Curtains are an integral component of any stage set. In Japan, “donchos”, or more commonly known as tab curtains, are raised and dropped at the beginning and end of a performance. Weaved from a single or several pieces of fabric measured to match the size of the stage, tab curtains feature elaborate embroidery, and are widely considered to be works of art.
In a bold and exciting move to breathe new life into traditional tab curtains, Kawasaki-based Senzoku Gakuen College of Music (SGCM) created a “digital curtain” in its new musical theatre named MUSIC POOL CINO, which has been built on an old pool site located in the college’s Kids Square. The aim is to provide entertainment and arouse interest in art, as well as to surprise, impress and uplift audiences before a performance. This digital curtain is the first of its kind to be installed in an educational institution in Japan.
Digital content is projected onto a large curtain measuring 19 meters wide and 4.84 meters high. Projector delivery and control was accomplished by Ushio Lighting Inc. using two Christie Boxer 4K30 3DLP® projectors installed at the rear of the theatre. Both projectors are equipped with Christie Mystique, an automated camera-based alignment and recalibration solution that enables quick installation, alignment, calibration and maintenance of multi-projection systems.
“We have selected the Christie Boxer 4K30 as it is a budget-friendly, native 4K projector with a brightness of 30,000 lumens – unmatched by any other projector in its class,” says Katsuya Horie, Christie division representative, Ushio Lighting Inc. “Throughout the installation process, we worked very closely with Kajima Corporation, an architectural design and construction firm, to ensure that the Boxer 4K30 projectors are fitted perfectly in a space reserved for installation behind the theatre to deliver optimal visuals on the stage curtain.”
Misalignments resolved quickly with Christie Mystique
It has been observed that when images are projected on the curtain, its edges may shift back and forth under the influence of air conditioning or atmospheric pressure, resulting in distortion or deviation of the portion where two images blend. The solution to this is Christie Mystique software.
“Christie Mystique is used to overcome these misalignments by allowing the end user to choose files from prepared patterns in advance for conformity between the front and rear positions of the curtains and these can be adjusted according to the situation,” Horie explains. “With Mystique, the end user can quickly adjust and maintain multiple projector projections with ease.”
Contents based on 15th century Japanese paintings
The projected contents are produced for the digital curtain by Tokyo-based creative company Naked Inc., based on “Nanban Byobu” by renowned 15th century Japanese painter Naizen Kano. This “Byobu”, or the folding screen itself, is from the Azuchi-Momoyama period in the late 1500s, which depicts colorful and gorgeous Nanban (foreign) ships, buildings and people that arrived in Japan from ports in places such as Spain and Portugal.
Professor Makoto Shinohara, Head of Musical Theatre Course, SGCM, says that the digital curtain of MUSIC POOL CINO has been designed to draw attention to art, not only for visitors but also for current students of SGCM, students preparing to enter the university, and international students.
He adds, “Musicals are a stage art that originated in the West and are often performed around the world. In addition to traditional musicals, we are also creating original musicals in Japanese. This is why we selected ‘Nanban Byobu’, which is a mixture of Japanese and Western styles, and the projector reproduces the details of this elaborate work brightly and vividly.”
Horie is pleased that the native 4K resolution quality of the Boxer 4K30 projectors has been praised by both SGCM and Naked Inc. since the opening of MUSIC POOL CINO in August 2020.
He says, “They are surprised by the speed and quality of image adjustment using Christie Mystique, and it has also been acclaimed by architects of construction companies, who know that image adjustment using multiple projectors can be time-consuming. Through this project, we reaffirmed the versatility of Christie’s projectors and the usefulness of Mystique in aligning images quickly.”
Traditional “donchos” still valued in Japan
Even though the digital curtain installed in MUSIC POOL CINO has been hailed a success from a technological and artistic perspective, Horie believes that traditional “donchos” still have a role to play and will coexist side-by-side with digital curtains in Japan.
“With their longstanding history and heritage, traditional stage curtains are undoubtedly the ‘face’ of the theatre. They are designed and meticulously embroidered to reflect the theatre’s dignity and history, and will continue to be highly valued in Japan. At the same time, the introduction of digital curtains will, over time, become more widely accepted from the standpoint of innovation, relevance, and freedom of production,” he concludes.