Disney’s Win, Lose or Draw: A Classic Game Show Gets A Tech Makeover
BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor
Scott St. John had an exciting re-boot idea: take a classic game show and inject it with modern technology. Disney Channel had been looking for a game concept and fully embraced the executive producer’s idea. “Disney’s Win, Lose or Draw” was set to move from the page to the screen – both figuratively and literally.
“Disney’s Win, Lose or Draw” pairs contestants, ranging in age from 11-17, with an additional Disney programming rising star. Each player draws a picture their teammates must correctly identify with the aid of occasional clues. The original version of “Win, Lose or Draw” aired in the mid 80s and featured rising talent such as Leonardo DiCaprio drawing on large pads. St. John whose producing credits include hits like “America’s Got Talent” recognized the benefit computer screens, styluses and other modern innovations could bring to both the players and the audiences.
“At the core, it remains a drawing and guessing game, but we are using modern technology to update it,” said St. John, executive producer of “Disney’s Win, Lose or Draw.” “Now, we have images electronically rotating between touch screens, a wand that draws in free space that a computer tracks while the artist has no idea what they are doing, and we’ve increased the comedy; we have content producers testing how fun it is to draw a word and answer the clues with a focus on upping the comedy.”
David Beaudry and his development team at Beaudry Interactive was hired to create and integrate the technology St. John envisioned into the show. Beaudry Interactive specializes in bridging interactive, real-time activities with technology and design. They’ve created large scale public displays at events including CinemaCon and Disney’s California Adventure “GlowFest.” Although “Disney’s Win, Lose or Draw” was their first foray in the broadcasting space, their approach began as it would with any other live setting – by fully understanding the needs of the show.
“We take a step back to discover what they want to accomplish, what they want to see, and what the exchange should be,” said Beaudry, Technical Consultant to “Disney’s Win, Lose or Draw.” “Our approach is honing in on the ultimate goal, understanding what the end need is.”
After obtaining an overview of the show’s technical needs, Beaudry noticed there were two elements that required special attention. The first was creating a screen that would capture a real time image of the illustrator while they were drawing. This required a screen that not only would double as the sketchpad for the image, but would act as a camera, capturing a clear image: an innovation that did not yet exist.
“In order to get the shot, we had to create a fairly complex sandwich using components found in other systems. The outer layer was a hi-res touch surface that would sense the fingers and props of the contestants as they drew. For the middle layer, the layer where the contestant’s artwork would appear, we used a transparent LCD panel, basically an LCD screen without all the electronics behind it and designed to be see-through where there is no image. The innermost layer was the backlighting. Without backlighting we wouldn’t be able to see the image on the screen. We built this using components from a traditional LCD screen,” said Beaudry. “And last but not least we took a tiny, hi-def pinhole camera, poked the lens through the backlight layer and pressed it up against the LCD panel. We actually had to build an intricate rig to keep the camera pressed up against the LCD panel otherwise the light from the backlight would have washed out the camera image. It took a month of building prototypes and lots of trial and error before we got the shot we needed, but in the end we were really happy with the results.”
The second major innovation Beaudry Interactive tackled was a wand that the contestants use in an open space that translated their movements into a drawing. The technological challenge was to capture the blocking accurately without creating a challenging grid the contestant would have to be extremely conscious of. Cameras track the movement of the wand and relay the strokes to the screen. While the contestants are given basic operating instructions, Beaudry and his team “cast a wide net” in a small space to adjust for extreme movement an excited contestant may make.
“The challenge with the wand was to make it so that it is never actually about the wand, but about the experience of using it,” said Beaudry. “The wand adds an exciting element to the game, it is important to make sure they are not aware of the technology behind it.”
St. John and Beaudry closely collaborated with the production design team to ensure the props worked properly with the technology, and the space was appealing to the audience. The room and furnishings are bright and inviting and audience seating has been constructed to incorporate as many members as possible into all shots.
“We wanted to create a space that was fun, and wanted the kids to feel like it was a real hang out space,” said St. John. “A large audience is not always featured on a game show. Our audience is right in there, connected to the stage space. We’ve created a balance between an energetic environment and a teenage hang out space.”
While integrating and developing technology, establishing a compelling set and emphasizing the comedy of the show were crucial elements to reviving “Win, Lose or Draw,” the most important feedback St. John acknowledged during the show’s redevelopment came from teens themselves.
“When you are a producer, you think you have the right way figured out, but you really have to listen,” said St. John. “Adults have filters and agendas. Kids are brutally honest about what they like and don’t like. If you listen to their honesty, you will learn a lot.”
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