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grandMA2 and TED Make Magic in Long Beach

Technology Entertainment and Design is a global set of conferences formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.” Held in Long Beach and Palm Springs, CA, the four-day U.S. program featured 18-minute talks by headline-makers and creatives on a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture.

Bob Bonniol, principal creative director of Seattle’s MODE Studios, deployed a grandMA2 at TED2011 and was happy with the results.

“TED is a unbelievable event where the best of the world’s minds in art, science, philosophy, politics and business gather to share ideas with talks and presentations ranging from poetry to music to amazing medical advances,” said Bonniol, a grandMA2 user who was asked to provide video design for the main sessions and several social spaces. “I know that MA has put a lot of time into this console. What I hear from everyone, and what I experienced myself at TED, is that the grandMA2 is ready for primetime. Many of the top programmers I know have made the switch and expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for it.”

On the main stage in Long Beach, Bonniol deployed a 75 by 35-foot rear projection backdrop, three Hippotizer HD units, three Barco DML 1200 projectors on a yoke, and fed six Barco FLM 22 projectors. Together they delivered a multi-axis blend with 16-feet of throw.

“It sounded impossible to most, but we knew we could do it,” Bonniol said. “We talked to DannyO Video about providing the equipment; there wasn’t enough throw for one large projector, so we used the Hippos to blend vertically and horizontally. In addition to the big scenic rear projection, there were speaker presentation screens in unique places like up on the balconies and on the side walls for the audience in-the-round. There was no way to mount regular projectors for this application, so we mounted multiple Barco DML 1200s up in the lighting rig. Projectors on yokes gave us the most flexibility.”

The grandMA2 provided control of the equipment complement. Bonniol joined a team of TED content wranglers feeding the display surfaces with imagery from world renowned photographers like Paul Nicklen, Yves Arthus Bertrand, Frans Lanting, data artist Aaron Koblin, architect Mitchell Joachim, noted street artist JR, and MODE Studios’ own designs.

“We also managed live uplinks to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the International Space Station, saw a human kidney ‘printed’ onstage with a 3D stem cell printer, and witnessed inspiring performances from Jason Mraz and poet Sarah Kay,” Bonniol said. “And that just scratched the surface.”

In addition, Bonniol furnished a 6mm Barco LED wall to Google’s “super cool” geodesic domes on the plaza and a Winnvision 8.75mm LED wall on the Seaside Way Social Space. Both were controlled by the grandMA2 console.

“The grandMA2 was just splendid,” Bonniol says. “As a designer, I prefer to have a programmer with me, but advances in how the grandMA2 presents information and the way it programs it made it so much simpler that I can take on programming responsibilities. I used the tutorial on the console to train myself, and within 48 hours I felt very comfortable with the console. Then I did the preprogramming for the event and was very gratified by the flexibility of the system.”

Bonniol likes what he calls the “personality” of the grandMA2 that enables him to view information on the servers and projectors and construct his own working environment.

“Our show console came from ELS, and it worked flawlessly right out of the box. TED is very improvisational – there are always surprises and things occur that weren’t planned. But having gained a comfort level on the grandMA2, I was able to respond on the fly very comfortably.”

In addition to Bonniol, the TED Video Design team included Danny O’Bryan, Randy Mayer, Marty Kel, Keith Black, and Bo Crowell of DannyO Video, as well as Colleen Bonniol and Stuart Kenney of MODE Studios.