Vivien’s Fresher Experience

  Wei-Hsuan (Vivien) is in her first year studying BA Digital Media at the University of Leeds.

“Touring the Riley Smith Theatre made me excited for shows I would crew on”

Backstage society is one of the few societies that caught my eye during the Freshers’ Fair. I wanted to join a society that would produce something and I came to realise Backstage suited me the most. I had no prior experience when I joined the society. I was also nervous during the Give it a Go because I had difficulty remembering all the new jargon (DMX, XLR, LX 1,2,3, flies, band pit, cans, etc.,), but watching the way lights are operated and touring the Riley Smith Theatre made me excited for shows I would crew on.

“I wanted to join a society that would produce something and I came to realise Backstage suited me the most.”

I’ve crewed as Front of House, Stage Crew, and Lighting Assistant. Front of House is a simple position, and it was perfect for me when I started because I could watch others and learn without responsibilities that directly affect the show. Despite that, I still had to work up the courage to queue a crowd of strangers and answer the questions that they have before the show.

“The excitement and energy of the cast could be felt in the wings”

Stage Crew was fun in its own way. The excitement and energy of the cast could be felt in the wings. Usually the cast moved the props on and off stage, but sometimes the stage crew did it too. Most of the time we prepared the props in the wings for them to bring on stage. The finales were one of my favorite parts of the show because that’s when you can relax and know your job is done (well, almost).

“I remember being really nervous and jumping some cues, but everyone was very forgiving and understanding”

The first time I crewed a show from the balcony was when I was the Lighting Assistant for Opera Soc’s Marriage of Figaro. This role helped me understand more about rigging lights and how daisy chains worked. On the show nights, I remember being really nervous and jumping some cues, but everyone was very forgiving and understanding. It was also my first time on cans, and it was a fun experience because I could hear what was happening from different locations in the theatre.

“Everyone I’ve met has been so friendly, patient, and strong”

Set building was one of the few things I was able to help with (especially when they were painting). Helping the set designer build their vision of the stage was extremely fun and the designers were really creative and skillful hands on. A lot of effort and time was put into making the set, but when it is completed and on stage, I get filled with satisfaction.  

Everyone I’ve met has been so friendly, patient, and strong (and I mean it physically)! For the first few shows I crewed on, I did not know what I was supposed to be doing while everyone seemed to know what to do. Since I wasn’t very strong, I couldn’t do a lot of heavy lifting. While in the midst of the load outs I was only able to be helpful with coiling cables and moving small things.  

Now being a bit more confident with how things worked, I’ve signed up as House Manager for 2018 Dance Show and Assistant Stage Manager for LAMMPS All Shook Up. I look forward to working with the rest of Backstage in the coming year!

Posted on 27th February 2018, by Sarah.

Exposé’s ‘SUSPECT’: Corwin on being a Projection Designer


Corwin is in his 3rd year studying Music Production at Leeds Beckett University.

“Projections are becoming increasingly more popular within theatre as it allows stages and sets to transform with ease”

Working on Exposé is always an opportunity for Backstage to try out something new. With ‘Seven’, they had a Garden of Eden set with projection of dancing silhouettes in the centre. Last year with ‘In-Touch’ they had the fly bars moving light boxes of apps, with goal post projection structures either side of stage. This year with the projections for ‘Suspect’, I decided to try out a video wall as the set piece at the back of stage. Projections are becoming increasingly more popular within theatre as they allow stages and sets to transform with ease, providing the audience with a multitude of visual options to best complement the show. With this years theme of Exposé being crime, every dance had a new theme and idea. I wanted to make it very clear through projections that each theme and performance was unique, while tying together the overall story of a Cluedo style murder mystery.  

The video wall itself was comprised of many PixelMesh P12.5 panels. It was three rows tall by fourteen panels across creating the 448×256 pixel resolution, fifty-six panel wall. At first it may seem very low compared to today’s standards with 1080p (1920×1080) and even 4K (3840×2160) displays, however, it was very effective and portrayed images perfectly for the performance. The pixelmesh also had another feature which was it has slits down the face of it primarily to reduce weight, but also allows light to pass through it. This worked well with Chris Morris’ lighting design of sunstrips behind the wall which shone through and broke up the image creating a very nice effect. The wall was rigged onto a ground supported truss frame just over 6 metres in width. This structure allowed us to rig the wall layer by layer with motorised truss, and allowed Chris to rig lights to the bottom and sides of the frame.  

“It was important that the content I had complemented the performance on stage and never overshadowed it”

I operated the show off of Resolume Arena where I composed the show. Resolume has a series of columns and layers which is only limited by the power of the device you’re working off of. I used the layers to overlap and create interesting effects with different videos using masks, and the columns to distinguish between different acts going through the show. I also used Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro to create and edit videos to the correct DXV codec for Resolume, and ensure my videos contained the correct imagery that I wanted per routine.

“Sometimes don’t be afraid to not have a video as this may be more powerful for the performance”

Knowing what best to project is solely on preference however, it was important that the content I had complemented the performance on stage and never overshadowed it. To me it was also important for certain routine to not be bland and to match the energy on stage which is where certain effects and masking comes into play. Adding masks over an image can change the whole look while keeping it familiar, the same can be said for effects although they can be altered to make something really abstract as well. Find a combination that suits you, and sometimes don’t be afraid to not have a video as this may be more powerful for the performance than something on screen in the background moving or otherwise.  

Doing projections for the show was a fantastic opportunity and one I would definitely want to do again in the future. If I used video panels again, I would break up the panels and rig them at different depths to create a more abstract look with varying interest. This was my initial idea for the show however I was unable to do this due to logistics in cabling, rigging, and working around the lighting design.   Backstage do not get a lot of opportunities to work with projections, less so with a video panel. There was a lot of work done behind the scenes to learn fundamental software skills on the aforementioned software and others to understand fully which direction was best for sourcing and creating content. Normally it would take a team of people to create video of higher quality of what I did before going to the projectionist.

“There was a lot of work done behind the scenes to learn fundamental software skills”

For anyone wishing to undertake this role in the future, I would definitely say it’s worth taking some time to independently learn about content creation and how to project an image to best understand your limitation and whether the projects needs to introduce a content creator or team of. That being said, it was a very rewarding opportunity in which I can go forward and expand on this new interest of mine.

Posted on 22nd February 2018.