A set design notion

So we had a meeting with ol’ Jamie Nesbitt the other day; he’s the guy designing the video projections for the show.  We were talking about where to put the video projector, which is a complicated although important subject, perhaps not worth going through in great detail here.  But sometimes a technical problem can push the artistic decisions in a new direction — in fact, I would say that this sort of dynamic, between the technical and the artistic, is at the very root of the art of making puppet shows.

At any rate: this is the idea that came up: we were thinking that maybe the set should be like a diorama in some musty old museum of natural history.  I can imagine just such a place still exists in the Pyrenées, in some strange old town populated by trolls, such as we visited earlier this year. There’d be a big frame, made of worn-looking wood, with a dull brass plaque indicating the contents — “une scène de la vie préhistorique” or something (don’t speak French so well, not sure if that means what I think it does), and behind the frame would be a cave-scene, such as we originally imagined, with strewn bones, some great mastodon rib-cage, a fire.  The backdrop would be a projection surface which wouldn’t be pretending to be anything other than a projection surface, because in this museum they project the backdrops in their dioramas using stuttering old film projectors.

This allows for a certain cheesiness in our decor — we could have fake rocks and such, if we wanted.  It might cry out to have the performers standing there in a tableau as the audience enters, poor bastards, but then they would spring to life when the show started, as if the audience was visiting the imaginary museum when they were really high.  It might make the show a little more tongue-in-cheek, or it might allow us to go further with our manias because we’ve got a bit of a distancing tactic in place.  Ultimately, that’s what it would do: it would distance the audience a little bit, like all frames, which can be good and can be not-so-good.

And it also give us a place to put the video projector that would be easy to set up quickly: behind the brass plaque.

Option 1 has the frame as I described it.  Option 2 has the frame with the lower edge high enough to hide behind — this would be good if we wanted a more traditional puppet show kind of thing, since it would hide the puppeteers.  Option 3 would be just the brass plaque part, with no frame, although I think I remember now that the best thing is to figure out how to get the projector above the action rather than on the floor.

Here’s another possibility:

In this version, the action takes place inside a gigantic skeleton (of some semi-imaginary prehistoric beast).  The ribs cross above, providing a place to put the projector.

I should say, for the sake of clarity, what we’re trying to solve: it’s hard with a touring show to find a spot in the grid to put your projector that puts it the exact same distance and angle from your screen every time without spending a lot of time messing around with it.  Option one is to put it on the floor, as part of your set, but that makes shadows if you walk in front of it; option two is to build your set in such a way that you can put the projector into it but above the heads of the performers.

About Judd Trout

Judd Palmer is one of the Old Trouts.

This entry was posted in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A set design notion

  1. Terminator E says:

    It depends… what is the image going to be?

  2. cimmeron says:

    I think we need to answer this question. Do we mind the shadows of the puppeteers intruding on the image? Or is it more important that the image is unobstructed? A way around it might be rear projection. If the we can limit the amount of space needed downstage, and get a projector with a very wide lens, we should be able to accomplish this.