Since part of the Warner Brothers crime thriller the Town is set in Boston’s Fenway Park, director and actor (and die-hard Red Sox fan) Ben Affleck was intrigued with the idea of premiering the film in the park. This was no easy feat, but Warner Brothers knew who to tap for the complex job. They brought in Boston Light & Sound (BL&S), known in the industry for delivering stellar film presentation in unusual settings. “We actually like going into places where people think you can’t do a good job showing a movie, and Fenway Park was one of those,” says BL&S’s Chapin Cutler.
Transforming a portion of the almost 40,000-seat ballpark into an intimate movie theatre setting is a complicated, multifaceted process. BL&S needed a presentation screen that would withstand the elements and highly unpredictable weather in Boston. They also needed to ensure high quality audio in a notoriously difficult environment.
The BL&S team had an extremely tight window of time to install, tune, and test equipment. Between the city’s noise ordinances and concurrent events being hosted at Fenway Park up until the evening of the screening, there were few opportunities to validate the audio system performance prior to the event. Moreover, the team faced an unusual quandary in bringing heavy projection and audio equipment in for the event: they weren’t allowed to touch the grass.
BL&S conducted several pre-site visits to determine the structural load, and the logistics involved with moving equipment in and out of the park according to the organization’s guidelines. BL&S then set out to find the right equipment for the venue. They partnered with Gulf Coast Sound, who helped engineer the Dolby 5.1 sound system designed to cover 2,000 seats of the park.
To present the film in this outdoor setting, BL&S installed a 22x50-foot screen over the visitor’s dugout facing the ballpark seats. They designed the screen structure with special dark-colored material that promotes air flow so it wouldn’t blow over in high wind, and created the optimum film presentation environment by blocking out extraneous light and the surrounding buildings from view.
The team’s creativity and diligence paid off. 2,000 lucky people walked into Fenway Park that beautiful September night to a real treat. The movie looked and sounded extraordinary. BL&S produced crisp audio and images of the action-packed film, becoming the first known company to present a film premiere at the historic park. “One scene where a minivan was blown up sounded so real it practically shook the park,” says Boston Light & Sound Production Manager Celine Larimer.
Doing the impossible
“We actually like going into places where people think you can’t do a good job showing a movie, and Fenway Park was one of those.”
Boston Light & Sound (BL&S) helped present the premiere of Miral in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations—the first time a feature film had been presented in the venue. The story of a Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war was sure to draw attention, and the client was intent on ensuring every detail was perfect.
The client knew BL&S had a reputation for delivering stellar film presentations amidst difficult circumstances and this project was no exception. The hall is a
The 35-person BL&S team set to work installing a 35mm projection system and building an elaborate freestanding truss structure up and over the rostrum for a large format screen. They then distributed audio using surround sound and line arrays to direct the sound to the audience.
Happily, their efforts paid off. Producer Jon Kilik and director Julian Schnabel were thrilled with the result. Mr. Schnabel even gave a shout out to BL&S during the panel discussion following the screening, proclaiming that the movie will never look as good as it does right now. Schnabel added: “It’s amazing what happened here tonight… I could lick the color off the screen!” It’s further proof that 35mm projection is as good as ever.
When Sony Pictures Entertainment needed someone to stage a high-profile Hollywood world premiere of Memoirs of a Geisha in less than
two weeks, they turned to BL&S. The entertainment company has counted on BL&S for more than 15 years to transform various theatres into showplaces.
Sony was further impressed in 2005 when BL&S pulled off a successful
world premiere of the movie Hitch in a large tent on Ellis Island in the
dead of winter.
The firm’s reputation for grace under pressure served them well when
Sony Pictures found out on November 22, 2005 of a last minute venue change for the movie premiere. Memoirs of a Geisha was to premiere at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. It would be the first time anyone had run a feature film in the Kodak Theatre, which is traditionally the site of Academy Award and stage presentations.
The producers of Memoirs of a Geisha were very concerned about ensuring the integrity of the style and sound of this Academy Award-caliber film. The BL&S team had less than two week’s time to ship, stage, and install the equipment. This meant all aspects of the facility—from sight lines to acoustics to projection angles—needed to be tested and calibrated to exacting standards.
