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22LIVE An exclusive interview
ROBBIE WILLIAMS The singer-songwriter’s road-tested crew return for a stripped-back arena tour WWW.TPiMAGAZINE.COM
ODEZSA Electronic duo and their creative team explore the limits of live production
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JJ LIN: ROAD TO JJ20
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023 • #273
The Singaporean superstar takes fans on a visual journey through his 20-year career in the music industry
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NEW SIGHTS AND LONG-HAUL FLIGHTS
Just before we closed down for Christmas, I was looking through our joint team calendar and realised that for three consecutive weeks in November and December, at least one member of the Mondiale Media family would be in a different time zone. ‘What time is it over there?’ became my go-to opening WhatsApp message…
Where have we been, I hear you ask? Well, while Pete was out in Saudi Arabia witnessing MDLBEAST Soundstorm [which you’ll be able to read all about in the February/March Edition of TPMEA], Jacob took two trips across the pond – first to LDI in Las Vegas, before representing TPi at THE Conference: Live at Lititz. Very much developing his patch as ‘Mr America’ in our office, Jacob reports back from his trip to Lititz on p16, and profiles Solotech’s Las Vegas base on p88.
Not wanting to miss out on Jacob’s American adventures, I also took the time to speak to the team behind Odesza following their North America tour. The EDM duo have been breaking the conventions of the genre by producing a truly ground-breaking live experience – and one that you should definitely check out [p52].
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, I took my first ever trip to Taiwan to meet our good friends at B’in Live and to witness the production splendour of JJ Lin’s Road to JJ20 [p28]. Celebrating 20 years of the Singaporean’s musical career, the production values, not to mention the crew’s dedication to the craft, was truly something to behold. I never thought when I started working for TPi that I’d find myself covering shows in Asia; it was a true ‘pinch myself’ moment, and I’m sure it won’t be the last… Watch this space.
A bit closer to home, Jacob pulled double duty, covering both the arena runs for Robbie Williams [p40] and Carl Cox [p58]. I also took some time to speak to the team behind 22live, a second-generation independent audio rental company providing something new to the pro audio landscape. With several familiar faces from the industry, it was great to hear their plans for the future as well as getting to see their gear in action on both The Australian Pink Floyd Show and Sigur Rós’ latest tours [p82].
Last ly, it’s with great pleasure that we can announce the shortlist for the TPi Awards 2023. Turn to p12 to see who the industry voted for, and don’t forget to book your tickets to avoid missing out on the industry’s favourite night of the year.
As amazing as it has been to collate all the votes every year and see which tours, companies and individuals have made the biggest impression on the industry, there’s still a slightly disheartening feeling that our shortlist doesn’t fully demonstrate the diversity that exists within the live events sphere. With this in mind, we are in the middle of creating a new framework for our voting system, which we hope to launch for the 2024 awards. We truly see the TPi Awards as the ‘industry’s awards’, so, if you have any suggestions as to how we might improve the voting process, we’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,
Stew Hume Editor
January / February 2023
Editor Stew Hume
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ON THE COVER
The singer-songwriter enlists the expertise of a road-tested team to illustrate a 32-year journey.
Electronic duo and their touring family bring The Last Goodbye to EDM fans throughout the US.
Veteran DJ makes the leap to live tronic artist with the support ve events architects.
Pearce Hire’s Dan Pratley and l Lodi share their stories.
Dirk van Poppel discusses the art eo mapping.
Joyned strives to simplify audio Technologists join forces to trate GDTF and MVR.
82 22live enters the market with a clear set of working principles.
88 Solotech increases its footprint and presence in Las Vegas.
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THE 2023 SHORTLIST THE DENNIS SHEEHAN TOUR MANAGER OF THE YEAR AWARD PRODUCTION MANAGER OF THE YEAR STAGE MANAGER OF THE YEAR FAVOURITE CREW COMPANY Alex Howell Andy Franks Dick Meredith Marguerite Nguyen Mark Brightman Oli James Helen Himmons Ian Simpson Jake Vernum Nick Gosling Pete Hutchison Sam Newson Jack Dunnett Matt Caley Paul Traynor Phil ‘Tico’ Ryder Reuben Warnes Steve McLean DNG Crewing PS Events Showforce Spartan Crew Stage Miracles The Production House Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by FAVOURITE RIGGING COMPANY RIGGER OF THE YEAR FAVOURITE SOUND RENTAL COMPANY FOH ENGINEER OF THE YEAR Actus Industries Fineline Lighting Knight Rigging Services Rigging Team UK Rigging Webb’s Rigging Craig Anderson David Oldham Heidi Gonzalez Pete The Greek Seth Cook Steve Walsh Adlib Brittania Row Productions Major Tom Patchwork London RG Jones Solotech Anna Dahlin Chris Marsh Dave Shepherd Davide Lombardi Paul Cooper Steve Pattison Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by MONITOR ENGINEER OF THE YEAR SOUND SYSTEM DESIGNER OF THE YEAR FAVOURITE POWER SUPPLY COMPANY FAVOURITE REHEARSAL FACILITY Becky Pell Ben Kingman Dave Rupsch Laurie Binns Lucinda Potter Marco Dellatorre Alessandro Cestaro Ben Phillips Dan Bennett Oli Crump Simon Honywill Tony Smith Aggreko Buffalo Power Fourth Generation Pearce Hire Power Logistics The Powershop Fly By Nite LH2 Studios Production Park Rock Lititz Subfrantic SW19 Studios Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by FAVOURITE VENUE FAVOURITE LIGHTING RENTAL COMPANY LIGHTING OPERATOR OF THE YEAR LIGHTING DESIGNER OF THE YEAR AO Arena KOKO The O2 Royal Albert Hall Wembley Stadium Ziggo Dome 4Wall Entertainment Adlib GLX Productions Lights Control Rigging Liteup Neg Earth Lights David Smith Franki McDade John Rogers Matt Jones Pryderi Baskerville Tim Thorley Cate Carter Ed Warren Matt Arthur Sam Tozer Tim Routledge Tom Campbell Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by FAVOURITE STAGING COMPANY THE MARK FISHER SET DESIGNER OF THE YEAR AWARD FAVOURITE SET CONSTRUCTION COMPANY FAVOURITE SPECIAL EFFECTS COMPANY Acorn Event Structures All Access Staging SRG Event Structures Stageco Star Live TAIT AJ Pen Flora Harvey Jeremy Lloyd Mark Cunniffe Misty Buckley Ric Lipson All Access Staging KD Productions Ox Event House Stage One TAIT WICREATIONS BPM SFX ER Productions Limitless FX Pains Fireworks PixMob Strictly FX Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by
www.tpiawards.com scan here for tickets For sponsorship enquiries please contact Fran: firstname.lastname@example.org or for general enquiries please contact Alice: email@example.com FAVOURITE CATERING COMPANY FAVOURITE TOUR BUS COMPANY FAVOURITE TRUCKING COMPANY FAVOURITE TRAVEL COMPANY 27 FEBRUARY 2023 Sponsored by Awards Suppliers Headline Sponsor Bite Tour Catering Eat To The Beat Eat Your Heart Out Popcorn Catering Sarah’s Kitchen The Pantry Maid Beat The Street CS UK MM Band Services Phoenix Bussing Senators Coaches Vans For Bands Conference Haul International Fly By Nite KB Event Stagetruck Transam Trucking TRUCKINGBY Brian Yeardley Equinox Travel Glide Travel Onstage Travel Protravel International - Global Travel Collection UK TAG Tour Travel FAVOURITE FREIGHT COMPANY FAVOURITE VIDEO RENTAL COMPANY THE DES FALLON VIDEO VISIONARY AWARD THE GREEN AWARD EFM Global Logistics ETL Logistics Freight Minds Global Motion Rock-It Global SOS Global 4Wall Entertainment ADI Adlib Colonel Tom Touring Creative Technology Solotech Ant Barrett Fabio Marcantelli Nick Whiteoak Phil Mead Shelby Carol Cude Steve Price Winner will be announced on the night LIVE PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION ABBA Voyage Bring Me The Horizon: Reading and Leeds Festival Coldplay : Music of the Spheres Ed Sheeran: +–=÷× Roxy Music: 50th Anniversary Tour 2022 Weekends with Adele Winner will be announced on the night Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Sponsored by Supported by
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THE CONFERENCE: LIVE AT LITITZ
In a bid to ‘make the industry better than we found it’, touring veterans, Charlie Hernandez, Jake Berry, Marty Hom, and Stuart Ross partner with the Rock Lititz community to present an unprecedented three days of programming for the wider live entertainment industry.
After decades working with some of the biggest names in live entertainment, four industry veterans, CJMS – Charlie Hernandez, Jake Berry, Marty Hom, and Stuart Ross – enlisted the support of the Rock Lititz community to launch a unique conference for over 600 industry professionals.
Taking place from 7 to 9 December 2022 on the Rock Lititz campus in Lititz, Pennsylvania, THE Conference: Live at Lititz delivered interactive, dynamic content in the company of key decision makers to foster the next generation in live entertainment production.
With a diverse range of panels (43% women speakers), discourse, interactive workshops, product demonstrations, facility and bus tours, as well as themed social events each night, attendees were met with mindful ways to take the next step in their live-music production careers.
At THE Conference: Live at Lititz, charity organisation Just A Bunch Of Roadies [JABOR] launched the John Campion and Lori Tierney Memorial Education Grant as well as partnering with attendees and Rock Lititz to operate a Christmas toy drive for the local community.
“We need these challenging discussions to move forward and push the envelope to promote engagement and brainstorm solutions,” said President of QED Productions, Charlie Hernandez – who has produced and consulted on events with artists and organisations such as Sting, The Police, Aerosmith, David Bowie, WWE, and Farm Aid. “We were cognisant about selecting speakers who would provide the most thoughtful, ethical way of thinking when it comes to health, welfare,
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Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: Paige Durborow
sustainability, inclusion and inspiring the nextgeneration of touring professionals.”
A Greener Festival’s (AGF) Claire O’Neill and Jamal Chalabi presented a case study on the best practices, challenges and lessons learned from Bring Me The Horizon’s Post Human Tour [see TPi #266] to demonstrate how touring can become more sustainable.
“I broke my no flying rule to attend this conference,” O’Neill said. “The excellent team at THE Conference: Live at Lititz gave the opportunity to help some of the world’s leading touring production companies to change business as usual and reduce emissions. It costs two tonnes of carbon to get there and back, so we must prevent at least 10 times that amount with the touring industry this year ahead as a result. We’ve made some amazing connections who can effect significant change, share what we have learned, and are positive about what lies ahead.”
