When IBM celebrated its centennial with a gala at Rose Hall, the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Scharff Weisberg (SWI) provided AV support, including the LED wall that served as the entire scenic element for designers Batwin + Robin.
“IBM wanted this event to be theatrical, so they hired 101 Productions, a long time client of Scharff Weisberg, to produce an event that ended up being pretty spectacular,” said SWI event manager, Sarah Ibrahim. “There were aerial performers bouncing on a giant vertical canvas projection surface, Jessye Norman singing ‘Great Day,’ Steve Martin playing the ukulele, violinist Joshua Bell, Patti LaBelle, a children's choir and a dance troupe. Morgan Freeman was the emcee.”
As the exclusive AV vendor for Jazz at Lincoln Center, SWI supplied all of the video equipment and engineers for the gala evening. Upstage was the main scenic element: a 36x18-foot LED wall composed of VER Everbrighten BR7 7mm high-resolution LED display modules. Downstage was a 20x4-foot LED supertitle-style screen comprised of VER Everbrighten BR7s. For the aerial performers, quadruple-converged Christie Roadster S+10K-M DLP projectors displayed, via DVI over fiber, 1400x1050 images on a canvas backdrop measuring approximately 34x26 feet. The projectors were driven by a Dataton WATCHOUT 5 playback system with content designed by Batwin + Robin.
“Scharff Weisberg was great as always. When it got down to the time frame – we had all of three weeks for the whole project – they are the only ones who could have pulled it off,” said Batwin + Robin’s Robin Silvestri.
“The show was a jam-packed 90 minutes,” she said. “The set consisted of 100 points of light plus the LED wall. We designed the projected backgrounds, which ranged from animated titles to a three-minute documentary to a piece celebrating IBM’s involvement in Apollo 11. We also projected the surface of the moon onto the canvas for the aerialists to dance across. It was a great show.”
Ibrahim agrees that the biggest challenge was the time factor. “The client came to us with specifications for this event only a month beforehand, and sourcing the LED was really tough. We were lucky that VER came through for us with their 7mm Everbrighten product. It beautifully displayed a wide variety of content, including abstract graphics, photographs, and a documentary video, with the minimum viewing distance at about 20 meters. It looked beautiful.”
The aerialists’ performance against the vertical canvas also posed potential challenges. “The canvas wall behaved like a giant video trampoline, with quadruple-converged projectors displaying images of the surface of the moon,” Ibrahim said. “We anticipated that we might have issues with maintaining a coherent image given the movement of the canvas, but we got lucky and the quality was pretty wonderful. The way the dancers were lit by manned spots from the side made them really look as though they were dancing with the moon surface was moving beneath their feet.”
The IBM Centennial Gala was produced by David Binder and directed by Moises Kaufman and Jerry Mitchell. The production managers were Colleen Houlehen and Mary Duffe.