TPi January/February 2022 - #267

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#MartinAudioFamily LAURA MARLING The singer’s crew adopt a ‘less is more’ approach to her latest acoustic tour

FONTAINES D.C. Irish post-punk outfit embark on their biggest touring campaign to date

ERASURE Synthpop pioneers hit the road with over 600m of neon and LED infrastructure

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ANDY C: ALL NIGHT A celebration of rave culture inside Wembley’s SSE Arena

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Issue #267 January /February 2022 Editor Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail: Assistant Editor Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7592 679612 e-mail: Digital Content Manager James Robertson Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7725 475819 e-mail:

As December rolled into January, it felt like the entire live events industry took a simultaneous sigh of relief that 2021 was finally behind us. Albeit better than 2020, with the return of live shows, the dark cloud of COVID-19 never seemed to be far away. Although many will look back at 2021 as a year to forget, for me, there is one silver lining that I can glean from an otherwise turbulent 12 months – the joy that live music can bring. When asked by my relatives during the festive period how my year had been, it was not the hard times or the fear for the future I told them about; it was standing among several thousand metalheads at Download Pilot, hearing bands out of a PA for the first time in months, visiting the team behind Genesis’ The Last Domino? Tour and seeing an awe-inspiring arena production. You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone and that certainly rang true for me when it came to live music. Despite the sour taste left by 2021, that is the message I’ll hold on to as we enter the unknown of 2022. With a packed calendar of tradeshows and show visits coming up, TPi can’t wait to get our teeth stuck into another year documenting the stories of this fabulous community. In this Jan/Feb edition, we have an array of on-site coverage from tours that took place at the tail end of last year. Jacob spoke to the team behind Irish post-punk outfit, Fontaines D.C. who continue to push the production envelope [p50], along with synth-pop pioneers, Erasure who have adopted a more self-reliant touring model [p42]. If that wasn’t enough, he also checked-in with Laura Marling’s team, who put together an intimate acoustic tour for the famed British folk singer-songwriter [p36]. Meanwhile, I got to reunite with the crew behind 2020 breakout star Arlo Parks to talk about her latest UK and European run [p58], not to mention this month’s cover star, Andy C, as his loyal creatives once again reunited to turn Wembley’s SSE Arena into an all-night rave that kept punters entertained until the early hours [p30]. Among our live coverage, there are stories which represent the manifestation of ideas born out of lockdown. From 5G Festival, which makes a case for a different format of enjoying live music [p10], through to Crewbooking – an online platform that challenges the tradition of how you might crew a show, with a vibrant virtual community available to call upon for your latest project [p68]. Happy New Year. I hope to see you soon. Stew Hume Editor

Account Manager Fran Begaj Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7852 336728 e-mail: Editorial Director Peter Iantorno Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7763 233637 e-mail: Chief Executive Justin Gawne Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7768 850767 e-mail: Accounts Lynette Levi / Sarah Miller: Mondiale Group Chairman Damian Walsh Graphic Design & Production Dan Seaton: Mel Capper: Cover Photo Andy C: All Night Photo: Joe Okpako Printed By Buxton Press • Annual subscriptions (including P&P): £42 (UK), £60 (Europe), £78/$125 (RoW). Subscription enquiries to: Subscriptions, Mondiale Media Limited, Strawberry Studios, Watson Square, Stockport, SK1 3AZ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)161 476 5580 Fax: +44 (0)161 476 0456 e-mail:

TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL is a controlled circulation magazine, published 12 times a year by Mondiale Media Limited under licence. ISSN 1461-3786 Copyright © 2021 Mondiale Media Limited. All contents of this publication are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, in any form whatsoever, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Every effort is taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this publication but neither Mondiale Media Ltd, nor the Editor, can be held responsible for its contents or any consequential loss or damage resulting from information published. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Publishers or Editor. The Publishers accept no responsibility for the return of unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, illustrations, advertising materials or artwork. Total Production International USPS: (ISSN 1461 3786) is published 12 times a year by Mondiale Media Limited United Kingdom. The 2021 US annual subscription price is 117USD. Airfreight and mailing in the USA by Agent named Air Business, C/O WorldNet Shipping USA Inc., 155-11 146th Avenue, Jamaica, New York, NY11434. Periodicals postage paid at Jamaica NY 11431. US Postmaster: Send address changes to Total Production International, Air Business Ltd, C/O WorldNet Shipping USA Inc., 155-11 146th Avenue, Jamaica, New York, NY11434. Subscription records are maintained at Mondiale Media Ltd. Waterloo Place, Watson Square, Stockport, SK1 3AZ, UK.






An All Night dance spectacular transforms Wembley’s SSE Arena into an all out rave.


Live events specialists embark on the third test of 5G Festival.


Show Designer, Ricardo Rojas on the importance of collaboration.


Lighting Designer, Tess Minor reflects on the creative process of Steps’ latest UK arena tour.


Discover the sonic requirements of a truly post-modern project.



Sound Designer, Tony Gayle puts his faith in a JBL VTX A8 system.


Southby Productions deploys a d&b Soundscape acoustic shell.

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Allen & Heath rolls out its latest in a series of ‘fly weight’ consoles.


English folk singer-songwriter captivates audiences with a ‘less is more’ approach to production.


Synthpop pioneers revisit the road with over 600m of neon and LED infrastructure.


Irish post-punk outfit embark on their biggest campaign to date.


BRIT Awards’ Breakthrough Artist and her crew hit the road for their first full-scale headline tour.




IN PROFILE 66 Cameo Product Manager, Daniel

Wrase shares what the future



holds for the lighting brand.

68 Crewbooking’s Didier Streel and

Louis Van De Leest.

PRODUCTION FUTURES 72 BIMM Institute London and

Panasonic KAIROS Training Academy Network.

FEEDBACK 75 PSA, Showstak, Black Light,

Absen Green.

BACK CHAT 82 PRG’s new CEO, Stephan

Paridaen takes the hot seat.


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5G FESTIVAL At the tail end of 2021, live events specialists gathered in separate locations across England for the third test of the 5G Festival project. The goal; to have band members performing in remote locations online, mixed in real-time at Metropolis Studios and sent 60 miles to Brighton Dome, producing a seamless live performance with an in-person audience.

Words: Stew Hume Photos: Jamie MacMillan

The 5G Festival project is arguably one of the most quintessential post-lockdown stories covered in TPi since March 2020. A band performing together, online in real time, and then mixed in a custom built Dolby Atmos studio, with the intention of streaming to an in-person audience, and viewers at home. Along with showing how far networking has come, this project challenged the general conventions of a live concert as it offered a solution to allowing greater access for audiences to enjoy music in multiple locations. The concept has been led by Digital Catapult, one of the UK’s leading advanced digital technology centres and 5G specialists, pulling in several supporters such as Audiotonix, Sonosphere and Mativision to work in collaboration with Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, along with telecommunications service provider and sponsor, Virgin Media O2. Digital Catapult CEO, Jeremy Silver outlined the goals of the project: “As live performers have been totally prevented from working because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of bright minds have been focused on how to create exciting alternative experiences for a


virtual world,” he tweeted. “The result of this work was an exciting bid into the 5GCreate competition to produce a virtual festival that could offer 5G enabled experiences in which performers could reach audiences in a new way. We’re thrilled now to be able to bring the 5G Festival to life, working with leading venues, organisations and artists to push forward with the next evolution of entertainment.” With two other successful trials, the 5G Festival team joined forces at the end of November in advance of next year’s main event. For this final test, experienced session musicians J. Appiah, Mitch Jones, Henty Guy and Smiley Wade were set up in two different locations, each with Nreal AR glasses and a screen to view other musicians. With no click track, it was imperative that the band could play in time with one another as if they were in the same room, a feat that the 5G team seem to have remarkably achieved. As TPi sat in the control room and drummer Smiley Wade smashed through the set list, it was hard to believe that he was watching and listening in real time to a number of other musicians playing miles away. Audiotonix’s Dan Page demystified some of the audio wizardry.

At each stage of the audio chain there were a number of products from the Audiotonix Group with each player using a KLANG:kontroller to monitor their own IEM mix, a DiGiCo S21 that took the musicians feed and sending it to a Calrec Audio box via the AES67 network. Each of the musicians’ feeds were then sent to the mixing room in Metropolis Studios where engineer Phil Wright created a fully immersive Dolby Atmos mix of the performance. “There were several different workflows at play here,” explained Page. “We’re sending audio from each site to every musician so they can hear one another. Then we have the overall mix which is being put together at Metropolis and then streamed back to Brighton for an inperson crowd to hear the performance.” Page was excited to report that in this latest test the team made significant strides forward in preparation for next year. “We are pushing the audio via the 5G network into some of the venues with the goal being in the final event we’ll be able to transmit audio into a number of venues simultaneously.” He also reported that the feedback for all the musicians involved had been very positive. “It opens a lot of doors for artists who, with this


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technology, may not even have to travel to a studio to play with one another which would certainly lead to less logistical issues.” Similarly enthused about what the project could mean for the music industry moving forward was Sonosphere Creative Director, Jamie Gosney. “The ground we are breaking here could really change the way people can enjoy live music,” he commented. “For example, rather than an artist going to multiple stadiums on a world tour, they could do one show that is then streamed to local pubs or village greens. And with the added element of the immersive Dolby Atmos mix of the show you are really improving the audience experience.” As a fellow supporter of the 5G Festival, Anthony Karydis of Mativision, shared these thoughts. “When you start talking about streaming events, the immediate question promoters often worry about is how it will affect ticket sales,” he mused. “I always point to examples such as Coachella and Lollapalooza who have embraced streaming their events for years and have only gone to increase the publicity and hype of the event.” Mativision has been at the forefront of capturing live shows since 2012. Specialising


in 360° shoots, the company has created visual immersive content for American Idol through to bands like Muse and Biffy Clyro, among others. “I think more people are coming around to the idea that there is an alternative solution to a gruelling three-year tour around stadiums. “You can reduce tour lengths but maintain high attendance levels by distributing content to other sites such as pubs or other incredible visual and audio venue experiences or audiences at home,” Karydis explained. The shared ideals of Sonosphere and Mativision have led them to lay the groundwork for a brand new company called Live Revolution – that the two hope will become the “ultimate live events streaming company.” “It’s all about bringing communities together,” Gosney elaborated. “There is going to be a shift in the events industry and a change in the way people want to tour, not to mention the issue with being more environmentally conscious,” he furthered. “With a streaming model with high quality audio like we are achieving at the 5G festival, suddenly 20 stadium gigs could be turned into 200 venues with the artist only having to play one show.” It was certainly an interesting take on what the future of live shows might look like.

Before leaving Metropolis Studios, Virgin Media O2 Head of Technical Trials, David Owens, shared his key takeaways from the project: “The idea of streaming shows into other venues very much fits into the O2 Academy model, so we could stream music events in these venues on nights when there is no live music for example. “Obviously, we believe people should still go to live shows as much as possible, but that shouldn’t stop others from being involved and enjoying the show somewhere else or at home. “The lessons we have learned during the 5G Festival will ensure that those enjoying the hybrid version of shows get the same experience as those that attend in person.” And the key to this lies in the name “5G”, Owens said in closing. “We see 5G as giving us the options to do all these local events and streaming shows into remote locations.” With another successful trial the 5G Festival team eagerly looks forward to next year and the main showcase event in March. www.

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ROWDYTOWN IX Electronic dance duo, Big Gigantic set out on two sold-out hometown shows at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater. Show Designer, Ricardo Rojas reflects on the importance of creative collaboration amid a time of uncertainty for the sector.

Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Colin Taylor and Hudson Ratz

Firmly embedding themselves into the fabric of the modern day Colorado music scene, electronic dance duo, Big Gigantic, hosted two sold out shows at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheater as part of their Rowdytown concert series. The ninth installment saw drummer, Jeremy Salken and saxophonist and producer, Dominic Lalli thrash through their back catalogue of electronic, hip-hop, and jazz tracks, supported by impressive 3D visuals, production and show design. Lighting Designer, Ricardo Rojas, was parachuted in to assemble a team of talented technicians and creatives able to execute the collective vision of Rowdytown IX. Donning multiple [hard]hats – as equal parts creative director, show designer, and production designer – Rojas was responsible for directing all creative aspects of the show from lighting, video, and lasers to content. Rojas turned to the technical expertise of trusted vendor, Clearwing Productions who provided an arsenal of lighting and video kit and crew; 2n Design for video content; All Access Staging for two hydraulic riser lifts, while Pyrotecnico equipped Rowdytown with lasers. “I surrounded myself with hard working and talented people, which led to a wonderful show,” Rojas began, praising the hardwork and dedication of the workforce. “We all came together to create a special couple of nights.”