One of t he biggest names in tour production management, over the years, Jake Berry has overseen mammoth productions for the likes of U2, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, Shakira, Madonna, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, the Electric Daisy Carnival, Coldplay, and many others.
“Our t hree founding principles for this event were simple – no awards, no golf, and no dinner,” he underlined, speaking to TPi on the final day of the conference. “We have never
THE Conference: Live at Lititz co-founder, Charlie Hernandez
“We were cognisant about selecting speakers who would provide the most thoughtful, ethical way of thinking when it comes to health, welfare, sustainability, inclusion and inspiring the next-generation of touring professionals.”
been conference organisers – we’ve attended, we’ve watched, and we’ve criticised. The hardest part about putting this event together is being aware of and open to criticism.”
With a tough crowd to please, many of which have put on some of the biggest live shows in the world, the daunting task was not lost on Berry. “Personally, watching people enjoy the panels and getting involved in the conversation, as an organiser, was a privilege. Despite our years of experience putting on spectacles, we were unsure of what to expect and worried about people’s reactions.”
Despite having over a century of collective touring experience, Berry explained that CJMS are much more accustomed to coiling cable and loading trucks than being on-stage with a microphone. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response; we are aware of some tweaks we need to make, and are already looking forward to next year’s event,” Berry concluded. “We have to make this industry better than we left it.”
Fellow organiser, Marty Hom – a 40-year concert touring veteran who has worked as tour director/manager with The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Nicks, Shakira, Beyoncé, Lionel Richie, Van Halen and Justin Bieber, among others – concurred. “This isn’t about us,” Hom stated. “We all made a point to attend the panels, support the speakers, go to meetings, and be visible at the bar afterwards with no degree of separation
between organiser and attendee. The people attending this event are our friends. I believe this conference is unique because there is no strict structure, attendees are free and encouraged to move around and explore all corners of the Rock Lititz community, making it all the more engaging.
“This conference was for our attendees and we’ll endeavour to learn, evolve and improve in time for next year’s event,” he added. “Our goal is to increase the number of young people attending and inspire them to become engaged in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest businesses on earth.”
Co-organiser, Stuart Ross – former COO of Festivals at Goldenvoice/AEG, who has over 40 years in the live entertainment industry, where he has worked with personalities such as Tom Waits, Metallica, George Michael, Weezer and Spinal Tap, among others – highlighted the collaborative nature of the project.
“When the four of us got together and decided to put on a conference, our first two questions were – when and where? The former was easy to narrow down and Lititz, we discovered, was the perfect place.
“As a young person, it may take you a decade to be fortunate enough to bring a tour here,” he continued. “Imagine being a young attendee and being able to tour Clair’s HQ with Troy Clair, or sit at the bar with Michael Tait. These are, by definition, legends in their field.” He went on to praise the support of Andrea
Shirk, Emily Cassidy, Suzi Meyer and Rachel Pfennig Hales as well as the wider Rock Lititz community. “The entire Rock Lititz team came to the table; we simply could not have done this without them.”
‘COMMUNITY AND COLLABORATION’
No conference is feasible without an army of ground staff. In order to get this ambitious project off the ground, the organisers and the Rock Lititz community had to tap into their vast network of sponsors and supporters – namely, Private Jet Services; Live Nation; Rock-It Global; EPS; Hemphill Brothers; Special Event Services and subsidiaries – Special Event Transportation, Musical Coaches, G2 Mobile Structures, G2 Structures, and Guardian Barrier Services; Clair Global; d&b audiotechnik; TAIT; Solotech; Choice Live; Pyrotek; ATOMIC; 4Wall Entertainment; Cube Services; Aurora Films; Screenworks NEP; Rock Labor; Yamaha; DiGiCo; L-Acoustics; Walz Group; Maple House Records; Sunbelt Rentals; Nighthawk Video; The Lititz Technology Academy at Rock Candy; Beat the Street Bussing, Stageco, Ego Trips, Road Radios, and Cashet.
“It was incredible to see the campus buzzing with so many industry voices. CJMS and Rock Lititz are excited about this ongoing partnership, and the opportunity to continue this conference for years to come,” commented Emily Cassidy, Conference Director at Rock Lititz. “This truly was a team
EVENT FOCUS 018
effort and we are grateful for the hard work from CJMS, the Rock Lititz team, the Rock Lititz Community, our vendors, and our sponsors.”
TAIT provided access to Lead Production Designer, Adam Byrne, and Principal Sustainability Advocate, Carol Scott, who advised the conference on sustainability. In addition to the stage and gear in Studio 2, TAIT sponsored and ran the concierge desks in Studio 2 and Pod 2.
Adam Davis, CEO of TAIT Group and one of founding partners of Rock Lititz, highlighted
LIVE PERFORMANCE VISUALS
attributing the attendees list to something akin to a ‘family gathering’.
“This is a collective group of people I’ve never seen in the same place, at the same time, all having an experience together, which has been crafted for them,” he noted. “It’s remarkable that we have got this amount of thought-leadership in one place to take stock of where we are and where we want to go.”
Having left Pennsylvania feeling invigorated, mindful of the challenges and hopeful of the opportunities for the next wave of touring talent
EVENT FOCUS 019 / Get in touch: rcm.tv
As the English trio close out their latest European tour, TPi speaks to the band’s audio team in the Zénith Paris to learn why L-Acoustics was once again the only brand of choice for this camp.
alt-J certainly holds a unique place within the indie-rock landscape, with a signature sound that makes them easily distinguishable from their peers. Due to their unique nature, it’s perhaps not surprising that they are a group that has always cared very much about their live sound. For example, pre-pandemic the band did numerous dates using an L-Acoustics L-ISA system, something which at the time was certainly not the norm. When TPi caught up with the band in late 2022, although not out with an immersive system, it was once again a tour where the crew and band put their faith in the brown boxes.
“My main goal for this tour was to ensure we got an L-Acoustics PA,” said long-serving FOH Engineer, Lance Reynolds. Having worked with the band for a decade, Reynolds discussed their history with the PA brand. “A few years ago, I really sunk into L-Acoustics and made the switch after getting to use it during numerous festival dates. There’s something about the depth of the PA that really works for these guys. It feels like you can see inside the music more –almost as if you have a giant studio monitor.”
Also out on the tour with Reynolds was Monitor Engineer, Benny Masterton. Prior to jumping behind the desk, Masterton had been the tour’s System Engineer and gave his
thoughts on the system. “I think it’s the fidelity of the L-Acoustics system that really works for these guys,” stated Masterton. “The band are very ‘arty’ and the whole audio spectrum is utilised in the set, so it makes sense to have a PA that can draw from a wider palette.”
The audio account was handled by Worley Sound, with the company bringing in a PA that came via Solotech. “Tom [Worley] was our system technician for several tours, so when he started his audio company, he was a natural fit as he knew our needs,” stated Reynolds, who also explained that the fact that Worley is KSE-certified means he is more experienced in dealing with L-Acoustics systems.
Walk ing TPi through the system that was hung in the Zénith Paris was System Technician, George Chandler. He explained how for the Paris date there were 12 K2s in the mains, with eight K3s per side for side hangs. This was a slight reduction from the rest of the tour, which had up to 16 K2s per side for main hangs and 14 K3s per side for side hangs in bigger rooms.
“K2 was a great choice for us due to the flexibility of it,” stated Chandler. “For instance, we went from Halle 622 In Zurich, which is a narrow ‘box’ venue where we only needed to fly 12 K2 mains each side, into the Forum in
EVENT FOCUS 020
Words: Stew Hume
Pictured above: alt-J FOH Engineer, Lance Reynolds; Monitor Engineer, Benny Masterton; PA Tech, Tim Millar; System Technician, George Chandler; PA Technician, Thomas Woolsey.
at Booth 7E800
Milan, which is a full arena setup. Likewise, we went from Zénith in Paris down to the Palladium in Cologne. So, it’s been a big mix of venue shapes and sizes, where the amount of variable horizontal and vertical dispersion K2 provides has been a godsend.”
For the rest of the rig six flow n KS28 subs were hung per side, wit h a fur ther eight KS28 subs arrayed across the front of the stage. Four stacks of three high Kiva 2 were then deployed for front fill, along wit h some ARCS 2 for out fills. “These were fed alternating left and right signals so people at the front still got good stereo sound,” explained Chandler. “This was the first tour that I got to have a listen to a big line of K3,” mused Rey nolds. “They’ve been incredible and sound just like K2s.” Chandler concurred, adding: “K3 was the ideal size side hangs for us due to the smaller physical size and smaller number of amps required to power it. If we had K2 on the sides, our truck pack would be significantly tighter. Tonally, the transition between K2 and K3 has been fairly consistent. In ter ms of output, K2 has much more power, but for the size of venues we had, we didn’t need that, so K3 was ver y welcome.” Rey nolds also noted the fact that there is not a single amp on stage.
“All three of them are on IEMs and there isn’t anyt hing on stage making any noise save the drums – and even they are not super loud as our drummer doesn’t use any cymbals apart from a high hat,” he explained. “This is always a consideration when we design the PA to make sure we can get a bit of a ‘vibe’ on stage so the band can still get some feel.”
While on the subject of IEMs, the band was using Sennheiser 2050s with Cosmic C6Ps. The mix for the band came from a DiGiCo SD12 wit h a Waves Engine for several effects.
“For me, it all comes down to giving them an atmosphere,” stated Masterton. “Waves just means I have multiple effects and reverbs at my disposal to help facilitate that. Except for the dr ums, there are very few mics on stage with a lot of the sounds and textures coming from the keys and Kempers. My goal is to give everything context and make everything as live as possible in the ears.”
The monitor engineer also explained that having L-Acoustics on the rider aided in giv ing some feel to the band on stage. “The off axis sound of the L-Acoustics system, tonally, is really good and beneficial to me as a monitor engineer – par ticularly the subs and front fills.”
As for FOH , Rey nolds was using an Avid S6L
Unlike Masterton, he opted to try and keep effects to a minimum. “For the most par t, I would like the sounds to come from the stage,” he said. “There are still one or two elements like some pitch shifts that I trigger, but other times the gu ys are doing them from the stage.”
Reynolds produced two mixes dur ing ever y show – one for the PA and another for a broadcast. “It ’s mainly for when we are going into festivals,” he explained. “I look after that mix on t he desk as well rather than just feeding into ProTools. This is not a normal guitar, drums and vocals mix and you really need to have a bit more of a handle on it.”
