Last August, after a two-year hiatus following a £60million refurbishment project, Theatre Royal Drury Lane opened its doors to a global phenomenon, Frozen the Musical. The story’s incredible plot and magnificent scenery are brought to life in full, frosted glory thanks to ultra-realistic visuals displayed on the upstage LED wall. Using Brompton Tessera processing to help accurately recreate shimmering snow peaks, fjords and mesmerizing auroras in incredibly fine grades of colour, bit depth and brightness, audiences are transported into the magical world of Arendelle.
Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, the team worked in close collaboration with Finn Ross of FRAY Studio who oversaw video design; Jonathon Lyle of Ammonite, in charge of developing system design; and video equipment rental company, Blue-i Theatre Technology, to bring this internationally acclaimed show to the heart of London’s West End.
“We had used six Brompton Tessera M2 LED processors on the original Broadway production of Frozen, as that was the version available at the time,” explains Jonathon Lyle, who is Frozen Associate Video Designer, Frozen Video Programmer, and Director of Ammonite. “It worked incredibly well for a single 4k screen. The Tessera SX40 was developed as the show’s use of high res LED expanded, so it was a natural upgrade to the workflow,”
ROE Visual LED panels have also been deployed since Frozen first opened and are used to create the show’s backdrops, with real and digital scenery often seamlessly blended. “Unsurprisingly, much of the show includes auroras and snow,” says Lyle. “The auroras have incredibly fine grades of colour. Other LED processors struggled to handle this without banding, but by utilising Tessera’s Dark Magic functionality we were able to achieve impeccable visual performance, significantly improving the quality of the image on LED screens that are operating at less than maximum brightness.”
The show’s set features 10 fjord cliff faces and a wooden proscenium, all made from semi-transparent cast resin with low resolution LED screens illuminating them from within. “Whilst this created some interesting looks, it quickly reached the limit of what a 25mm pitch 8-bit screen could deliver,” Lyle explains. “As we planned for touring of the show, we worked with ROE to produce a custom LED tile that would allow us to create modular tiles with unique edges, at a 3.9mm pitch and with beautiful colour depth.”
Lyle notes that the team at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane have been proactive in learning the products they use and recently took advantage of Brompton’s training programme, attending the first in-person session the manufacturer has been able to hold since the beginning of 2020. “We have a really good relationship with the team from The Theatre Royal, and they’ve done a great job of getting to know the processors on the job and without too much assistance from us,” says Brompton’s Training & Technical Support Specialist, Steve Harris. “However, this was a great opportunity to show them some neat tips and tricks and how to troubleshoot quickly and how to expand on the system when the need arises.”
For the West End production, a 2m x 8m ROE Visual Black Pearl 3 upstage LED wall, with further BP3.9 used to create fjord cliff faces and the proscenium, are driven by a total of 10 Tessera SX40 4K LED processors with 22 Tessera XD data distribution units, keeping cable runs to a minimum. The same setup has also been deployed for productions in Tokyo, Hamburg, and both the North American Tour and Australian tours.
“What can I say?,” concludes Finn Ross, Co-Founder of FRAY Studio. “I love Brompton’s products on any show of mine as I know we will get excellent colour rendering across the entire spectrum. We can also run the wall at the low end, as we frequently need to do in theatre, and still maintain excellent image quality with no banding. We have a saying, ‘I’ll take more or less any screen, so long as it has a Brompton processor powering it’ – which speaks volumes about the quality of their products!”
Earlier this year, Disney Theatrical Productions confirmed that the production of Frozen the Musical would be extended until October 2022 due to public demand.
Image credit: @ Disney, photo by Johan Persson