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With COVID-19 ever present, the organisation of the production was geared towards making a safe space for the performing artists, crew and audiences. “We were excited to work on the shows, but everyone did a great job of understanding the reality of the climate. We were tested at various points during the project, before interacting with each other. We also wore masks on site and followed general COVID-19 protocols,” Rojas outlined. “There were probably less in person meetings than pre-COVID. We adapted quickly, and did what we had to, to ensure the project was a success,” he added. One of Rojas’ main challenges was creating a design that was modular enough to provide a unique experience during both nights. “We wanted to create two different looking nights without having to entirely swap out the production design,” Rojas explained. “I achieved this by playing with different trim heights and moving elements from the floor package around the stage. This allowed us to make both sold out nights feel different and keep things


interesting for the crew and audience.” Clearwing Productions-supplied rig featured 48 GLP impressions X4 Bars and 26 JDC1 strobes, 24 Martin by Harman MAC Axiom and 12 Viper Performance moving heads, six 2-Lite Molefay blinders, 60 ROE Visual CB8 blow through LED screen panels and 12 hazers providing atmospherics. 2n Design built stereoscopic 3D content, provided custom media servers, and live camera effects. The event marked the first time that Big Gigantic has featured lasers at Rowdytown shows, with Pyrotechnico providing 14 Lightline 4W crowd scanning lasers and four Kvant highpowered 20W lasers. “I wanted to add lasers to allow us to integrate a fresh creative element to add depth and dynamics to the live show. This allowed us to immerse the Red Rocks audience in lasers, which I feel resulted in the shows feeling more intimate,” Rojas said, praising the work of Laser Programmer, Tyler Barbone and the wider crew. “It was gratifying to see the sleepless nights and long meetings pay off,” he continued. “We

worked on this show for months and seeing the audience reaction made it all worthwhile. Live music is one of the few activities in society that encourages us to be present, while being surrounded by strangers. I don’t think any of us understood how much we valued being in the presence of others, for a common cause, until the pandemic ripped that away from us.” As well as experiencing his renders turn to reality before his very eyes, thanks to a talented workforce, Rojas was grateful to be afforded the opportunity to create spectacles at a time of mass uncertainty for the sector. “There were and still are some very talented people who have not had a chance to share their immense talents with the world again due to the pandemic. I was definitely aware that we were very lucky to be working on creative projects again. While the job is demanding and challenging, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”



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STEPS: WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS Steeped in plenty of ’90s nostalgia, Steps set out on an extensive UK arena tour that pulls no punches when it comes to theatrics. Lighting Designer, Tess Minor reflects on the creative process.

Words: Stew Hume Photos: David Stewart

There is something poetic about an arena coming together to engage in nostalgic revelry after almost two years of hardship. Setting out on a five week run, Steps’ What the Future Holds Tour was set to be one of the longer UK arena campaigns of 2021. Regrettably, the run wasn’t impervious to COVID-19, with a number of band members having to miss some parts of the tour and the two final dates cancelled. That said, the group and the wider touring family still managed to get their ambitious show out to fans up and down the country. Having worked with Pull the Pin Out Productions on Kylie Minogue’s last tour as well


as Creative Director, Frank Strachan on several occasions, Tess Minor oversaw the lighting design for Steps’ latest tour. “Frank already had this concept of ‘time’ using each part of the set as a different era,” began Minor. “I built on that concept, devising a rig that could look futuristic but then at the same time be pulled right back to the ‘60s.” Christie Lites supplied 44 Martin by Harman MAC Axiom Hybrids, 20 MAC Viper Profiles, 28 GLP impression X4 Bar 20s and 22 JDC1 Strobes, 12 Claypaky Sharpys and 10 Elation Professional ZW37s. Nine Chroma-Q Color Forces II 72s and six Color Force 12s, along with five Robe RoboSpot motion cameras

were also present on the rig. “We were conscious about working both within the limits of the budget as well as ensuring it could all be loaded-in in a timely manner with the crew available,” explained the LD, citing the workhorse fixtures on the rig. “GLP X4 impression Bars were one of the first things I put on the plot. They are great at creating a clean look and were useful in following the time travel narrative.” The tour also saw Minor bring back one of her favourite fixtures from Kylie’s last run – the MAC Viper Profile. “It’s a great fixture in that it’s reliable with great colours,” she expressed. However, it was the GLP JDC1 strobes where the LD had the most fun. “I’ve never really got to use them in the full mode where you can get some really futuristic looks. They’re so punchy and it’s been so much fun to play with them this time around!” Minor put her faith in MA Lighting grandMA3 software and hardware to control the visuals. “With some time on my hands pre-programing it seemed like an ideal opportunity to get my head around the new software,” explained the LD, praising Ambersphere for “always being on the other end of the phone” to field questions she had about the system. “It was a lot of fun to be back on tour again,” concluded Minor. “It was a massive dance party, so you really can’t complain. It was also important for this tour to show people that you can go out on tour and put in protocols to get the industry back up and running. Granted, two of our shows were cancelled, however, we were still able to go out and have a successful run of shows and get everyone back to what they love to do and get companies’ gear and crew back on the road again.”



BEETHOVEN X With a symphony created by AI and the entire show mixed from a remote location, Beethoven X is a post-modern project for the sci-fi generation. Engineer, Peter Brandt explains the audio requirements of this impressive feat.

Words: Stew Hume Photos: Telekom

Brought in by necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of operating a show remotely became a recurring theme in the lockdown – rolled-out to great effect on projects such as Wacken World Wide [TPi #253] and Around The World In 80 Milliseconds [Issue #258]. Involved in both projects was none other than Peter Brandt of Remote Recording Network. Carving out somewhat of a niche, Brandt and his team, while working closely with Riedel Communications, have created a proven workflow, which enables a show to be operated remotely by engineers, using a mirrored console on site. This time round, for Beethoven X , Brandt has placed his faith in the Yamaha RIVAGE PM5 to create the mix for this intriguing project. Beethoven X involved two distinct performances – one with the orchestra performing in Telekom Forum in Bonn and the other in the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, with each show being operated remotely from Studio Boecker, Cologne and Teldex Studios, Berlin, respectively. “I’ve been working with Telekom since 2007,” began Brandt, explaining


how he was brought into this project. The score which the orchestra were playing was a piece of music that had been created by AI, finishing Beethoven’s incomplete 10th Symphony. “In the mix, you can really hear hints on Beethoven’s other works, such as the 5th Symphony,” enthused Brandt, who is now more than familiar with the pieces of work. Having worked on numerous remote shows, Brandt marked this project as somewhat of a turning point. Many of the prior performances were all about proving the concept that remote productions can work, but with the concept now proved, for these two shows, he was able to focus on the mix and choose spaces that were ideal for the orchestra and a studio ideal for mixing this type of performance. “With this type of streamed show, you used to be limited in what you could do as you would most likely be based in a truck outside the building,” stated Brandt. “However, with remote mixing, we were able to choose studios that were designed to work on classical mixes.” Talking more specifically about his workflow, the engineer outlined why the Yamaha PM5 was chosen. “We tested various consoles prior to

the show and, simply put, the Yamaha desks just worked,” chuckled Brandt. With two desks in the audio chain – one on site with the orchestra and the other in the studio – Brandt recalled how the mirror imaging was relatively easy to set up. “I’m a big fan of the PM5 as it reminds me of the old-school analogue days,” he continued. “The workflow is very easy for those who grew up on those styles of desks. It only took me 20 minutes or so to get the basic functionality up and running to be ready to do the mix.” Yamaha’s Arthur Koll expanded on Brandt’s comment regarding the analogue feel of the digital desk. “The basic thinking of the RIVAGE series was that it would be like a big analogue console rather than having to lay out numerous extra screens,” Koll explained. “It’s getting back to the mentality that the job will work no matter what you throw at it.” Koll added that the R&D team’s priority was the desk’s new IOs. “I’ve supported several other classical shows and all the engineers were pleased with the sound of the new RPIOs and the Neve Simulations preamps.” Brandt agreed whole-heartedly. “It was not only the

Peter Brandt of Remote Recording Network.

desk’s ability to work in the remote set up – the sound of the console also made it the ideal choice,” he stated. The idea of the desk being used in a remote environment clearly was not the goal when it was created and Koll spoke of Yamaha’s opinion on this new way of using its consoles. “The engineers behind the RIVAGE range made a very clever decision early on that all communication for the surfaces, all the way down to the DSP, would be done on IP. They are perfectly suited to remote productions as all the communication is IP based,” Brandt added. “This wasn’t an original intention of the R&D team, but it’s now worked in our favour.” Riedel Communications was key to the success of the project. “We joked on site that at one time a truck driver used to bring all our equipment from A to B, but now we have a Riedel engineer sending our data from A to B,” chuckled Brandt, who was complimentary of the service provided by the company. “They are now a part of everything we do when it comes to remote productions – especially with the use of The ROC [Riedel’s Remote Operations Centre].” He enthused that thanks to the company’s help, Remote Show Productions is almost at a stage where it can provide a plug-and-play solution for this style of performance. “There still needs to be an IT person on hand to check everything is running and observe internet speeds, but we have learned a lot in the past year,” he concluded. Projects such as this and the 5G Festival Trial [see p10] demonstrate how far we have come in such a short space of time. Remote options are becoming ever more sophisticated, giving event organisers and promoters even more options when it comes to working out the logistics of a performance.



GET UP, STAND UP! THE BOB MARLEY MUSICAL Sound Designer, Tony Gayle puts his faith in JBL VTX A8 to replicate iconic tracks from the world’s most famous reggae singer. Key members of the audio team share their thoughts on the system.

Words: Stew Hume Photos: Craig Sugden

With a back catalogue that virtually defines a genre, replicating the songs of the late Bob Marley was no small undertaking for the audio team behind the latest West End production, which looks to tell the real-life story of the singer. Originally planned to open in February 2020 to coincide with Marley’s birthday, Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical eventually opened in October 2021 at London’s Lyric Theatre. Having been at the helm of the audio solution for the project for almost two-anda-half years, Sound Designer, Tony Gayle discussed the journey he and his team had been on for this show. “I already knew which PA I wanted for the show,” asserted Gayle, as he discussed the choice of the JBL VTX A8. “It was just a case of working out how we could get hold of it.” Gayle had already had some hands-on experience working with the system on Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which allowed him to give the PA a true road test before taking it out on the road to soundtrack the iconic back catalogue of Bob Marley. “JBL is one of the few brands that is just as recognisable in both the professional and consumer markets,” he explained. “I grew up seeing the JBL logo on speakers all over the place in clubs and bars, so I really associate the brand with reggae music.” The system installed in the Lyric Theatre comprised 24 boxes of VTX A8, which are arranged in three sets of hangs across three of the levels of the theatre, with an additional ground stack on the fourth level, along with a ground-stacked B18 sub. The main low end for


the show comes in from eight B18s arranged in the lower levels. Gayle went on to explain the different mentality needed to bring Marley’s back catalogue into the theatre compared to a live touring setting. “When it comes to theatre, it’s all about getting speakers in the right areas without compromising sightlines,” he reasoned. “Due to the design of most theatres with side boxes and proscenium boxes, this means a simple left and right hang rarely suffices. You must always remember the main goal that, no matter how expensive the seat is, everyone gets the same show from an audio perspective.” One of the other characteristics that separates this production from others is the sheer number of live elements used on the show. “There is no click track or playback elements – bar the sound effects. Instead, we’ve done some clever stuff such as utilising live vocal looping effects,” he noted. DiGiCo Quantum 7 was Gayle’s audio console of choice. “It gives me so much processing power, which is a necessity as it’s a big show,” he informed. Using the matrix, Gayle controls each speaker individually as much




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as possible, opting to do all his processing within the desk. FOH duties from day to day are handled by Roisine Mamdani. This was her first time working on a show with a JBL system, but she was more than happy with the results. “I went along to a JBL event at Sound Technology [JBL/Harman’s distributor in the UK] with Tony around two years ago, which was my first time hearing the VTX A8. I went away thinking how easy it sounded with no harshness.” She went on to explain why the system is the perfect fit for Get Up, Stand Up! “We’re mixing a lot of elements together on this show, from live bands to vocals as well as sound effects, but it’s been interesting to hear the clarity of the balance. You don’t have those frequencies fighting for your attention like you do with some other systems,” Mamdani explained. Production Sound Engineer, David Cole is another fan of the system. Having worked with Gayle on the Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cole explained how he didn’t get


much chance to have hands-on time with the system and was excited to be brought on for this project. “The system has been a dream to work with,” he stated. “My role involves a lot more of the rigging side of things, but the system just clips together so nicely and loads in very smoothly.” Cole described the audio performance as “crisp and clear” adding, “It’s like no other system I’ve worked with.” Phil Hurley of Stage Sound Services commented: “Tony spoke to me a while ago about the project and it was intriguing to give a new brand a chance.” This was no small undertaking – especially after a year-anda-half of live events being cancelled. “It was somewhat of a leap of faith,” stated Hurley. “We worked hard to make the numbers work, but we already had proof of concept on what Tony had achieved on Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Harman Application Engineer, Steven Ellis explained how creating a system that is just as well suited to theatres as it is to touring was one of the primary aims of the VTX A8. “Being

rider friendly was certainly a major goal for our R&D department,” he stated. “Theatre is unique in that all shows are telling a story, and if that story is not clearly heard by the audience, then it can affect the overall understanding and therefore, enjoyment of the show. The technologies incorporated in the speaker design excels at allowing the story to be clearly heard, and this is apparent in the design that Tony has created.” Mamdani has even received comments from self-acclaimed ‘audio experts’ in the audience, who speaking after the show, were amazed that so much power could come from such discreet boxes. “Our main stage set features lots of old fake speakers, which act as a backdrop,” Mamdani reminisced. “One man came up to me after the show and asked if that was our system. He was surprised when I pointed out the little boxes in the air that had been used for the entire production.”

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05/01/2022 15:09


AURORA ORCHESTRA: INSIDE BEETHOVEN Southby Productions provides the largest ever d&b Soundscape acoustic shell for an immersive project where audiences and musicians share the same physical space for a whole new live experience.

Words: Stew Hume Photo: Jake Davis

Known for breaking the conventions of classical music, Aurora Orchestra once again welcomed crowds for a genre-bending project, in which attendees were able to share the same physical space as musicians and feel what it is like to be part of an orchestra. With the Printworks, London chosen as the location for this innovative project, Sound Designer, Tim Hands was tasked with transforming the venue into a space boasting the audio quality of a concert hall. To emulate the natural acoustics he sought after Southby Production who provided a d&b audiotechnik Soundscape solution to create an acoustic shell. Southby Productions’ Chris Jones reflected on the unique project. Regular readers of TPi are likely to familiar with Jones’ work with Soundscape from Bjork’s immersive projects to his work on the latest Nevill Holt Opera series last summer [TPi #265]. “The Printworks is an interesting venue,” began Jones. “As an old printing press that used to house massive machines, the whole space was treated to dampen the noise so although it is quite cavernous at 90m by 13m, the sound in there is actually very dead.” With the lack of natural reverberation, an acoustic shell was a necessity, allowing each member of the orchestra to hear one another during the show. With over 50 d&b speakers deployed in the venue, Jones explained that this was the ‘world’s biggest acoustic shell’.