Know n for their immersive light shows, timecode has been an element of the band’s live setup for a long time and something that Reynolds has also beg an to utilise wit h his mix “I used to trigger all my snapshots manually, but I was cur ious how the S6L dealt wit h timecode. The funny thing is I don’t think I’ll ever go back now. It means that when I get into ever y show, I’m less wor ried about the mix and spend more time ensuring the PA is per fect. The mix on the other hand is consistent.”
022 EVENT FOCUS
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For the singer’s latest world tour – The Alicia + Keys World Tour – 4Wall Entertainment provided the lighting, video and rigging for shows on both sides of the Atlantic. 4Wall’s Jordan Hanson and Rhodri Shaw walked TPi through the lighting and video delivery.
While 4Wall’s US branch coordinated the deal with the singer’s production, the tour started in the UK before heading Stateside. The show boasted a large video and lighting package, with TAIT providing a mother grid, which accommodated numerous automated hoists along with a large rear LED screen, which could be split in the middle, providing a wealth of options for the production to create different looks during the set.
“There were nine GLP X4Ls included within TAIT’s mother grid with their automated hoists,” stated Hanson. “It’s something I’d never seen before, but it looked great.”
Below this were custom pods that created a roof canopy made up of 457 CHAUVET Professional E-Pix Strips, which were all mounted within the pods to ensure a quicker load-in for the crew on each of the stops.
“Below the canopy, we had five on-stage trusses running horizontally consisting mainly of Ayrton Perseo fixtures,” Hanson added. Other fixtures on these trusses included 2-Cell Moles, 4-Cell Linear Moles, Rush Par 2s and
GLP impression X4 Bar 20s. The lighting team also deployed three Robe BMFLs operated by Robo Spot controllers on the ground.
Also upstage were two tower trusses that were placed just behind the rolling stage and had an array of Arri S60s rigged in custom brackets to create a “perfect wall of light for the moment when the video wall parted during the artist entrance,” stated Hanson.
There were an additional two trusses racked up at an angle to match the rack of canopy with more Ayrton Perseos and 2 Cell Moles. There were also two wing trusses that were positioned between the main stage and the IMAG screens, as well as a front truss, which featured more Ayrton Perseos as well as Robe BMFL FollowSpots.
The show also featured a B–Stage with four trusses. Three of the trusses were arranged in a horseshoe configuration with GLP impression X4 Bar 20s, SGM P5s and Ayrton Perseo Profiles, along with 1.5m of truss in the middle of the B-Stage, which featured two GLP X4Ls.
For the floor package, there were more CHAUVET Professional Epix Strips, which were integrated into the moving floor set created by TAIT, along with 18 Perseos, three GLP X4s, 16 SGM P5s, and 20 2-Cell Moles.
“One of the main missions was to ensure that this multi-layered show was able to be
loaded-in and out as quickly as possible,” Hanson recalled. “We made sure we had great cable management throughout, taking into account that a few of our trusses were automated. It meant working as a team with the other departments – especially TAIT, as we shared cable management trusses.”
Moving onto the video side of the show, TPi spoke to Rhodri Shaw. His company Transition Video was acquired by 4Wall in late 2021 and the Alicia Keys tour was one of the first projects he and his team worked on under this new moniker. “We were acquired back in November 2021, and we’ve grown dramatically since then, virtually doubling the amount of work that comes out of our warehouse,” explained Shaw.
Despite the increased workload, Shaw revealed that little has changed in terms of work methodology. “Transition was acquired for its people rather than its equipment, so the main office has let us carry on in much the same way,” he stated.
“That said, we are now benefiting from being part of a far larger organisation, which means more resources to buy more kit. I’m not sure we’d have done nearly as well over the past year if we hadn’t been tied to a big company like 4Wall Entertainment.”
One of t he aspects that Shaw pointed to as a benefit of being part of 4Wall was the ability
EVENT FOCUS 24
4Wall Entertainment provides the visual support for Alicia Keys’ latest world tour, supplying lighting, video and rigging for shows on either side of the Atlantic.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: James Bridle
to service clients on both sides of the Atlantic without the need to ship gear – a fact that was certainly taken advantage of with the Alicia Keys tour.
For the main LED screens, 4Wall provided ROE Visual CB5. “It was specified by the production as they wanted to show a lot of high-resolution content,” stated Shaw, who also complemented the T4 Touring frames in which the LED frames travelled in.
There was also an extensive camera package deployed on the tour, with Sony HXCFB80s and Panasonic AW-UE70 PTZ, as well as three Marshall CV503s deployed to capture the action. The IMAG content came via Panasonic 20K Laser projectors, while disguise media servers drove all the content.
To close, Hanson gave his personal highlight for the tour. “There is a moment when Alicia Keys moves from the main to the B-Stage when the kabuki is covering the stage; there are lights shining from the back of the stage into the musicians playing, creating a shadow projection onto the kabuki, alternating between the different musicians. This was a very cool effect and I thought it looked great.” www.aliciakeys.com www.4wall.com
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CIRQUE DU SOLEIL PRESENTS KURIOS: CABINET OF CURIOSITIES
Cirque du Soleil celebrates over 2,000 live performances in the UK with the launch of its latest offering at the Royal Albert Hall.
Cirque du Soleil’s latest production, KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities made its long-awaited European debut this January. Featuring 13 jaw-dropping acts, KURIOS draws inspiration from the Victorian era and 19th Century industrial revolution, promising to be a largerthan-life steampunk spectacle for people of all ages. The show fittingly arrives in 2023 at the end of London’s Royal Albert Hall 150th anniversary programming.
Behind the scenes, Duncan Fisher, Vice President and General Manager of Cirque du Soleil’s Touring Show Division, Tour Director, Zoe Caldwell and Technical Director, Benjamin De Pomeroy were assisted by the Show Support department led by Gerard ‘Ges’ Edwards. “We have an amazing relationship with the Royal Albert Hall, which dates back to the ’90s. We certainly take full advantage of the technical knowledge of their in-house staff and their trusted suppliers, as well as tapping into their extremely high-quality front of house and hospitality operations,” Fisher commented, explaining Cirque’s long-standing relationship with the historic venue.
KURIOS marks the 26th year that Cirque du Soleil has performed at the renowned venue, having graced the stage over 1,200 times and sold almost 3.8m tickets since 1996. The shows also mark over 2,000 Cirque du Soleil performances in the UK in 32 years.
“KURI OS has a large steampunk element, which fits in beautifully with the 150-year history of the Hall and London in general,” Fisher remarked. In collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, the Royal Albert Hall has installed
additional steelwork beneath the stalls to strengthen the venue in specific locations allowing this and all future Cirque du Soleil shows to be bigger and better than ever before. In addition, for the first time the production of KURIOS at the hall will require the floor to be elevated to accommodate the unusual set design, transforming the ground level of the venue to the eyes of the regular visitor.
“We took the opportunity to add more steelwork to allow the easy installation of ‘bollards’ that we typically use to anchor acrobatic rigging to. These bollards replicate the bottom of the Big Top masts. The modifications are many and varied, but the largest challenge for KURIOS has been the set height. Our Big Top shows do not fit perfectly in the Hall, so we have a clash between the upstage set wings and the existing stalls,” Fisher said, noting that the team overcomes this by narrowing the set or rebuilding those areas with a new substructure.
“For KURIOS, the set is lower than any other Big Top show and we cannot narrow it for various reasons. As a result, the team had to lift it up to build over the stalls, but this presents another issue – the stage front would be nearly 5ft tall, thus the front rows of the audience would have a less than optimal experience,” Fisher added. “The solution sounds very simple, but we’re lifting the audience, too!”
There have been some other RAH-specific additions, such as the ‘towers’ used in Acro Net, which will fly in the Hall to minimise sightline interruptions. Equipment-wise, Cirque du Soleil is largely self-reliant, but sector-wide
increases in lead times on gear, as Fisher noted, has been somewhat of a challenge.
“We have struggled to fill local crew calls on all our shows and terrestrial trucking has also been very problematic – especially in North America,” he said, explaining the additional challenges the team faces.
“Apart from the obvious issues of cast and crew being periodically unavailable due to COVID-19, lead time issues on equipment, local crew availability and trucking timelines have been our biggest issues.”
‘A CONTINENT OF HANDS’
In an alternate yet familiar past, KURIOS steps inside the mechanical lab of an inventor convinced that there exists a hidden, invisible world – a place where the craziest ideas and the grandest dreams await. Once the inventor unlocks the door to this world of wonders, time comes to a complete stop and an uplifted cast of otherworldly characters invades his curios cabinet, bringing his makeshift creations to life one by one. As the visible becomes invisible and perspectives transform, KURIOS bursts into a celebration of the power of the imagination.
Writ ten and directed by Michel Laprise, who joined Cirque du Soleil at the turn of the millennium, having previously worked in theatre for nine years as an actor, director and artistic director. Since then, he has co-written and directed the Virtual Reality movie, Kurios: Inside the Box and also written and directed Cirque du Soleil’s 40th production, SEP7IMO DIA –No Descansaré. “The creative process takes
EVENT FOCUS 026
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: Cirque du Soleil & Goff Photos
about two years, and we start from a theme,” Laprise informed TPi.
“It’s a hugely collective process; we want to challenge ourselves artistically. Although I’m responsible for the storyline and characters of the show, I develop these characters with the costume designer.”
In the world of KURIOS, Laprise adopted a holistic approach, working closely with the designer, costume, staging, lighting, and technical department.
“My job requires encouraging people to step outside their comfort zone, to collaborate in a different way and to get involved personally, artistically, and to deeply connect with what we really love at Cirque du Soleil, and to be authentically innovative,” he explained. “You have to surprise the audience, to build a relationship with them. After all, we began as street performers!”
Premiered in Montreal in 2014, KURIOS has mesmerised over 4.5m spectators in 30 cities worldwide with over 2,000 performances brought to life by its cast of 49 artists.
KURI OS – Cabinet of Curiosities revisits the signature Cirque du Soleil style of performance by weaving acrobatics with a touch of poetry, artistry and humour. “There’s a lot of joyful and uplifting moments. Secretly,
I think I’m proud of great moments that people applaud, not for tricks, but for inventions and original moments of staging on the stage,” he said, referencing a particular act called ‘Continent of Hands’.
