A Little History

So .. haven’t been as good about updating this .. but thought I’d start to do that more often. For the last 3 years .. I’ve been involved with the Poquoson High School Show Choir .. Evolution. My son asked me to help out the Director with some A/V stuff .. and one thing leads to another and here I am .. the Technical Director. Been a lot of fun doing all the different things with the shows. Since it’s been a while, I’ll put a little history here.

2017 – The Comeback

So this first year .. we had a small Cast of 18 and Crew of about 8 students and our setup was a single truss with a bunch of lights and a drape and some front lights….

We ran the lights off my old 2011 MBP using QLC+ with a direct connection. I had a control desk integrated using an APC40 and a Launchpad .. and “played” the show live .. which was alot of fun. This was our first year, and tho we didn’t win any awards, we had a really fun time. Can see one of my (STILL!!!) favorite songs from the show here:

2018 – Beautiful Delirium

This years show was gonna be harder and more complex so the Crew ended up being 12 students and a cast of 26. We wanted to make a “Creepy” show so the Crew took on quite a bit of the production design .. we created a girls bedroom complete with canopy and dolls.

As this show started stretching our goals a bit … I started formalizing the config and expanding our tech. We used 4 towers with 2 moving heads and a vertical light bar on each tower and built some “Steps” that we put between the risers for the Cast to work with. We also built some “triangles” in the front and put some large moving head washers in them. The system still ran on QLC .. but now we started using ArtNet to connect from the laptop to the stage… Raspi 3B based converters that I engineered using OLA and a DMX Hat. I also taught the students how to build a ‘cued’ show and we ran the show that way.

I also started exploring new ways to use lighting in the show. We had a song called “Paint it black” and used backlighting in the ending to accent the words. At the end of the ballad … I had the projected moon turn from White to Red like a solar eclipse. Was still learning about pre-setting positioning .. so lots of inadvertent wipes.

We also had some fun with some stage effects, ground-fog generators, dolls with colored eyes and some ADJ 3z with a moon projection filter. I taught the Crew how to solder and work with LED Tape and build all the props and tools .. was a great experience. I also got to work with the show music and “build it out”. Since this was the canned version didn’t help us compete but I think it turned out great!

This year we won Best Stage Crew .. and while the show didn’t’ win any major awards .. I still hear from staff at other schools they remember how awesomely creepy the show was ( that was our intent 😉 You can see the Spring Concert here:

2019 – The Road to Victory

So this year.. we’re really starting to settle in and wanted to make a big splash with the show. The students last year came up with the idea of a show around WW2 .. and we built on it. To do all we wanted to it was gonna take MANY days and weekends of work and so we ended up with a crew of 16 .. and we had a cast of 29. Crew really jumped in and helped backfill the production design. Spent quite a bit of time creating the plot .. how the show would flow and what we’d need to make it great.

Crew got to work in September and created a “radio” prop with lights, reused the ground fog, and then painted two large WW2 era posters for the show. We reused the “triangles” for the front wash .. and bought some higher-end stands and trusses. And we created all new steps for the entire riser system so every front face was covered. For system design, we again decided to use QLC and a que’d system to drive the show. Everything again ran over WiFi using unicast .. and we successfully ran 52! universes over ArtNet this way.

The radio was a piece of art. Several of the students got together and worked out the design and layout for the piece, and then we started working on it at the house. One of the key needs was to fit through a single school door, while also being over 6′ AND starting at 16″ which was the top of the back riser, so the top was hinged to drop below the doorframes. I taught how to use a compass to cut out the frame .. the pieces and then align the LEDs we put in. We used black scrim to hide the lights until they were used in the show to add some mystique. The students assembled it, put on the burlap for the speaker grill, and painted the entire thing. Once complete it was wheeled and could be moved by any crew member!

The step design was worked out early, where each step is 8 foot long, 8″ high ( the standard distance between risers ) and 9″ deep. The steps have their own extension cord on the SL end and a 3 plug outlet on the SR end so they can be combined in many ways across the stage and still get power. Each step has an 8×64 LED strip matrix being driven by a Fadecandy .. which was driven by a Raspi with a fan enclosure. They are powered by a standard wall wart. The Crew built these steps from scratch.. cutting the wood on a table saw, soldering up the wiring harnesses and connecting and testing everything. I was REALLY impressed with my crew through this .. they worked hard and created some great fixtures.

Fully assembled the show turned out really well. We won Best Show Design, Best Choreo, and first place in our division! Because of Covid-19 we only got to perform it twice in competition .. but had a really good time. You can see a run of the show below at our first competition:


Because of Covid .. and all our performances were shutdown, the crew got together and put together a recruiting video for next year… showing all the fun and cool things being part of Crew entail. The kids really worked hard on it and I thought it turned out really well. Please enjoy.

I have to say .. I haven’t enjoyed anything more in the last few years than what we’ve accomplished here. Working with my Director Mrs Wade, our amazing choreographer Markida Maxwell and one of my oldest friends, Amy Insely as our Band Director; has been amazing and we’re looking forward to more amazing shows. I’ll start making more regular posts .. if I can remember 😉

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