PureInsight | March 12, 2006
background design of the 2006 New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV)
Chinese New Year Gala at the Radio City Music Hall can be considered to
be a successful combination of tradition and technology. It also
displayed the deep meaning of culture imparted by the divine.
Although it's not new to restore ancient paintings with computers,
displaying the image on a LED (Light Emitting Diode) of 70 feet by 40
feet is probably a first in human history, especially when one
considers it was used as a backdrop on a traditional performing arts
The performing arts are a multi-media type of art. Performing on the
stage is time sensitive. There is no possibility of repeats or
delays. It tests the chemistry and practice of the entire troupe
as well as the coordination and integration of the individual skill
sets of the types of arts involved.
Performers, costumes, music, stage props, backgrounds, audio, and
lighting are all indispensable elements of the performing arts.
The stage background of the 2006 NTDTV Chinese New Year Global Gala at
the Radio City Music Hall attracted a lot of positive feedback from the
audience. It was also noticed by professionals. The
producer of the Christmas Spectacular of the Radio City Music Hall even
sent people to watch the show to observe and learn from the background
scenes. Of course there were also negative opinions. Some
people thought that the background scenes distracted the audience
from focusing on the performers.
The reason the stage background was, for the most part, welcomed by the
audience was that the background production team had tied the
background scenes closely to the theme of "myths and legends" and its
deeper meanings. The team conquered the huge stage background
that usually scares away designers.
The LED's have been available in the market for a long time. They
have become common in recent years due to the maturity of the
technology and the cost. However, they have usually been used in
commercial advertising. For example, the big LED advertisements
on Times Square in New York City are very bright. The brightness
is the strength of LED's. As for the performing arts, it is a big
caveat that LED backgrounds may distract the audience. They have
been used mainly at outdoor events or rock and roll indoor
concerts. The Radio City purchased a 7 million US Dollar LED only
half a year ago. The LED was used for the Christmas
programs. The Radio City Music Hall has used the LED projector
for only 1/3 of the shows. The rest of the Christmas programs
still used traditional projectors.
The LED's are made of diodes. They don't show obvious edges on
the screen. They are composed of numerous points of light.
They are very bright and clear with high contrast and a long
life-span. Even during the day time, the LED's can display very
bright images. This is the reason that LED's cannot work with
other types of arts. They can easily make other elements of
How did the NTDTV stage background team successfully utilize this
technology? I still remember that when NTDTV decided to rent this
LED projector from the Radio City Music Hall, there was less than a
month to the performance dates. The production team had been
working on background scenes continuously. When the technology
department found out that there wasn't much financial difference
between renting the LED projector and the traditional projector, it
decided to go with the LED one.
I was worried because, from my limited understanding of LED technology,
I thought the LED might distract the audience. However, this
issue was left to the production team. At that time, the
Christmas Spectacular programs at the Radio City Music Hall were not
over yet. The NTDTV production team couldn't test the background
scenes. When it was 10 days to the Gala dates, the Music Hall
finally managed to find a two-hour vacancy for the NTDTV production
team to test the background scenes.
The results were not surprising. All the scenes had lost the
middle tones. The technology department tried its best to adjust
the brightness and contrast to achieve the artistic requirements of the
background production team. However, many subtle hues had to be
given up or re-produced due to the limitations of the technology.
This was no doubt a big challenge for the production team. It was
also a challenge for the lighting specialist. How should they
shine the lights on each performer according to the atmosphere in the
individual programs while also considering the human eye's acceptance
of the brightness of the LED background? These were all
issues that the production team, stage designer and lighting specialist
had to consider together.
The stage at the Radio City is renowned for its large size. It is
100 feet wide and 60 feet deep. On the day of the test, another
performance had two real camels standing on the stage for the lighting
specialist to test the lighting system. The production team
didn't think they were real camels because they appeared so small on
the stage. Consequently, the production team had to design ratios
for each item in the background scenery so that it wouldn't look unreal
on the stage. In addition, the production team had to meet the
requirements of the artistic director and artistic performance of each
program and adopt an adjusted production methodology due to the LED
projector. On top of everything, it had to ensure that the deeper
meaning of the programs was conveyed in the background scenes.
Each member of the production team wasn't attached to his/her
individual hobby or personal emotions. For example, the project
lead of the program "Nine Swords" Joshua took 3 months to finish his
designs. However, after the test, he had to revise his designs to
fit the attributes of the LED projector. Every revision took a
long time. It was common for him to sit in front of a computer
for a day and a night.
Another issue was giving things up. Sometimes the production team had
to let go of parts of their production that were the result of hours of
hard work. During the day of the rehearsal, Joshua removed 40
layers of the background for the program "Nine Swords." The
removed parts contained brilliant work. Usually an artist would have a
hard time making that decision. This is the time of testing a
person's quality, called "mind nature" by cultivators.
A third issue was collaboration. Many artists have different
specialties. Some are good at styling; some are good at colors;
some are good at computer graphics. If nobody has a strong ego,
and everyone helps each other, the product can reach the best
level. Although the background scenes were done by computer
graphics, the production team members still needed to possess strong
artistic skills. Otherwise, the scenes generated by the computer
graphics would not be of the appropriate ratio or appear natural.
During the production, the team members achieved the highest level of
teamwork. One would revise others' work with his/her special
talents; the other person modestly accepted suggestions and
revisions. This sounds easy, but when it is hard to put it in
action. Artists are usually attached to their own work. I
think the teamwork was the key of background team's success. I
experienced a path of mind nature improvement myself.
Creativity is a concept. It is not as tangible as
technology. Anyone can be creative. For the NTDTV Gala
stage, creativity was everything and gave artists boundless room for
creation. During this process, anyone could say that something
was not right. People who made the comments did not have any ill
intentions. However, if one was not clear about what one was
doing, it was easy to give up and quit. Looking back, I assumed
my responsibilities three months prior to the Gala. I made a lot
of plans and did a lot of preparation work. In the end, less than
a quarter of my work was used. Many of my designs were criticized
and questioned. It was all to test my sincerity towards the Gala.
Sometimes I was restricted by my own notions. If I truly believed
that something was good for the Gala, I should not shy away from
communicating that regardless of the other party's attitude. I
learned an important thing this time. We shouldn't be concerned
with our reputations if we want to do things well. If we get
upset, every one of us should be clear whether we are protecting our
personal emotions or protecting the group's finished product. I
saw wonderful attributes among the background production team
members. I am very fortunate to have worked with this group of
professional fellow Falun Gong practitioners.
To be continued ...