“I love that with just a few pairs of hands, you can create a whole world. There’s just one simple camera to make the image larger, and it’s projected onto a hot air balloon. I’m proud of that act, and how the characters connect so well. I’m excited to take the show to London because I know that the audiences are so in tune with theatricality.”
KURI OS: Cabinet of Curiosities runs from 13 January until 5 March 2023 with audiences invited to escape reality and step into a world of extraordinary imagination.
“The Royal Albert Hall is the most iconic entertainment venue in the world, and it continues to be a thrill to go there every year. Even though it is a tremendous challenge to get our shows in, it is a challenge that is looked forward to and embraced by our cast and crews,” Fisher concluded.
“Personally, this is the highlight of the year as I get to show off my work at my favourite venue, in my home country and get to spend time with my family.”
The Plunger and Writer and Director of KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities, Michael Laprise at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
JJ LIN: ROAD TO JJ20
To celebrate 20 years in the music industry, the famed Singaporean singer, JJ Lin, presents his latest stage show, which aims to give hope to his fans after the turbulent times of the past few years. TPi is on-site for the artist’s Taiwan date in Rakuten Taoyuan Baseball Stadium to learn more.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: JFJ Productions & B’in Live
For those who are unaware, the name TPi stands for Total Production International. It’s a name that we’ve always strived to live up to, covering shows from across the globe and speaking to the crewmembers responsible for making them happen. As we move into 2023, one of our goals for the year is to provide far greater international on-site coverage of shows, which is why, in late 2022, I was on board an international flight bound for Taiwan. The gig in the question I was skipping time zones to see was one of Mandopop’s biggest names, JJ Lin.
The famed Singaporean singer was celebrating two decades in the industry with a jaw-dropping production, which included such highlights as two fully automated rotating lifts and an enormous LED wall – deployed throughout five distinct acts of the show, which took audiences on an audio-visual journey to all aspects of the star’s immense 14-album back catalogue. Lin’s long-standing production team, B’in Live provided a turnkey solution, not only supplying all the audio, lighting and video, but also overseeing the entire production and overall show design.
As the fans filled the stadium – most armed with inflatable LED batons – there was a palpable excitement within the multigenerational audience. “People have really
been struggling for the past few years due to the pandemic,” began Show Director and Producer, Crystal Chuang. “Because of this, JJ wanted to throw a 20-year anniversary celebration to encourage his audience to look to the future and share a message of hope.”
Chuang was one of the many new team members to work with the artist on this latest production – a challenge that she did not take lightly. “It was a bit intimidating,” she admitted. “JJ has been in the industry for such a long time, and he’s done and seen a lot. He’s also really up to date with the latest technology from music to animation. So, the main challenge was finding new ways to impress him.”
Thankfully, Chuang had the support of several people from the wider B’in Live company with previous experience of working with JJ Lin – including B’in Live CEO, Ocean Chou as well as Stage Manager, JJ Chin – who offered advice.
Despite Chuang’s initial nervousness, she was happy to report that the artist was pleased with the show design. “One element he particularly enjoyed was the large, automated lifts we installed,” she reported. “He really likes to interact with the fans and the elevation of the lifts allows him to see more of the audience. He also enjoyed the design of the section entitled Brave New World.” During this section, the artist
was raised in the air to an elevated gangway to perform several songs alongside his dancers for a section of the show that immersed the performers within the video content of a futuristic world.
As we at TPi are more used to covering shows in the UK, Europe and the US, it was interesting to see some of the differences during the build up to a show of this scale in Asia. One interesting comparison point was that the day before the show, the entire JJ Lin production put on a full dress rehearsal of his entire set, compete with full wardrobe changes as well as all the major moments of the show from big lighting looks to automation moves.
TPi got to witness JJ Lin’s rehearsal, with the singer bringing his full live energy to a near-empty stadium in preparation for the following night. Without the distraction of a live audience, it was easy to see just how entwined the various departments were when it came to show design.
“We st arted working on the show around April 2022 when JJ gave his initial ideas of what he wanted for this anniversary show,” stated Chuang. “It then took me around six weeks to pull our entire creative team together.” Along with numerous B’in Live recruits, the
030 PRODUCTION PROFILE
production also brought in stage designer PLAYFUL Design Studio as well as CMS, which created several custom automotive elements of the show.
“It all comes down to storytelling,” stated Chuang. Through the duration of the gig, there was a clear narrative arc that split into five distinct acts – all of which were book-ended by various animations that were narrated in English by Lin. With many of the videos using the narrative device of a metronome as well as a younger animated version of the artist playing piano, the show explored JJ Lin’s musical journey over the past 20 years.
Chuang explained how once the storyboard was set, the creative team worked collaboratively to realise the production. “You often find with productions in Taiwan, we really care about the story and once we have our acts in place, we then plan out what part of the stage we’ll use for each song and what staging elements we’ll use. Then the lighting, video and staging team will suggest what equipment would be best to use for each section.”
Although lockdown restrictions have been pulled back in Taiwan and people can meet face-to-face again, due to very busy schedules with numerous shows being postponed in the build-up to the show, much of the planning for
Road To JJ20 was done via online meetings between departments. “Three years ago, we would have done loads of face-to-face meetings, whereas now we still do a lot of the design conversations online,” Chuang said.
Although on the surface the mechanics of this production seemed very similar to a tour in the West, while being introduced to the various departments working on the show – from lighting designers, to FOH engineer, video directors and stage manager – it soon became apparent that the job functions were really quite different. For example, when I met Stage Manager, JJ Chin, it was clear that his role was more akin to what we would usually think of as a production manager, bearing responsibility for sourcing much of the equipment, resources and stage construction crews. While on stage there was a dedicated stage crew to handle the very busy show, which involved numerous quick changes as well as dancers constantly coming on and off stage throughout the show.
“We of ten hear that our job roles are somewhat different to a Western pop show,” mused Chuang. “The dedicated team required for the quick changes seems to be one of the most notable differences as there is a
dedicated crew whose main role is to get the artist ready for the next act, with someone from wardrobe, along with a hair and make-up artist.”
Like with most countries, Taiwan has seen a severe drop in the number of experienced crewmembers available, with many people leaving the industry during the COVID-19 years. “Generally speaking, in a show of this scale we would have between four and eight specialist technicians for each department –lighting, video, audio, automation, rigging and staging – who would then lead the crew working on site,” explained Chin. “However, due to the shortage of personnel after the pandemic, each professional discipline was reduced to two people, who would co-work with another four freelancers, and due to the differences in professional skills, crews spend nearly 50% more time on loading compared with the past.”
It was not just staffing shortfalls that Chin had to deal with, but also various supply issues. One notable challenge came with the custombuilt piano shell, which was to be revealed at the top of the show and prior to the encore.
With the prop appearing twice, the production team wanted it to look different both times so looked for the ChromaFlair style that is
PRODUCTION PROFILE 032
often seen on cars that appear to change colour. “Finding a manufacturer that was able to produce the shell in the material we were looking for was incredibly challenging,” stated Chin. “I started looking in September but by November I’d still had no luck. In the end, I found a manufacturer in China who could make the delivery date.”
Chin and the team called upon Playful Design Studio to help design the various stage design elements. “When we were approached about the idea of Road to JJ20 we drew up around three to four designs, which we presented to the production team,” stated Senior Designer, Sam Lai. “One of our biggest considerations was factoring in the requirements that would be needed underneath the stage – the space needed for the artist’s quick change areas as well as space to allow all the mechanics needed for the various stage lifts and automotive elements.” As TPi walked beneath the stage, it was clear that there was not a lot of head room, with it all measuring just 200cm high.
Aiding Lai with design were Monster Hsieh and Evan Lin. While Hsieh specialised more in the hardware side of the set designs with an in-depth knowledge of what products would provide the best solution, Lin focused more on the software in which Playful Design Studio
mocked up the designs. “My role was to act as a go-between, between us and the overall production to ensure the concept we were working on fit in with their vision,” stated Lai.
Automation was a major feature of the show. First was a central lift, which allowed JJ Lin and the piano to make a grand entrance. There were also two long LED catwalks that emerged from the stage and rotated 360°; an upstage lift that was used to get the performer to the high rise; and finally, several movable LED screens –one of which was used to block the musicians at certain times during the show upstage.
“Many automotive elements have been handled by Kinesys motors,” explained Chin. “We brought in CMS for the elements that needed to be a bit more bespoke.”
With t he show now up and running, the team at Playful described their favourite movements. “My favourite part was during the Brave New World section,” stated Lai. “It was the part of the show where everything came together from all the departments.” He also expressed his admiration for one of the final looks in which the two automated risers lifted and turned 90° to create a ‘road’ that the artist walked along.
Overseeing the lighting design for the show was Hao-Che Shih. With the support of Lighting
034 PRODUCTION PROFILE
Pictured above: Show Director and Producer, Crystal Chuang; Stage Manager and Technical Coordinator,JJ Chin; Senior Stage Designer, Sam Lai; Senior Stage Designer, Monster Hsieh.
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Operator, Ming-Hsun Cho, Shih explained the role of lighting within the production. “The overall concept of the lighting for this show was about expansion and building on this idea of the ‘Road to JJ ’,” began Shih. “It was all about using light to extend the stage and enlarge the performance area.”
The entire set featured a long LED wall that expanded out into the wings. The semitransparent LED meant that Shih could rig numerous lights behind the screen to achieve some creative integrated looks with the video content. “The decision to rig fixtures behind the LED wall was to create a balance between lighting and video,” stated the Shih.
The main fixtures on the rig came from Acme and FineArt. From Acme, Shih selected 69 AECO 20s, 10 XA-1000 BWs, 80 LP-14410s, 64 TB-1230s, 30 BL200WW 8 HEADERs and 30 BL200WW 4 HEADERs. Meanwhile, from FineArt, a staggering 208 156 Battens were deployed, along with 57 1536 Panels. Also present were 222 Jolly X-7 Coupes, 74 Q-6 Turbos and 44 LP-1915s.
Breaking from some more modern key light conventions, Shih and the lighting team opted to deploy a more traditional manually operated FOH followspot setup utilising six Robert Juliat Lancelot Followspot 4Ks. “Manual
Followspots give a higher level of on-site controls,” stated Shih, giving his reasoning for choosing manually operated spots. “Shows for Asian artists are often longer, and there are more positions and impromptu performances throughout shows. In addition, the artist management has a demand for recording video products for this concert.”
This show also coincided with the rainy season in Taoyuan in December. “Based on the overall considerations, manual followspots were chosen, which has created the need for more on-the-spot mastery,” affirmed Shih.