“Each instrument was mic’ed and put through Soundscape and the en-space engine.” The team at Southby was already very familiar with the principles of creating an acoustic shell for an orchestra having constructed one for the aforementioned Nevill Holt Opera this summer. For those performances, despite playing in an outdoor stage that was exposed to the elements, an intuitive Soundscape system created an audio replica of an opera hall. “One of the lessons that we brought from that project was that d&b have created a number of ‘hall models’, which have been created off the back of acoustic measurements in some of the world’s most well known venues. “During summer, we used a pre-set that had been modelled on the Bing concert hall at Stanford University. It’s rich and the reverb time is not too long. We enjoyed working with it so much we opted to use it for Aurora Orchestra.” Despite using the same pre-set acoustic model, this project had a number of differences to that of the summer, namely the size of the space they were working in. “Although it’s a much bigger space we found the software was able to scale up really well,” asserted Jones. “It’s really flexible, we are pushing the limits of what is possible. After a successful event, I’m pleased to report that you can indeed create a 90m acoustic shell.” During the performance, audience members could stand in the space

with the orchestra. This meant that each member of the audience had a unique audio experience, depending on which instrument they were stood by. Following an intermission, the crowd were treated to another Soundscape performance in a neighbouring room with a Beethoven inspired DJ set, before returning to the main room and encouraged to stand somewhere else in the venue to get a different perspective. “It really was a unique experience. As an audience member you could stand next to the strings and see the fraying or the bow or next to the horns and see the sweat drip. At the end the crowd were so emotionally invested in the performance that they erupted with a guttural raw. It was like being at a rock show. The reviews have been fantastic and this could well be the future of classical music.”



ALLEN & HEATH CTI1500 As more touring professionals look for lighter and smaller control solutions, Allen & Heath’s R&D department share the steps which led to the creation of a portable offering which meets commercial airlines’ strict weight limits.

Words: Stew Hume Photo: Allen & Heath

The obsession with portability is nothing new in the world of live touring. With increasing numbers of productions and performing artists conscious of budgets, Brexit and the overarching concern to be more environmentally conscious, portability has become increasingly important. One company that has been focusing on this mission has been Allen & Heath with one of its latest ‘fly weight’ consoles, the CTi1500. This portable console complete with flight case comes in at 23kg – light enough not to be slapped with an overweight sticker at the airport – while providing engineers the confidence of a mobile offering with control and functionality they come to expect. To discover how the R&D team trimmed down the desk, TPi sat down with Allen & Heath R&D Director, Andrew Bell and R&D Operations Manager, Jim Wrigley. “There are a lot of benefits to getting a control package under ‘fly weight’,” began Bell, explaining that the goal was put to his R&D team to try and create a system that would get to the magic number of 23kg. “From research it seems that 23kg was the weight that the majority of airlines used as the max limit before slapping on extortionate charges,” he explained. The ideal candidate from the Allen & Heath range to try and get


down to this weight was the C1500 – 29kg including flight case. “Breaking down how we were going to achieve this, after taking into account the sizable weight of the flight case, the standalone mixing console needed to be down to 11.4kg,” commented Bell. For the flight case option, Allen & Heath visited manufacturers to find a way of trimming down the casing to size, working closely with Scott Dixon and NSP to find a solution. “During our research, we came across a new product called Ultra Flight from Penn Elcom,” stated Wrigley. “The material is able to withstand the US shipping regulations which is always a good indication of strength. It couldn’t have come at a better time as we were trying to get the case to this ideal weight.” Wrigley explained the current makeup of the C1500 range. “All the front panelling for the desk is made up of Zintec which is first plated in zinc to prevent corrosion and then powder coated to make it hard wearing.” The team originally looked at aluminium as a solution although despite being a lighter material, you need to have more of it to get the same rigidity and is more prone to cracking. “We then began to look at titanium,” stated Bell, which explains the ‘Ti’ in CTi1500. The new desk’s flat panels are made from titanium with

the base panel being made from aluminium. The front panel, which takes the most abuse, remains as Zintec. “This combination that we were able to get each mixer down to 11.4kg,” enthused Bell. The use of titanium was an added bonus for the Cornish manufacturer as the region was the site of the discovery of titanium in the village of Manaccan and was originally named manaccanite before being re-discovered in Europe and gaining its better known name. As for the electronics inside the desk, they are a carbon copy of the C15000 much to the pleasure of a number of engineers that have already been using the console. One such engineer is Chris Parker of Patchwork London. Helming the audio needs for Arlo Parks [p56] he’s been benefitting from the smaller footprint at FOH as he and the crew worked through a range of venue sizes in 2021. “You are able to get a lot of creativity out of the desk despite only having 12 faders,” commented Parker. “For one of the UK shows, I selected the larger S5000 and found it a new challenge to fill all the fader banks.” Patchwork London has been particularly interested in the developments from Allen & Heath and has been creating a number of fly packages for touring artists such as Lewis Capaldi. “Being able to keep a control package under a certain weight seems to be more of a concern for engineers and we are investing in more of these types of solutions to keep up with the demand,” he noted. Bell stated that they had received similar feedback from others that had already got their hands on the console. “In the R&D department we spend a lot of time on the forums and it seems that a number of people are really enjoying the desk. The one thing people are enjoying is that although the desk is light and compact we’ve got so many other accessories to fit people needs such as IP controllers to expand the system if need be.” And for the shows when an engineer needs more faders an engineer is more than capable to have an extra element of console on a tablet or laptop? “There’s a fully expandable system,” Bell remarked in closing.

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09.09.2021 14:53:02


ANDY C ALL NIGHT Creatives involved in the return of Andy C’s All Night dance spectacular reflect on transforming Wembley’s SSE Arena into an all-out, all-night rave that went on to the early hours of the morning.

Words: Stew Hume Photos: Joe Okpako

Although the concept of an all-night rave is nothing new in dance music subculture, few DJs have taken the concept to mainstream events spaces in the UK. In 2018, Andy C sought to break this tradition with an all-night event at Wembley’s SSE Arena. Following its success, it is perhaps no surprise that the DJ and his team would return to blow the roof off the venue one more time. Uniting under the banner of Andy C All Night, most of the creative team from 2018 were brought back to provide revellers an even greater dance experience. Co-Designer and Video Director, Simon Harris of Observatory led the visual charge, alongside newcomer to the fold, Production Designer, Matt Pitman of Pixel Mappers. This latest project represented a reunion for Harris and 80six’s Dan Hamill, who was closely involved during the very beginning of the creative process. The two have a long history working on Andy C shows, dating back to the autumn of 2011 for the Alive Tour. “It’s amazing to see how Andy C’s shows have evolved over the past decade,” enthused


Hamill, reflecting on previous shows he and Harris had worked on together. As well as providing his creative input, All Night saw 80six supply the video elements for the Wembley show, along with lighting supplier Lights Control Rigging (LCR) and Premier Production, which provided lasers and SFX. Harris described the goals of the project. “Although conversations started in spring, we really began to nail down the design at the end of the summer 2021,” he began. “Dan and I had already began to have some conversations with Scott Bourne, Andy C’s manager, where the main mission was to ensure it was bigger and brighter than the 2018 rendition,” stated Harris. Pitman explained what it was like coming into this established camp. “Andy C is heralded as a legend in the drum ’n’ bass scene, so curating visuals to reflect that epicness was something we took very seriously,” he asserted. For a number of years in several stage designs for Andy C, there has been a running theme of triangles along with creating the letter

“Andy C is heralded as a legend in the drum ’n’ bass scene, so curating visuals to reflect that epicness was something we took very seriously.” Matt Pitman, Pixel Mappers.



‘A’ in the stage design, which the creative team doubled down on this time round. “For this project, you don’t get the standard budget with a regular Wembley show as dance events have strict rules in place,” Harris said. “The seated area around for example is set up as a chill out area or reserved for VIPs, so you don’t get the same number of ticket sales.” This meant the visual team had to be budget conscious and, as Harris explained, “get the most out of the kit we had at our disposal”. Pitman highlighted the issue of putting on a show of this nature in 2021 off the back of the industry being dormant for a year-and-a-half. “It was certainly a challenge staging an event of this size, at this point in the industry,” he stated. “Inflation and added event costs meant that we had to work really hard with our suppliers to find the right compromises and work abounds.” He praised the support of suppliers 80six and LCR for helping find a solution. “Pixel Mappers has been incredibly lucky to have been one of the few design companies to have been challenged with delivering large-scale live shows numerous times in 2020/21. Ultimately, our approach to working under these current difficult circumstances is the same as prior to


the COVID-19 pandemic. Namely, be patient with your clients, be grateful to your suppliers and look after your employees.” “When it came to the design, Andy C had specific requests, namely the inclusion of “CO2, lasers and big lights,” Harris noted. “We went back and forth when it came to the design of the video and lights until we had a set up that rivalled the 2018 design.” The video infrastructure was made up of ROE Visual MC7 LED panels, controlled by Green Hippo media servers. “The MC7 was the ideal product for this project as we’re very confident with using it in the touring frames – it’s quick and easy to deploy and even at 7mm, it works well in the indoor environment,” 80six’s Ben Annibal commented. “Wembley has a rather strict 24-hour turnaround policy where you have to be in and out in your allotted time,” he stated, explaining how this meant that a design that was simple enough to load in and out was always at the forefront of his and Pitman’s minds. The choice of Green Hippo as the production’s media servers came down to the style of performance the team were putting together. “On this show, we are essentially

Lighting Director, Tim Fawkes; Lighting Programmer, Olly Martin; Video Director Simon Harris; Video Operator, Nigel Sadle and 80six’s Dan Hamill.

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busking and VJing on the fly for hours,” he stated. “You need to have all the options available at your fingertips and be able to change colours and effects to ensure it keeps looking good for several hours.” Harris and Video Operator, Nigel Sadler made use of a plethora of archival content that had been collected over the years working with Andy C. The only part of the show that was choreographed was the intro section, which Harris joked was only given to the day before the show. “Everything else is done live and comes down to knowing the music and experience working in the genre,” he remarked. Along with the content, both Sadler and Harris had a small camera package to incorporate into the visual palette. This included two Blackmagic Design Mini Cameras and a robo camera for a reverse shot. “The real advantage of just using remote cameras as opposed to manned pit cameras was that we didn’t need a full PPU package to handle the camera inputs,” said Harris. “With this style of show, I questioned the need for IMAG, but as we are in a big venue, you need to give some people close-ups of what is going on. However, it’s not the priority. At the end of the day, people come here to dance, so it’s better to spend more money on GLP JDC1s and CO2 jets.” On the subject of JDC1s, this rig had a lot of them – 62 to be precise – which covered the


entire truss structure. “Covering the trusses in JDC1 was a solid idea,” enthused Pitman, who recalled the time Andy C set eyes on the design and was very impressed. “I love how much this design looks like a Flux Capacitor,” Pitman noted. “That part of the design could’ve carried the whole show.” Harris was also complementary of the JDC1s. “The row of JDC1s on the back of the rig behind the rear LED screen was a work of genius and the amazing silhouette look they created looked phenomenal.” Discussing the other two main workhorses on the rig was LCR’s Rob Watson. “Along with the JDC1s, we had Martin by Harman MAC Auras and Claypaky Mythos,” he listed. “Mythos had the flexibility to provide lots of beam looks along with some textures with the gobos. As this was nine hours of non-stop music, it was essential to have as many tools as possible to play with.” He also explained how the Auras were able to provide ‘nice eye candy moments’. LCR provided two MA Lighting grandMA2s, a main and a back up, for Lighting Director, Tim Fawkes and Lighting Programmer, Olly Martin to control the visuals. While it is commonplace for dance music events to have two DJs join forces on the decks, during Andy C, this collaboration culture was also seen on the lighting desk. “For almost the entire show, the two of them were

operating on the same console,” enthused Harris. “I’ve never seen anything like it. They were just bouncing off each other.” Harris discussed that this collaborative nature extended throughout FOH with all the visual departments. “We’ve shied away from comms as it’s not that kind of show,” said Harris. “For this type of performance to work, you need everyone in the zone enjoying themselves and bouncing off each other at FOH,” he said. Pitman believes ‘bringing every department together’ was key to the show’s success. “Andy’s shows are hugely spirited and that feeling carries down,” he stated. “Everyone was so excited for the show, the collected enthusiasm brought everyone and their combined ideas together.” To close, Pitman gave his thoughts on the show: “It was such a privilege to be a part of. I’ve been an Andy C fan for a long time and I’m also really proud to have been a part of a team that enjoyed their work this much. Everyone loved being at that show and massive thanks to 80six and LCR who made it possible.”



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LAURA MARLING After four-and-a-half years away from the road, English folk singer-songwriter, Laura Marling captivates audiences with a stripped-back, solo acoustic tour exhibiting a ‘less is more’ approach to production.

