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NEC video wall gives The Fabulous Palm Spring Follies a little extra kick

May 9, 2011 12:00 PM


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The addition of the digital video wall has changed the way the show’s directors are approaching its production. “We’re now spending a great deal more time doing video research, capturing and editing, and then incorporating it into the music,” said Markowitz.

The addition of the digital video wall has changed the way the show’s directors are approaching its production. “We’re now spending a great deal more time doing video research, capturing and editing, and then incorporating it into the music,” said Markowitz.

"It had to be bright enough to withstand the high-power stage and spotlights we use, yet we didn't want it to be so bright it was jarring," said Markowitz. "The NEC LCD displays fit very comfortably into the show. Instead of looking like something you would see on an outdoor billboard or in a ballpark, they were bright and colorful enough to see without becoming intrusive. When the show is on you don't notice the bezels, either, which help us create more of the old-time stage look."

Having found the right screens, Feudi now needed to find the right partner to install them. On a recommendation from NEC, he selected Fluid Sound, a San Diego-based specialist in the design and integration of commercial audiovisual systems. The project was planned for the next time the Follies went on hiatus from performances.

"We had roughly three weeks to get the video wall installed, configured and running before the next show opened," said Phil Borkowski, a partner with Fluid Sound. "It was an immovable date. You know the old showbiz motto—the show must go on. So we worked around their rehearsal schedules to get it ready in time for the curtain to go up."

Most of the project went as planned, thanks to the combined efforts of Feudi, NEC and Fluid Sound, but there were still a few surprises—starting with the concrete wall to which they were planning to affix 3000lbs of display screens.

"When we were first looking at it, we drilled some holes in the wall and found it to be solid concrete," Feudi said. "As we got into the installation, though, we discovered that wasn't entirely true. Apparently, building codes in Palm Springs weren't as stringent back in the 1930s. But the Fluid Sound guys checked it out and assured us it would still work. They knew what they were doing, which made us feel a lot better."

The video wall was completed on-time and on-budget, which were the two key metrics for the project. Once the calibration of the 25 screens was completed, it created the perfect effect.

"I always want our audience to be focused on the performers and the material," said Markowitz. "Their eyes should always be on the talent, not the movie going on behind them. I don't want the audience to go out humming the scenery. The NEC video wall allows us to set the stage and keep our show the warm, intimate, human experience it's meant to be instead of a rock and roll extravaganza."

The content shown on the video wall ranges from a mix of photorealistic backdrops, with and without movement, and more artistic or conceptual renderings, depending on the mood they're trying to set. For example, a New Orleans jazz number might have the performers singing and dancing in front of a photo of Bourbon Street, while a Christmas tune will show snow falling in the forest. For a vaudeville-style number, however, the video wall might show the type of painted backdrop used for stage shows back in the day.

"We weren't sure how much we would use it at first," said Feudi. "But as we got into it, we started incorporating it more and more. The video wall gives us an infinite variety of looks we can use, much more than we ever could achieve before. It's become a tremendous enhancement to the feel we're always working to convey."

Markowitz has also been pleased with the payback the Follies has received on the investment.

"We're now spending a great deal more time doing video research, capturing and editing, and then incorporating it into the music," he said. "We're using it more creatively and constructively throughout the entire performance, not just here and there."

Feudi and Markowitz had high marks for Fluid Sound and NEC as well. They liked the professionalism and expertise both companies exhibited, as well as their willingness to go out of their way to make the technology work for the Follies—something Markowitz says you don't often see from a large corporation.

"NEC talks about solutions on its website, but a lot of companies say things like that," he stated. "We needed a solution, and that's what they actually delivered."

As for the future, Markowitz has never been one to dream small, as those who have seen his show can attest.

"We always strive to draw our audiences into the show, and make them feel like they're a part of it," he said. "Eventually we plan to expand the video wall to fill the entire stage background, side-to-side, and top to bottom. Now that will be a Vegas-style experience!"

Quick Facts

  • Facility: The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies in the Plaza Theatre
  • Location: Palm Springs, California
  • Challenge: Create a video wall to serve as a background/enhancement to the live performers on a very small stage
  • Solution: 46" NEC X461UN in a 5x5 configuration
  • Date: Fall 2010



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