Observatory was brought on board to create scenic visuals for Electric Forest
A Collaboration with Insomniac and Leisure Expert Group
© Electric Forest
Last month, Observatory was brought on board to create and deliver all the scenic visual content for the Sherwood Court Stages’ huge proscenium arch LED screens at the Electric Forest festival.
Having produces all the scenic content and delivered it for Beyond Wonderland Socal back in March 2022, this was our second project with Insomniac and Leisure Expert Group. Off the back of it, Observatory was then invited to take part in Electric Forest; a much bigger video canvas with a very natural theme with regards to the content brief.
Simon Harris, Director of Production at Observatory shared his experience working on-site at the legendary Electric Forest festival.
Can you provide a summary of the client’s brief, including what was produced and the vision or concept?
Creative briefs from Leisure Expert Group are second to none as their attention to detail and overarching themes are crystal clear. This brief contained the main Sherwood elephant styled in stain glass, which was the predominant content used throughout the day. In the evening and into the night, we introduced more diverse themes, including an art nouveau greenhouse structure, lush trees, growing flowers, animated branches & vegetation, natural kaleidoscopes, growing roots, waterfalls and graphic patterns.
© Electric Forest
How did Observatory incorporate this into the final design/content/application? And what software was used?
We worked closely with Leisure Expert group to develop their ideas in a visual format with regular meetings to keep everything on track. Our content was created in Cinema4D, Octane, Redshift and sequenced in Adobe AfterEffects and Premiere.
Hippo remains the ultimate video toolbox for me. Our workflow for creating and animating content always considers what I can do on-site so as not to waste potential hours of time rendering things that are available in real-time in Hippotizer; layering multiple clips together, adjusting colour/speed/fx, etc.
We previsualise our content not only for our own proofing but also to allow our clients to get a better understanding of how it looks in situ. That said, there are always things you want to adjust when you have access to the actual screens, and with huge render times, let alone the timezone difference between our studio in London and the festival site in the forests of Michigan, certain tweaks can easily be made in the server which doesn’t require the animators having to re-render.
What challenges did you face while working on the project?
The biggest challenge on this show came down to that huge canvas. As content creators we want our content to retain as much quality as possible, but at the same time retain smooth playback at all costs. Because we have to begin rendering weeks before the actual show, we render everything out as Apple ProRes as an intemeditary codec, which then allows me to make the call on which flavour of FlexRes I can most effectively use on site. I had hoped to use FlexRes Quality on this show to reproduce our beautiful content as best as we could on screen, but unfortunately, even with such powerful systems, requiring 8 x X-fade layers with 3 mixes and 2 x 4k outputs, I had to settle for FlexRes Performance HQ. In all honesty, this is a happy compromise and one you have to see as a benefit seeing as you have access to a wealth of options that allow us to get the best balance of quantity vs quality.
What are you most proud of creating/delivering on this project and what specific Observatory skills elevated the final event?
Operating scenic video content is a reasonably new concept and can come with certain political challenges with incoming guest performances and their production teams. Regularly we’ll be asked if the guests take over the entire canvas but the creative direction of the stage doesn’t condone it, let alone the challenge of the huge canvas they would have to be able to cope with.
On Electric Forest we found that the majority of incoming production teams were more than happy to work with us to deliver a cohesive show. There were some real standout performances when both guest VJ and our team were able to deliver a great-looking show and to be thanked by incoming teams was a really great feeling.
I was also very proud to receive such positive feedback from management, production and incoming artists regarding the quality of the scenic content we had created for the stage. Our team did some genuinely incredible work on this show and it’s always great to hear it from a range of different sources.