People's Choice Awards, 2015

Luminous FX use d3's SockPuppet DMX feature for GrandMA control on live broadcast of the 41st People's Choice Awards.

Background

The glittering 41st People’s Choice Awards, honouring the best in pop culture for 2014, helped kick off awards season with a live broadcast from the Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles. PRG/Nocturne, Burbank, supplied Laura Frank of Luminous FX with six media servers from d3 Technologies to control and manage the motion graphics-based scenic media content, created by Syndrome Studios, LA, on an array of on-stage screens.

An elegant, sophisticated set designed by Steve Bass combined curved and linear elements. Five flown, curving LED screens formed an elevated backdrop with a three-part hero screen at center flanked by house screens. Four sliding towers, with a vertical openwork structure, moved to various positions on the stage. Each featured five plasma screens hung in portrait mode and offset from each other.

This year marked Frank’s fourth year working on the show; she was brought on board by lighting designer Allen Branton, with whom she has worked on numerous television projects.

The d3 solution

For the People’s Choice Awards, a dedicated d3 master managed four slaves; a fifth d3 media server was on hand as an understudy. “The master drove the content and told the slaves what to output,” explains media server technician Cory Froke, who was also project manager for PRG/Nocturne, Burbank. “d3 was very flexible in handling the different mapping configurations and different looks. d3 enables you to put content anywhere very easily.”

Laura Frank had been following the development of d3 media servers “for years” but hadn’t used them since she required a very specific functionality to match her approach to shows. “Although all my live shows are planned as linear events I tend to not know what is going to happen until they’re on the air,” she says. “So I need an environment that will allow me to think non-linearly: A timeline is a liability to me. I need to be prepared to navigate the roller-coaster ride that is live, on-air television.”

That’s where d3’s introduction of SockPuppet DMX in r.11.2 proved a game changer for Frank. SockPuppet enables those who want to tap all d3’s mapping, playback and projection features to do so while using their preferred control surface, including most lighting consoles.

“I tried SockPuppet last summer for Univision’s ‘Premios Juventud’ awards show and have basically moved all my shows to d3,” says Frank. “My workhorse control surface is a grandMA console. My pre-production workflow is 3D-dependent, so it feels natural to be in a playback environment that uses the same logic. However, I am very tied to using the grandMA to control a server, so I waited for SockPuppet before I could utilise d3 on my shows.”

When working on live broadcasts, “rehearsals are rushed and often details can be missed,” she notes. “Having SockPuppet frees me from the linearity of the d3 Timeline, so I can make on-the-fly choices about where content appears on the stage as I see it happen.”

For the People’s Choice Awards Frank provided the delivery spec, including a templated delivery workflow for Adobe After Effects and MAXON CINEMA 4D. She also worked with Sweetwater, which supplied the screens, on the video engineering specs for all the signal paths going to the stage screens’ system.

According to Frank, “it’s unique to d3 that a screen output is a variable. That allows me to be more flexible in the way I program. In a single layer I can select an image and bounce it through the output screens to decide where I want it to go. That worked very nicely for People’s Choice.”

Froke recalls when, the day after the load-in, two projectors were added for Iggy Azalea’s performance. “We weren’t planning on that, but d3 enabled us to adapt two projectors into the rig and switch feeds for the performance.”

Frank praises d3’s ability to deliver Ultra HD-format files, which gives her “flexibility when working with content providers.” For example, Syndrome delivered the scenic content for the People’s Choice Awards in the Hap video codec, “which works really great for broadcast.”

The show was the first time she used timecode as a sync source with SockPuppet, she adds. “It worked flawlessly.”

Froke is an enthusiastic as Frank about SockPuppet’s potential. “It’s incredibly powerful – it fits right into the workflow and gives me a whole new toolset not found on other servers. d3 Technologies figured out what programmers wanted from the software before they released it, and they really nailed it.”

Frank feels that each application of SockPuppet furthers her understanding of the software’s capabilities. “d3 and the coding team have been incredibly responsive to my requirements about the way SockPuppet behaves and how to improve its performance,” she says. “I feel that we’re real partners in this.”

Felix Peralta, Kevin Lawson and Darren Langer were the lighting directors for the show. Kristen Merlino was the art director, Tony Pieterzak the technical director and Lizz Zanin the screens’ AD.

Production

Client:

Luminous FX

Tour/Event Name:

41st People’s Choice Awards

Project Type:

Live Broadcast

Credits

Content Producer:

Syndrome Studios

Show Producer:

Technical Director: Tony Pieterzak

Show Director:

Kristen Merlino

Show designer:

Set Designer: Steve Bass

d3 server provider:

PRG / Nocturne

d3 project setup:

Laura Frank of Luminous FX / Cory Froke

d3 programmer:

Laura Frank of Luminous FX

d3 operator:

Cory Froke

Lighting designer:

Lighting Directors: Felix Peralta, Kevin Lawson and Darren Langer