Stagecraft and Hardware Set-up Activities

For the last few days I have been focussing on aspects of stagecraft and hardware set-up required for staging of the Noisescapes event. Firstly, I spent quite some time looking into projection screens – watching several You Tube videos on DIY screen building. From an expense point of view, I cannot afford to buy a decent pair of screens and stands, particularly as I hope to rear project (see the earlier post including a plan view diagram of my intended configuration).

I learned that stretched lycra is the most affordable form of semi-decent rear projection screen (the next worse being a shower curtain) and subesequently tracked down a fabric supplier in the area. Having bought a 1.5m x 0.5m sample of matte white lycra, I ran a few initials test to see if the projectors (2 x Sahara DLPs sourced from eBay) would be powerful enough to rear project onto the material. The initial results were promising so I next set about creating some fixing points into the material – just stitched eyelets like button holes – with a view to testing stretch strength. Really, the material needs hemming by machine and reinforcing around the eyelets, but I do not have the resources to do this myself and cannot hope to outsource in the time remaining before I start building the installation. In any case I have to hope that the eyelets I create by hand will work for the duration of the installation – initial indications are that they will.

The next step was to create a frame to stretch the two screens from so that they stand vertically at 90 degrees to each other, meeting at the ends (again, see the previously posted diagram). I managed to create a reasonably stable structure by re-purposing some old gazebo poles and mounting the vertical supports in camera tripod and microphone stand bases. It does not look particularly aesthetically pleasing but will hopefully not be too noticeable in situ with the projected image taking most of the viewer’s attention in the darkened room.

Here is a quick snap of the test structure in my living room showing the lycra sample in place.

From running this test I established how much lycra material I need to create a full size screen and how many eyelets I need to create a relatively smooth surface to rear project onto.

At this point I felt confident that I would be able to create a pair of good-enough screens and stands.

Onto technical hardware issues… although it would be really interesting to take MIDI controllers and synth(s) into the event environment, for the purposes of this initial installation I wanted to minimise the amount of equipment on site. Not only from a security perspective, but also in order to reduce the number of points of possible failure. So my basic set-up is an old laptop running a video on loop with full screen video going to dual monitor outputs thanks to a Matrox DualHead (another eBay acquisition) and audio going out of an old Lexicon Alpha USB audio interface I had knocking about. The 2 video outputs are fed into the 2 projectors, the L and R audio outputs fed into self-powered speakers to be loaned by Tom of Slack Space.

It took me quite some time to get the laptop behaving as expected with multiple drivers and software removals/updates required. Here is a quick snap of the test output going to two old LCD monitors. You can’t make the noise lines out too well in the light of the room, but they are there!

After completing the above, I ‘just’ need to buy and prepare the 2 pieces of screen material, then I’m ready to start installing at the end of this week. Which means I can turn back to developing actual content in the last sprint of creative activity before I exhibit.

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