coverage of the opening of the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas is outstanding. They’re claiming this museum will be one of the most successful recent museum projects and it’s receiving enormous accolades from professionals and celebrities alike. You are there now, running the 3D theater on the opening night so I hope you find this note after the event.

We all worked hard to win the deal and you and Riche have worked tirelessly to manage the buildout of the whole theater and be sure it performs at the level expected, especially for the opening tonight.

I realize you flew straight there from Orlando. I can’t thank you enough for supporting RealD at IAAPA and being willing to work so hard towards these successes.

Truly, partners like you & SenovvA are hard to find, so I’d like to say thanks on behalf of myself and RealD for making us look great and doing the work that is key to these non-chain venues.

I know you and Meg have plans to spend some time together but please take a minute to know that I appreciated working with you the last couple years and look forward to finishing our outstanding projects together.

Look forward to retaining our friendship as I move into this new position fully, and remember that I’m at your service if ever there is anything that you need.

 

Kevin Faul
VP Product Management
RealD