Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cirque du Soleil acquires Blue Man Group

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ACQUIRES ENTERTAINMENT PHENOMENON
BLUE MAN GROUP
 
Montreal, Quebec, July 6th, 2017. Global entertainment leader Cirque du Soleil today announced the acquisition of New-York-based Blue Man Productions, a global live entertainment company best known for the award-winning Blue Man Group show, performed in over 20 countries and seen by more than 35 million people worldwide since 1991. The acquisition of Blue Man Group considerably widens Cirque du Soleil’s audience pool, adding to their portfolio six resident productions established across the United States and Germany, as well as a North American and a World Tour.
The transaction is in line with Cirque du Soleil’s vision for the future, as the Montreal-based creative powerhouse looks to further expand globally and diversify its entertainment offering beyond circus arts. With its original aesthetics, award-winning musical talent and immersive experience know-how, the acquisition of Blue Man Group also represents an additional asset for Cirque du Soleil’s creative team and show offerings.
“We want to broaden our horizons, develop new forms of entertainment, reach out to new audiences and expand our own creative capabilities. Today, we are taking a decisive step towards materializing these ambitions”, said Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil. “We are extremely excited to welcome the iconic Blue Man Group to our portfolio of shows. Their unbridled creativity makes them a perfect cultural fit for Cirque du Soleil. Our extensive marketing research also confirms that Blue Man Group is a strong ‘love brand’ with a solid fan base – something else our two brands have in common.”
For 25 years, Blue Man Group has earned an unrivaled reputation in the global entertainment industry. With a history and values ​​similar to that of Cirque, the company was born of a crazy dream in the creative minds of its three founders. Blending technology, music and comedy, they created boldly colored, playful and steadfastly interactive shows. The company currently operates resident shows in New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and Berlin, as well as two touring productions.
Blue Man Group Co-Founder Phil Stanton explains, “When we began our Blue Man journey, we set our sights on creating theater that would bring people together in a celebration of human connection. We have been humbled, amazed and inspired by the audience responses we have received over the years.”      
Co-Founder Chris Wink adds, “Now, we find ourselves on the brink of our next chapter, and we have big ideas for the future. Only a global creative powerhouse like Cirque du Soleil could help us achieve our vision. Their commitment to artistic quality and originality is unparalleled and their creative resources are vast. It is an honor to join forces with their organization.”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nearing my deadline for my upcoming textbook:
Media Design and Technology for Live Entertainment

Essential Tools for Video Presentation



In addition, I have been teaching classes at various regional theater conferences (look for one near you!).

Cheers!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wow, what a year 2016 has been.  I apparently dropped off the face of the pastel green planet.  I have been busy for sure.  This year at work has brought a lot of special projects.  One of my favorites was contributing graphics for Dancing With the Stars (which I enjoy watching with my daughter).  No, I am not credited, as I did this as one of the "other duties as assigned" for my employer.  Totally fine by me, it was fun.

Politically, this was an interesting year.  I spent a good deal of time correcting people who posted false news sites on Facebook and other social media.  I know that I strained a lot of relationships, but I felt that it was still necessary.  Scientific American wrote a good article about the reasons that people believe false news (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-convince-someone-when-facts-fail/).  Why is this relevant?  Well, people believe crazy things in the live entertainment field as well.  They don't bother to think things through or believe that since it is temporary, there is no need to do it right.  This ends up with disasters such as the warehouse fire in Oakland.  The tragedy is that this shouldn't have happened.

My hope is that we have a safe and prosperous new year.  Take some time to learn new things (hint, I hope to have my book out by the end of the year).  Help out others (teach, volunteer, mentor).  We may not all agree with the state of the world, but that doesn't mean that we should just sit back and complain about it.  Get active.  And by all means, be happy.

Cheers!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting started with projection for a live production

One of the things I am often asked about is "What do I need to have projection/video for my next production?".  Obviously this will never be a simple answer and I will always answer with a battery of questions.  Instead of going into all of the questions, being this is a single sided dialogue, I will over the next several weeks go over what I see as a direction for design. 

I plan on giving you a parts manual of sorts.  Each part of a projection system will work together to bring about the end result.  Without understanding how the parts work, it would be impossible to describe the process.  Consider the end result of the video system like a clock face.  The end user doesn't really care what goes into the inner workings, only that they can tell the time accurately.  The clock designer will choose between an analog system with gears, springs, and other mechanical parts or a digital system with its related parts.  In both instances, there is the decision of how the end result should appear, the preliminary design, the assembly of components, and the final use of the product.  This is the same with projection design, which I plan on guiding you through.

First and foremost, does your production actually need it?  When moving lights left the realm of concerts and made their way into theatrical productions, it was "the" thing that many people wanted.  This is true still today to some degree.  However, theatrical designers did not always know how to use them properly and often times they were not really needed.  After many years of use, and misuse, many designers have come to realize when the production needs a moving light, how many, and how to effectively use them. 

Enter video projection.  There is a long history with the use of projected imagery for live performance.  Although, with the availability of cheap video projectors and playback systems, it is now within the reach of the masses, to some extent.  Now nearly every community theater has the opportunity to wow its audience in ways that required massive budgets.  This has caused big productions to go over the top to make themselves continue to stand out and smaller productions to sometimes choose to use video when either the production really doesn't need it or there might be cheaper and easier methods to accomplish the same look. 

