Graham Nash's Life Sighs

As leader of "The Hollies" Graham Nash was part of the british musical invasion of the US in the 1960s. Later, he co-founded Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the first "super group," composed of "already successful" musicians.

Graham and his partner Rand Wetherwax conceived a grand show, a kind of tour of history along the timeline of Graham's life. They met Dave Larson (then sgi, Advanced Projects) and Gary Lauer (then sgi, North American Field Operations) who agreed that the project would be an excellent showcase for sgi technology in live entertainment.

David Tristram and Ron Fischer were sent to Los Angeles to manage the technical side of the project. After several months in LA David left to spend more time with his family. Ron became technical lead, building the hardware and software systems for the show.

A bit over a year later Life Sighs had its first performances. For the time, the amount of technology used was staggering.

Two Onyx Reality Engine supercomputers at a studio in Los Angeles generated real-time 3D images at High Definition resolution (1920x1025). These images were digitally encoded and sent across the country to a theater in Philidelphia on a T3 line (45 Mb/s data rate). A return T3 line from the theater delivered spy camera video and audio. During the shows the LA team saw Graham performing on stage.

Ron's team built an authoring and playback system (called "Silicon Stage") using software toolkits provided by sgi. 3D models were constructed in Alias Power Animator, exported into an Inventor-based scene assembly application (Zoot), and then loaded into a Performer-based playback engine.

The show included a voice and hand-control animated face puppet called "CyberGraham" who was Mr. Nash's comedic foil.

Life Sighs ran for seven nights in Philadephia. In two years of development it did not find a sponsor to take it on the road. Even with sgi providing its support in exchange for little more than a title credit, the harsh cost of touring a technically complex show proved to be a showstopper.

Now, technology has improved to reduce (or in some cases eliminate) fixed equipment costs, but the high cost of touring a show remains.

Further information on Life Sighs can be found on Rand Wetherwax's resume web site here.

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