Atlanta-based design company, Visional Productions, used three custom-built media servers running Avolites Ai V9.1 software and an Avolites Quartz console to control and live edit a mix of pre-recorded content and live-streamed video at an annual three-day Christian youth conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
The job of designing the dynamic media display system for Passion’s audience of tech-savvy 18-25 year olds fell to co-founder of Visional, Kyle Means. Means has been involved with Passion Conferences since 2013 through London-based production management company Black and White Live.
Turning to the latest Ai V9.1 software, and Notch, a real-time effects generator, Means was able to turn the event’s 48-segment automated LED wall into a huge, continuously morphing live video element.
“As Passion Conference had an organically developing format, they required the ability to be flexible in their delivery, moving songs and programming elements around – sometimes just minutes before a session would start,” said Means. “It was important that we could seamlessly move from look to look; with Ai’s extensive Art-Net control, we were able to change any node parameter in real time and create amazing live moments across the show’s wide array of video surfaces.”
Show designer Nathan Paul Taylor’s concept for Passion 2017 centred around a cross-shaped stage situated in the middle of the Georgia Dome, mirrored above by a cross of LED panels.
“I worked with Nathan and the creative team at Passion to create a ‘playbook’ of 14 different screen position presets,” said Means. “Using this method, we were able to quickly come up with a series of looks that we could use in any order across the screens. As lighting drives the atmosphere, it was also important that we considered the design ideas that the lighting designer Ed White had in mind for the event. We therefore chose IMAG colour treatments and Notch effects that complemented his vision nicely.”
As the flown LED panels were able to expand and contract via an automated hanging truss, Means used Ai to create IMAG effects that would work with the gaps generated between the panels as they moved.
“Ai has the ability to interpolate and account for negative space between 3D models based on control values,” said Means. “I set up Servers A and B to receive the automation data from the show and used that to morph the 48 3D models each to create tracking effects.
“Server A and B also handled all the other LED screens around the stage, the end-zone jumbotrons, and a 16:9 screen output that was routed to screens all over the venue. Server A did IMAG effects, Notch and content, while Server B always had simple dry IMAG, as a backup. The third server, Server C, received a live input with song lyrics, and mapped it to the club level LED ribbon boards in real-time. All three Ai servers were simultaneously controlled by the Quartz.”
Means, who is an experienced computer systems builder, cites the Ai media server as being the most ‘open and feature rich’ media server currently on the market and has been a stalwart fan since discovering Ai in 2014.
“One of the greatest strengths of Ai is its Salvation node-based programming environment,” said Means. “For Passion 2017 we had less than 24 hours to load in the show. I needed the ability to simulate Kinesys automation position data so I could program looks well before the event. Using a combination of control, smoothing and switch nodes, I was able to mock up every layout in the ‘playbook’ so we could visualize it all ahead of time. It was truly amazing!”
Aside from the media server’s node-based programming, Means said his go-to features are Ai’s output region tools, that allows designers to configure a large projection screen surface across all available video outputs and Ai’s colour and layer mixing modes. These features support Means in “turning a few simple loops and graphics into a wide range of looks.”
Means continued, “I’ve used lots of media servers over the years, and they all have their pros and cons. What makes me choose Ai and what made me choose it for Passion 2017 specifically is the open, node-based design that lets me use it in different ways. I’ve been a user since Ai V6, so I’ve seen a lot of progress and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future.”