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The Musical “Rocky” Makes Broadway Debut with d3

America’s inspirational underdog, boxer Rocky Balboa, comes to Broadway with the musical “Rocky” opening at the Winter Garden Theatre. Video designer Dan Scully chose a powerful d3 4U v. 2.5 media server from d3 Technologies to help tell the story of Rocky’s challenges and triumphs in the ring and out.

“There’s a nice rhythm to how video has been worked into the show,” says Scully who teamed with video designer Pablo Molina on the production. “We’ve tried very hard to be specific and precise in our cueing and use of image. I’ve used d3 before, and our video programmer, Ben Keightley, has six years experience with d3. I can’t imagine building the show on another system.”

Media is interwoven throughout Rocky’s iconic tale. A pair of 12′ x 10′ flying video walls function as a stand-in for media reports that track the upcoming championship fight. A pet shop scenic unit features 24 video monitor “fish tanks”. Rocky’s grueling training regimen is projected by an array of Christie and Panasonic projectors. “All the departments did a great job recreating the famous training montages from the movie,” Scully reports.

For Rocky’s final fight the production tears down the fourth wall and essentially turns the show into theater-in-the round, he says. Theatergoers in the first 8 rows of the orchestra move on stage, a large jumbotron-style screen appears with supporting flying video walls for IMAG.

Three d3 4U servers, provided by Sound Associates in Yonkers, New York, are currently used on the show; another is on hand as a hot-swappable back up unit. “The features I rely on most are automation tracking and projector 3D calibration,” says Scully. “We have a lot of scenery moving quickly throughout the show. We need a way to glue content to surfaces or have surfaces reveal content as it moves across the stage. I’m able to tell Ben to put this image on that wall as it tracks onstage, spins and moves upstage. The first time you see it it’s almost like magic.”

Keightley echoes Scully’s sentiments about d3′s ability to serve up media on a variety of displays, many of them in motion. “This show has a lot of architecture and infrastructure so we’re interfacing with a lot of different devices,” he says. “Knowing the exact state of each device at any given time is really important. I have to know that this machine is going to send content for that screen out of these outputs, and that the matrix will route content in a specific way for a particular scene. I have to be able to easily take stock of the status of close to two dozen outputs.”

Scully notes that, in his experience, “a lot of show and video playback systems give flexibility at the cost of complexity. But d3 offers all the flexibility I need with an interface that’s responsive and quick to use. Projection design used to move slower than other departments, but that’s no longer the case. It’s important for me to move at the speed of the rest of the production while still having the flexibility to do really complicated sequences. Half of that ability is due to d3 and the rest to Ben programming it: He can make the system move at speeds that are surprising for the complexity of what we’re doing.”

Keightley likes “how deftly” he can change outputs on the d3 system. “I send video to 16 display devices but I do it using only about half as many outputs because as soon as I go black I can instantly reroute the devices I’m sending video to.”

“The d3 system thinks like we think,” Scully points out. “It works like the tools we use to make content; I understand what’s going on because it looks like my video tools. d3 was built by people who use it so it operates like designers think not like software engineers think.”

He also gives kudos to d3′s “support and systems integration” for “Rocky.” “They made half a dozen different controls for us to use, including implementing the camera switcher, controlling the signals to the monitors and the matrix switching controls. This system isn’t just off-the-shelf computers. The d3 team stands by the product 110 percent, and it’s great to have that kind of support.”

Sarah Jakubasz is the associate video designer on “Rocky” with Greg Peeler video technician and Andrew Bauer video editor.

Based on the Academy Award-winning Best Picture, “Rocky” has been brought to Broadway by a five-time Tony Award-winning creative team, including director Alex Timbers, songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and book writers Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone.

About d3

d3 is the world’s first fully integrated visual production system for video professionals, combining a real-time 3D stage visualiser, timeline, video playback engine and projection mapping tools into one product. d3′s unique integrated workflow assists the designer at all stages of the project, from pitch through development to final delivery. For more information contact Judith Hornman at d3 Technologies: +44 207 234 9840 / judith.hornman@d3technologies.com

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