Boston College Pops on the Heights

CHestnut Hill, Massachusetts 

In 2015, our team was approached by Rafanelli Events to design the concept and content for the stage surround of Boston College’s “Pops on the Heights,” an annual gala fundraiser and performance by the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra to raise funds for student scholarships at Boston College, held in Conte Forum, a 9,000 seat auditorium on the college campus.  Pops on the Heights has had a long tradition at Boston College, starting in 1992. The 2015 event marked the first year that Pops on the Heights featured a stage surround with projected content.  We were honored to have been selected to create the theme and content for the show.

Since then we have had the great pleasure of working with the talented team at Rafanelli Events for four years.  Every year we develop a unique concept and create a two hour show of original content based on the show that the Boston Pops puts together each fall for this exceptional event.


Pops on the Heights 2018

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In 2018, Studio HHH took a different approach to content creation. Driven by a desire to depict the incredible natural beauty of the campus, we departed from an exclusively 3D animation approach and included original edited video produced by our team.  We were inspired to showcase the work of students from a variety of departments.

We approached the teachers of the studio art department and teamed up with the Advanced Mixed Media class at Boston College, taught by Professor Sheila Gallagher.  We worked with the students to hone in on a concept for the 2018 event and landed on the theme “BC through the seasons” as a metaphor for the student experience over 4 years of campus life.  We also worked with the class to determine the video content and animation style and developed a “double exposure” theme which allowed us to show the visual metaphor of the student experience through the beauty of campus by overlapping video images for captivating ephemeral visuals.

The Advanced Mixed Media class constructed and painted a large scale eagle, the mascot of Boston College. The construction process was documented in intervals. The eagle started out in black and white and gradually gained more colors and patterns revealing a multitude of transformative layers. The entire process was turned into a timelapse animation and showcased during the intermission of the show.  As the Pops began playing again, the painted eagle lifted off the canvas into a 3D animated painted eagle and soared over campus. As the eagle arced over Conte Forum, the projected paint fell from its feathers and the eagle became illuminated with gold confetti cascaded down into the auditorium as Lionel Richie took the stage.


Pops on the Heights 2017

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In 2017 Boston College celebrated its 25th Anniversary of Pops on the Heights, and the culmination of a three year arc of concept and content for this show. Featuring guest conductor John Williams and guest vocalist Jennifer Hudson.

The year’s theme centered around the exterior of Gasson Tower, and the campus mascot, the Golden Eagle, at the entrance to Boston College. The content was closely tied to the decor and event theme “historic glamour,” depicting the exterior of the tower and  emphasizing the striking architectural detail. The high contrast warmly lit night shots were all created in 3D animation.

As the guest vocalist Jennifer Hudson entered stage, the golden eagle, depicted atop it’s grand pedestal overlooking the campus entrance, spread its wings and took flight.  A cascade of golden light activated through the entire audience (via the LED bracelets on the wrists of the audience members). From a static statue to a grand creature in flight, the eagle became a metaphor for the scholarship recipients that the event benefits.

The highlight of the show was when John Williams stood up and conducted Star Wars with a projected surround video of a journey through space that culminated into a warp speed travel back to BC campus and Gasson Tower, perceived through the lens of a glass orb, as though all in a dream.

The technical focus of this year became about the in-depth 3D modeling and character animation of the golden eagle.  From a 3D scan of the eagle, our team transformed sculpture into an animated life-like creature with each feather articulating as it moved across the screens.

Year after year this fundraiser has proven to be a huge success.  It raised a record $14 Million in 2017 which was distributed to over 300 scholarship recipients.


Pops on the Heights 2016

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In 2016 Rafanelli asked us to return to produce and execute another exciting gala event for Boston College “Pops on the Heights.” This annual fundraiser dinner features performances by the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra and raises funds for student scholarships with guest performer Kristin Chenoweth.

The 2016 performance theme was "Light the World." Our team chose to focus on the architectural gem of the campus, Gasson Tower and the marble statue that resides inside the tower of Angel Michael slaying the dragon.  The story was unveiled through performances starting with a projected scene of the vibrant stained glass as the Pops performed Singing in the Rain.  A micro-landscape featured the folds and curves of the marble statue as the orchestra performed the Star Wars theme song.

After intermission, as guest vocalist Kristin Chenoweth entered, the projected interior of Gasson Tower was brought to life with animation magic depicting color and light across the architectural detail and bringing the interior alive with celestial sparkle. The light then traveled throughout the interior of the rotunda before emerging out of the top of the tower to reveal the night sky.  The finale reveals Gasson Tower from aerial perspective, as fireworks burst in the sky.

One of the most successful aspects of the content was the integration of IMAG (live image magnification) into scenes and animated content. The PopsOrchestra, the Boston Chorale, student performers, and guest vocalists were all captured on live camera which seamlessly streamed into the surrounding content.


Pops on the Heights 2015

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The stage was surrounded by a 40’x70’ blank projection fabric drape at both the right and left of the stage with three hanging baffles above the stage and transformed into a giant screen surrounded by projection mapped 3D animation content for the duration of the performance.

In 2015 the theme of the evening was “The History of Broadway.” We worked with the Boston College fundraising team and the Rafanelli Events design team to craft the concepts that would become original animated content depicting the architectural evolution of Broadway theater design. Throughout the evening, the stage morphed from a classically gilded theater, to a bulb lit marquee, and finally to a neon marquee for the finale.

The 2015 performance featured three guest vocalists, the stars from the recent movie release, Twenty Feet from Stardom.

Our team produced a video depicting campus life by telling the gripping story of five scholarship recipients.