The Viacom Networks Upfronts

The Viacom group of networks relied on Pete’s Big TVs to kick off the spring 2016 Television Upfront season in NYC. Hosting two days of presentations about their slate of new and returning shows, for the first time, Viacom hosted two separate upfronts in two different locations over two days. Both presentations’ production designs reflected the creative energy of the Viacom networks and helped underscore the overall brand while presenting each channel's unique identity. Pete’s Big TVs (PBTV) worked closely with the producers and the creative teams to realize the dynamic visual designs for each presentation.

“PBTVs has a strong track record working on Nickelodeon projects and that relationship made us the right company for Viacom’s four networks upfronts,” says Guy Benjamin, PBTV Vice President. “This is now the third year that we’ve supported their upfront presentation and that shows a trust from the client we value highly. This year, it was an ambitious setup in a very condensed period of time. A large part of the success of the events comes down to having a team that you’ve worked with before; one you know and trust. Equally important was the quality of the gear that PBTV has and our ability to integrate that with the creative teams overall artistic vision of the show. We can take their initial sketches and have just the right gear and expertise to fully realize what they want to do.”

Viacom’s Nickelodeon channel took the stage first at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall using digiLED DLP 5.9 LED video tiles. Production Designer Thomas Baker, principal designer of Baker Brothers Creative Inc., covered the entire stage floor with the flexible video tiles that then curved up into an LED video cyc. “The digiLED product is relatively new to PBTV,” comments Benjamin. “When we were researching the product, we found that it was a really durable product. Though it wasn’t necessarily designed to be a video floor, it is built in such a way that you could jump up and down on it with no problems, in fact that was the way it was demonstrated to us. We built a mock up in our shop so we could fully test it and then sent a video of the tests to the Viacom design team. I think that it’s a great advantage for our clients to be able to offer them a product with so much versatility and a relatively high resolution screen for the application. Most video floors are in the 8 to 10mm range; the fact that we can offer a beautiful, and durable, 5mm product is a big deal.”

The beauty of the digiLED DLP 5.9 product is the rigid yet extremely lightweight frames and connecting clips which lets designers have total creative freedom to bend and shape the LED video, as well as being rugged enough to allow people to walk on it without doing damage. “We use a unique frame and clip system to mount these tiles,” explains Peter Daniel, Founder and President of Pete’s Big TVs. “The frame for the LED tile is made up of vacuformed plastic, so it’s unbelievably light and very accurate. This wall is half the weight of a comparable LED wall but these frames give you all the rigidity and strength that you need. There are three different clips to mount each of the tiles together; all three of which are in the Nickelodeon floor/cyc arrangement. We used the rigid connectors for the flat part; curving connectors for the curve up into the cyc; and a different version for the vertical sections. It really is an exciting and versatile system, which is why PBTVs own a lot of it. We want designers to have the freedom to create and we have the inventory to build those designs.”

Nickelodeon upfront video design also included a center hero screen of digiLED CS5 tiles and ribbon screens of Gtek Flexible Display LED panels with a 15mm pixel pitch that curved around the sides of the stage, completing the dynamic and enveloping video design.

For its second upfront presentation, Viacom hosted the All New Viacom Kids and Family Group Upfront with Nick@Nite, CMT, and TV Land at the Time Warner Center’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Rose Theatre. Here the Production Designer Mark Solan, principal designer of Mark Solan Design, created a layered, dimensional feeling with a large center projection screen surrounded with curved and straight LED video tiles using digiLED MC15 video tiles as well as Gtek 37mm LED video panels. “For this upfront, we had three distinctly different products,” Benjamin says. “We had a medium resolution 15mm for the frames we attached to the truss, the projection screen at center, and then on the left and right sides of the projection screen was a low resolution 37.5mm product. Though all have different qualities as video products we helped unify their look for the overall production by how we color balanced the LEDs and the projection so that everything was close to the same color temperature and color quality. That is something PBTV understands well and we take pride in our processing so we can match different products.”

A key benefit of working with Pete’s Big TVs is their history and wealth of expertise that they bring to every project. Among the many areas of video knowledge that they have a well-deserved reputation for, is PBTVs’ video fly packs for control, playback, and recording productions. “In lieu of rolling in an already built TV production truck, we have all of our production systems in fly packs so that we can roll in and fit in whatever space we’re assigned,” explains Benjamin. “Because our gear is in a fly pack it's got the flexibility, unlike your traditional TV truck, and we find that it’s much more efficient and cost-effective for our clients.”

Being able to supply the latest video technology solutions, offer design versatility and setup flexibility are a large part of why Viacom trusted their upfronts to PBTV. Under tight timeframes, PBTV was able to provide the needed equipment without compromise and the experienced crew necessary to meet the demands of two complete productions at two different venues several city blocks apart.