Why I Do This

June 17th, 2010 by Christopher  

The following email just arrived in our support mailbox.

From: Chris Miller
To: support@figure53.com
Subject: Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, so, holy fucking shit.

Let me give that some context: my background is in fine art/sculpture/performance, now I find myself the technical director/jack-of-all-trades of a high school drama program. Our lighting system is somewhat limited and there’s no fly space, so I’m constantly trying to dream up ways to create visual interest onstage by whatever comes to hand.

So: we’re going to be doing “The Laramie Project” in the fall, and I thought it would be a good chance to take a stab at some rear projection/floating panel stuff as the primary set elements, in addition to utilizing our large 10k lumen main projector on the cyc for “backdrop” duties. Also a chance to go all in with the sound design.

But not really interested in running three projectors plus laptops wild on the stage, experience suggesting that designing to carefully synchronized moments and leaving the button pushing to easily distracted teenagers outside of the tightly controlled booth environment is a recipe for failure. So I have a chat with Mr. Google and and am made aware of the Matrox Triplehead2go plus QLab deal.

And, as I was saying, holy fucking shit. My typical experience with new software goes one of two ways: appreciation for the sophistication and power while realizing I’ll never really have time to master even half of the cool features, or appreciation for the simplicity and accessibility while wishing that there were just a few more bells and whistles and nudge-able nuances etc.

And then there’s this here giant box of awesome that you let me download for free to check out, and which you will rent me pro versions for a few bucks a day? Which after a day of playing with is allowing me to define a custom array of three vertical screens across which I am doing ripples and staggered freezes and synchronized multi-channel sound? And which every time I think “I wish I could….” it turns out I can? Or like when I noticed that video state changes were inducing a very slight glitch at the point of hitting the space bar, so I went back to Mr. Google and immediately found one of your bug report exchanges that suggested doing a preload for those cues which, how do you say, actually worked?

And it’s clear to me from looking at some of your showcase stuff that I’m only scratching the surface here. I feel giddy with power. The only problem is, my high school is going to have to get use to increasingly baroque media fests strapped to the groaning back of old warhorses like Kiss Me Kate, which, frankly, deserve to be obscured by shimmering fields of evolving color and industrial soundscapes (although I foresee some interesting conversations with my director…… ).

Not in the habit of writing software fan letters, but good god, ya’ll: thank you. I feel like this is a tool I’ve been waiting for my whole life, and I’m already thinking differently about some performative work of my own that I’ve had on the back burner due to not really having the resources or personnel to pull off. And all of a sudden I do. Because it turns out my busted up old MacBook Pro is three techs and a rack of equipment.

At some point I might even go and look at your documentation/user manual stuff, but right now I’m having too much fun just watching my stage come alive, from a single computer, by magic. You rock, if you’re ever in SF I’ll buy you a drink.


Chris Miller
Technical Director
Schools of the Sacred Heart, SF

I’ve been coding since 6am this morning and was feeling worn out. Now I feel like I could go another 12 hours.

Chris, thank you.

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