Scenery Rental Houses Migrate to Digital Backdrops

By Randi Minetor, PLSN | June 2018 ‘We’re going to take a giant leap. We’re going to start making projections for amateur theater. We’re going to be the first company to create digital scenery rentals.’”

February 16, 2021

Quentin Sanford made the decision to open Broadway Motion Design in 2013 after being inspired by the shift in scenic design on Broadway. Originally training as an actor and architect while running a small advertising design studio in California, he realized that his true passion was for the increased production value that projections offer. He began to consider ways to bring Broadway-quality digital scenery to smaller companies, from community theaters to middle schools.

“What are the big challenges for the community theater and high school productions?” he asked. “I went in to work one day in early 2013 and said to my design staff, ‘We’re going to take a giant leap. We’re going to start making projections for amateur theater. We’re going to be the first company to create digital scenery rentals.’”

Instead of spending years developing a digital backdrop inventory volume, however, he went straight to developing key partnerships.

“Within a few weeks, I established an exclusive relationship for Monty Python’s Spamalot with Theatrical Rights Worldwide,” he said. “Today, we have a staff of thirteen, and after five years we have more than 500 products, and we are selling globally.”

For the recent production of ‘The Music Man’ at Iola Scandinavia High School in Iola, WI, projected scenery gave the student production professional theater production values. Photo courtesy Quentin Sanford at BMD.

BMD created what it calls Scenic Projections animated video show packages to coincide with specific musicals. Sanford also established licensing arrangements with Music Theatre International and many other artists and agencies.

“What’s so important to BMD is that the relationship with our licensing partners and authors stays very strong, and that they are compensated for their literary works,” he said. “Forming these exclusive relationships required us to formalize certain copyright measures to ensure that all creative work is protected. To do this, we developed proprietary software.”

With the relationships in place, Sanford changed the company’s name in 2015 to Broadway Media Distribution (BMD), with a vision to expand his product offerings to include other digital products for theater. As the company’s chief executive and creative director, Sanford is currently working with his team on product development and continuing to scale the company’s Scenic Projections packages into several different categories, including Broadway Jr., Young@Part, and School Edition versions for smaller companies and schools.

“When you think of projections on Broadway, you usually think media server, rear projection and really expensive projectors,” he said. “How do you get that kind of Broadway quality to everyone? That’s the goal. First, the content has to be beautifully crafted with cinematic animation. Second, we developed our own software — StagePlayer for iPad, Mac and PC — to deliver our Scenic Projections as pre-cued products, allowing our customers to press just one button and go to the next cue.”

The other key is the projector, he continued. Small theaters don’t have the space to handle rear projections, so they need front-projecting, short-throw projectors. “So we introduced a line of affordable short-throw projector rentals,” he said. “Our mission is to be the production partner to our customers: available to help with the digital scenery and the hardware.”

Today customers in North America, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia use BMD’s Scenic Projections, and the company has its sights set on debuting several new products in the near future. “There’s an enormous opportunity in middle school, high school and amateur theater productions,” Sanford said. “We’re proud to call this our market. They all want to have that same exciting and successful opening night. We can make that happen for them.”