Before I talk about how projection is accomplished, I will talk about the functions of the design.  The methods used to accomplish the functions can vary greatly depending on the needs of a particular show.  Without discussing this directly with producers, there would be no way to cover every nuance of a design.  With a clock, the function is primarily to tell time.  However, the designer may choose other functions including day, date, stopwatch, or many others all within the single unit.  The same can be said of a projection design, there can be a single or multiple functions within the same design.

The first function is Information.  The purpose of this function is to help the audience gain critical information separate from the production on its own.  For instance, the designer can provide time or place to set the mood without the characters stating this information.  It might end up rather comical for an epic like Les Miserables to have one of the characters singing when and where each scene takes place.  In another example, the audience may appreciate subtitles when viewing a foreign language opera. 

The next function is Scenic.  Scenic drops have been used as a method of enhancing a set for generations.  Many smaller production houses are often at a disadvantage as they cannot always afford the space to paint a full stage drop, even more if they have multiple drops.  However, many see the opportunities presented to them as they can create on the small screen and then project onto a large surface.  In addition, the same surface can now have a variety of images saving precious space or removing the need for a fly system.  This, one of the most challenging of the functions, is possibly the primary reason companies choose to add video to their production. 

The third function is for the purpose of eliciting Emotion.  While beautiful scenery may elicit emotion, generally that is not its purpose.  Instead, a designer may be able to more easily bring on an emotional response by showing images of easily recognizable symbols and icons.  If there is need for national pride, showing bold images of a flag waving in the breeze may accomplish this in a way that characters simply talking about may not.  Presenting moments from history, such as propaganda reels from World War II could set the mood for a scene before it even plays out.  By giving the audience something that they already recognize, with associated emotions, can improve the quality of a production in many ways.

While used more for live concerts than theater, projection can add Texture.  Often this will be more geometric and abstract patterns which work well as visuals along with music.  Although, depending on the mood of a production, these type of visuals could add value that could not be accomplished with lighting alone. 

Video is often larger than life.  However, sometimes a Special Effect is needed that cannot be produced any other way.  There may be a need to add fire to a fireplace where real flames are impractical.  A production could require a ghost to appear with an effect regaining popularity with a technique known as Pepper's Ghost.  Many special techniques will challenge the designer to find innovative ways to provide a new level of stage magic.  Some of these will require techniques found in the final function.

This final function I simply call Live projection.  The previous functions can all generally be prerecorded and played back through a variety of methods.  However, there may be a desire for something more organic or lifelike.  Going back to the realm of concert productions, one part of this function is known as image magnification, or Imag.  This is a process of using a video camera to capture the subject and project it live on larger surfaces which allows those further away to see what is happening "up close".  However, this function also relies on other live aspects of a production.  There are many different interactive techniques where the performers can help to shape the images.  This helps to augment the reality of a production by allowing something virtual become a bit more real.  In this function, the creativity of the designer could immeasurably make or break the show.

While a design may incorporate some or all of these functions, it may also blend some of them together.  The designs can be as ethereal as the imagery produced.  What I hope to present is not step by step instructions, but instruction and understanding.  I will introduce the equipment and the connections between it in order for the designer to let creativity run wild.

Visual Production

A couple of years ago I helped on a rather large scale project.  It was for a non-profit organization which I particularly like their mission.  So, when I was asked to help out with the visual aspects (projection), I accepted.  However, I didn't realize what I had signed on for.

I work on one of the biggest permanent productions in history.  While I am used to working with and conversing with professionals of a similar background, I often forget just how foreign video can be.  After all, most every household has some sort of television that has any number of peripherals connected.  However, even the most experienced home user does not have the necessary vocabulary to discuss a large scale production.

Here's the thing.  I am a geek for technology.  I love it.  I'm not just talking about the latest and greatest either.  I love all technology.  See, I went to school to become an archaeologist and my main focus was on ancient technologies.  Why do people make the things they do and what do they intend to do with them.  Well, this carries over to modern technology as well.  One of the things I love about theater is that we borrow technology from everywhere to make magic.  A recent addition (in some sense) is the use of video projections.  Of course, video is becoming more commonplace as the technology is more available and less expensive, but the roots of "projection" have quite a long history.

Now, back on track from my digression.  I was working on this production that wanted to transform the space with projection as a way to stand out in that space.  They came to me with the idea of several moving projection surfaces along with mapping onto some of the architecture of the theater.  No problem I say.  What kind of budget and time frame is there?  Well, that's where it all fell apart.  See, as with other theaters I have worked in, there is another production that is happening in the same space during the time of rehearsals and the night before the technical rehearsal.  That adds a new level of complexity.

The budget?  Well, let's say that it is flexible, but not entirely a large amount.  The schedule?  Short periods of time for rehearsals, virtually eliminating set-up/strike periods for the equipment.  So, everything needs to be able to be installed in such a way as to not interfere with the other production's show elements, but accomplish everything for this production.  Time for negotiations.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Update

Partway through my last update, I got busy again.  So, it is still sitting in the drafts.  However, I am slowly getting back up and running.  I am currently creating some PowerPoint presentations for introduction to video.  I am also helping a student with her thesis project and will be one of the readers as well as teaching a couple workshops.  I have also decided to begin writing a textbook based on the introduction to projection. 

I may start to publish bits of the book or presentations here as a preview. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I'm Back!

I know that it has been quite a while since my last post.  I haven't abandoned doing this, just life has been happening, a lot.  So, I will be catching up with some new musings in the following days about all that has been keeping me so occupied and sometimes unmotivated.