Strawberry Productions, Inc. of Chicopee, MA designed, produced, and managed a "25th Birthday Tour" for National Geographic's World Magazine. Zasco Productions, LLC was honored to be asked to provide technical design and production services to SPI for this tour. The show featured a game-show section called "World Quarter Finals", where students would compete in various U.S. geography topics.
One of the unique features of the set was a video projector and screen which displayed a special visit from "Sacagawea", and also served as the game-board for the audience. Both the game show and video content had to fit in the screen's three-dimensional spherical shape. This was especially challenging since the video and graphics were produced long before the set actually existed. Zasco Productions met the challenge thanks to a detailed "electronic template" provided by Strawberry Production's set designer. All video and graphics projection was done in native computer resolution. In fact, even the pre-recorded video visit from "Sacagawea" appeared from an embedded MPEG file in the game show software thanks to Zasco Productions' game show computer technology.
A custom software package authored by Zasco Productions provided all the game board graphics for several hundred possible questions and play options. Along with the graphics and interactivity for the game-show, the computer also delivered MIDI cues to the lighting system for precise execution of special effects. Sound effects for the entire game show were actually .wav files, and were also triggered at the precise moment they were required by the game show software. The closely integrated systems allowed many events in all areas of the audio, video, lighting, and game show to happen simultaneously while facilitating operation of the entire show by only two technicians!
Limited power availability in the schools where the tour was traveling to, lead us to choose a unique lighting design, consisting of only six fixtures. Four Color-Pros were responsible for all general stage illumination, and Two Technobeams were used for special effects and gobos. No external dimmer racks were needed due to the fact that all the instruments use internal control via simple DMX. The high light output versus very little power input was a major reason for choosing the Color-Pros. The ability to match virtually any color with the internal color mixing, also greatly influenced our designer's decisions. Control for the six fixtures was provided by an ETC Express125 console. Special lighting effect cues were triggered via MIDI signals from our game show computer, in perfect synchronization with sound effects and graphic changes.
The game show was played around a custom built podium in which Zasco Productions designed and integrated a wide array of specialty electronics systems. Some of these included: a "lockout" system, which indicated which player "tagged in" first; scoreboards and "tagout" light boxes for both the audience and the host; an LCD TFT video screen for the players to view the questions on; podium microphones; Telex communications stations; and wired backup microphones. Since the podium is not on stage for the beginning of the show, a custom multi core cable harness or "lifeline" was created. All signals were delivered to and from the podium through one cable assembly.
All systems were designed and constructed specifically for this tour, and made for fast, simple, and reliable interconnect on site. Using a unique design developed by Zasco Productions, many of the touring equipment racks were also cable boxes. For example, a 200 foot video and control snake must fun from the front-of-house mix-point to the back of the set where the video projector is located. One end of this FOH snake is permanently connected to the video and control distribution rack. During set-up, the crew only needs to pull the length they need from the cable bin, and does not need to worry about connecting the other end or coiling cable. Audio systems included four AKG UHF wireless microphones, four full range Technomad loudspeakers, Mackie 1402 mixer, Rane equalizer, Behringer compressor, DigiTech effects processor, and Telex AudioCom communications system. Zasco Productions designed and built all the systems to be user friendly, and also road-worthy. We also provided training to the touring crew, and were on call 24-hours per day for technical support. A full compliment of spare parts and redundant systems traveled with the tour. The show toured 25 schools throughout the United States.
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