Words: Jacob Waite Photos: JPBoardman

Following the success of her Live From Union Chapel livestream [see TPi #251], and in support of her critically acclaimed seventh studio album, Song For Our Daughter, English folk singer-songwriter, Laura Marling embarked on her first tour in four-andhalf years; a stripped-back, solo acoustic campaign supported by a tight-knit crew. “It has been a privilege to work with such a lovely team,” Tour Manager, Dan McKay began, speaking to TPi as the dust settled on the whirlwind tour. “We were meant to be in the US in 2020 but that was subsequently curtailed with the COVID-19 pandemic, so she had that fire in her belly to get touring again and put on a show that people will remember.” With a handful of creatives and technicians on board, McKay enlisted the support of Neg Earth, Britannia Row Productions, Event Transport, Phoenix Bussing, Acre Jean and design collective, NeonBlack, to make the post-lockdown project possible. “We were apprehensive to plan anything too far into the

future case it didn’t go ahead,” he explained. “When it became apparent that the tour might happen, we decided to assemble a team of creatives and suppliers, and luckily the speed at which they operate made it possible to put this project together in a matter of weeks.” He went on to praise the team for adapting to the speed in which many post-lockdown productions are advanced, designed, and taken on the road or – in some cases – shelved or even cancelled later down the line. With a loyal fanbase, the singer-songwriter, who rarely tours, cuts an enigmatic figure on stage. In each venue, according to McKay, you could ‘hear a pin drop’. “Laura doesn’t necessarily say much on stage, so the crowd hangs on to her every word,” he said, recalling visits to London’s Roundhouse and Manchester’s Albert Hall among his personal highlights. As one of the first tours back with new COVID-19 regulations, the safety of the performing artist, crew and audiences

remained at the top of McKay’s agenda. To this end, the crew embarked on regular testing and wore facemasks on site. “We left it to each venue to implement their own procedures but I believe the messaging between promoters, ticket sellers and public attending shows post-lockdown is confusing and could be improved,” McKay reported. “Thankfully, the most we ever had to push the stage back was around 45 minutes as audiences and venues adjusted to the implementation of COVID-19 passes before getting in the venue. The rest of the tour went off without a hitch” ‘A SHOW OF 19 LOOKS’ “She’s an absolute talent and commands the stage for 90 minutes every night,” NeonBlack’s Jon Barker enthused, having worked closely with McKay and Marling for the past two years, including stints lighting her side project, LUMP. Having recently formed a design partnership, NeonBlack, with longstanding



collaborator, Dom Smith, the duo devised the production design, in line with visual references provided by Marling. “Laura is an incredible talent and a real delight to work with,” Smith said. “She had wanted to split the show into three distinct acts.” As a new face to the camp, Smith was pleasantly surprised by Marling’s hands-on approach, citing a “less is more” approach to the project. “It is a very theatrical production. Laura is great at curating ideas for both the visuals but also the musical narrative. When an artist is as transparent about her ideas as Laura is, it makes our job a joy.” Indeed, part of the reason the duo joined forces was because they believe, the role of the production designer is to tell the stories of performing artists and musicians. “This production as a whole tells that story, from lights to audio,” he remarked. “Fundamentally,


it is a show with 19 individual looks, three acts and a strong identity.” Act one, ‘curtains of light’, saw a series of theatrical and intimate looks with a mid-stage drape in front of a gauze with lighting courtesy of GLP impression X4 Bars. Act two, ‘shadows’, featured lighting casting shadows on a whiteshark tooth gauze, courtesy of Acre Jean – hung on a Kabuki Solenoid system – from front and rear; Act three meanwhile saw the Kabuki Solenoid system triggered and LED lighting come to life. During the pre-visualisation phase, NeonBlack drew collaboratively on Vectorworks, albeit operating remotely, and worked on programming in-person, during rehearsals at Neg Earth in LH3, before hitting the road for three weeks. The majority of the production lighting design was floor based to ensure similar looks

in a variety of venues with one mid stage truss of GLP impression X4 Bars and a Sharkstooth kabuki gauze the only flown elements. “We deliberately kept the show small scale and easy to facilitate due to the uncertainty of the post-lockdown landscape,” Barker explained. “Some of the venues on this tour range in size, so the challenge has been to come up with solutions that don’t compromise the integrity of production design.” At its largest, the lighting rig featured 10 Martin by Harman MAC Aura XBs dotted around the floor of the stage, seven Ayrton Ghiblis as back and sidelight (three at the back of the stage with two flanking Marling, per side), along with 16 GLP impression X4 Bar moving lights, attached to the onstage and upstage chord. Static light came in the shape of six ETC Source4s (three per side), 12 VDO Sceptron 10s, four VDO Sceptron 320s, six clam shell


footlights, and a Mole Richardson Type 245. Due to a national CO2 shortage at the time, the team relied on Look Solutions Unique Hazers and Martin by Harman AF2 fans for atmospherics. “We discovered early on in the programming phase, it would be easy to upstage Laura by doing too much, which doesn’t happen very often,” Smith noted. “She’s such a talent, spellbinds a room, and does so effortlessly, so she should be the centre of attention, while we provide a backdrop.” In closing, Smith praised lighting vendor, Neg Earth, for providing essential kit and crew in a tight timeframe. “I’ve known [Neg Earth Project Manager], Lindsey Markham for many years and she is always my first port of call for a show,” he said, recounting the need for custom fabricated square frames to house Martin by Harman Sceptron fixtures – which Neg Earth was able to provide, along with on-site Lighting


Technicians, Alan Fotheringhame, Mark Anthony Cooper and Jake Saunders. ‘90 MINUTES OF ESCAPISM’ “This was the first time I’ve done a show with Laura where she hasn’t had a band with her,” FOH Engineer, Darren Connor noted. “It’s been a great experience. Although Laura is an incredible artist with a great voice, she doesn’t project vocally. So when she’s performing with a band you have less control of her vocals. However, when it’s just her, you can make it natural and exposed. It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with her and dig really deep into her vocals.” In an effort to keep the touring footprint as small as possible, Britannia Row Productions provided a bespoke, small format control package to fit Connor’s specific requirements. “Britannia Row Productions has got a great

reputation and was very flexible with us, having made a few tweaks during rehearsals,” he said, praising the vendor and particularly, Britannia Row Productions Client Liaison, Marc Soame. “It was our pleasure to be able to support Dan McKay and Darren Connor on this tour,” Soame said. “Laura Marling’s performances are captivating; truly something to behold.” The control package comprised an Allen & Heath C1500 desk on firmware version 1.9, a DM32 stage rack, and a 100m Cat6 multicore. Connor was specific about his microphone choices to achieve a ‘natural and open sound’. AKG 414s and Neumann 184s on guitar, six Radial Engineering DIs on acoustics, Sennheiser 409s for electric guitar amp, with DPA Microphones 4018VL on Marling’s vocals. This was the first time the engineer had used DPA 4018 on the singer’s vocals but after trying several capsules in rehearsals settled

on the VL version. “It worked fantastically throughout the entire tour,” he recalled. Connor added that the layout of certain venues required different approaches to sound. “We went from club-sized shows to seated theatres to rooms so dry we needed to smother in reverb to sound live, as well as extremely reverberant rooms like Manchester’s Albert Hall, which is a beautiful venue which requires little reverb,” he pointed out. Guitar Technician, Joel Ashton made sure all seven guitars were tuned to perfection and Marling felt as comfortable as possible on stage. “This has been the most wonderful experience I’ve had on tour. The setlist has been deliberately structured in a way to keep the narrative, flow and design of the show as beautiful and seamless as possible – watching her go from a heavier rendition to slowing the songs right down so every person in the

room hangs on every single word has been an absolute pleasure,” he commented. “She reads a room really well and it’s fascinating to see her hold an audience. I’ve been working with her for six years on and off and I still find myself getting sucked into the intimacy of every performance,” concluded Connor, elated to be back on the road with one of Britain’s finest musical talents postlockdown. “People still need to be entertained and if we can provide an outlet and 90 minutes of escapism amid all the drudgery of the past year then it has been a huge success.”



ERASURE: THE NEON TOUR Synthpop pioneers, Erasure revisit the road for the first time in three years with a bespoke set design built with a DIY attitude by their core touring crew in lockdown, boasting over 600m of neon and LED infrastructure.

Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Andy Sturmley (Brightlightspix)


Marking one of the first touring campaigns out of the gates post-lockdown, The Neon Tour – announced following the release of Erasure’s 18th studio album – celebrated a return to some semblance of normality for the live events sector in the UK. Having steadily toured the globe and released new music over the past 36 years, the British synthpop duo have experienced somewhat of a career renaissance in recent years, making a step back up to large-scale shows reminiscent of their early commercial success. Despite the growing popularity of the band, their cult following and DIY ethos remains as relevant as ever, as TPi discovered when chatting to their core touring crew. As Erasure’s promotional representative for 18 years, Mark Dawson, in his newfound role as production manager, harnessed his extensive knowledge of the band to assemble a formidable team of touring crew and technical suppliers. Unlike most operating out of the


production office, he opted for a hands-on approach to show design and set construction. “We pretty much built the set ourselves instead of using a one-stop solution from a set company, largely because we had all the time in the world over lockdown. We also used an alternative product to the traditional LED tape and neon, working closely with a manufacturer who typically operates outside of the touring world,” Dawson informed TPi, having spearheaded a design which includes a giant, steel structure that features 600m of neon and LED. “I’m fairly sure it’s the most [neon] ever taken out on the road for a rock ’n’ roll show.” Dawson’s technical suppliers of choice included: SSE Audio, Christie Lites, Video Design, Popcorn Catering, Fly By Nite, Phoenix Bussing, SetWorks, and EnVisio. As well as incorporating video for the first time into the band’s live offering, TPi Award-winning Show Designer, Rob Sinclair was brought onboard to curate the

show’s aesthetics, taking inspiration from unlikely sources in 8-bit games, neon signs, a Monopoly board, an antique shop and playground equipment painted silver – the latter the suggestion of lead singer, Andy Bell. “I’d run away from London in March 2020 and had just moved into a tiny cottage next to my brother’s house. My entire work schedule for the year had just been cancelled and I was trying to work out what on earth was going on. Cue a phone call from Mark [Dawson] about an Erasure tour that was scheduled to go out in September 2020, which seemed reasonable at the time. We made some renders that month and in April, the band seemed to like them, and the set was built as soon as the first lockdown started to lift,” Sinclair recalled, highlighting the collaborative process and collective reliance on Zoom and WhatsApp as core communication tools amid the lockdown. “Things were delayed, but Mark was super smart to use the time to reduce costs and

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make the project happen when, at times, some of us had lost all hope.” With Sinclair on board, Dawson began enlisting set companies. “After a number of phone calls, it became apparent that not many companies understood what we were looking to achieve or were busy trying to consolidate and considering their immediate future, following the devastating impact of lockdown on the sector,” he reminisced. In a twist of fate, with the luxury of time on his side, Dawson took it upon himself to bring Sinclair’s preliminary sketches of a giant, steel structure to life. He approached steel bending specialist, Barnshaws, which agreed to supply and roll the steel into the shape of the design – an oval-shaped centre screen, with three bracket shapes/wings per side, flanked by left and right oval shapes, designed to house IMAG screens. However, to make the vision a reality, the team required steel welders. Step forward, SetWorks, a production and manufacturing company that ordinarily fabricates high-end installation projects. “There was a lot of collaboration involved with SetWorks because they’re not used to operating with a touring hat on, and creating things that can travel,” Dawson explained, praising their ability to create the steel shapes and wooden treads to house around 600m


of neon and LED tape. Like the steel, Dawson shopped around for a local supplier of neon and LED tape, outside of the usual rock ’n’ roll channels. “Rob and I discovered this company called Ultra LEDS, which manufactures LED neon that can be controlled via DMX, which they had specially made and flown over to us from the Far East,” Dawson said. In keeping with the DIY ethos, when the team came to attach the LED neon, which was made of silicone, to the steel set structure, the team discovered that only strong double-sided sticky tape was worthy of the task. “The way the set is designed and built requires the use of rattle guns to put the nuts and bolts of the set together,” Stage Manager, Jack Brewis-Lawes, pointed out. He oversaw the logistics of the project, ensuring the global ‘tourability’ of the giant, steel structure set to visit a range of different-sized performance spaces on the tour, from theatres to arenas. “Unfortunately, the moment you let an external member of the tour party, such as local crew, handle the construction or deconstruction of the set during the load in and out, they could potentially compromise the infrastructure of the set, which we have to rely on throughout the tour,” he added. “Equally, from a supplier perspective, there’s not always enough kit to go around, so it’s

been a complicated process,” he pointed out. Having split his time between collaborating on tour advancing for Erasure and working at a COVID-19 test centre during lockdown, Brewis-Lawes ensured the safety of the artists, technical production crew and in-person audiences on the tour by outlining specific travel corridors and routes for the band and crew, without mixing or compromising touring bubbles, in addition to the crew’s widespread adoption of PPE and social distancing on site. In keeping with Sinclair’s vision, Video Design provided Winvision 9mm LED panels for an upstage central screen and the left and right oval-shaped IMAG screens, with on-screen content driven by disguise media servers. “The screens extended the visual aspect of the stage beyond it by making the IMAG a part of the show design, as opposed to traditional left and right IMAG screens for people who couldn’t see the action,” Dawson explained, praising the support of Video Design Managing Director, Alex Leinster and a team of six onsite crew members. “Alex and the team were fantastic; he invited us down to fly everything and put the screen up so we could properly envision the show before it went on the road.” In fact, one of Video Design’s two warehouse facilities in Bedford was affectionately referred to as the ‘Erasure

