[OT] Theatrical video projection

jeremyk wrote on 10/21/2003, 1:01 PM
I've been asked to help put together some video projections to accompany an opera. The budget is minuscule and it all has to be done on the cheap, so no renting fancy video switchers, etc.

The set designer is planning on three screens. The screens will show stills and moving images at various times. He wants smooth dissolves or other transitions from one scene to the next. This differs from a regular video presentation in that the projections have to be cued to the action on the stage, so there needs to be a way of controlling the advancement from scene to scene. It seems to me there are two basic approaches:

1. Have three computers, one for each video projector. I have one anemic laptop PC I could throw at this, and probably can borrow a couple of others. Does anyone have an idea of what video formats are easiest to display?

2. Use DVD players. Like, three identical $50 players, with a chapter mark at the beginning of each scene. If the players were stacked, one remote control could operate all three. The main disadvantage I see to this is that all the players I've seen display a chapter number on the screen while advancing, so I'd have to find a player that puts this display at the top of the screen and mask that part of the image off. For my Sony player, this would lose about 15% of the image. Another smaller issue is that during a chapter skip a DVD player shows a line-doubled field of the last image, so the transition will be slightly noticeable.

If I make DVDs, how long can they run and still have highest quality? Do still images take much less space to store? I'd like to get 2 hours or so on each DVD to make sure there's plenty of time for each scene.

This is such a great group! I'm hoping someone out there has been through this sort of thing and can offer some advice.



wcoxe1 wrote on 10/21/2003, 2:04 PM
Since you have to be able to change your scene according to the action on stage, you MIGHT want to consider something like a presentation program. I know it doesn't have motion in it, but it can be easily cued.
johnmeyer wrote on 10/21/2003, 2:34 PM
Sounds like PowerPoint would work. It can be set up to wait for a cue and at that point will display the next "slide." The "slide" can be an image, a video clip, sound, etc.

As for projectors, the Infocus X1 ($999) has been getting great word of mouth on the AVS forum. They tend to be oriented towards pretty high-end stuff there, so for a low-end projector to get noticed, it must be reasonably good. I haven't seen it myself, so I can't give you my own opinion.
musicvid10 wrote on 10/21/2003, 11:32 PM
Theatre companies use Powerpoint almost exclusively.
Most computers will do the trick, but you need some serious CPU speed if there are embedded videos.
The theater I just closed at uses an Eiki LC-X2UA. It was bright enough for fade-to's on a 52' cyc. Projection during a show should be done on overhead screens or with rear-projection.
TorS wrote on 10/22/2003, 1:03 AM
musicvid: <Theatre companies use Powerpoint almost exclusively.
Most computers will do the trick, but you need some serious CPU speed if there are embedded videos.>

How serious?
jeremyk wrote on 10/22/2003, 11:35 AM
Very useful responses so far. The company uses Powerpoint to project opera supertitles, so it's available. More questions:

How much CPU speed DO you need for video? What kind of encoding is best for full-res (640x480) display? Can Powerpoint switch seamlessly from one video program to another (essential for this application)? If it can't, I'm going with the DVD players.

If the 3000 lumen $16K Eiki LC-X2UA projector can make a 52' wide picture, I guess the 1100 lumen $1K InFocus X1 could rear-project a 13' wide image. What material do you use for a rear-projection screen?

musicvid10 wrote on 10/23/2003, 1:57 AM
I'm a bit late replying, we are in the midst of a play festival.

Q - How much CPU power?
It depends so much on resolution and data rate.
I've been using MPEG-2, 720x480 at 3000-5000 Kb/S. Athlon 2100+ does OK, sometimes a jumpy frame right when the video starts. Athlon 2500+ CPU doesn't jump at all. If it jumps on your monitor, it will jump on the projector.

Q - Which encoding?
My version of PP doesn't like Type 2 or YUV AVI. Had good results with Huffyuv in RGB mode. Usually I use MPEG-2. Sometimes the first frame is garbage, so I drop the brightness to zero to start from black.

If there is negligible front lighting on the screen, you should get a usable image with the setup you describe.

I saw some translucent materials suitable for rear projection at the backdrop shop. There are commercial flexible and rigid screen materials that are more $$. A/V places also have rear proj. boxes for rent.

Be sure and link us to some pictures of your show once it's up!
TorS wrote on 10/23/2003, 2:10 AM
I suppose if you wanted sound, then Powerpoint couldn't help you? DVD would - with the limitations decribed above. Is there a wm9 player that will default to full screen? That could be useful in a theatre-type setting, couldn't it?
musicvid10 wrote on 10/23/2003, 2:36 AM
Powerpoint handles the sound in movies and .wav files for background just fine.
johnmeyer wrote on 10/23/2003, 10:27 AM
I suppose if you wanted sound, then Powerpoint couldn't help you?

Powerpoint can handle any type of media file (stills, video, sound, MIDI, etc.). Think of it as a media sequencer.
BrianStanding wrote on 10/23/2003, 11:51 AM
Fascinating thread. I'm learning a lot. Good luck, Jeremy, and post back to tell us what you end up doing and how it works out.
musicvid10 wrote on 10/23/2003, 2:28 PM
The best way to learn Powerpoint is to play with it, and save it many times along the way.
I have PP 2000, which is outdated in several ways, including no WDM support, no export to movie formats, no flash, etc..
I would like to hear from owners of new versions to hear if these drawbacks have been addressed.
BrianStanding wrote on 10/23/2003, 3:14 PM
Anyone tried using WinAmp for this kind of thing? It has a great playlist feature and eats up almost every kind of media file I throw at it.

Just a thought.
musicvid10 wrote on 10/23/2003, 11:14 PM
Funny you should mention Winamp.
One of the coolest things to do during a show is throw Milkdrop up on a projector. You can type an address into Winamp to run the visualization from your soundcard input. Waaaaaay cool.
musicvid10 wrote on 10/23/2003, 11:18 PM
BTW, the simplest audio cueing program for sound effects, announcements, background, etc. is called NCHCart.
Simple, but has all the essential features, and easy enough for an apprentice to run.
flashlight wrote on 10/24/2003, 10:24 AM
How would this work:

Since jeremyk said the pictures were stills, you could can get HD resolution from them. Make a HD 720 24P Windows Media 9 file and Project HD footage. Since it will be blown up on a large screen, the footage will look 2-3 times as good.

I haven't done this yet, but am thinking about it. ANy ideas?

I know you would need at least a 2.8 GHZ machine to do this. Kind of like the Landmark Theatres and Windows Media 9 setup.

jeremyk wrote on 10/24/2003, 1:59 PM
Actually, only some of the pictures are stills. There's moving fire, water, clouds, stuff like that. And there have to be dissolves between some of the images. But the idea of using relatively high-res projection is intriguing.

The projectors are going to be borrowed from various sources. I bought an Infocus X1 for this project (and because I can think of other stuff I want to do with it), so that'll be one of the projectors. Its native resolution is only 800x600, though.
doncarp wrote on 10/25/2003, 1:15 AM
We use Power Point two or three times a week to display stills and some animation. We also have a DVD player and a VHS player connected to the projector. When we want to do video, we just select a different input.

We swich back and forth seamlessly with the buttons on the remote control.