The show was operated from an MA Lighting grandMA3 using MA2 software. With B’in Live taking ownership of the consoles last August, Shin had been very happy with them so far.
“The desks are much more efficient to design, thanks to their faster processors,” he explained. “I also really like the new interface and I’m sure it will be even more beneficial when we update to the new software.”
At FOH , it was hard to ignore the abundance of monitors on each of the operators’ desks. Chuang explained this: “Everyone working on the show has a monitor so they can colour correct and ensure JJ is looking his best on camera,” she stated. “I also have one throughout the show, but I usually find by the
036 PRODUCTION PROFILE
Pictured above: Stage Designer Evan Lin; Lighting Designer, Hao-Che Shih; Visual Content Director, Nas Weng; Lighting Operator, Ming-Hsun Cho.
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time I notice anything, it has already been corrected by the team,” she said, praising the efficiency of the visual departments.
To close, Shih spoke of his favourite moment during the show. Like many within the production, he pointed to Brave New World which encapsulated the immersive capability of the lighting rig. “It was like we’d created a 3D experience you didn’t need glasses for,” he chuckled. “With a lighting setup like this, we can give a flat surface real depth.”
The content played on the expansive LED wall drove the narrative between each section of the show. The production utilised multiple styles of video from a Japanese anime style to some more video game-style sections alongside some pre-recorded footage of JJ Lin. Giving a window into this side of the show was Nas Weng, one of the production’s visual content directors. “I started working on this project around eight months ago,” she began. “After we discussed the main idea and we had the big picture vision of the show, we then began having meetings with the video team to try and create something different.”
The goal for the video was to highlight the transitional moments between the five main acts, with multiple studios brought in to create this original content.
During the project, Weng was in charge of one of these moments, along with the visuals for the show’s setlist. The remaining four transition videos were sent by Crystal Chuang and the show’s other visual director. Weng and her team used a disguise 4x4pro. “We needed
the disguise media server due to the huge output demands of the show,” explained Weng. “The brand is the best for dealing with this level of output and the most stable.”
Due to t he sheer amount of LED and the fact it was found on some specific scenic elements, a great deal of time was devoted to aligning the content and ensuring everything matched perfectly before show time. “During the build, we took a lot of time to ensure everything was in the right configurations,” stated Chin who oversaw a lot of these fine-tuning. “We had two curved LED screens that came from the rear wall then onto the floor, which lined up with the two lifts to form two ‘J’s in reference to the singer’s name. It was a real challenge to make sure those two ‘J’s were clean. Curved screens are always tricky to work with, but seeing how great they looked on the night made all the hard work worth it.”
There were two main LED products used on the show. The main expansive video wall was made up of Gloshine 7.8mm product that was semi-transparent, which enabled the light team to rig fixtures behind the screen. For some more specific LED looks, including the screens used on the lifts and the extended LED on the floor, the production chose Lightlink 8.9mm. Finally, the last piece of the LED used on the production was a Lightlink 12.5mm, which was set up at FOH and facing the stage acting as a giant audio cue for the artist. “The goal was always to find a product that could co-exist with the lighting rig,” stated Chin.
Weng added: “The fact that the screens were semi-transparent also stopped the large video surface looking like a big black wall when
it wasn’t being used; it meant we could be much more creative when it came to making layers within the set.”
One element worth noting during the performance was the number of camera sources for IMAG content. There were several on-stage manned cameras that were just as much involved in the on-stage choreography as the dancers, performing some impressive sweeping runs around the performance and producing some incredibly cinematic shots for the IMAG screen.
If that wasn’t enough, there was also a Spider-Cam that was providing some immense sweeping shots above the audience, which showcased the scale of the baseball stadium.
Finally – in what TPi thought was a wonderful touch – there was even a drone feed taking a shot of the venue from outside as it went over the top of the baseball stadium’s boundary to show the throngs of people below. Talk about a home run…
ROAD TO JJ20
On top of the visual support, B’in Live also supplied the entire audio package for the show. This comprised a full L-Acoustics system with 32 K1 and four K2, along with 16 flown K1-SBs and a further 36 SK28s on the ground. For side hangs, 24 K2s were deployed, with a further 24 K2s for the delay hangs.
While all the musicians were on IEMs, there were still several monitors on the stage –mainly for the benefit of the dancers – including L-Acoustics X15 HiQ. Keeping a track of the mixes was a DiGiCo SD7 for monitors, with an SD5 mixing the show at FOH. One of the other
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undeniably impressive elements of this show was the bang-for-buck ticket holders got, with Lin’s set taking close to three hours with no support save a few guest appearances throughout the evening. The scale of this production was truly something to behold first hand.
As the dust settled on JJ Lin’s Taiwan date, the production team was looking forward to the next stage of the run.
“The scale of JJ Lin’s world tour will cover venues from 3,000 to 30,000 audiences,” explained Stage Manager, JJ Chin. “As usual, with our crew of production and technical services, we will ensure that performances in each venue of different sizes can be adjusted accordingly and present outstanding shows.”
The final word went to Crystal Chuang, who rounded up her first experience working on a JJ Lin production. “When I started researching for this show and speaking to the people in B’in Live who had worked with JJ before, it was certainly a lot to digest. However, throughout the process, he was incredibly open to new ideas and suggestions. The fact that we were able to meld all the departments to help tell the story meant we achieved our goal.”
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ROBBIE WILLIAMS XXV TOUR
Robbie Williams enlists the expertise of a road-tested team to illustrate his poignant, turbulent and sometimes amusing journey through the music industry.
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: Andrew Benge and TPi
There aren’t many modern artists that transcend generations and even fewer that have sold over 80 million albums globally. Robbie Williams is one of them. With a quarter of a century of stage time under his belt, the singer-songwriter’s live productions are synonymous with showmanship and technical creativity. This time around, Williams has set out his new manifesto. Gags make way for a stripped-back, 32-year musical journey featuring some of his greatest hits –reworked by Jules Buckley, Guy Chambers and Steve Sidwell, and re-recorded with the Netherlands’ Metropole Orkest – interspersed with anecdotes and brand-new tracks from his latest record, XXV
Filtering past the hoards of Robbie Williams faithful camped outside Manchester’s AO Arena up to five hours before doors are due to open on a three-night residency – a testament to the artist’s enduring popularity – TPi was escorted to the production office by Head of Security, Cary Nightingale.
Parachuted straight into the camp following Foo Fighters’ touching Taylor Hawkins tribute shows, Production Manager, John Lafferty adopted an ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ approach. “This is a relaxed camp,” he said. “Everybody works as a team. There
are no dividing lines between departments and things flow a lot smoother that way.” As such, the tour’s suppliers remain largely the same, with Paul Normandale’s Lite Alternative Design handling production design, while Lite Alternative providing lighting and automation equipment in addition to existing vendors: Britannia Row Productions, Universal Pixels, The Shop, All Access Staging, Actus Industries, Surfhire, ER Productions, Popcorn Catering, Stagetruck, Beat The Street, Equinox Travel, Freight Minds, The Event Safety Shop, ISACAM, and Blink of an Eye.
“Our vendors share long-standing relationships within the camp and offer an excellent service,” Lafferty said, praising the additional support of Production Coordinator, Lizzie Adshead and Tour Director, Ade Bullock in the production office. “Their support and experience has been invaluable.”
Adshead has been involved in Williams’ solo live shows since 1999. “Over the years, his shows have grown in scale and become a lot more sophisticated, with my role becoming more all-encompassing as time has passed.”
2017s The Heavy Entertainment Show tour of stadiums was followed by several one-off performances and a 2018 tour of South America. “This tour is stripped back in
comparison to his past few campaigns; he has gone back to his roots,” Adshead stated, recapping the past five years over a cup of tea in catering. “There’s always a nice family vibe on Robbie tours, which filters from the top down. The rest of the team are a pleasure to work with, and Robbie is a pure entertainer.”
Test ament to Williams’ appeal is his ability to sell out London’s O2 arena over two dates at the start of the tour. “People thought it was too ambitious to have the O2 arena as our opener, but it couldn’t have gone any better,” reported Tour Director and Accountant, Ade Bullock. “We’ve tightened up this show to provide a slick show that is not overproduced. We, like most performing artists, are trying to reduce our footprint, so we’ve not got as many trucks as previously – our approach is simple and effective rather than spending vast quantities on lots of gags.”
According to Bullock, high demand throughout the industry is fuelling cost increases. “We’re struggling to secure buses for next summer, which is driving the market. Fuel costs are ridiculously expensive,” he added. “We have a European tour in Spring, so we are worried about the [Shengen’s] 90/180 day rule, [which dictates non-EEA nationals cannot spend more than a total of 90 days
042 PRODUCTION PROFILE
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within a total period of 180 days in a European country without a visa]. The new ESTA system also does not come into effect until November, so we’re trying to work out how to get out between shows.”
This is compounded by experienced crew retiring or leaving the sector post-pandemic. “Thankfully, there are a lot of young people coming through, which is brilliant and there has been a real ‘changing of the guard’,” he said, acknowledging the challenges the wider sector faces. “Our biggest issue last Spring was air fares, which are gradually falling back in line, and we’re doing better deals with suppliers, who are also finding it difficult to get people and resources. We’re doing good business and I’m very relieved, but a lot of artists and their touring teams are going to struggle and are pulling tours because it is simply not efficient enough to operate.”
Despite this, there were pockets of positivity to be found around the Williams camp. “Every show seems to be getting better on this tour,” Bullock stated. “The audience and critics are really enjoying it, so I and the excellent team around me couldn’t be any happier.”
From swing to stadium tours, Rick Worsfold has been intermittently involved with Robbie Williams’ live shows since ’99, primarily as a member of the carpentry team. This time
assuming stage management responsibilities, he orchestrated the logistics and personnel behind each production build. “We consider ourselves as one big family on this tour,” he said. “We collaborate to make the show as successful as possible.”
Head Set Carpenter, Jack Jaeger – who was freelancing on behalf of All Access Staging –marked out the staging area in the early hours of each build day and tipped two set trucks to prepare for stagehands to assist with the loadin. “The rest of the carp team come in an hour after and we’ll get the local crew together, have a bit of a ‘toolbox talk’ to organise the hands to a staging deck, and go through health and safety considerations,” he explained.
The first section of the stage is built carefully and slowly, until a rhythm is established. Then, like Meccano, stage elements – including building stage decks and the catwalk, adding video fascias, wiping down surfaces and marley – are slotted into place one-by-one and rolled into place by a 50ft by 40ft roller.