warehouse’ among staff members, given its longstanding residency in lockdown. “Simply building the set was quite a feat, given its complexity and the unique circumstances of lockdown,” Leinster commented. “It’s always a pleasure working with Mark [Dawson].” Lighting Designer, Chris Bushell oversaw a flown Christie Lites rig that comprised 17 Martin by Harman MAC Viper Profile, 32 Axiom, 10 Quantum Wash, 14 MAC Aura XB, 12 GLP JDC1 and 16 Chroma-Q Color Force II fixtures – the latter were rigged as vertical blinders. Dawson recalled the challenge of wiring the giant structure. “We needed really fine soldering work, with the LED tape requiring around 500 connectors to connect to video on a daily basis. We enlisted the support of EnVisio, who were able to come up with a solution and 42-page schematic,” he explained. “Interactivity is at the heart of our business currently,” EnVisio Technical Director, Max Middleton said. “We have been a pixel specialist for around six years and as other companies are catching up with the dark art that is addressable LED, we find ourselves having to push the boundaries, which for a small business is often difficult, but luckily we have a great reputation in this niche industry and get to play with some wonderful budgets and push boundaries from time to time.” However, when Dawson and the team went to invest in 500 XLR connectors, like most in the sector, they were faced with shortages. “Our usual manufacturer was unable to get them to us in time, so we ended up with CPC UK Speakon connectors,” he reported. The team also required 200m of cabling, which Ultra LEDS was unable to source due to global supply issues. “In the end, I found a guy with a reel of it online. At one point, I was worried we wouldn’t get what we needed to make the set possible,” Dawson conceded, before going on to praise the ingenuity and

fortitude of the crew. “Despite being one of the first tours out of the gate, we spent so much time dealing with set construction, it never really felt like we were away. Thankfully, it kept most of us occupied amid the pandemic.” Middleton concurred, adding that while the lockdown has had a negative impact on most businesses in the sector, it has also afforded creatives and companies the luxury of time to invest in ‘workbench’ projects gathering dust. “Some of the projects post-lockdown are nothing short of breath-taking, and I genuinely believe that’s because designers and producers have been afforded rare breathing space to let their creative juices flow,” he said. For Brewis-Lawes, after a year-and-a-half evaluating this show design, an ecstatic crowd reception and positive reviews each night, “made all the sleepless nights worth it”. ‘COLLECTIVE ESCAPISM’ Embarking on his second touring campaign with the band, FOH/Monitor Engineer, Dave Swallow was involved with everything from setting up backing tracks with MIDI/Guitar Technician, Howard Rider, to mixing live for the audience and band. “Erasure’s live sound setup has evolved in recent years,” he said, explaining his newfound reliance on timecode to handle the monitor mix, while simultaneously mixing FOH on a 24-channel Avid VENUE S6L console. “This console was essential given the amount of automation required for this project. The thing I’ve always liked about Avid is the fact it’s a relatively stable system and available in every region we visit on tour.” Erasure began touring with one person mixing both FOH and monitors during Robbie Williams’ The Heavy Entertainment Show in 2017. “I was slightly nervous about inheriting this setup at first, mixing monitors while being a long way away from the band in case anything goes wrong,” he noted. “For peace of mind, we



always ensure our vendors, SSE Audio in this case, have a dedicated person on stage [Chris Spears] to handle RF, while I mix.” According to Swallow, communication is key, especially in the likes of London’s O2 arena, given the sheer distance between the engineer and the stage. A radio ‘shout setup’ was employed to facilitate communication between the band and crew. “Mixing FOH and monitors is ambitious but given the level of professionalism and reliability of the band – it works,” he remarked. It is also one of the reasons why timecode and automation is so crucial. “If I have to make slight monitor adjustments or set up another song, having that automation in place is key to making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible,” Swallow added. “I, in effect, use automation as my A2 [Audio Assistant].” To enhance the mix, System Technician, Mark Pantlin oversaw a d&b audiotechnik J-Series system with up to 22 boxes per side on the main hang, 16 boxes per side on the side hang, along with 24 J-SUBS and J-IFRA subwoofers, in addition to Y10P and V7P sidefills – driven by Dante at 96khz. “One of the challenges with this tour is we visit a range of venue sizes from theatres to arenas, so we required a consistent system throughout, and the d&b audiotechnik J-Series was the perfect choice,” Swallow said, praising Pantlin’s sound system ‘wizardry’. “This was a really great tour with a fantastic band,” Pantlin added. Sennheiser 5000 Series with 5235 capsules were the mics of choice, while the band used Sennheiser SR 2050 IEMs. “Having the band


on IEMs makes my life mixing monitors much easier,” Swallow explained. “I run a tech mix through a matrix to provide the crew with the band’s mix with our shout microphones on top.” Having wrapped up a successful run of shows in 2021, Swallow cut a figure of enthusiasm. “During the first show, Andy [Bell] hit a particular note and the hairs on my arm stood on end, it was then I got a sudden pang of realisation that we were back,” he reminisced. “The time off was also humbling; it made me consider how lucky I am to be in a position to travel the world and curate unique experiences for live music fans.” Given the popularity of The Neon Tour, at the time of writing, a further five UK dates have been added to the tour calendar as part of the band’s May 2022 European leg. Albeit far from a straightforward show, Dawson believes the various constraints imposed by the lockdown inspired a surge of creativity and extended an olive branch to technical production crew, companies that operate outside of the touring world and, above all, live music fans. “I took for granted the shared experience prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, being in an audience and being immersed in what is going on the stage,” Dawson concluded. “Now, I fully grasp the significance of that as a form of collective escapism, in which you simply can’t get at any seated, socially distanced shows.”


FONTAINES D.C. Irish post-punk outfit, Fontaines D.C. hit the road with their biggest touring campaign to date, including a headline show at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Only Helix


Considered by live musos and critics alike as one of the most exciting young bands on the touring circuit today, Irish post-punk outfit, Fontaines D.C. have experienced the trials and tribulations of touring amid the pandemic. Having seen their campaign for second album, A Hero’s Death, postponed, then a subsequent resumption curtailed by a positive COVID-19 test, their return saw them play to larger crowds and venues than originally anticipated due to popular demand. Keeping pace with the rollercoaster ride that is postlockdown productions was a tight-knit team of creatives and technicians, supported by Only Helix, SSE Audio, Patchwork London, Colour Sound Experiment, 4Wall UK and Stagetruck. “We did three shows before COVID-19 put a halt to proceedings,” Tour Manager, Marcus Haughton began. “We returned to the summer festival season, where we found ourselves visiting bigger venues than we had anticipated due to the rising popularity of the band.” Haughton assumed the role of production and tour management up until a headline


date at London’s Alexandra Palace, where he was joined by Only Helix’s Steven Down and additional crew members. “We could have easily gone from a threeperson team to two bus and two truck strong teams,” Haughton theorised. “Instead, Only Helix decided to ease the band into increased production values, organically.” Following a pilot of the rig during the summer festival season, Production Designer and Lighting Operator, Miles Weaver, went back to the drawing board to design a powerful albeit scalable rig for the tour. “The larger festival stages allowed us to experiment and finalise the setup before the tour, in order to get most of the rig into most of the venues from 1,500 to 3,000-capacity,” Haughton explained. Weaver was initially enlisted by the band’s management to draw concepts for a one-off livestream, which led to him joining the touring camp. “The design required impact regardless of stage size,” Weaver said, highlighting his choice of lighting and rigging vendor. “[Colour

Sound Experiment Director of Touring] Alex Ryan goes beyond expectations to make this concept a reality within budget and without compromising the design,” he added. “Having the confidence that your supplier can provide crewing and kit without issues is great.” The lighting and rigging infrastructure for the 10,400-capacity Ally Pally date was upscaled. Eleven towers of 20 Portman Lights P2 Hexaline units were boosted to 24 and stacked four high with ladders in between the gaps housing 30 GLP JDC1s, upped from 20. An additional 30 Ayrton Eurus S monochromatic LED sources and 20 Robe Spiiders along the upstage were added to the rig, along with four Robe BMFL Followspot LTs to track the movement of the band on-stage. “I wanted to create a feel of a wall of tungsten against a wash of colour and this combo worked,” Weaver said, having successfully conducted an impressive orchestration of juxtaposed colour and lighting effects. “I spent an hour building effects and bumps on them to create a catalogue of effects


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The video team with Richard ‘Richie’ Shipman (centre); the lighting team with Crew Chief, Neil Smith (far right); Lighting Technician, David ‘Fletch’ Fletcher with Production Designer and Lighting Operator, Miles Weaver; Production Manager, Steven Down with Sound Supervisor, Phil Jones; Monitor Engineer, Mathew Acreman.


before I started programming songs. I always try not to repeat the same look or effect twice during each show,” he explained. The floor package featured 20 Robe Spiiders, upped from six on the tour, and two CHAUVET Professional Rogue R2 Wash lighting fixtures. Meanwhile, the front truss boasted 10 Robe BMFLs and 10 4-Lite Molefay units. Four Tour Hazer 2 and two MDG ATMe devices provided atmospherics, triggered by Weaver’s console of choice, an MA Lighting grandMA3 light running grandMA2 software. Capture previsualisation software helped Weaver transform his sketches from render to reality. “The advancements in visualisation software have been incredible,” he said. “We didn’t have the luxury of production rehearsals, so knowing what you’re seeing in previsualise makes my life a lot easier.” Weaver cited visits to Nottingham’s Rock City and The Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow, as standout pitstops on the road. “These were new venues to me, but now I am fully aware of why they are considered by many as iconic spaces,” he remarked. David ‘Fletch’ Fletcher oversaw the deployment of the floor package during the summer festival season and tour of academy venues leading up to Ally Pally, where he was joined by Lighting Crew Chief, Neil Smith and

four additional crew members with a range of skill sets and disciplines tasked with handling the overhead flown rig. Weaver praised the professionalism of the lighting crew. “Everyone on the crew is great to work with and it was a collective, concerted effort to get this show off the ground every day,” he commented. “It was a pleasure to provide kit and crew for this project. Miles and the entire production pulled out all the stops to make the show possible,” Colour Sound Experiment Director of Touring, Alex Ryan added. “The reaction on the fans’ faces as soon as the house lights went down was indescribable,” Smith enthused, recalling the instant gratification he felt as soon as doors opened, swathes of fans safely piled in, and the house lights went down. “As soon as the house lights go down and the band takes to the stage, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.” ‘A BREATH OF FRESH AIR’ Video Director, Richard ‘Richie’ Shipman of 4Wall UK was cutting the cameras at Green Man Festival when he first stumbled across Fontaines D.C. “The band is such a breath of fresh air,” he enthused, explaining how he became an instant fan before receiving a call to project manage and video direct the

band’s Ally Pally date. 4Wall UK supplied two 6m by 3.6m ROE Visual CB5 IMAG screens, rigging infrastructure courtesy of 4Wall UK’s lighting division, and a camera package which comprised a Sony FXC-FB80KL 1080P PPU with a Blackmagic Design Atem 2ME mixer in the director’s station running four FXC- FB80KL camera channels, three handheld cameras and an 86x long lens at FOH. The camera team featured James Cowlin, Alex Barrat, Sam Brown, Tim Curwen, Pete Cross and Carl Stage. “They all did a fantastic job. Tim Curwen engineered the PPU with Pete Cross tech’ing the LED; we even had Ben Sanderson and James Dodd from 4Wall UK’s Aylesbury warehouse cable bashing in a pretty active pit,” Richie commented. “It’s fantastic to be back at the sharp end of live music with a crew of talented people, cutting cameras for this band has been a very special experience.” FOH Engineer, Chris Butterworth has mixed the band’s FOH sound for the past few years, having been scouted by management while he was working at The Leadmill in Sheffield. Speaking about his choice of Allen & Heath dLive mixing console, Butterworth said: “I really like using this desk; it sounds good and has loads of great plug-ins and outboard models. The recent 1.9 update added the bus compressor, which I use over the LR. The 12 channel PEQ has replaced GEQs on all outputs, and I use the Dual Threshold Expander on all the vocals to clean up the stage spill. That one plugin alone has transformed this tour for me.” Monitor Engineer, Mathew Acreman also mixed on an Allen & Heath dLive console. “Having toured various other desks for the past decade or so, I really feel like I get so much out of the dLive. The desk sounds incredible and my IEM mixes sound so clean and wide. As well as being really ‘musical’, I feel in control,” Acreman said, waxing lyrical about the console. “I never felt that I needed to look outside of the dLive or use any external hardware or plug-ins – especially since the arrival of the latest firmware update. The Dual Threshold Expander has been a game changer, tightening up the mixes and Bus compressor, which I now have over all of my IEM outputs,” he noted. “Add those to the already great bundle of FX and compressors and I have everything that I need for a great show.” For Acreman, the biggest challenge was getting the band to leave behind wedges and move onto in-ear monitors and side fills. “IEMs aren’t for everyone and as a band who had never used them before, this could have gone either way,” Acreman acknowledged. “We got some mixes going in rehearsals and put the time into really getting into the songs, getting everything into tight snapshots with lots of little changes from track to track.” Since then, there was no turning back for the band and crew. “It feels like everything has gone up a level and they’re now playing with such confidence,” Acreman commented. “It’s

also cleared up the stage sound, meaning that Chris [Butterworth] has far more control of his mix at FOH,” he noted. System Technician, Bill Laing oversaw a d&b audiotechnik PA rig, curated by TPi Award-winning sound designer, Liam Halpen, at Ally Pally, which featured 16 KSL8s on the main hang, 12 KSL12s on the side hang, and 16 SL-SUBs. Six V8 and two V-SUBs handled outfill duties, with 12 V8 delays in two hangs of six boxes. The system was powered by a Lake Processing LM44 control rack, a DS10 Audio network bridge in each amplifier rack along with a D80 amp rack as an analogue backup. Laing outlined the importance of a combination of d&b audiotechnik KSL and ArrayCalc when it came to perfecting the sound of the PA. Implemented correctly, the cardioid pattern of the KSL, combined with ArrayProcessing, negated the issues of a ‘highly reverberant venue’ such as the Ally Pally. “Ally Pally’s acoustic properties can be challenging, so I had to ensure high-quality coverage everywhere, particularly the disabled and VIP viewing platforms, situated at the sidewalls of the venue,” he said, explaining his solution was to harness a V-SUB and three V8 boxes stacked on a platform either side to cover the platforms and provide suitable outfill. “ArrayProcessing levelled the frequency response from the front to the rear of the room. The audio team has also worked with the band to ensure that the source quality is high, and the on-stage audio level is controlled.” When it comes to microphone choices, Butterworth prefers to experiment. “The Coles 4038 mono overhead hanging over the drum kit attracts a lot of attention; I use it in my FOH mix to glue the close mics together,” he explained. “It picks up a great balance of the drums and gives a smooth cymbal sound. The spill from figure eight pattern isn’t really a problem when you have a drum kit raging underneath it – it’s all drums. We used DPA 4099s on the snare bottom and toms, Audio-Technica dynamic and condenser mics on Curley’s guitar, a Beyerdynamic M88 on bass and a Beyer M160 on Carlos’ guitar.” Patchwork London supplied an audio control package, which featured two Allen & Heath S5000 dLive consoles; DM64, DM48, and CDM32 mix racks; Shure PSM1000 in-ear monitors; 10 d&b audiotechnik M4 wedges and three D20 amplifiers; 32 channels of Radial OX8 splits as well as a full line system, backline power, stands and a microphone package to augment Butterworth’s existing collection. Mix racks varied over the summer due to space, however, Patchwork London provided DM48s or DM64s, except for the first run where space was tight. “We managed to design a 12u double wide rack to house both DM48 in monitor world and CDM32 at FOH, with 32 channels of Radial three-way split, line system, IEM systems and a power distribution,” Patchwork London Project Manager, James Kerr said. “Once space was no

