The Wiz

FOH AV Design, visual communications system design: The Wiz. Director: Michael Howcroft. Performed at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, 7th-9th November 2013.

At the start of the 2013-147 academic year, LIPA sprang back to life and began its season of shows with the classic ’70s re-telling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard Of OzThe Wiz tells the story of Dorothy and her friends journeying to see the fearsome Wiz, who agrees to grant their wishes on the condition that they kill the oppressive Wicked Witch of the West. Throw in a series of soulful, high-energy musical numbers penned by the likes of Quincy Jones and Luther Vandross and you’ve got a sure-fire instant hit!

As the sole video technician on the show, there was certainly no shortage of work! My tasks were divided into two main areas: the FOH AV design and system, and a two-way video link into a separate band room. Here‘s the final component diagram.

The FOH design mostly involved a series of backdrops to set the scene at various points in the show. As there was quite a visually surreal aspect to the show’s concept, I did not opt for the traditional photo-manipulation style of scene. Instead, I created a series of computer generated scenes from scratch, which I was able to adjust and render to suit the director’s needs.

Although the ‘wallpaper’ was a large part of the AV design, one of the major challenges for this show arose when the director envisaged a new opening to the first scene. Instead of simply raising the lights and beginning the scene, the concept was that the first motion on-stage would be a CGI sequence that flew over a city before dropping down into the street and looking directly down to set the scene outside a tower block. This was to be projected over the whole stage, with the set being covered with white trevira. After some long design conversations and lots of calculations, I finally produced the scene, primarily using Blender 3D (a preliminary version can be viewed here).

The opening scene was magnificent, engaging the audience and making them feel like they were actually in Kansas. — Liverpool Live

The other strand of my work was to design and implement a video link between the room housing the band and the auditorium. The band needed to be able to see the action on-stage, whilst the performers, FOH sound operator, flymen, stage management and I all needed to see the conductor. Naturally, all of these links had to have minimum latency. The final feed was a camera overlooking the whole of the band room, allowing all of the band to be seen — this was projected onto the cyclorama above the stage during the bows sequence.