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Videobox Raises the Bar

Videobox creates graphics for Harrah's new nightspot: Masque By Ko Maruyama
Hollywood, California.  Videobox Studios' Jason Hearne gives a peek under the production of graphics for Masque, one of Harrah's newest Atlantic City bars.

In the ever expanding world of LCD projection, different video clients emerge to take advantage of the low-cost, high impact presentation of flat panel displays.  Installations at movie theaters, museums, even fast food chains are becoming more popular, as either a sales, information, or entertainment device.  Video Box Studios in West Hollywood, California recently completed video wall projects for Harrah's new bar, 'Masque' which opened in December 2004 at the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

Video Box worked with Susan Beth Smith, producer for Newport Beach, CA based MORE Media Group.  MORE Media was the creative content company working on behalf of The Chimaera Group in Las Vegas who managed the design, development, and installation.  MORE Media Group integrated VideoBox's 3D logo work into nearly 90 minutes of original graphics designs presented on 16 synchronized screens.  MORE Media Group specializes in multi-screen and high definition thematic presentations for casinos, theme parks, and high-end corporate clients.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Producer Susan Beth Smith and Video Box Studio's Jason Hearne talk about some of the unique tasks that these projects present.

Hollywood producer, Susan Beth Smith has guided hundreds of projects through both familiar and new territory.  With a diverse history of visual media production and post-production processes, including both film and broadcast commercial, Susan Beth has been able to offer clients such as Harrah's Entertainment a view of the scope that their new projects require.  When graphics for the new multi-million dollar bar required special video attention, clients turned to Susan Beth to deliver the project on time and on budget.

Freelance producer, Susan Beth Smith notes that while there is a growing library of pre-packaged graphic backgrounds, something would have to be commissioned in order to match the unique identity of the bar.  

Smith added, "Some clients decide ahead of time that they will want alternate versions and aspect ratios to be produced for future useage; some are site specific for one installation or one show only.  Clients increasingly expect to see test versions before giving the go ahead so they already know something of what the finished product is going to look like. This helps everyone to know that they are talking about the same thing and helps manage everyone’s expectations.  It also makes sure that the visuals are going to play out properly on the screens with their varying sizes and configurations. That being said, it takes some serious technical expertise to “translate” the visual concept to a viable display as it plays on the screens."

Not only has Susan Beth's producing schedule seen these types of LCD graphic displays becoming more popular in the realm of desktop-company work, but HD production as well.  She pointed out, "More and more of the work I am doing is HD resolution, what’s really remarkable is how the post production is being done in well set up desktop locations by production companies, rather than post facilities. It takes some effort to set up and tech knowledge to make it work."

©2005 Harrah's Entertainment.  All Rights Reserved.

These various monitor presentations are not limited by the challenge to work within a new delivery spec, but the installation itself is not the traditional "broadcast" delivery.   Smith remarked, "The demand for these technically challenging installations with custom configured screens and unique art has been increasing. I started more than 10 years ago working on these types of installations with custom graphics and footage for the auto shows…and the race has long been to get the latest technology and the coolest imagery in these public venues and installations."

She added, "I do so much of these installations in many different venues - they are exciting because they get a lot of public exposure and I often get the opportunity to work on the bleeding edge of animation, motion graphics and technology."

Video Box Studios is a boutique audio/video facility located just off Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood,  California.  Video Box, aka The Farm West, has created visual effects work for film, graphic design and on-air packages for broadcast, and has most recently been contracted to create the visual images for Harrah's Atlantic City bar, MASQUE which will debut this spring at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino.

Jason Hearne, Art Director of Video Box's graphics arm, was called on to create 12 separate animations for the client, to be completed within one week.

Jason recounts, "Most of the Kiosk work that we've done in the past was geared to direct marketing and information.  Even though the wall animation is marketing the name of the bar, this piece was conceptually designed to be an ambient installation.   Also the composition formats made for a different canvas.  These were regular television plasma screens rotated at 90º and placed side by side.  The design was free to float from screen to screen.  This forced us to consider what would be easily readable and visible.  So considering the concept, the ultimate goal was not to deliver a message but to imbue it."

The presentation monitors is also a break from the broadcast production that Jason's team creates.  "The standard for broadcast is what can be seen on your home television.  Being that you are confined to a 4x3 box makes for the biggest difference between this and broadcast animation.  Dealing with televisions that work in conjunction allowed us to think "outside the box" as it were.  The televisions were placed side by side to allow the animation to float from box to box.  Broadcast just doesn't and can't  capture this kind of effect.  One might think the use of Letterbox could be applied, but the scale of the animation would become so small it would lose it's impact.  Also the animation for broadcast has to work like a guerilla warrior.  It needs to swoop in, make it's statement, then swoop out.  The animation for this project allowed us to linger on our animation elements.  Besides isn't that what most animators want?  More time allowed to show their beautiful work?"

Armed with five Apple G5s (2.5 dual processors loaded with RAM), Jason and his team use MAXON's Cinema 4D R9 Studio Bundle to complete the intense 3D animation required to reproduce the boards for the project.  For compositing, Adobe After Effects 6.5, Photoshop and Illustrator are enlisted.  A host of plugins, including Trapcode's Suite helps to round out the graphics toolkit.

©2005 Harrah's Entertainment.  All Rights Reserved.
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Related Keywords:Maxon, Cinema4D, Masque, Las Vegas, Video Box Studios, Jason Hearne

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