The Gang’s All Here
Is it an amateur show if it’s run by pros and has an unlimited budget?
Text:/ Matt Caton
Photographer:/ David Reeve
If you don’t know your dibs from your dobs then here’s the skinny on the Melbourne Gang Show: Descended in a direct line from the original London production in 1932, the Melbourne Gang Show has been providing a platform for artistically and technically-minded Scouts and Guides to show off their wares since 1953. While the show is essentially a non-professional production, a quick glance at the technical team and five minutes watching the show, reveals that there’s nothing ‘Amateur’ about the technical elements happening of this production.
Technical Director David McKinnon of CVP – who also doubled as the AV Designer – explains the way the production team came about: “We actually have to pay a show fee to be involved; so all the members of the team donate 100% per of their time. It’s really all about providing a chance for some of the technical kids to see what they can do on a large complex production.”
SCOUTING OUT NEW FRONTIERS
Each year, the technical team focus on raising the bar in one of the technical areas, and this year it was clearly the audiovisual. In the opening scene, the main character, ‘The Facilitator’, is placed centre stage while his image is projected onto the scrim in front of him, a screen behind him, onto smaller screens fixed to the rotating staging, and displayed on four flown plasma screens. A Sony DSR-PD170 rigged on the first lighting bar and mounted on a remote pan/tilt head supplied the image for the media server.
Throughout the show both recorded and live streams were shown on many projection surfaces. An offstage green screen booth, equipped with a GY-JVC HM100E SDHC camera, provided a live feed to the media server for use in on-the-fly chroma-key effects.
McKinnon chose AV Stumpfl’s Wings Platinum 4 media server to drive his sophisticated AV design. In addition to these two live camera feeds, video elements included some stock footage, some footage recorded specially for the show, and some custom animations created by CVP.
In terms of outputs, there were eight projectors ranging from 12,000 ANSI lumens to 3000 lumens and four 50-inch plasma screens. The Wings Platinum system was capable of four simultaneous, independent output streams, and through the judicious use of optical shutters on the projectors, was able to have multiple devices share media server outputs.
The projectors on the three rotating scenic trucks received their video inputs via Gefen VGA-over-UTP devices, while all other projectors and the plasma screens ran RGBHV. The live camera feeds were run over HD-SDI. All devices on the system were controllable over an Ethernet network, so that the individual devices could have been controlled remotely had the Wings Platinum system failed. The network also had a wireless component which meant it could all be done via an iPhone had the worse case scenario eventuated. Thankfully, the system and equipment, all donated by CVP, worked flawlessly.
The music-based show was split into two very different acts; the first, a futuristic video game styled rock opera, and the second, a typical pantomime-style fantasy quest complete with goofy dragon. Lighting Designer Darren Kowacki effectively lit both these contrasting scenarios using a rig largely made up of equipment donated by one of the show’s major long-time sponsors, the Production Resource Group (PRG).
PRG supplied a moving light package made up of 9 x High End Technobeams, 13 x Vari-Lite VL2500 spots and 15 x VL2500 washes, as well as various Strand fixtures, a couple of Xebex followspots and enough dual Molefays to give a blind man a migraine. The scrollers, truss, dimmers and various other equipment, including the WholeHog 3 desk that controlled it all, were included in the package, which more than complemented the Besen Centre’s house rig.
The sound was designed by Greg Ginger of Outlook Communications, who also donated the sound equipment for the show.
PIMP MY TRUCK
One of the major highlights of the set was the three rotating scenic trucks which formed the foundation of the Act 1 set. The two outside trucks were each equipped with a pair of Panasonic projectors, rear projecting onto custom-made screens. The trucks were also decked out with verticals of 300mm box truss encrusted in LED Happytubes, LED Pixelpars and those dual Molefays. Each truck was fitted with a 12-channel dimmer, and had three-phase lighting power, DMX512, mains technical power and Cat5 UTP cables carefully run to them. McKinnon explains: “By experimenting with the set model, we established the best way to run the ‘umbilical cords’ as we called them, to enable the most effective operation. On Truck C we actually found it more efficient to pre-wrap the umbilical around the truck as part of the show preset, allowing it to unwrap as the performance progressed.”
SMOKE & MIRRORS
Smoke projection was used in Act 2 to great effect. A pair of Mitsubishi 3000-lumen projectors with DMX-controlled shutters were built into the set. These rear-projected onto smoke screens built into the set floor. The custom-built smoke screens used Corflute panels to create three stable air-streams. The two outside streams were simply fan-driven air which sandwiched the centre smoke stream from an F100 smoke machine to create the 1.5m high screen of smoke. The projected images were composited live camera feeds from the green screen booth.
Using technology such as this provides a rare opportunity for the young technicians and crew, and no doubt many of them will soon join the impressive list of industry professionals who, [like me – Ed] name the Melbourne Gang Show as their first ‘big’ production.
Producer: Jon Willis
Director: Rob Motton
Technical Manager: David McKinnon
Stage Manager: Mat Baranow
Production Manager: Jacq Siebel
AV Design: David McKinnon
AV Operator: Alan Lambe
Lighting Design: Darren Kowacki
Lighting Operators: Callum Walker, Chris Williams
Sound Design: Greg Ginger
Sound Operation: Dale Krummins, Tim Archer