“All Access is a great company; all the prep and kit is great and reliable,” he remarked. “I started as a member of the local crew and as I’ve progressed into touring, I’ve taken elements of what I’ve learned along the way to teach others to keep the morale up to ensure we deliver our part of the show safely,” Jaeger said, sharing his journey into the sector. “Our
kit can often be installed using common sense, but if I know a member of the crew is new and I notice their hesitancy, I’ll put an arm round their shoulder and reassure them to avoid injuries.”
Making sure the staging design remains central and head-on is one of the many challenges the team must contend with during each build.
“Sor ting out the video fascias amid rehearsals was also difficult, as the sets were moved around, so there was a bit of ‘cutting and shutting’ involved to ensure they fit the newly worked stage design. Once they slotted into place, it felt like an achievement and it was probably my highlight during the build.”
‘A 32-YEAR MUSICAL ODYSSEY’
“The theme of this tour is to reflect the artist’s 25 years of being solo while also referencing his broader 32-year broader musical journey,” Production Designer, Paul Normandale of Lite Alternative said.
Universal Pixels provided 270 sq m of Leyard CLM10 LED panels, which was configured as a 25m by 8m upstage screen. A key piece of the production design was the transparent screen on the risers, which, thanks to Kinesys motors, could move and provide moments of separation and depth, as well as an interplay with the visuals on the other screens.
“A simple set with proximity to the band and importantly the audience is the focus by
PRODUCTION PROFILE 044
a central walkway and 300° steps at the tip,” Normandale explained. “An 84ft rear screen at the under stage edge means that sightlines are very open on the stage sides, and the lack of defined IMAG screens means that we can incorporate Robbie within the content in a diverse manner,” Normandale explained.
Universal Pixels engineered the moving aspect of the video screens to be as devoid of infrastructure as possible, commissioning Metal Man to create custom metalwork. In association with All Access Staging, a further 25 sq m of Leyard CLM6 was built into the risers to produce a neat solution, with frosted panels diffusing the Leyard 6mm LED product.
“A mid -stage series of Kinesys-controlled transparent screens provides a mechanical device for the opening of the show and a range of positions in relation to the rear screen, which adds depth and the perception of the images on both screens,” Normandale stated. “Robbie was very clear that we should not rely on gags he had experienced over his career – instead, choosing to present a simple forum for him to do what he does best: entertain.”
Prev isualisation took place at Lite Alternative suites for five days prior to preproduction at Fly By Nite. Drawing inspiration from the artwork for the track Love My Life, and
the aesthetics of Lite Alternative’s Depeche Mode-designed live shows, live footage was interspersed and overlaid with visual content created by The Shop, which has collaborated with Williams since 2014. Content ranged from fuzzy ’90s MTV archival looks to ska-inspired visuals, lyric singalongs, and a kaleidoscope of colours, through to Mod iconography, ’80s star wipes, and The 1975-style frosted panels, as well as clever film reel effects and pre-recorded orchestral content.
“The content for several songs was based on some of Robbie’s own paintings, which was ideal to reflect his journey to empowerment, musically and visually,” Normandale noted.
Powered by 32 universes, two full-size MA Lighting grandMA3 consoles in MA2 mode, three NPUs and four Nodes, the lighting rig was made up of three flown, automated trusses (three Vs at the back, a W in the middle and one V-shaped truss at the front) as well as one long flown vertical truss lining the catwalk. “Paul is renowned for not using many lights, and while this design is no different, it is probably the most he has used on a show,” Lighting Director, Glen Johnson of Lite Alternative said, gesturing to the 278-strong rig – which was purposely designed to fit into every venue on the tour. “I have always thought that design
should consider the practical aspects of the task at hand, such as speed of deployment, the fixtures’ roles and positioning, cabling, truck space and budget, which are all key parts of the design process,” Normandale explained. “By employing three automated trusses behind the screen, we are able to keep the stage clean and provide floor light, screen blow through and aerial rear truss focus with a smaller footprint.”
A convention of Lite Alt shows, key members of the visual department were situated at FOH, from lasers to video, to aid the ease of communication. “It’s a head-on design,” Lighting Crew Chief, Chris Roper noted. “Paul has a ‘less is more’ approach to lighting design. Even though it is pre-rigged, there are not a lot of pre-rigged fixtures up there. Each 15ft section of the back three automated lighting trusses are identical all the way around, so the weight is distributed evenly. We collaborate with video to make the show run as efficiently as possible.”
Roper spots upstage during the show to ensure the safety of band and dancers, who filter on and off the stage throughout. It was here he described the benefits of the versatile rig. “Automation brings a lot more depth to the show, with fixtures able to fire over, under and through the flown video screens on Kinesys.”
046 PRODUCTION PROFILE
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A total of 43 Martin MAC Aura XB and 40 TMB Solaris Flare fixtures were housed across all flown trusses; 21 MAC Viper Profiles and 18 MAC Viper AirFXs lined all the trusses above the main stage; 13 Robe MegaPointes were placed on the back wall with seven housed above the catwalk, while 47 GLP impression X4 Bar 20 units lined the front and back of the circumference of the main stage and flown main stage trusses.
New to Johnson, four Robe Robin Forte light sources were utilised as followspots, with two flown centre stage and two on the end of a W-shaped truss above the main stage, alongside familiar Robert Juliat Lancelots. Eight Martin MAC Quantum Wash pixel circles on V truss also helped create Mod-inspired iconography to match the on-stage content during Williams’ rendition of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger, providing a brief respite from their show-long focus on the backing dancers.
A furt her 32 Robert Juliat Dalis 862 lined the floor, the front of main stage and circumference of the catwalk, while 38 PROLIGHTS
ArenaCOB4 FCs and 12 Halos made up the rig. “We selected lights that not only complement the design, but we are able to tour the whole of next year with. ArenaCOB4 FCs, 12 Halos and Solaris Flares provide heavy audience looks, and crowd participation plays such a key role in this show,” Johnson said. “As a very videoorientated production, the lighting design fits around the LED – I spend most of my time balancing the lighting with video and patching as a timecoded show.”
‘Balance, haze, balance’ was Johnson’s mantra when it came to overcoming the battle of overpowered AC in venues up and down the country post-pandemic. “It’s something we deal with,” he conceded. “We have four DF50s and a pair of Uniques Hazers to keep the stage clean and well-lit.”
Choosing his favourite look within the set, and a crowd favourite of many, Johnson explained the ingenuity of Angels. “You can change up the visuals dramatically with automation without adding a bucketload of lights,” Johnson stated. “Angels is without a doubt one of my favourite looks of the show. We alter the rig dramatically using Kinesys to create a ‘crown’ above Robbie as he performs a 10-minute acapella.”
‘FINDING CONTRAST AND INTEREST’
At FOH, Lead Laser Technician Jasper Sharp, freelancing for ER Productions, was embarking on his first pop tour, having operated primarily in rock and dance circles, which require a heavy reliance on special effects and lasers. “This is a very different beast; it is a clean-looking show, which makes for a nice change of pace,” he said. “Lasers and special effects are only used where and when required on this show.” Indeed, the first laser moment is harnessed subtly halfway through the set.
Shar p walked TPi through his rig. “We have 16 BB3s, split across the flown back wall and front of stage; none of them are scanning on the first look, they are just using a diffraction effect, which makes for a nice and clean look,” he explained. “Everything is, of course, well over head height, but the diffraction is safe for the audience; we try to throw into the
auditorium as much as possible to provide full coverage.” Six additional EX 25 lasers were dotted around the rig. One unit created a tight corridor down the catwalk and thrust and another, a ‘cone’ effect used during Angels.
Shar p’s only challenge on the road was venue limitations. “I have to zone away from people, reflections and any potential hazards. Here [in AO Arena, Manchester] we are quite high – I’m shooting right up to the rafters, which is the only dead zone,” he said, describing the constant battle in venues to avoid hitting cameras. “Each venue is so varied in height. Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, for example, is lower in height so you can get looks that immerse the audience more, whereas we are pushing quite a bit higher in AO Arena and O2 arena. It still looks fantastic.”
Operating to timecode, Seth Griffiths programmed the show during rehearsals, with Sharp triggering lasers and effects using Pangolin BEYOND software for lasers and Magic Stadium Blowers, which are used for 15 seconds during Love My Life via DMX. “Loading the heavy CO2 bottles can be a bit of a slog as well as wrestling with the sole-sucking aircon – half the battle is trying to get enough atmospheric without murking up the stage.”
For a set heavy on LED, two songs within the set are purposely free from IMAG looks, to allow the lasers to have their moment and to allow RW to become part of the stage look with rear spots and a more ambient feel.
According to Sharp, Feel marked the first ‘real’ laser song, which is midway through the set and sees Williams drenched in deep purples and green coloured lasers with no video content other than an outline across the video step fascias and considered lighting. “Finding contrast and interest” was Normandale’s reasoning behind the record scratch-like moments within the set. “Feel is one of my favourite moments,” Sharp echoed. “It’s a goosebump-inducing performance. There’s also no downtime between tracks, so from upbeat Supreme straight into Fee l, which is just lasers and Robbie Williams, makes for a nice change of pace.”
‘A NIGHT OF ESCAPISM’
Video Director, Jon Shrimpton, who has cut cameras for Robbie Williams’ live shows for close to a decade, referred to the frontman as a “magnetic” performer, often vaudevillian in his approach. “There’s more rock show flavours and energy for this show, while retaining some of the orchestral moments of XXV,” he said, praising the production design. “Paul Normandale has a unique style and has added a different dynamic to proceedings.”
Universal Pixels provided Shrimpton with a camera package featuring a Grass Valley Kula 2ME 3G PPU, five Sony 4300 camera channels, and four Panasonic HE145 robo-cams. The two FOH cameras were housed on tripod dollies for “artistic repositioning” and “ease of access” with additional handhelds in the pit to capture the crowd interaction across the catwalk and thrust. “I love it when he performs down the bottle of the camera because the crowd – regardless of where they are in the arena –feel like they’re being spoken or performed to directly,” Shrimpton said, picking out some
048 PRODUCTION PROFILE
Pictured above: Monitor Engineer, Daniel Kent with Audio Crew Chief, Joshua Graham and RF Coordinator, Lucy McKinnon; FOH Technician, Giacomo Gasparini and Systems Engineer, Ben Phillips with FOH Engineer, Joe Harling; Stage Manager, Rick Worsfold; Production Manager, John Lafferty; Lighting Director, Glen Johnson.
