I meant to post this sooner but it slipped my mind. Things are busy! I just wanted to follow up on the Echo Conference I went to a little while back.
Overall I think that Echo was a very well organized conference. Honestly I went out there without setting the bar too high in my mind. Figured then I couldn’t be dissapointed, ha ha. At the very least I’d get to go on a trip and see someplace new!
First of all, Watermark Community Church is an awesome place with an awesome staff. They were a great host to this event and their facilities are amazing. I wouldn’t have any hesitation visiting them again.
Echo turned out to be a great conference. While it focused on the tech and creative side of church production there was still enough variety in the main sessions and breakouts to not get monotonous. I went with a friend of mine and we split up between different breakouts and we were able to find unique and interesting things each time.
All that to say if you’re on the tech or creative side of the church and you’re looking for a little creative boost, extra knowledge, or just some networking then check out Echo. Not that my word has any authority, ha ha. But if you search around I’d be willing to bet that the overall response to Echo is positive and that’s it’s a worthwhile conference.
Personally I thought that the recent Super Bowl had a great lighting show and was well done overall. While I think that Beyonce did a good job for a pop artist, I find myself watching the technical side of things more than anything else. What displays are they using? What lights are those? That was a great idea, that wasn’t, ha ha.
I know that they used Green Hippo media servers to power the two video displays built into the stage. I also know that they had two rows of 80 Clay Paky Sharpys (160 total!). This allowed very simple movement macros to look amazing!
Video content was very good and very creative. At one point thanks to clever camera angles and good content you really thought there were more real people on stage than there really was, pretty cool. Overall I thought it was entertaining and unlike a lot of other high profile lives events lately, I didn’t spot or hear any huge errors. That’s always nice.
A friend of mine sent me a link to an article interviewing the LD for the last three Super Bowls and other high profile events. I always like to know what other people’s thought process is and how they work. There’s almost always at least one little tip or trick you can learn from. Worth checking out!
Ok, it’s been an exciting week! After over a year of planning and demoing equipment we finally moved forward on our permanent install environmental projection system. It’s not set up quite yet but the gear is here!
The highlights of the system are the two Green Hippo Hippotizer HD media servers and four Panasonic PT-DZ21K 20,000 lumen projectors. This will be set up in our main Fort Lauderdale sanctuary. The final result will be a seemless image that’s 100′ wide and 18′ tall.
The goal is to finish the install this week. Once it’s installed I’ll post up some better pictures and videos of everything in action. We did get as far as racking up the gear and mounting the projectors temporarily on the catwalk. Ultimately the projectors will get mounted underneath our catwalk.
While testing the Hippos and getting them to talk to each other I played around with sending the outputs to Light Converse, my virtualization program. It’s pretty cool, the hippos can output a video feed over the network to LC. Then LC will show you the video on your video wall or projectors in the simulation. So not only can you preview all your lighting, you can preview video as well!
That’s it for now. If all goes well I’ll have some more pictures and videos of the setup soon!
Basically they pulled off a pretty unique way of syncing everything together with the music in a preprogrammed way but the trick is that the artist still has creative freedom to change tempos, repeat sections, whatever he wants. So there’s the precision of a preprogrammed show without locking the artist into a setup that can’t be changed. Pretty impressive stuff!
As we go down the road of environmental projection it’s relatively easy to add some projectors. It’s a lot harder to to get something to reliably feed the projectors the video content. We have gone through a few different setups at this point. I’ll run through what we’ve done so far and go over some details of each.
We started with ProPresenter running from a MacBook Pro. This gives you a lot of options for a reasonable price. At our campus we have a site license for the software so that was the best place to start.
ProPresenter worked fairly well. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can remote control ProPresenter to trigger the videos. It can struggle with some formats or higher res videos though even on a fairly powerful machine.
Then we needed to trigger some videos at precise times. Videos with lyrics for example need to be timed right or they’ll look pretty silly, ha ha. ProVideoPlayer lets us trigger video clips through MIDI. We used this feature to receive signals from Ableton Live. I’ll go more in-depth with this setup in another post.
Once set up the videos are just playing along with the click track and when everything works right. You have videos triggering automatically and it’s great. This extra level of control allowed us to take our videos to the next level. Timing things out with verses and choruses adds that extra level of production that really pays off.
Both ProPresenter and ProVideoPlayer are packed with a lot of features for the money and really are great tools. Both are limited by your hardware though. The framerate and resolution of your videos will be limited at some point. They’re good options but they’re not as good as dedicated media servers with custom software and hardware.
Green Hippo Hippotizer HD
This leads us to the Hippo. In order to play back true 1920 x 1080 HD content perfectly you really need a media server. There are a few options out there but the one that seems to be leading the pack is the Green Hippo Hippotizer HD. It’s used all over the place, big award shows, the Super Bowl, some of those singing competition shows, lots of stuff.
Once you step to a real media server you gain tons of features. Rock steady playback is just the beginning. Now you can manipulate your content in real time. Speed up, slow down, change color, apply filters that completely change the look, etc.
Rarely will you have a large wall that’s perfectly flat. Most stage walls have angles and curves that will distort your projection. With some abstract motion graphics that not really a big deal but once you start showing any kind of natual landscapes or text you want a goemetrically correct image. The Hippo provides all the warping tools you’ll ever need to correct for any shape surface you want to project on.
There’s also the image blending tools needed to blend any number of screens together in any arrangement. So you can create a seemless image with multiple projectors side by side, top and bottom, or a combination of both.
Media servers can also control lighting fixtures. The most common use for this is controlling static LED fixtures. So if you have LED fixtures throughout the stage and you want them to always match the looks of the videos you can do that pretty easily. Just map everything out in the software and it does the rest
Now with all these features comes some more complexity and there’s a little bit of a learning curve with a media server comepared to the simpler software only options. I got to demo the Hippo and without and real training I was able to load my media and get things playing back. The more advanced features will take some more work but loading and playing media is pretty simple even though it’s a powerful device.
It’s because of all these features that we will be going with a dedicated media server when we finally install our environmental projection system. We will need all of the screen warping and image blending features to create a seemless image across our curved rear wall using multiple projectors.
All of the media server features come at a cost, they’re typically fairly expensive gadgets. The Green Hippo’s range from about $7,000 up to almost $50,000. Coolux has their Pandora’s Box media server and they have a software package that start’s under $1,000, that’s another option to check out. You’ll have to weigh out what project you’re working on and what features you can and can’t live without and find what’s right for you. Between ProPresenter, ProVideoPlayer, Green Hippo, Coolux, and even QLab you have a lot of options.