To provide extensive video support for Tony Award winning Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations; a combination of LED screens and projection provided the scenic element for this story of brotherhood, family, loyalty and betrayal as they follow The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
WorldStage, collaborating with Projection Designer Peter Nigrini.
WorldStage has been involved with Ain’t Too Proud since 2017, when the production broke house records at Berkeley Rep (California) and when it toured and played to full houses at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
During those two years, WorldStage continued to explore improvements in LED video technology that would overcome design challenges presented by the standard, off-the-shelf products provided to the prior productions and more effectively fulfil Production Designer Peter Nigrini’s vision. A change to Brompton Tessera SX40 processing provided Nigrini with the kind of control for LED displays that he had been hoping for since the show’s inception.
The scenic elements are designed to capture a sense of Detroit in the 1960s and ’70s. Nigrini had often felt that LED looked too ‘rock concert’, too ‘pop’, for theatre. But, with improvements in current LED displays he feels there is a contemporary feel to them; that the technology disappears and what is left is just the image itself. The combination of LED with its crisp, clear, sharp look and the more nuanced look of projection makes for a design that feels authentic, but never documentary.
The show’s scenic environment ‘appears to be an empty stage and a series of brick columns, all in black. A limited amount of automated scenery flies in: a vaudeville-style marquee, which is an LED surface, and two horizontal 8 x 2 metre LED bands that be reconfigured in numerous ways. WorldStage provided their customized ROE c3ONE 3.1mm LED video tiles, some custom manufactured, to create these elements.
Two portrait-mode LED panels, mimicking framed three-sheet theatre posters, also fly onto the set. For these, WorldStage supplied super-high resolution ROE Sapphire 1.5mm LED panels. This is the first use of super-fine pitch LED display in a theatrical production.
“Brompton delivers greater live control of the LEDs. When the second act opens and The Temptations present as a global sensation, we can open the throttle and have real rock ’n roll brightness and impact. Then two minutes later, we can switch settings to a more gentle, quiet and theatrical mood. Brompton’s fine control of brightness, contrast and other image settings, makes these transitions feasible.
“It’s easy for LED displays to manage eye-popping, super-saturated colours. But when you want LED panels and projection to produce the same grayscale image or the same definition of white, it can be a challenge and much of our content is black and white. Brompton processing handles this a lot better than our previous system.”
Peter Nigrini, Projection Designer