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choice looks. “A wide shot from the back with him commanding the audience is also a favourite of mine.” Universal Pixels supplied Vision Engineer, Dicky Burford and Crew Chief, Steve Jones, alongside a handpicked crew of six to assist Shrimpton on the road.
“I’m a stick in the mud for asking for familiar faces. While some of the crew are new, the rest have done countless Robbie shows with me,” he said, going on to praise the video vendor. “I was involved in Universal Pixels’ first ever gig, which was Robbie Williams’ 2017 New Year’s Eve show at Westminster Central Hall. It went out live on BBC One, which for their first show, kicked a lot of arse!”
Proud to be involved again, Universal Pixels’ Phil Mercer, commented: “There was a rigorous tendering process pre-tour, and UP is thrilled to have been involved again. While we have a long-standing relationship with Robbie’s touring team, you still have to put forward the correct solution for the project in terms of people and equipment. The results of this production speak for themselves.”
Video screens were fed by a pair of disguise gx 2c media servers – a main and a backup. “This is a show that if he performed under a spotlight with nothing else, it would work,” Miguel Ribeiro, Media Server Programmer and Operator said, praising the performing artist and the team behind the curtain. “The show is amazing because it’s not as extravagant but equally as impressive with the dynamic onscreen content, automation and lighting and sound design.”
Anot her stalwart of the camp, Ribeiro has been involved in Williams’ live projects since 2006. “Robbie’s shows are always a careful balance of pre-recorded, pre-rendered and live feed content. The live feed is cut with such musicality by Jon, which adds a dimension that no pre-rendered content can provide.”
The on -screen content married up with the live camera feed to complement each other. “The pacing varies depending on what is happening on stage and the BPM of his diverse and genre-spanning back catalogue,” he added. “We are constantly tweaking crossfade times and improving as each show progresses to make it as efficient as possible.”
Ribeiro praised the role of video within the production design. “The best part of Paul Normandale’s designs are the lack of distractions; it is simply the performing artists on stage and a design that complements it. I consider video as an additional member of the band, and it is used considerably – the content is synced with the on-stage performance.”
He picked out Eternity, a song in the middle of the set in Manchester, as among his favourite looks – a considered design featuring a digital orchestra and Robbie Williams centrally.
Guy Chambers wrote and produced many of the songs with Williams, and according to Normandale, was very specific about the accuracy of the filmed orchestration. “Not many shows can achieve an adequate balance of pre-recorded and live camera feed content,” he reported. “We’re often complimented by the audience post-show, which isn’t very common, but very heart-warming.”
Summing up the XXV tour experience, Shrimpton said: “While there are some
sensitive moments with nuance as he shares his story with the world, it’s an uplifting show and a good night of escapism – which I think audiences need amid the current climate!”
‘AUDIO IS A FUNDAMENTAL PART’
“As well as being a proper entertainer, Robbie is backed by a fantastic band, backing vocalists, choreographed dancers,” FOH Engineer, Joe Harling enthused. “It’s not just tracks by any means – the live horn section takes everything to the next level in my opinion.”
If that wasn’t enough to contend with, Williams, who performs with a Shure SM58 capsule, also spends a great deal of time performing in front of the PA system. “He gives a really good level, so it’s not been a problem,” said Harling, who had a DiGiCo Quantum 7 at his fingertips.
“This is the first time I’ve toured with a Quantum 7. I’m enjoying the extra features like Dynamic EQ and Multiband Compression. I stopped using plug-ins a while back, and those are the things I was missing, so it’s nice to have them available on the console. I’ve also got a lot of outboard gear – bits and pieces I’ve enjoyed experimenting with and using over the years.”
His rack of outboard gear featured a Kush Audio Fatso for main drum bus; a pair of Empirical Labs Distressors for Parallel drum bus; two Neve Shelford channels and DBX 510s for the bass group; an Empirical Labs Fatso for the horns; a Neve Shelford channel and Empirical Labs Derresser for lead vocals; a Neve 5045 Primary source enhancers for lead and backing vocals; an API 2500 and Kush Audio Clariphonic for the master bus; a pair of Bricasti M7 reverbs; two TC electronic reverb 4000s; an Eventide Eclipse; OTO Bim and Bam delay and reverb processors.
“Every song in the setlist is a hit; Angels and She’s The One always get a big reception. My favourite moments are some of the guitar solos, like Old Before I Die, when two guitarists join forces for a captivating moment,” Harling noted, praising the wider crew. “It’s good vibes all ‘round.”
Harling was joined in FOH by Technician, Giacomo Gasparini, who helped fly the delays when needed and recorded all the shows with 96 channels at 96K and System Engineer, Ben Phillips. “Robbie Williams always puts on a spectacular show,” said Phillips, who has worked with Britannia Row Productions on a freelance basis for over two decades.
The main PA system comprised K1 and K2 loudspeakers for front and side hangs; K3s for 270°; flown columns of KS28s; K1SBs and K2 for delays; A15, A10 and X8 around the stage for infill with KS28 ground subwoofers. The sound system was powered by LA12X amplifier controllers and L-Acoustics proprietary AVB processor and measurement platform, P1, for front end processing and distribution.
“Audio is a fundamental part of any show”, Phillips pointed out, and at a time when artists demand a clean and robust-looking production design, sometimes to the detriment of sound design, “Robbie Williams’ live shows always carry an impressive system”. He added: “It was nice to be involved with input way back in the show design phase and selecting where to put boxes which provide optimal coverage without
The production crew wear pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. Pictured above: Lead Laser Technician, Jasper Sharp; Lighting Crew Chief, Chris Roper; Lizzie Adshead; Tour Director, Ade Bullock; Head Carpenter, Jack Jaeger.
compromising the overall vision of the show,” Phillips commented.
Monitor Engineer, Daniel Kent began mixing for Robbie Williams’ live shows in late 2019. After a brief pandemic-induced hiatus, he kicked off 2022 with a New Year show in Dubai. Since then, a mixture of arena dates and promotional shows, including a one-off homecoming show at Vale Park, home of Port Vale, and a 100,000-capacity outdoor show as part of Bavaria Sounds in Munich, Germany, has meant this campaign marks the first time Kent has been able drill down on the same show and perfect his mix.
“Despite performing in front of the PA, this is the cleanest it’s ever sounded. I’m impressed with the lack of colouration on him and the backing vocalists. The bleed from the PA is not noticeable, and I’m using noise reduction, which helps a lot but it’s a lot cleaner than I thought it would be,” Kent explained. “Normally, there’s a point where an artist gets halfway on the thrust and you really have to home in to prevent any delay, but there’s not been any problems at all.”
Joshua Graham, Audio Crew Chief and freelancer for Brit Row, was also pleased with the system. “There is a moment during the show where Robbie and his guitarist, Gary Nuttall, go to the front of the thrust and that always sounded great,” he remarked.
A convention on most arena tours nowadays, most mics were digital. The team harnessed Optocore DD32R-FX network units, having changed to wysiwyg IEMs. “All the in-ear monitors and radio mics are digital. We have around 64 channels going into the Optocore, so
we’ve managed to reduce the size of our racks,” Kent explained. With around 70 traditional inputs, such as mics on cables with talkback mics and effects returns on-stage, Kent’s entire mix sat at around 150 inputs – mostly digital, to keep the footprint small while retaining flexibility. RF Coordinator, Lucy Mackinnon oversaw the deployment of 24 Wisycom IEM systems and 30 channels of Shure Axient Digital microphones and beltpacks. “We’ve had an amazing crew,” Mackinnon remarked. “It’s been another fantastic Brit Row tour.”
Surf hire provided a radio system using Motorola XPR3500e radios, handled licencing and multifunctional printers across multiple offices, Wi-Fi and VOIP phones.
Like Harling, Kent mixed the show on a DiGiCo Quantum. “I’ve used DiGiCo for a long time. It’s the first time I’ve used Quantum, which unleashes more processing options. There are new dynamics processing,” he said, explaining that most of the processing is done by the console. “For everything else, I’m using Bricasti reverbs, cedar noise suppression, as well as a couple bits of choice outboard gear.”
In the build up to the tour, the team spent a lot of time in band rehearsals programming. On the road, Kent also harnessed the desk’s virtual soundcheck feature.
“This show is heavily automated with snapshots in between songs, which are fired to timecode. The setlist can vary depending on territory and the popularity of songs per region,” he said. “I multitrack-record everything we do, and I keep a log of songs, knowing they may return to the setlist, to prepare in advance.
There’s a lot of songs in the repertoire with no backing track, which makes it dynamic and keeps you on your toes.”
Kent dubbed “timing and tuning” as key to providing Robbie Williams with a balanced IEM mix, which not only allows him to stay in time, but provides him with a full band mix. “It’s crucial to allow him to feel part of the show through his mix because in-ears can sometimes feel quite isolating.” The band members, however, required a more tailored mix to their individual specification. “There’s a big impetus to the band being a big part of the show,” Kent pointed out.
Robbie Williams’ 20-date XXV European tour continues with further dates in Bologna, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Barcelona, among others. “He is a fantastic entertainer. This show is an ‘all the hits’ show, and he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand,” Kent concluded. “Long may it continue!”
ODESZA; THE LAST GOODBYE
One of the most talked about acts in the EDM market, Odesza and their tight-knit touring family bring The Last Goodbye to fans up and down the US. Before starting another round of touring in 2023, TPi takes the time to speak to those behind their audacious live show.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: Julian Bajsel
There is no doubt that touring post-pandemic has become much trickier than in years past. With longer lead times, a lack of resources for both equipment and crew, and every aspect of touring becoming increasingly expensive, many up-and-coming artists are erring on the side of caution when it comes to pushing the envelope of a live show. However, despite these notable roadblocks, American EDM duo Odesza are still pushing for progression no matter the size of venue they are playing. With a visually striking stage show that adds live instrumentation to the traditional EDM setting – most notably with an eight-piece drumline – the production seems to borrow just as much inspiration from prog rock as it does others in the dance music sphere.
With t he group taking a break over Christmas, TPi caught up with several of the key decision makers within the camp to learn how they were looking to keep pushing their impressive live show.
Before going into the specifics of the Odesza tour, Production Manager, Shane Crowl spoke more generally about the state of live touring in 2023. “When we plan a tour, we have to forget about many of the things we once took for granted,” he began. “The price of everything has gone through the roof and I worry that it may start to box in a lot of artists. Many are going to have to decide if it’s worth investing in a new market at a potential loss.”
