For Not So Silent Night this year we played around with using a projector as a light source. We took a 17,000 lumen projector, put it upstage center, and faced it towards the audience. With the room hazed out we were able to create some pretty sweet animations. Stuff you just can’t do with a normal moving light.
We used Qlab since it is a very reliable media player and the new version adds a lot of on the fly controls for manipulating content. It’s also controllable from a variety of ways, MIDI notes, keyboard shortcuts, MIDI Show Control, iPad app, lots of options. This made it easy to add into our Ableton show control rig.
We loaded up some content into Qlab and tried full color, complex stuff along with black and white, really simple stuff. We started to find that the simpler the better since we’re trying to discern images in mid-air using haze. The more negative space in the image, the easier it was to read.
Think of your moving lights. The gobos that give the most distinct beams are typically the least busy ones. The really busy gobos may look good on the ground or wall as a texture but probably don’t look as good in the air through haze generally speaking. Instead of individual beams you can end up with a frosted look.
Not that all colored content look bad, color bars through the air actually looked really cool, ha ha. I was really interested in beams for this show so white graphics with a black background seemed to work best. This gave us the most contrast possible for the beams to cut through.
White is also easy to color correct into other colors. Take away green and you’re left with magenta for example. Taking away a color from white to change the look is way easier than creating content in a specific color and then trying to get white instead.
After seeing what worked and what we liked I created some simple stuff in After Effects. Things rendered nice and fast since they were so simple. Creating everything ourselves also gave us full control over the look. Searching through stock content is sometimes more work than just creating stuff yourself if you know what you want.
Below is what we made. I’m pretty sure we didn’t use everything but we wanted lots of options. Feel free to rip them from YouTube and play around with a projector you may have lying around. You don’t need 17,000 lumens (but it helps, ha ha) you can try it out with a smaller projector just to see the effect.
I think that my favorite effect was the small dots falling. This created an awesome starry, twinkly, kinda look. We actually used it on a song where it was the only light in the whole room and it was great.
The moving line was probably my second favorite. Real laser like effect waving around. The OE logos came out nice too. Always cool when you can incorporate a little branding into the effects.
Circle Dots 1
Circle Dots 2