QED Productions successfully delivered ground-breaking video mapping and stage lighting integration for Comic Relief's six and a half hour television broadcast on BBC One, by using nineteen high-brightness Christie 3-chip DLP projectors.

According to QED Director Paul Wigfield "not only was this was the most challenging indoor projection mapping ever attempted but also the entire rig had to be installed in just one day, with line-ups only possible outside rehearsal times".

Rudi Thackray's incredible twisting and curved stage set design provided the ultimate projection mapping challenge, and the solution required the projectors to be rigged in truly mind-bending positions and orientations. Fourteen Christie WU20K-J and HD20K-J projectors were flown above the stage and five Christie WU12K-M projectors were mounted underneath, with everything seamlessly joined and blended to form the continuous canvas for lighting and graphics.

Projection challenges

Having worked out how to cover the entire stage it quickly became clear that it was absolutely impossible to back-up any of the projectors for the live six and a half hour broadcast, so the reliability of the projectors was absolutely crucial. The Christie J and M series projectors were chosen because of their proven performance under extremely high temperatures and their ability to operate in any physical orientation. The projectors ran 24/7 from Monday through to the end of the show without any problems whatsoever.

"With set, video and lighting all totally dependent upon the reliability of the projectors any failure would have meant that everyone would have ended up with red faces instead of red noses" commented Wigfield. "Without the comfort of live back-up everything hinged on the stability of the Christies and the meticulous preparation and skills of QED's incredibly talented technical team".

The projectors were specially chosen in order to maximise the resolution and maintain a consistent balance of brightness and pixel size and shape across the entire canvas. The WU20K-Js and HD20K-Js were flown over the stage at a variety of unusual angles with the WU12K-Ms positioned under the stage firing upwards and through it in order to hit the underside of the bridge. The WU12K-Ms were chosen for their compact size, high brightness and incredibly quiet operation. Being situated in such close proximity to the presenters' microphones meant that near silent operation was imperative.

QED's custom precision rigging design enabled all the projectors to be positioned amongst the huge lighting and sound rig in the roof whilst keeping within the specified trim heights. QED's unique projection mapping fibre-optic distribution system fed all nineteen projectors with individual DVI signals and Ethernet control along with full output preview monitoring on all channels.

Mapping challenges

With such a complex set to map the only media server system QED could trust to handle this particular requirement and to integrate the other show elements was d3. The seven server d3 rig delivered nineteen individual synchronized HD outputs with back-up d3 master and understudy units managed through a Lightware 32x32 DVI matrix switcher.

QED's Head of Digital Media Richard Porter set up the entire project, UV mapped the structure and provided content creators Framestore Labs with the content template.

d3 was used throughout the entire production process, first creating multiple UV texture maps of the stage. One of the biggest challenges was to map both the underside and the downward faces of the stage bridge as one continual piece of content. d3's 3D simulator enabled the show to be fully visualised in the early stages, enabling the projector configuration and positions to be precisely worked out in order to achieve the desired coverage and quality. The 3D simulator also helped to verify the camera angles in advance.

Equipment Integration

QED also had to seamlessly integrate high resolution video mapping with creative lighting and deal with an enormous number of practical and technical challenges. These included the requirement to cross-fade high resolution d3 content, the need for d3 to accept external media server content from multiple Hippotizers and the requirement to provide flexibility and show control over the stage lighting treatment areas. QED designed the system to allow Lighting Director Chris Kempton to have simultaneous control over d3 and Hippotizer via his Compulite Vector Green lighting desk. Custom controllable masks were created to prevent the projection casting onto presenters' faces and bespoke lighting personalities were created to provide colour mixing, speed and brightness control.

Production challenges

Paul Wigfield admits "It's been by far the most challenging projection job we've done - it takes projection mapping to a new technical level and opens up further creative possibilities for television production. We're delighted that this was such a success on all fronts, especially for the fantastic causes that Comic Relief and the BBC have helped to support".

Jonny Dixon of Framestore Labs said, "During the early creative discussions with the BBC we knew the size and scale of the project was going to be a massive challenge, but we took it on nonetheless. We knew with the right partner we could make it happen: Robin Carlisle and Karl Woolley of Framestore Labs consulted with several potential partners, and head and shoulders above them all were QED Productions. We have known Paul for a few years now and knew the project would be in safe hands. Sharon Lock and her team then designed and created all the content for the screens and projections in such a crazy timescale, I was amazed when I saw the final outcome...well done everyone".

Red Nose Day raised a record total of over £75m in donations on the night. QED is delighted to have supported Comic Relief - a major charity based in the UK which strives to create a just world free from poverty.

QED Technical Equipment

- 7 x d3 4U v2.5 servers
- 8 x Christie WU20K-J projectors
- 6 x Christie HD20K-J projectors
- 5 x Christie WU12K-M projectors
- 1 x Lightware 32x32 DVI matrix
- 1 x Extron16x16 HDSDI matrix
- 2 x QED 15-channel DVI/Ethernet fibre distribution systems

QED Technical Services

- Technical design/project management
- UV texture mapping
- d3 project set-up
- 3-week system pre-rig and test
- Lighting integration
- Rigging and mains distribution
- Technical installation and operation

QED Key Personnel

- Richard Porter, Head of Digital Media
- Dan Hall, Head of AV
- Dave Voyce, Senior AV Technician
- Dan Gray, Senior AV Technician
- Mike Snarr, AV Technician
- Viral Patel, AV Technician
- Adam Bending, Head of IT

Productions Credits

- Rebecca Kerley, Comic Relief 2013 Production Manager
- Chris Kempton, Lighting Director
- David Bishop, Lighting Programmer
- Rudi Thackray, Set Designer
- Steve Whitehead, Resource Manager, BBC Studios & Post Production
- Helix 3d, Set Build

External links

Framestore website
d3 website
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