After accepting the challenge, the BL&S team quickly pulled all the necessary resources together. A site survey was conducted early the following week, while simultaneously, the projection equipment and screen was prepared for shipment from Boston. Less than a week after the initial site survey, the installation team arrived to begin equipment set up with all gear on hand. The team installed a redundant set of projection equipment so that in case of an interruption during the presentation the audience would never miss a frame.
BL&S’s use of exceedingly high quality film projectors and specialty film techniques paid off. “We pay particular attention to film alignment, making sure that every component is set up properly to produce the best results. Film aficionados truly appreciate the results,” said BL&S principal and co-founder Chapin Cutler.
The premiere was a huge success. The BL&S presentation system truly exhibited the film’s visual splendor. Everyone was impressed with the outstanding quality of the sound system and its ability to reproduce even the most subtle sounds recorded on the track. The audience was treated to the lush images and sound of this poignant film.
Starring Sean Penn, Kate Winslet and Jude Law, All the King’s Men is based upon the life and times of legendary Louisiana politician Huey P. Long. A lucky 1,500 guests were invited to the McAlister Auditorium at Tulane University in New Orleans to celebrate the movie premiere. In order to ensure a picture perfect presentation, Sony Pictures employed the services of Boston Light & Sound to transform the 65-year-old structure into a world premiere quality event showplace.
McAlister Auditorium posed numerous production challenges: The existing projection room and its outdated projection and sound installation were unusable; the ceiling is a large self-supported concrete dome, which caused sound intelligibility issues; and the side walls had no acoustical absorption. A rear mezzanine with low ceilings created problems with sound penetration and intelligibility. Side alcoves created live acoustical traps, and the stage lacked a rigging structure to hang necessities such as the screen and large sound system.
Since the movie was shot largely in locations around New Orleans, it was important to all involved to stage the event so that the local community could participate. McAlister Auditorium was the only auditorium available for the premiere in all of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Because of the city’s importance to the production, and in an effort to bring further attention to the devastated region, Sony Pictures, the film’s cast, and director decided to move forward in spite of the technical problems with the room.
BL&S developed a creative plan to stage the event. They employed the services of the New Orleans Opera Company (itself without a home) to design and construct a temporary projection room in the rear of the mezzanine area. BL&S’s sound engineer Michael Rome designed an acoustical environment that would mitigate the hard side walls of the auditorium and make them more appropriate for film sound reproduction. BL&S designed a free standing ground support system from which to suspend the three-channel EVI Compact Line Array speaker system and a 17 x 40 foot screen. The team used more than 1,000 feet of ground supported truss black velour drape to deaden the reverberation of the side walls. Local area contractor Gulf Coast Sound, lead by its principal, Larry Habitz, provided the sound gear and truss system for the event.
But what about the ceiling? Nothing could be attached to it or suspended from it. In addition, the team sought to preserve the architectural wonder of the space in keeping with the ambience of the event. The solution: BL&S strategically positioned large weather balloons around the space to break up the sound field created by the focus dome. Long part of BL&S President Chapin Cutler’s “bag of tricks,” the balloons proved to be a perfect fit. “As soon as the first balloon went up, we knew we had a workable solution,” said Cutler. “The acoustical problems of the dome just went away.” And, much to everyone’s satisfaction, the balloons looked like they belonged there.
The premiere of All the King’s Men was a digital cinema presentation. The state-of-the-art digital cinema projector and content server were installed under BL&S’s supervision. For redundancy, a 35mm film system was installed to run in tandem as a live back up. The film sound was reproduced as a 5.1 Dolby stereo playback. Because of the pinpoint precision of the EVI XLc Line Array system, the audio levels were smooth and even from the front row to the rear seat. Every word of dialogue was clear and easily understood from every part of the auditorium.
From start to finish, the set up, preparation, performances, and removal of this world premiere production took a single week. The results were spectacular. In an unprecedented move, film director Steve Zaillian thanked BL&S publicly from the stage for their expertise and effort in transforming the hall.
“The acoustical problems… just went away”
“As soon as the first balloon went up, we knew we had a workable solution. The acoustical problems of the dome just went away.”
BL&S has lent their project design and staging expertise to some of the world’s most high profile movie premieres and screening events. Recent premieres, previews and screenings include:
“It looked and sounded exactly how I wanted.”
“When I got back home and saw my film in the State Theatre in Traverse City, it was like I was watching it at our sound mix in New York – only better. It looked and sounded exactly how I wanted. We’re lucky to have BL&S.”