“Handling and moving video content in Notch is so easy, you can make changes that would be very time-consuming to do in the traditional motion graphic way.”
Soapstar Superstar or Steracteur Sterartiest is a live singing competition broadcast on Belgium National Television. Performing to a panel of celebrity judges, a studio audience and viewers at home, soap actors sing to stay in the competition. With limited pre-production time and last minute changes to the line-up, Video Director Michael Al-Far needed a production pipeline that wouldn’t crack under pressure. He chose Notch.
Michael Al Far, director of MalfMedia is an experienced multimedia professional with a rich background in Live Shows, Musicals, Film and TV. Passionate about design and new technologies Michael approached VRT with the concept of creating real-time graphical content for their next series.
Michael’s vision for the production was to use a live concert workflow and apply it to a live television production. Having used Notch on previous non-televised projects, Michael envisioned applying real-time effects to live feeds and piping them back out to the stage screens. Central to the design were two main features: an arched walkway that connects the artist entry to the band stage (a 45m long and 2m wide video floor covered by 8mm LED tiles) and at the back of the set a banner which ran all along the sides and back of the set. Another big feature in the set was a rail with 4 screens on sliders, these screens could be rolled into various configurations.
Time was a huge challenge for the team. Every Wednesday the line-up of performers would change as one of the candidates was eliminated. In less than a week the production departments would assemble scores, choreograph performers and actualise design ideas. A weekly elimination wasn’t the only thing Michael had to be prepared for “All the artists on the show were representing a charity and would often want their stage design to hint at their chosen charity. Often the design ideas of the singer would be different from the directors and could shake up the act including the graphics 24 hours ahead of the camera rehearsals”. Using real-time content generation saved the design team lot of render time and freed up more time to alter and adjust on site to have the content more in line with vision mixing and lighting.
Each song would have three or four camera rehearsals before the live show. At one rehearsal Michael recounts “the director came to the conclusion that for this particular song the graphics weren’t working and asked us to come up with something new. With Maarten Francq on site for the rehearsals, we could offer another design on the screens by the time the 3rd camera rehearsal was finished. This is where the real-time aspect of Notch comes into play, allowing us to solve problems on the spot.”
Most of the 96 songs were created with Notch and played back on a disguise 4×4 PRO with two VFC cards. During the production four input lines ran from cameras filming the live show into disguise and running Notch. The director could bridge anything; a close up of the singer or a musician on stage.
The Beatles song, “Come Together”, was one of Michael’s personal favourites from the show: “We really wanted the bass line to trigger the visual. We made a line between the bass guitar and disguise, the audio was then run through Notch. Whenever the bass player would hit one of his strings the content would react and animate.” This is a well-known process in the VJ world but Michael and his team pioneered adapting this workflow to live television.