What Software to Use for Theatre Projections? [video]

This week on Behind the Curtain, we talk to technical director Josh Hornung. Josh recommends what computer software to use to display theatre projection backdrops for your show. Josh makes a good case for keeping it simple, using software like Keynote (on the Mac) which is probably already loaded on your laptop.

Video Length: 1:38 (1 minute, 38 seconds)

QUESTION: “What software should you use to display digital theatre projections for a show?”

JOSH: “As far as software goes, what I’ve done mostly is keep it fairly simple. We want the running of the laptop to be very approachable. There are some very advanced applications out there that can do all sorts of fancy things*. And we generally recommend to people that they use either Powerpoint, which is available at just about any school. You’re [probably] going to have Microsoft Office. Or, Keynote. If you’ve got a Mac, you probably already have Keynote.

And so, Keynote and Powerpoint both are very straightforward, very simple presentation slidedeck-style applications. But they can do transitions, they can do timing. There’s all sorts of fun stuff if you have someone who’s interested in it. They can really get in there and sink their teeth into it and play with it. But at its most basic, you can put your images in, “Slide 1” is this background, “Slide 2” is that background. Maybe you put a black slide in between for blackouts.

It can literally be that simple. All the way up to embedded videos (by dragging a movie or video projection into the slide presentation) and loops and transitions and timing and those sorts of things. It really depends on what you’re looking for. We definitely try to keep it simple when we’re doing a show, because complexity often creates opportunity for things to go awry (laughs).”

*Although Josh didn’t mention it specifically here, it’s probably worth noting that the next level up from Keynote and Powerpoint is often a piece of software called QLab. QLab is a Mac product, used at all levels of theatre, dance and ballet not only for video and image playback but also for sound. QLab can do many advanced things like projection mapping, but it does have a higher cost and some training required to use it well. This is generally why Josh and other technical directors often recommend software like Keynote and Powerpoint first. Because it removes one more obstacle to getting started and you can do some pretty amazing things with a straightforward slidedeck for projections.

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