Wednesday, Aug 23rd

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 05 July 2015 15:09

Kudos to Backstage Crew

Written by  Low Hui Cheng, KL & Selangor / Translated by Tan Heang Shin

Seated behind the audience in the arena, sound engineers worked closely with the screen control room to ensure a smooth performance. [Photograph by Yap Tsi Ti]

The successful staging of six sutra adaptations was made possible not only by the cast, but also the crew behind the scenes. The lightings, sound control and video screening were all coordinated by a group of gaffers, audio engineers, videographers, director and so on, to accomplish the Dharma assembly.


 
“Ten seconds to playing the song! Five seconds, four, three, two, one!”
 
The timing was perfect. Participants sang along with the music, filling the arena with their voices. On stage, the screen showed glimpses of audience at times, the sign language and facial expressions of performers, or the entire stadium. This gave public members an overview of the sutra adaptation at one glance.
 
Halfway through the show, the lights in the arena dimmed. A ray of white light shone on Master Wu Da (played by Hsu Ya Fen), together with blue lights around her. The audience was captivated by this atmosphere of great artistic merit.
 
The visual experience was created using lighting equipment (like flashlight, projector, control system and etc.) plus advanced technology, in accordance to plot and music. The lighting intensity, colour and illumination were adjusted appropriately. All these formed part of the stage design and setting.
 
It may seem easy but in reality, requires a lot of coordination among the background crew. Some controlled the lights, some stayed beneath the stage to manage the ascending and descending of the hut and four LED screens, while others could be seen coordinating the situations on the spot or managing the switching of the screens. The Da Ai TV crew from Taiwan also played a vital role in the presentation.
 
Coaching by Taiwanese crew
 
Eleven crew members from Da Ai TV flew into Kuala Lumpur together with Chief Planner and Director of the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation, Joy Lu, to assist in the staging of the show from July 3 to 5.
 
“Emcee, please maintain normal speed when talking later. Slow down on the last five words will do,” instructed Roger Hsiao, Stage Engineering Chief Coordinator from the sound control room behind the audience, giving one last reminder to the programme team before the show started.
 
Whenever there were issues, Roger would step up to solve them to ensure a smooth recording. He and Lighting Engineer, Xie Sheng Ke, arrived in Kuala Lumpur on June 27, to assist in stage, lighting and sound engineering.
 
“The delay in the stage construction was worrying but fortunately, volunteers managed to resolve it eventually. In the next phase of sound and lighting, the contractors had been very professional and we had a good working relationship as there was no language barrier.”
 
Roger coordinated non-stop with the planning and stage engineering teams, lighting and sound engineers so that they could get to work quickly when taking over from other teams. “Malaysians and Taiwanese speak a common language, thus they could understand our requirements and cooperate with us throughout.”
 
Mastering of entire flow
 
Out of nine video recorders, four were placed among the audience at Level 2 to capture the public members, the drum team and the overall view. One recorder was placed at Level 3 overlooking the entire stadium. Another four recorders were hand-held by crew shooting around the stage area with performers as main focus.
 
From the stage overseeing the audience, every public member seemed so tiny. But with close-up shots by videographers, facial expressions of public members or performers were very clear when flashed on the screen.
 
In the screen control room, shots from the nine recorders were shown on two big screens. Director Huang Jing Mei from Da Ai TV looked at the screen with full concentration and at the same time, selected the shots to appear on screen. Upon completion, subtitles were added to the shots to ensure the messages from the sutra were conveyed to the audience.
 
Her assistant, Chen Shu Ling, then informed the team on the music and lighting requirements by referring to the programme flow. She also reminded the videographers on the shots or focus needed for the following screening, and the upcoming sign language and facial expressions by performers. These reminders were also passed on to the sound engineers.
 
“Six seconds. Five, four, three, two, one.”
“After 15 seconds, note that the performers would be turning back.”
“The sleeve dance is next. Get the sound ready.”
“Eight… two, one, it is the emcee’s turn to talk now.”
 
With clear instructions, the crew in the arena understood the sequence of the props and when the performers go on stage. The crew outside the arena in the control room knew exactly when to synchronize the lighting and sound, as well as, the ascending and descending of the hut.
 
Participation off stage
 
While the performers were presenting on stage, there were teams of people working off stage. These included the operators in the narrow space beneath the stage, the sound engineers among the audience and the programme team in the arena. They were indispensable to keep the precise time accuracy to the second. 
 