System Technician, Bill Laing; FOH Engineer, Chris Butterworth; Tour Manager, Marcus Haughton with Stage Manager, Alistair Pritchard.



longer an issue following the festival run, the team moved back into a large 24u double wide to house everything.” Achieving sonic consistency and clarity each night was of paramount importance to Butterworth. “We wanted to build on the raw energy that the audience experienced when seeing the band in an intimate venue and create a polished production with word-for-word clarity in the vocals and all the guts of a proper rock show,” he stated. With a step up for the bigger shows, the team enlisted the support of Sound Supervisor, Phil Jones, to evaluate mix techniques, sound system tuning, microphone choice and a general approach to sound. “I hadn’t done this role before, so I was unsure what to expect. However, I have loved working with the crew,” he informed TPi. “I found the entire experience very rewarding.” Walking into the camp, Jones’ first task was to address the stage volume. “The band sounds


and plays great. However, the amps were very loud on stage and, frankly, unmanageable,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose the ‘tone’ but had to do something about it. The band were also still using some on-stage wedges.” Sharing his experience with the band was the first step. “We ended up taking the amps off of the front of the riser and turning them sideways, making makeshift isocabs out of flight cases,” Jones explained. “The crew worked together to get this right and the difference was night and day. Chris [Butterworth] had much more control, which the gig benefitted from hugely.” Having toured the UK for a month, Butterworth stood back from his console at Ally Pally to soak in the experience. “It felt quite special,” Butterworth expressed. “Everyone worked so hard to bring the best show we could – plus, their fans are brilliant.” According to Kerr, wrapping up at Ally Pally was a perfect way to draw a close to a

successful albeit staggered touring campaign. “It has been great experience of project managing a larger show and I have really enjoyed being on call to deliver what was needed to achieve the outstanding results,” he commented. “From listening to the band in rehearsals after so long without hearing live music in July through to seeing the final product refined and delivered to a sold-out crowd at Ally Pally was a real treat.” Having experienced similar success while touring with Royal Blood, Jones was overjoyed to share his personal experience with the Fontaines D.C. crew. “This was a really exciting project to be involved in,” he concluded.


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ARLO PARKS After experiencing a rapid rise in popularity during the first lockdown, Arlo Parks hits the road for her first full-scale headline tour with a loyal band of crew in support. TPi speaks to some of the key personnel as they look to the future with this critically adored artist.

Words: Stew Hume Photos: Luke Dyson


Despite live music grinding to a halt in 2020 and the first part of 2021, there were still some artists experiencing a rise in profile, even with the regular means of gaining support no longer an option. One such artist was Arlo Parks. Claiming Best Breakthrough Artist at the 2021 BRIT Awards and gaining critical acclaim with her debut album, Collapsed In Sunbeams, it’s certainly been a busy year for the artist and her core crew. With live shows returning to the UK, the collective looked to honour several dates that were cancelled in 2020 as well as moving into bigger venues to match her rising popularity. TPi caught up with the crew in Manchester Academy Two to hear what it was like working behind the scenes with this rocket ship success sorry. Leading the conversion was Production and Tour Manager, Adam Williams of Riverjuke. Having been one of the leading figures in the Arlo Parks camp throughout lockdown, he helped the artist navigate everything from


filming the The Late Late Show with James Corden music segment through to a largescale BRIT Awards performance. Now with live shows back on the menu, he helped coordinate the varied touring schedule, which ranged from 500- to 2,000-capacity spaces. “We are retaining the dates that had been moved over from 2020 along with new bookings in bigger venues,” explained Williams. “Now she’s just been nominated for a GRAMMY! It’s certainly been a roller-coaster, but one I’ve been really glad to be part of.” For the UK run in 2021, Williams called upon MIRRAD, Liteup and Patchwork London. As any crewmember will attest, jumping on the road again after an extended enforced hiatus was an adjustment – especially with the extra administrative tasks, such as COVID-19 protocols that now fall into Williams’ remit. “Thankfully on this tour – for the UK run at least – I had both [Lighting Designer] Tom Campbell and [FOH Engineer] Chris Parker who

also have PM experience who were able to help out majorly with the production elements,” he said. This gave Williams more time to deal with the other admin tasks, including the protocols in the UK and as they set their sights on Europe. “I’m thankful that I have a very responsive team within the Arlo Parks camp who have been with us through lockdown and know firsthand how complicated some of this can be.” ADAPTABLE AUDIO As the band and crew prepared for doors to open in Manchester Academy, TPi grabbed some time with FOH Engineer, Chris Parker of Patchwork London. Parker had been brought in during the midst of the lockdown to handle Arlo Parks’ audio for several televised shoots as well as all proceeding live commitments. For Parker and the team, their live journey began over festival season but really hit its stride in the US – playing to mid-sized venues before returning to the UK for a tour that began



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Lighting Designer, Tom Campbell and FOH Engineer, Chris Parker.


with two nights at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. “When you start working with a new artist, going through those smaller venues is fantastic as you can change things very quickly,” stated Parker, as he discussed how it had been establishing the basic audio foundation. With the variety of venue sizes, portability was of the utmost importance to Parker, who put his faith in the Allen & Heath CTi1500 for the UK run. “I had brought in the bigger desk – the S5000 – for the Shepherd’s Bush shows, but quickly went back to the smaller desk as the venue sizes went back down,” he said. “With the CTi surface, I’ve built up quite a muscle memory and I know exactly where everything is.” Despite there only being 12 faders on the desk, Parker explained that the ability to switch through fader groups quickly made it more than capable of dealing with Arlo Parks and her five-piece band. “The phrase ‘creativity doesn’t exist without limitations’, comes to mind,” smiled Parker, explaining that while working on the large S5000, he found it a new challenge to fill the larger quantity of fader banks. Despite the smaller footprint, Parker stated that the options the desk offers makes the need for any further plug-ins redundant. “The desk has so many processors and options. For example, the Primary Source Enhancer is amazing and has done a really good job cleaning up the vocals.” During the show, with the addition of a trumpet to the band, Parker made use of Allen & Heath’s ADT effect, which “acted as a doubler to give more impact with the horn sections”. Moving away from the control, the Engineer highlighted some other elements of the stage setup. Having used the sE Electronics V7 on the American run, for the UK tour, the

production made the switch to the Telefunken M80 with a Shure Axient Wireless system. In addition, the flyable digital line system of three Allen & Heath DX168 boxes were swapped for an analogue splits system to provide lines for both the FOH and monitor DM64 boxes. Monitor Engineer, Mike Njuguna was a part of the Arlo Parks camp during her first Glastonbury performance in 2019. Having recently worked with Michael Kiwanuka, Njuguna jumped back on board with the crew for Arlo Parks’ latest UK run. “It’s been great to see how far she’s come in such a short space of time,” he enthused before talking about some of the specific demands of Parks’ in-ear monitor mix. “As a quiet singer, the issue we faced was ensuring we reduced the bleed from the microphone.” Like Parker at FOH, Njuguna mixed on an Allen & Heath CTi1500 and made use of the Primary Source Enhancer to omit some of those problems. “It’s been a life saver,” he noted. “It’s taken time to adjust but it’s essentially a frequency gate, so when she’s not on the microphone it reduces background noise.” This was Njuguna’s first time touring with Allen & Heath but he was more than happy with the result. “I’d been keen to learn more about the desk and after rehearsals I was sold,” he stated. “We had upwards of 40 channels for our biggest show in Shepherd’s Bush, but even with the 12 faders I didn’t struggle.” While both audio engineers were pleased about being back on the road, the entire touring family used the tour as an opportunity to give back to the community. “At each date in the UK, we’ve had a young technician come out and shadow us,” Parker

explained. “It’s fantastic to give young people a chance to see what goes into a tour and provide resources to help them in the future.” LIGHTING THE WAY Taking care of the visual aesthetic for the UK run was Lighting Designer, Tom Campbell. Having worked with Adam Williams on a livestream for the band TesseracT [TPi #259], Campbell was keen to link up with the PM once again for Arlo Parks’ latest run. “I was already familiar with her music and before I knew it, I was being introduced to her managers, Ali and Sarah,” stated Campbell. “When I start working with an artist, one of the first questions I ask them is what gigs they have enjoyed live. However, with this project it leant towards favourite art installations and artists rather than concerts.” This gave Campbell a lot more scope to come up with basic stage treatments. “We wanted to create a theatrical art installation rather than a concert,” he explained. “Many of the looks are more static than I traditionally go for, in an almost operatic manner.” Going into several smaller venues, Campbell often made use of in-house rigs as well as

a floor package provided by Liteup. This comprised Robe ESPRITEs and GLP impression X4 Bar 20s. For the larger shows, Campbell had three rows of X4 Bars, which he used to create colour gradients to complement the rear sphere backdrop and “create a mood” during the performance. The other notable elements of the stage show included custom lamps that were arranged throughout the stages along with floral decoration, which adorned the stages as well as FOH – a set element that had been carried over from some of Arlo Parks’ filmed performances in 2020. Due to the varying size of venues, the production toured with an A, B and C arrangement of the show. Despite these three distinctive versions of the same design, Campbell explained how the look of each show was very organic. “Due to the type of rooms we were going into, we had to be flexible, but it began to feel that the stage grew naturally as each space was taken over with sunflowers, cherry blossom and the other stage elements,” mused Campbell, who was quick to complement the collaborative nature of the tour, which saw

everyone getting stuck in, including Williams, who was responsible for laying out the flowers on the stage. This collaborative environment stretched to see Campbell work creatively with FOH Engineer, Chris Parker. “Chris and I began timing some of my lighting cues to the delays and reverbs on the audio,” said Campbell. “It was the first time I’d tried anything like this. With no timecode, it was all done manually and was a really interesting experiment that added cohesion to the show.” While discussing riding the show, it’s worth noting how on this run Campbell was manning at Avolites Diamond 9 – the latest offering from the manufacturer. Campbell had used the Diamond 9 at the tail end of January 2020 for a one-off show with John Grant at the Roundhouse along with a few other projects in lockdown, but this was his first time taking it out on the road. “It’s a really nice desk to stand behind,” he beamed. “The hardware is great and it feels fantastic to operate from. As well as creating a great piece of equipment, one of the best things that Avolites has done is not change the software too much. In high-pressure situations, you simply don’t have time to re-learn new



workflows and the fact you can jump on a brand-new console and yet it still feels very familiar is a blessing.” Campbell concluded that although it had been great to finally get to use the desk on a tour, he hadn’t yet pushed it to its limits and was excited to tackle more projects with the Diamond 9 in the future. ON TO EUROPE After TPi caught up with the team in Manchester, the party made their way through a string of dates before heading to Europe. With a slightly reduced crew personnel, they made it through the continent despite the increasing restrictions imposed in various countries. Before the end of 2021, TPi tracked down Williams to review the realities of touring on the continent. “On the whole, we were very lucky with our routing as we had already done some shows in Germany before tighter restrictions came into force, meaning we only had to cancel a few shows,” he explained. Taking on the dual role of production and tour manager in ‘normal’ times is always a logistical challenge, but in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic along with increased admin because of Brexit, the task was made


even more challenging. “I’ve had a few chats with other tour managers about this very subject and as COVID-19 is clearly going to be an ongoing concern in 2022, with larger touring parties it’s going to have to be a consideration when it comes to budgeting someone to handling this admin task as there is a great deal of paperwork to deal with,” he said. “My biggest advice when it comes to both COVID-19 protocols and new Brexit-related issues is to print everything you might need at the border.” On the topic of Brexit however, Williams had some words of encouragement about the future of touring on the continent. “I can only comment from a touring perspective, but I think there has been a lot of misinformation put out there in the touring community. I’m currently out in Europe with a 10-person touring party who mostly have UK passports and we have done it all legally.” Not to downplay the effect that Brexit has and will have on the industry, from those who are heading out on longer tours that will exceed the 90- to 180-day rule, or the issues faced by suppliers and transport companies, but Williams believes that Brexit doesn’t mean that touring in Europe with a UK passport is

theoretically “impossible” to do. He elaborated: “A lot of people on social media would make you think without a European passport, touring in the EU is impossible, which is an incredibly dangerous message – especially as many people haven’t worked for the past 18 months.” Williams made the point that any tour managers heading out to Europe should quickly familiarise themselves with Carnets. “Even pre-Brexit, we would have had to fill out a Carnet for Arlo’s tour as we were heading to Switzerland, but it’s now something that everyone has to familiarise themselves with and it’s something you don’t want to get wrong as it can lead to heavy fines,” he noted. With Arlo Parks’ 2021 touring campaign coming to an end, artist and crew looked forward to some downtime, with sights set on an extensive support tour in America in early 2022. It will certainly be interesting to see how the production expands when she returns to the UK later this year.


