08 June 2010

Behind-the-scenes: Viewing Video in The Nero Show

Angela Boyd, one of the talented technicians involved in The Nero Show, takes some time to tell drama on the waterfront all about the video element of the show and what it was like to work on this dynamic piece of theatre.

DOTW: What is your role in The Nero Show?

AB: Video designer – I created (or collated) the video footage seen in the show.

DOTW: Video is an important part of this production: there are TVs all over the set and video streaming constantly. What was involved – technically – in creating this aspect of the show?

AB: I went to several rehearsals to get the feel of the show, and did some pre filming to have a basic structure to cut to. I’d then film different segments using greenscreen or a neutral set depending on various ideas we had for the look of the footage. Once the set was in, we filmed the rest of it. Rehearsals were constantly timed so I’d have cue points to cut to – it was a very interesting way of working. There was a lot of research and tests done beforehand to get the look right.

DOTW: The video segments that depict members of the cast look quite authentic to the time period of the show [Check out The Nero Show trailer on Youtube here] – how did you create this effect?

AB: That’s a Colonel Sander’s secret recipe question! I had several different effects and filters to make it look as natural as possible. I’m also an archivist, so it was important for me to get the look and feel right. ‘60s television had a particular feel to it that is quite different to the “whiz bang” cutting and shooting of today. As the show progresses though, the video has a slightly more modern feel to it, that (hopefully) complements the idea that the themes in The Nero Show are constantly recurring throughout history.

DOTW: In terms of the other footage, how did you go about choosing what would be shown throughout the play?

AB: Paul [Jenden] had a very clear idea of where he wanted particular footage to sit during the show, so after reading the script, I spent hours wading through archival footage. I chose footage depending on the mood of the song. It was quite restrictive as I wanted to find footage that had a Creative Commons license – which means you can “remix” the footage per se. The Prelinger Archives were great, because they encourage the reuse of archival footage. The ads that run throughout the show were chosen to highlight the excess of Nero’s family – alcohol, cigarettes and pills. Great family fun, haha.

The cast of The Nero Show gather around one of the set's many televisions to watch Angela's handiwork.

DOTW: In your opinion, what does the video add to the production?

AB: The video footage sits strongly within the context of the show – the show itself is structured as if a live television show, and “The Nero Show” which Seneca hosts is shot in Nero’s mansion, so we tried to structure it so you get the feel of a television show with ad breaks, outside broadcasts, news breaks and such. It was also a comment on the role media has played throughout world history, and how heavily people rely on it – hence the television sets always being on. Still holds very much true for today.

DOTW: Have you work for a theatre production like The Nero Show before? If so, what else have you worked on? If not, what was the experience like for you?

AB: I’ve been involved in producing promotional work for theatre before, but nothing on this scale! Working on film and tv productions, I’m used to tight deadlines, but there’s nothing like a looming opening night to get your creative (read: panic) juices going. It was a fantastic experience that pushed me to learn new things, which is what I always like to look for in different projects. Also, working with Gareth’s [Farr] wonderful music and Paul’s great lyrics definitely helped to get the look and feel of each video segment.

DOTW: What was your favourite part of working on this show?

AB: Sitting in on the rehearsals – I’m still blown away with how quickly the show came together, due to the immense talents involved. I was very conscious of being a distracting force from laughing so much.

DOTW: What will you be working on next?

AB: I’ve got a couple of my own projects in the pipeline, and a couple of archival and editing contracts, but I’m always looking for new projects that push and challenge me!

The Nero Show is on at Circa One until 19 June.

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