“Ten seconds later, the hut needs to be ascended,” assistant Cai Yi Zhen informed Stage Operator, Wong Gar Shen, a Tzu Chi volunteer, through the walkie-talkie. She was responsible for all on stage engineering and thus had paid particular attention to situations on stage for necessary adjustments.
 
The hut was located at the centre of the stage. There were also four LED screens on four sides of the stage. When performers slowly emerged on stage via a lift, the four LED screens also appeared concurrently, likewise the lightings and music. The slip of a second would not only affect the performance but could also cause injury to the performers.
 
Whenever performers detected weird sounds on stage, Stage Technician Sim Kong Soon, a Tzu Chi volunteer, would immediately fix it with existing tools. He shared, “The release of dry ice is also crucial to avoid covering the stage in mist.” Hence, a red carpet had been laid in the arena to provide better visibility while releasing the dry ice. 
 
At one corner was a TV showing the situation outside the arena, which made it easy for Gar Shen and Kong Soon to understand the next step and communicate directly with screen control room using the walkie-talkie.
 
Gar Shen was in-charge of the entire programme, thus was well-versed with the flow and all the 42 songs. He was also flexible in undertaking any task if needed to ensure that the Dharma assembly was successfully staged. He had prayed for Malaysia to be free from disasters.
 
Live streaming on the Internet
 
The performers’ voices filled the air in the arena and touched the hearts of the audience. Only when one is present in the arena can one truly feel the atmosphere. However, those who could not attend could watch it live on YouTube. Volunteers had shared this piece of good news widely on Facebook, Whatsapps and so on.
 
Kevin Leong Kwai Seng, a Tzu Chi staff with IT Department, who just returned from Nepal relief, had thrown himself into the project straightaway. He said, “As this Dharma assembly has taken more than a year to prepare and practise, we decided to set up live streaming so that those who missed the live performance or were overseas could join in this auspicious assembly. This would also enable our Master to tune in.”
 
During his absence, liaison with Da Ai peers had been handled by News & Documenting Team Manager, Chong Chuan Yit. Upon his return, he looked into the technical aspect. From the moment the emcees commenced with their speeches, Kevin would start working hard in front of the computer, ensuring a smooth upload on YouTube.
 
The main challenge lied in lagging or buffering when the number of viewers increased. Hence, Kevin needed 100% concentration with his eyes glued to the screen, and responded immediately to any technical errors at any time. After the successful live streaming for the first show, Kevin heaved a sigh of relief. He was motivated by the positive feedbacks from the audience too.
 
 
Although assuming different roles, close contact and communication among the backstage crew had ensured a successful staging of all sutra adaptations. The joint collaboration between the background crew and the 2,016 cast had evoked an air of spiritual refinement in the arena, nourishing the hearts of the audience with the Dharma.
 
 

 
Huang Jing Mei selected the shots to appear on screen and added the corresponding subtitles so that the message from the sutra could be conveyed to the audience. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]   Suppliers checked all equipment once again to ensure a smooth sutra adaptation. [Photograph by Ch’ng Kooi Tick]

Huang Jing Mei selected the shots to appear on screen and added the corresponding subtitles so that the message from the sutra could be conveyed to the audience. [Photograph by Wong Poh Fatt]
 
Suppliers checked all equipment once again to ensure a smooth sutra adaptation. [Photograph by Ch’ng Kooi Tick]
 
Wong Gar Shen (right) and Sim Kong Soon (left) joined in the prayer sessions, although they were beneath the stage most of the time. [Photograph by Lai Jih Chuan]   Kevin Leong was in full concentration managing the live streaming which had enabled people who missed it or were overseas to watch it live on YouTube. [Photograph by Yap Tsi Ti]

Wong Gar Shen (right) and Sim Kong Soon (left) joined in the prayer sessions, although they were beneath the stage most of the time. [Photograph by Lai Jih Chuan]
 
 
Kevin Leong was in full concentration managing the live streaming which had enabled people who missed it or were overseas to watch it live on YouTube. [Photograph by Yap Tsi Ti]
 
Roger Hsiao (2nd left) had been coordinating non-stop with the planning and stage engineering team, lighting and sound engineers so that they could get into work quickly when taking over from other teams. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]    

Roger Hsiao (2nd left) had been coordinating non-stop with the planning and stage engineering team, lighting and sound engineers so that they could get into work quickly when taking over from other teams. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]