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CAMEO: A DECADE OF INNOVATION Daniel Wrase reflects on a decade of innovation and what the future holds for the Cameo lighting brand and the wider Adam Hall Group.

Words: Daniel Wrase Photos: Cameo

When was Cameo formed and what were its initial goals? Cameo was launched by Adam Hall Group in 2011. From the beginning, we wanted to develop products and solutions that are user-oriented and help lighting designers and operators to express their full creativity. Our inhouse R&D department plays a central role here: we have always placed great emphasis on creating lighting solutions that reflect our passion for light – whether as a straightforward LED PAR fixture for everyday use in a wide variety of settings, through high-performance moving heads for large stage environments, to specialised theatrical or architectural spotlights. This is what sets Cameo apart as a brand. How has feedback shaped the development of the lighting brand? The development of Cameo as a brand is the result of constant feedback from our worldwide users. We have always placed great value on sharing ideas with lighting professionals who work with this fascinating medium every day. The fields of use overlap more and more, and we regularly ask ourselves what requirements our customers have and how we can support them even better with our solutions. Whether in theatre, touring, architectural lighting or for mobile lighting of special events – we are pleased that our products are convincing a range of markets. What high-end fixtures do Cameo now offer? The OPUS moving heads series spot and profile spot moving lights are packed with features including four-blade framing systems, rotating and static gobo wheels, circular and linear prisms or bi-directional animation wheels. Providing a flat and uniform projection without multiple colour shadows, OPUS luminaires sport optical systems with 130mm front lenses – flicker free and virtually silent. All OPUS series luminaires feature


flexible control options via a built-in W-DMX transceiver, DMX, RDM, ArtNet or sACN. The ZENIT Series’ W600 and W300 outdoor LED wash lights through to the battery-powered IP65 LED PARs feature with aluminum housings, Cree and Osram LEDs and W-DMX and RDM control capability. Cameo F-Series is a specialist for natural light. Available in three sizes and power classes (F4, F2, F1), each as Daylight, Tungsten or Tunable White/ RGBW versions, the Fresnel spotlights can be seamlessly integrated into a wide variety of environments. What have been some of the biggest challenges breaking into the professional lighting market? It is simply not enough to focus on technical specifications. Of course, the quality of light must be beyond reproach, but it is at least as important to understand the daily requirements, wishes and needs of a lighting designer, operator, consultant or a rental company. In addition, our products must be versatile and have a clear, unmistakable function within our growing portfolio. At the same time, we were able to establish strategically important international partnerships that served as gateways to renowned lighting designers and users, which helped to boost the awareness of Cameo. In recent years, with our Adam Hall North America and Adam Hall Asia divisions and new offices around the world, we have established a solid foundation to ensure the availability of our products and bring our service commitment even closer to our customers. How does Cameo’s ‘For Lumen Beings’ mantra manifest itself? ‘For Lumen Beings’ expresses everything we stand for: passion for light. We want our users to have the best tools to inspire people with


the combination of light, creativity and technology. Every Cameo product that comes onto the market must meet this philosophy. Of course, there are always new technologies and developments that we take up with our design and R&D department, continue and try to set by ourselves. The most important thing is to understand what drives these lighting professionals, why they do what they do. This is the foundation for our lighting products: technology paves the way, but the starting point and goal are passion and emotion. What lessons have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic? Our response to the pandemic has demonstrated our stance from the beginning; we believe in the live and event industry and the tremendous value it has for society. In addition, we have broadened our business focus to include new application fields, especially in the architectural lighting sector. Of course, we are dependent on the further global COVID-19 development, but we see ourselves well positioned, not least thanks to our aboveaverage stock availability, and will continue to

develop solutions to shape the future of our industry. How is 2022 shaping up for Cameo? This year will be exciting. In the event sector, we currently see great potential in outdoor events and medium-sized event venues and will serve these target groups specifically with new models. Trade shows and other on-theroad formats continue to play an important role for us. However, it remains unclear how the pandemic will develop in 2022. We have witnessed new developments in the field of virtual and hybrid events, which we believe are still in their earliest stages, but nevertheless offer a lot of potential to address users and customers more comprehensively in the future. Our Adam Hall Experience Center is and will remain a place of encounter. Here, partners, customers and users can literally experience the core of Cameo and Adam Hall on all levels. We look forward to seeing you in whatever capacity in 2022.

Cameo’s Product Manager, Daniel Wrase.

THE HOME OF LIVE EVENTS TECHNOLOGY LAURA MARLING The singer’s crew adopt a ‘less is more’ approach to her latest acoustic tour

FONTAINES D.C. Irish post-punk outfit embark on their biggest touring campaign to date

ERASURE Synthpop pioneers hit the road with over 600m of neon and LED infrastructure


ANDY C: ALL NIGHT A celebration of rave culture inside Wembley’s SSE Arena








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CREWBOOKING: ‘REUNITING PEOPLE UNDER ONE PLATFORM’ As all corners of the entertainment industry look to return to full strength, Crewbooking strives to help touring professionals find the right person for the job. TPi sits down with Crewbooking’s Didier Streel and Louis Van De Leest to discover more.

Words: Stew Hume Photos: Crewbooking

There is no doubt that ‘word of mouth’ is still held in very high regard within the live events industry when it comes to recruiting crew members for a project. That being said, like many industries, there has been a shift in the use of online platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook helping connect crew and freelancers with prospective employers. As we move into 2022 with the ever-growing concern of the lack of crew following the pandemic, there have been a number of platforms, bespoke to the industries needs, offering new methods for freelancers to find work. One of the latest is Crewbooking. Created by several industry professionals, this online platform has already gained a large user base across the globe. As well as individual freelancers, a large number of companies have also adopted the platform to find and hire crew. Crewbooking reports an average of 100 to 200 new profiles every day. Company founder, Laurent Hirtz, who has a background in video within the entertainment industry, working with the likes of PRG in the past, came up with the concept of an app for other technicians to check his availability for the show. This idea soon became the bedrock of what Crewbooking is today; an interactive tool to connect like-minded professionals and, most importantly, help them get work. “We wanted to provide a full service for the entertainment industry,” explained


Crewbooking’s Louis Van De Leest. “From live events to the TV and film sector right the way through to the VFX industry. We are targeting niche industries with the goal of reuniting people under one platform.” He went on to explain why this platform was vital despite pre-existing services. “We didn’t ever want this to be like other apps on the market. Crewbooking has been built from the bottom up from within the industry and has been developed with industry professionals focussing on this niche sector.” Accessible via the app or desktop, a profile can be set up as either an individual ‘Crew’ account or as a company. With a Crew account you are able to create a profile stating your expertise, any qualifications you have as well as post about current projects you have been involved in tagging the relevant companies. With a Crew profile you can also create your own network of other freelancers and even search for others in your region. Using a company profile, there are a number of features with advanced search options, allowing you to curate a network of known freelancers. With ‘My Team’, end users can build a team on the platform and integrate Crewbooking into the planning of their project. “One of the things that really separates Crewbooking from other platforms is the search function we offer,” explained Streel. “You can be really specific about the type of freelancer you are after. You define the










First page: Didier Streel; Louis Van De Leest. Above: Laurent Hirtz.

“23% of people have left the industry, which will eventually result in a bottleneck. This industry is going to require solutions and we believe Crewbooking is one of them.” Didier Streel, Crewbooking.

necessary skills you are after for a specific job and even search geographically for those freelancers in your area.” Streel highlighted that you can offer crew members a job over the app leading to a quicker response while crewing a show. “You can also keep jobs private to keep them hidden from competitors,” he added. Within the platform all potential jobs are referred to as ‘missions’. “So far we’ve found with all missions two in 10 of those that are eligible are applying,” enthused Streel. “We found the process is extremely fast as people get notifications on the phone about potential jobs and on the spot can say yes or no. Gone are the days where you needed to call up Crews or send an email and wait for a reply.” One unavoidable question when it comes to any online platform is that of cost and how this


business model is sustainable. “For Crews, the platform is free and will remain so,” explained Streel. “The subscription model is only on the company side.” A medium package cost €75 per month with the large package costing €125 each month. “The subscription model is not sustainable enough on it’s own if we want Crewbooking to grow as a community,” continued Streel. “With this in mind, we have already begun working with a third party payroll company who are paying us to process the contracts that are filled through Crewbooking.” This process has already begun in Belgium and Italy, where there has been a significant signup on the platform. “This is our vision for Crewbooking’s future,” he said. “If we want to continue in developing new features this is the best solution.” As we move into the new year, the duo from

Crewbooking discussed some of their hopes for the not too distant future. “As of the end of 2021, Crewbooking is available in six different languages,” stated Streel. “This allows a greater opportunity to have more success in various countries rather than forcing users to speak in English.” In the next 12 months, Crewbooking is bringing on board ambassadors from various regions to increase the reach of the platform. “The hope for these ambassadors is to engage with schools and training centres to promote the platform to the next generation,” stated Streel, a point which Van De Leest was keen to highlight in closing. “23% of people have left the industry which will eventually result in a bottleneck. This industry is going to need some solutions and we believe Crewbooking is one of them.”





BIMM INSTITUTE LONDON: EVENT MANAGEMENT BIMM Institute London lecturer, Alice James and graduate, Grace Brennan disclose the value of investing in the education system, the gender split of classrooms and highlight the challenges events management graduates face in 2022.

Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Alice James and Grace Brennan

Aside from her daily duties as Head of Production for AEG Presents, Alice James lectures in Event Management at BIMM Institute London, teaching students a range of touring and live events focussed modules such as event sustainability, crowd psychology and management, event logistics and operations, and event concept and design, among other subjects. “As a student I wanted to learn from someone actively working in the industry, as opposed to those who worked in the industry a decade ago,” James began, citing her decision to reinvest in the education sector. “What BIMM does is refreshing. The majority of module leaders teaching specific topics all work in the industry, and we teach part time, while juggling our day-to-day jobs,” she said, explaining that this affords lecturers and guest speakers to provide students with hands-on experience at festival sites and impart their classroom knowledge in the field. “A lot of the


lectures at are theoretical because it has to be taught in the classroom, however, we try to create opportunities for students to get hands-on – doing site visits, work experience, masterclasses from production managers, tour managers, stage managers, etc. to deliver an insight into the modern, touring environment,” James commented. “The amazing thing about BIMM is the endless amount of opportunities afforded to you, from door work at gigs tutors were putting on to working for festivals,” Grace Brennan, a recent BIMM Institute London Event Management graduate commented. “Networking is important in this industry, so having lecturers, tutors and a wide range of visiting industry insiders has helped with my career progression massively.” Brennan is one of many female graduates from the BIMM Institute London Event Management course. “The gender split really is quite astonishing,” noted James. “Every event

management class I teach is about 60/70% female, sometimes even more. We are starting to see a trend of more people coming through that is predominantly female. Whether those people go into production, we don’t know, but it is encouraging to have a larger pool of trained graduates skilled enough to join the live music production and events industry.” Brennan added: “It’s interesting because now I’m working in the industry, I’m often sought after by companies to achieve a gender balance quota. However, when I started studying at BIMM Institute London it was predominantly male in most areas of the live events and production industry, which was initially nerveracking – now it’s working in my favour which is rather bizarre.” Despite the expansion of live music and events courses in recent years, James and Brennan cite economic barriers, a lack of paid work and non-traditional career pathways as the biggest challenges students and graduates

face today. “I always encourage students to get work experience while they’re studying, so by the time they leave they’ve already accumulated a wealth of experience,” James said. “A lack of paid work experience is also a barrier for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This exists in other sectors and while I’ve seen record labels address this issue, I’m not aware of the production sector or the companies creating an easier route.” Having stage managed at Latitude Festival and BBC Introducing over summer, Brennan plans to return to festival fields in 2022 as well as promoting shows for a small venue in Camden, while working as an Event Administrator at EMS Events. “The pros of BIMM have been the opportunities I have been afforded. I’ve got a qualification, spent four years learning, experienced some amazing projects and made some great memories.” Opposite: Alice James. Above: Grace Brennan.

THE ONLY LIGHT FOR YOUR ENCORE Seriously. You only need one.



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PANASONIC KAIROS TRAINING ACADEMY NETWORK Anna Arkatova discusses Panasonic’s latest training incentives.

