Video Design For Bat Boy: The Musical
For our next instalment of ‘Page to Stage’, we wanted to pin down and interview Ben Walden, the Video Designer for not one, but two(!) of Morphic Graffiti’s productions.

Ben designed the entire projection aspect of Bat Boy, no mean feat with over two hours of design and a full B-movie sequence lasting around eleven minutes. Here we interview him about the project, but just before, here is just a snippet of what the critics said about Ben’s work:

Benjamin Walden's stunning projections give the production a fast-moving scenic wit of their own. Mark Shenton, The Stage

Benjamin Walden’s video designs are inspired and give Bat Boy a real comic book horror spoof to the proceedings. Fourth wall Magazine

Benjamin Walden's video designs are witty, inventive and entertaining Whatsonstage.com


Gibson Girl
In this sequence, the cast relive their younger selves on screen, capturing the trashy, cinematic ‘pastiche’ world of Bat Boy with a design inspired by Kubrick’s The Shining and other horror genre films.


Ensemble So, Ben, What was it that captured your imagination with this particular production?!

I’m quite the B-movie fan and when I found out that this production would be heavily influenced by that world I was very excited to be involved. One of the things I love about the B-Movie ‘genre’ is that their ideas are always bigger than their budgets. Much like fringe theatre. We definitely achieved a lot with little and sometimes the limitations can breed creativity, more so than if a production were to have a huge budget. Although occasionally that might be quite nice!

How do you work as a Video Designer? Briefly let us into the process?!

Ensemble 2 Every production is different. I’ve been designing for about three years now and I still don’t feel like I’ve found a particular process or style that works every time. There are certain things I prefer to see as an audience member (both in cinema and theatre) and I try to stay true to my own principals but that’s often not possible.

For example, I prefer to use entirely original content over stock footage. That way I get exactly what I want out of an image, without having to manipulate something that already exists. Also, by that method you’re creating something entirely brand new that hasn’t been seen before- something unique to the production- not just a slideshow of the same old stock imagery. Again, this is something that is budget reliant. I was never going to get a trip to West Virginia to photograph the landscape on this production!

How do you find working with the Director/ Designer/LD? What challenges arise as part of the process?!

Luke (director), Stewart (designer) & Cat (lighting designer) are the dream team. They are the most fun group to work with on a production and their enthusiasm and love for each project is contagious. There is always a firm but friendly negotiation over light levels between Cat and myself as without Cat’s compromise all my projection work could be entirely washed out.

As for the fellas, they know exactly what they’re after but create this great team dynamic where you’re free to experiment and bring ideas to the table. The main challenges are creating everything that both they and I want to see in time, and also doing it with often limited resources.

Gibson Girl
In an inspired sequence in Act 2, Meredith (the Mum of the piece) describes being attacked by bats. As a piece of absurdism, the concept was to show the story as a B-movie and not live on stage like in other versions. This meant filming on a green screen and creating our film from scratch. The still above shows the actress (Pepper Harrison) with a backdrop of pavement, trees and lamppost. The bats for the ‘attack’ were in fact black cardboard cut outs on fishing wire (you can see one just to the right of Pepper’s waist) that were waved around. Ben built up the entire image in layers.


What was your favourite sequence in Bat Boy and why?!

If you twisted my arm to choose one sequence I’d probably go with the opening number- Hold Me Bat Boy. It’s just a full-on battering of the eyes and ears (in a good way) and acts as a kind of visual overture, introducing you to the type of characters you’re about to spend the next couple of hours with. It’s big. It’s loud. It’s fun. It’s fabulous.!

For those technical readers, what equipment did you use to achieve the results you did and why?!

We were fortunate enough to get a pretty decent projection system for the production. This was a single projector run from a computer with basic mapping to fit the set. Originally there was going to be a live camera feed in the show which dictated a particular piece of software that we were to program all of the video with. However, we had to cut the camera due to technical issues and time restraints so the programming was a little over-complicated for what we actually needed to achieve. !

For those watching the show, we see a continual projected back drop for close to two hours. Some sequences are still, some animated. How long did that take you to achieve these results?!

Ensemble If memory serves, we had our first meeting about Bat Boy in September and we went into the venue in early January. Obviously we can’t work solely on a show this size full-time for that long but Christmas was pretty full-on. We had about a day and a half shooting with the cast on green-screen in December then it took two weeks, almost full time to create the B-Movie sequence from that footage, creating 2D-ish environments for every shot. Then January came and it was a mad-dash to finish everything else.

Another still from Ben’s work in BAT BOY:
Ensemble 2



Indeed it was a mad time but totally worth it to see Ben’s work on stage in Bat Boy! For more information on Ben, check out his website: BenjaminWalden.com and Westerleigh.net