Panasonic Connect Product Marketing Manager, Anna Arkatova,; Managing Director, AED Display at AED Group, Thierry Heldenbergh; Creative Technology’s Sam Hatcher

Last year, Panasonic announced the KAIROS Training Academy Network to train operators to get the best from its live production platform. KAIROS offers an open software architecture system for video switching. The academies have been created in partnership with partners across Europe and the UK including Creative Technology (London and Sweden), AED (Belgium), VMB (Spain),KST Moschkau and Lang (Germany) with a number still in the pipeline. “We believe those trained in our products and solutions are more likely to use them,” began Panasonic Connect Product Marketing Manager, Anna Arkatova. “We regularly host in-person and virtual training sessions with partners and end-users.” This continued to be the case following the release of KAIROS. “We want operators and directors to push KAIROS to its limits and unlock more creative possibilities. We approached a number of partners to set up training academies in their offices, so that people can get hands-on with KAIROS.” Arkatova highlighted the key features of KAIROS, such as Creator, the platform’s Graphic User Interface, which enables the management of an unlimited number of video layers. “Creator has been designed to enable


directors and vision mixers with varied levels of experience to be able to deliver engaging content or set-up complex systems with limited training time,” Arkatova commented. KAIROS is not just a conventional vision mixer but utilises a variety of IT ecosystems based on COTS technology, with expandable functions and links to external devices. As a result, while in its most basic of configuration it supports IP video switching, it also has the capability to sit at the centre of a live production as a pixel processor or screen manager and cover all functions with a latency of just a single frame. Creative Technology’s Sam Hatcher discussed some of the UK-based training sessions. “We have trained KAIROS operators for Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022 as well as trained freelance technical directors, video engineers and operators at Creative Technology.” Participants of the training sessions can expect to learn about the “revolutionary ecosystem” offered by KAIROS. “We enable those that join the training sessions to have a greater understanding of how a software-defined switcher differs from more traditional options,” he stated. Hatcher continued to explain how during the sessions, attendees were given an overview of

the “Photoshop-style” graphic user interface, and then encouraged those undertaking the course to get stuck into a range of self-lead tasks that show you how to configure and operate the many features offered by KAIROS. “I’m convinced that with these new IT platforms like KAIROS we can be a lot more flexible in the future with remote production,” Thierry Heldenbergh, Managing Director, AED Display at AED Group commented. “The new transitions to IP platforms is really important because we strongly believe that will be the future, not only for events but also in fixed installations,” Heldenbergh said. “In this aspect training is very important as we need operators that feel confident about the system and feel at ease.” For more information about KAIROS training schemes, contact Panasonic partners directly. Creative Technology UK: Creative Technology Sweden: AED: and VMB: KST Moschkau: kst-academy


THOUGHTS FOR 2022 PSA Chair, Dave Keighley makes his prediction for the year ahead and what the industry can look forward to in 2022.

Words: Dave Keighley Photo: Jordon Connor

I must admit it was so nice to roll into 2022 and get rid of pesky 2021. I’m sure that I am not the only one from our industry that is glad to see the back of such a loathsome year. As we move into 2022, I believe our industry will get back on track and hopefully return to



some level of normalcy as the year progresses. We will face tough times ahead, as we have before, but I truly believe 2022 will be better than the past two years for our industry. As we are all aware of, Omicron is a highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, however,

early signs seem to suggest that it is less dangerous than previous variants. This, of course, is helped by the many millions in the UK who are now fully vaccinated. As we can see in early 2022, the issue of self-isolation is becoming a larger problem than the COVID-19 cases themselves. Staff shortages are widespread and the UK government has seen this threat and are keen to limit the time in isolation and try to reduce the impact of employees not being able to attend their places of work. I think over the next two to three months – providing we keep hospital admission down and the vaccines are preventing serious illness – we will learn to live with COVID-19 and get on with business, and hopefully, get back to where we were in 2019. This coming year will show whether all the great work we as an industry have done and talked about as a collective venture during the past two years will in practice continue when we go back to working together. Are we still going to help each other? I really hope we do and it simply leaves it for me to wish you all a very happy, successful and safe New Year!





SHOWSTAK: AUTOMATING BIG LOOKS, SAFELY Showstak’s Kosma Szostak reflects on demonstrating the creative capabilities of automation in front of 18,000 Queen fans at Prague’s O2 arena and the steps behind achieving ambitious looks for clients in a safe and controlled environment.

Words: Jacob Waite & Kosma Szostak Photo: ilona Gerasymova Music Photography

When a customer approaches you with a big idea, such as having a piano and Freddie Mercury impersonator fly above an audience of 18,000, you’d be forgiven for approaching the task with a certain degree of hesitation. However, not one to dismiss a challenge – having shared his desire to make the process deploying automation for live events as easy as lighting, audio and video by crafting products with flexibility and sustainability in mind [see TPi #263] – Kosma Szostak of Polish family stage automation outfit, Showstak, approached the task with vigour and vitality associated with seasoned professionals. Tribute act Queenie’s frontman, Michael Kluch and his band took to the stage for a huge concert at Prague’s 18,000-capacity O2 arena in September 2021 for three nights. The big budget production took more than a year to plan and programme, with Show Designer, Martin Hruška devising an impressive display of automation, pyrotechnics and lighting. “We were so proud to open the arena again with such a huge show,” Szostak began, reflecting on the landmark project. A total of 16 trucks were used to transport the show’s gear into the arena. Szostak’s biggest technical challenge was in programming complicated movements including the platform flying above the crowd and sliding on the rail and in the next movement the platform was tilting without an artist. “This meant we had many commands to play simultaneously, which were not easy to program in software and create cues,” he said, highlighting safety and SIL3 system compliance design as additional technical challenges. “Our team did a great job with both of those tasks,” Szostak said, having operated the automation console along with


Simon ‘Captain’ Howdy, who was on hand as an assistant operator for safety. “As well as observing machinery, we had three spotters with e-stop buttons ready to stop the system if required, having done all the necessary civil engineer calculations for the movements and load forces beforehand,” Szostak noted, praising the entire workforce. The duo harnessed Kinesys Vector Control, APEX 1250kg hoists and EXE 1000kg PRen17206 compliance to fly frontman, Michael Kluch above the audience. APEX 1250 hoists were used for the flying platform and 16 pieces of EXE 1000kg C1 hoists handled the pods behind, with the middle hoists designated to handle a flying podium for the performing artist. “Our team

followed Blumano Risk Assessment SIL3 method to underestimate risk and possible scenarios and choose the right technology and safety measures to secure the installation to be safe as well as prEN17206 entertainment technology - lifting and load-bearing equipment guidelines for stages and other production areas within the industry.” Having demonstrated the creative capabilities of automation when it comes to immersing a live audience in a performance, Szostak said in closing that he believes the future relies on “a combination of automation devices providing complex movement in each direction for performing artists.”


BLACK LIGHT DELIVERS ECO-CONSCIOUS PRODUCTION AT COP26 Black Light Managing Director, Klean Dalton highlights the rather apt environmentally conscious approach to production at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26).

Words: Klean Dalton Photos: Black Light


2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) thrust Scotland onto the world’s stage. All eyes were on us as a country as we set out to deliver one of the highest-profile, environmentally conscious events to date. Black Light was selected by project managers, Identity, to run full production for the pre-conference reception which was held at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was at this event, hosted by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and attended by HRH Prince of Wales, HRH Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with a video address from HRH The Queen, that 120 invited heads of state would meet for the first time ahead of the COP 26 environmental summit. The timing of this event for Black Light was pivotal. Like other production companies across the UK and indeed the world, we had just experienced the full impact of external, environmental influences on our business. As a company we had already begun to adapt. Having mapped out our COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, we had considered our response in terms of climate action by introducing simple recommended measures, and further investment into sustainable technology was a part of the plan. With proven carbon-conscious event production already under our company belt supported by its ISO 14001 certification, the decision to use Black Light was based on the team’s extensive experience and as a local supplier, the capacity to deliver the environmentally conscious reception. Our local focus and crew were key. Based in Edinburgh, we supplied a full technical turnkey solution, working to a design structured by longstanding, Glasgow-based associate, Lighting Designer, Grant Anderson, who specified the required led-source lighting. The audio requirement was subcontracted to Glasgowbased The Warehouse Sound Services, situated just a 10-minute drive from the venue. In addition to the short distances involved in transportation, a project-based car sharing scheme for staff was implemented and Black Light also adheres to Scotland’s ‘no idling’ policy, where running a vehicle engine whilst stationary warrants a fixed penalty fine. Grant’s LED-source design encompassed several distinct elements, including a broadcast and camera-ready area for the press to capture images of the attendees. To show off Kelvingrove as an example of Scottish heritage the architecture and interior was lit to full advantage using a combination of Elation Professional Artiste Monet and Picasso lighting fixtures. The design was underpinned with a variety of LED Par lights and moving wash fixtures from ETC and Robe. Though the power supply for the event was mostly solar-powered, Black Light also had to work within the constraints of the museum. Battery-powered lighting units were in place to create a cleanlooking, wire-free, path to guide the London buses, emblazoned with the reminder that they were ‘made in Scotland’, that brought the event’s high-profile guests. The current reality is that for any event, even the most environmentally-conscious in terms of product and intent, there will continue to be a trade-off between sustainability and meeting the brief. The positive message here though, is that as we peel back the layers, we can clearly see where we can make further efforts ourselves and where innovation needs to focus.



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ABSEN LAUNCHES GREEN INITIATIVE Absen unites its environmental efforts under one brand and signals a major statement of intent in the company’s 20th-anniversary year.

Reaffirming its commitment to a sustainable future, LED manufacturer, Absen has launched a new green initiative, Absen Green, with the goal of uniting its efforts in sustainability, environmental protection, energy efficiency and corporate social responsibility. Absen has long had some of the most energy efficient products on the market, but the launch of Absen Green marks the first time the LED manufacturer has brought together its environmental efforts under one brand and signals a major statement of intent in the company’s 20th-anniversary year. “Energy saving is a virtue, but environmental protection is an attitude. This is our attitude,” explained Absen Senior Vice President of Global Business Development, Rubel Rengel. “It’s what the Earth deserves.” Among the planet-first measures announced under the Absen Green banner are the use of only sustainable, environmentally friendly materials, rigorous safety standards to prevent damage to the natural world, and an energy efficiency programme which has saved 700,000 tons of CO2 over the past five years. Energy saving is achieved by a combination of four technological innovations. LED common cathode technology reduces energy consumption and heat output by more than 20%, while the use of a high-efficiency power supply offers energy conversion efficiency of close to 90%,compared to 75% to 85% for products using traditional power supplies. LED lamps with high luminous efficiency further bring down energy consumption, and a comprehensive heat-dissipation design reduces the power consumption of the displays’ internal circuits. With this four-


pronged approach, products such as the A1099, Absen’s large outdoor LED display, and the A1021D/A1621D, its LED digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising solution, deliver energy savings of up to 50% and 65%, compared to similar products on the market. The real impact of the savings offered by these and other Absen products is equivalent to the carbon dioxide absorbed by nearly 14 million trees in a single day, and has helped the company achieve its goal of carbon neutrality, or net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. Increased energy efficiency also reduces emissions of sulphur dioxide and other harmful gases, preventing the build-up of damaging sulfuric acid in the atmosphere. These high environmental standards similarly apply to the manufacturing stage, with Absen using only eco-friendly raw materials – all of which comply with the European Union’s RoHS 2.0 directive restricting the use of hazardous substances – and ensuring all its products meet EU waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations, which promote the reuse, recovery and recycling of waste by-products. On average, these products have a reuse/ recycling rate 25% higher than their nonWEEE-certified equivalents. “Absen advocates green, low-carbon, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly manufacturing, following the tenet of sustainable development,” noted Rengel. Absen LED displays are also compatible with 3C, CE, UL, ETL and other domestic and international safety standards, certifying that the products meet strict requirements for fire protection, electromagnetic interference, AC

dielectric withstand, current leakage, insulation resistance and ground resistance, as well as OHSMS health standards on eye protection from blue light, electromagnetic compatibility, and much more. In addition to highlighting how Absen minimises its physical environmental footprint, Absen Green underscores how the company is tackling other, less obvious sources of pollution: light and sound. Absen products feature a fanless design, which allows its products to operate at a noise pressure of under 10dBd – for comparison, the volume of a typical conversation is around 60dB – while Absen’s automatic brightness adjustment technology ensures that its displays adjust to the brightness of the surrounding environment. Further reduction of light pollution is achieved with 16-bit high grey correction technology and unique fog surface processing to reduce glare and eye strain. Absen Green also includes Absen’s complementary dedication to corporate social responsibility, which covers the company’s management systems, business ethics, and employees’ rights and benefits in addition to its environmental and safety commitments. “From using only environmentally friendly materials to reducing energy usage, waste, and light and sound pollution, the initiatives set out under Absen Green show how Absen is meeting its responsibilities to the planet and humanity,” said Rengel. “The adverse effects of climate change are undeniable and we want to be part of the solution, now and into the future.”


11TH MAY 2022

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STEPHAN PARIDAEN PRG’s new CEO reflects on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the company and what the future may hold for the live events market.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role as PRG CEO? My goal is to ensure that all the markets in which PRG is involved pull together to harness the collective talent around the world. This will mean we come back stronger as markets begin to re-emerge and together we can aid the development of new markets, such as virtual production and hybrid events. How has PRG faired since March 2020? It varies from region to region. However, our work in the film and TV markets has gone from strength to strength. Nevertheless, like most, we have struggled tremendously with other markets particularly touring, theatre and corporate. That said, in all three of those markets, we sought hybrid solutions and now boasts several studios throughout the world, allowing us to offer virtual productions. Has COVID-19 changed PRG’s business model? As we go forward, virtual productions and projects harnessing the creative capabilities of extended reality are here to stay on top of our work within live events. There was a quick learning curve when it came to virtual events but now, we are in a position that when live events return, we have another offering with virtual studios in key locations such as LA, Nashville, Paris and Hamburg. This feels like the beginning of a new evolution as we benefit from the development in the gaming industry as well as improvement with media series, LED and camera technology. Notably with Unreal Engine it is creating the next level of story telling.


“It’s clear that the live events market remains extremely important but at this point in time it’s unclear how the market will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.” CEO, Stephan Paridaen

How is the health of the global events market? It’s clear that the live events market remains extremely important but at this point in time it’s unclear how the market will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in mainland Europe lockdown measures have been enforced again, so it’s hard for promoters and organisers to take the risk in Q1. Our virtual capabilities, however, allow us to provide customers with alternative solutions. On top of this, there is also the issue of global crew shortages. There is a huge amount of talent in the industry, especially with those

who have transferable skills beneficial to other sectors. There has been a great deal of movement in the past few years and when the sector returns to full force, the worry will be finding the right people. At PRG, we have been working on various schemes to bring people in-house, rather than using freelancers as a way of hanging on to talent as well as enhancing pre-existing training schemes amid the pandemic to ensure new hires are trained to a higher level than they may have previously.