This background was important because although Crowl painted a rather bleak picture, he explained his joy at finding a camp like Odesza, where everyone involved from the artists to crew have “the right mindset”.
Star ting with the band in 2017, Crowl and his fellow Motion Music business partner, JB Blot, were hired by their Tour Manager, Bryan ‘Bronko’ Aiello. Later down the line, Bronko then became the third partner in Motion Music in 2019 and remains the tour manager
for Odesza. “Back then, it was an interesting challenge as the venues they were playing varied dramatically in scale with large rooms in the West to smaller clubs on the East Coast,” reflected Crowl. “For that run, we had four different setups. Despite the challenge, I got to know the team and everyone involved including the artists [Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight] who are always willing to problem solve and approach each show with a great attitude.”
For Th e Last Goodbye, the team brought back several suppliers that the band had worked with previously including: audio supplier, Clearwing; special effects provider, Pyrotecnico; and Lightwave International, which provided lasers.
“All our returning suppliers are fantastic,” stated the PM. “All three of them give it to me straight and they are a joy to collaborate with. Gear is gear, but what counts is the people. Odesza is a challenging tour with what we are trying to do in some of these venues, but
everyone that came out from the suppliers had exactly the right attitude.” One of the newcomers to the team was Volt, who provided lighting. “They are a great team, but one of the main reasons for going with them was that they didn’t make a single substitution to requested fixtures,” Crowl revealed.
The same went for the tour’s video supplier, Beware. “The product we really wanted for this show was the ROE Visual Vanish 8T,” stated the PM. “Only a few people had it in the US at the time and Beware was one that could guarantee we’d be able to get it.” Finally rounding out the list of suppliers was All Access Staging, which provided the custom set for the tour.
The show design came from long-term Creative Directors, Luke Tanaka and Sean Kusanagi. Both Tanaka and Kusanagi’s history with the band goes back a long way, with the four of them going to college together. “Sean grew up with Harrison from the band and we’ve all known each other for a very long time,” stated Tanaka. “Back in college, we always used to push the guys to pursue their music, so it’s amazing to be here a decade later working with each other,” added Kusanagi. “On the creative
side, it’s such a rare opportunity to have this level of trust with an artist and it has allowed us to push the creative process even further.”
Tanaka and Kusanagi explained storytelling and creating a narrative were vital to the show. “We wanted to produce a show that would appeal to a massive audience,” explained Kusanagi. “Their music falls into the EDM bracket, but we want the show to cross genres. We often have people who don’t like the genre come to shows and change their mind due to the cinematic nature of an Odesza show – not to mention all the additional elements from live horns and drums.”
There were numerous new design features that both Tanaka and Kusanagi were excited to explore for this latest run – most notably the additional video elements. “As we were sometimes playing to over 22,000 people, we started to experiment with IMAG to translate the show to this larger crowd,” stated Kusanagi. The team worked with Jonathan Beswick during the early stages of the tour, with Sean Smith taking on directing duties later in the run.
Both t he designers also highlighted the greater role of pyrotechnics in the show. “We have been working closely with Rocco Vitale for Pyrotechnico for many years; previously we’ve
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relied on video demos, but this time we went to LA to do some pyro demos and see all the products in person,” stated Tanaka. “It’s hard to gauge how those products are going to look, so it was great to bring in Rocco at the ground floor of the design process and create new pyro looks that melded with the rest of the visual looks.”
When it came to the pre-planning elements, the duo made use of modern VR technology to ensure that the visual design would have the desired impact when finally put together live.
“Pre -visualisation using Syncronorm Depence² is how we ensured the show would have the desired effect when moving it into the various venue sizes,” stated Kusanagi. “The pandemic has meant our timelines have been pushed more and more and decisions are now made a year out. Having these tools where you can make more solid decisions is a huge advantage.”
LIGHT OF DAY
Aiding in Tanaka and Kusanagi’s joint vision was Lighting Designer, Kyle Kegan. Having worked with them back in 2017, he was keen to jump back aboard for this run. “Odesza is an interesting project because although they fall into the EDM bracket, their show separates itself from others in the genre,” he began. “My career
started in theatre and with Odesza, I get to draw on some old theatre theories and techniques.”
In bet ween the drum lines and high-impact moments, Kegan had to make sure he had the toolbox of fixtures to deal with all the demands of the show. This included Elation Professional Smarty Hybrids, Artise Monets and Artiste Rembrandts. Also on the rig were the GLP impression X5s, JDC Line 500s, Robe Mega Pointes; CHAUVET Professional COLORados, and Acme Pixel Line IPs.
“We knew we needed the hybrid fixtures as we wanted to ensure we got the most bang for our buck. We also made sure every fixture was CMY or RGB colour space, so we could fully colour match the content on the screens.”
Anot her feature of the rig was the GLP X5. “I think we must have been one of the first to take it out on the road in the US,” stated the LD. “It’s light and powerful and really cuts through as a wash and a beam.”
The X5s were put inside the unique set piece, which mimics the band’s logo. “They were used both as a top light and a back light, which created some really striking looks. Kegan also praised the Acme Pixel Line, which he used to give shape to the stage. “We ended up lining them all along the truss and on the floor, which gave us a lot of dynamic looks during the show.”
Kegan also was keen to compliment lighting vendor, Volt, which provided solutions to enable his rig to be malleable and fit into the smaller venues while still maintaining the impact.
“They manufactured our own ladders for the tour, which we could break apart into sections to fit the show into smaller markets,” said the LD. “We never wanted to completely dismantle the rig, so everyone who saw the show still got the desired impact.”
One of t he biggest changes for Kegan was the move to the MA Lighting grandMA3 using MA3 software. “We own a few of the consoles in our studios and I have used it on a few shows, but I was keen to try it on a tour,” he stated. “I knew it was going to be a tall order – especially on a show like this that has so many cues – but I spent a few months working out the kinks and, with the support of ACT in the States, we got it up and running smoothly. We will be going on with MA3 in future shows.”
Simon Thomas, a TPi Award-winning FOH Engineer, was one of the few newcomers to this tour. While working on Porter Robinson’s campaign [TPi #226] he also ended up running the show for Robinson’s support act for several dates. “During this time, I got chatting to the
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support’s management team, who happened to also represent Odesza,” stated Thomas. “They gave me a call to see if I would be interested in working with them, so I looked up their Coachella performance online. It It was like watching a Pink Floyd version of EDM! The production value with all the lasers and pyro was very impressive, then you had the huge drum line and brass section.”
For the tour, Clearwing supplied Thomas with an L-Acoustics K1 and K2 rig along with flown KS28S subs and K1 SBs on top of each array.
“I’m a big believer in flown subs,” said Thomas. “I think it really makes a difference, and thankfully, I got them in the air in almost all the venues.”
Although the rig fluctuated in size, the hangs comprised 14 K1 with four K2 with four K1 SB on each hang. “The band care about their audio, which was great to discover,” stated Thomas. “They really like the sound of the L-Acoustics PA. I inherited the system when I came on board, but
the States for the initial production rehearsals, so we had to find a solution to beam me in from my home in England,” he recalled. “As I was using a Solid State Logic 550 Plus, I made use of SSL’s SOLSA software and remotely mixed the show from across the Atlantic. I was also on tech comms, so it was like I was there in the room.”
Thomas was keen to praise the work of Phil Reynolds for his “top IT skills” that made this remote setup possible. He also wanted to extend his thanks to System Engineer, Joe Spitzer of Clearwing for his work during the tour along with the wider audio team.
“The other amazing thing about this show is the RF setup,” closed Thomas while giving his final thoughts on the show. “With all the wireless instruments – particularly in the drum line – there are a lot of wireless signals. We are using Shure Axient equipment on all the drums, brass and shout mics and it was an interesting process to get all the channels up and running
– just for the tech coms. Shure was also on hand to answer any question that came up.”
THE LAST GOODBYE
Despite the name of the band’s latest release and subsequent tour, it seems very unlikely that this will be the ‘Last Goodbye’ for either the band or their loyal crew.
“We are very proud of this show, but when it comes to the design, there are so many ideas that we’ve not even been able to get to,” commented Kusanagi. “We have the best team within Odesza and from the creative side, we find that everything comes together so naturally.”
The production is currently working on the 2023 schedule and will no doubt continue the upward trajectory of Odesza’s well renowned live show.
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CARL COX: LIVE AT OVO ARENA WEMBLEY
Carl Cox makes the much-anticipated leap from DJ to live electronic artist with the support of live events architects behind the scenes.
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: Dan Reid & Funktion-One
On 15 October 2022, Carl Cox performed his new album, Electronic Generations, live for the first time at OVO Wembley Arena to a crowd of 12,500 electronic dance music fans. This pivotal moment in his decadesspanning career marked a shift from DJ to live electronic artist.
Cox’s evolution into live performances emerged during lockdown when Awesome Soundwave Live Online Festival III burst onto our screens in December 2020, signifying a change in direction for the king of dance music. The living room party was well and truly established by then and here was some of the most progressive programming to come out of the streaming boom. World-renowned and respected as a DJ, here he was with a new live electronic production format. “I think I’ve taken that whole DJ thing to the very pinnacle,” said Cox. “Probably more than anyone else, and I can’t go any further. I could keep going with that or move away and create a new path. Right here is an interesting place to be, because we don’t know where it’s going to go.”
Production Director, Jim Baggott of The nvisible Agency, who has helped produce
Carl Cox’s large-scale live shows for over two decades, and Show Designer, Andy Hurst assembled a crack team of touring professionals for the show, enlisting the technical support and expertise of FunktionOne and Audio Plus, ZEROdB Live, Lights Control Rigging, ER Productions, 80six, Rebel Overlay, Ambrose Productions and Alpha Crew to make the ambitious project a reality. “All the suppliers and crew involved have exceeded our expectations,” he began.
“This show is a powerful statement,” Baggott outlined. “It’s the first time Carl has performed a live show under the Awesome Soundwave banner in the UK and to do it at a space like OVO Wembley Arena with a dynamic production design is equally as special.”
Cox has enjoyed a special friendship with British professional loudspeaker system inventor and manufacturer Funktion-One that spans some 20 years, forming a lasting bond in their shared spiritual home – Space Ibiza. It’s a relationship built on mutual respect and genuine passion for bringing good music to the people. “I’ve known of Funktion-One from the very beginning,” Cox recalled. “I’ve been
fortunate to play on all types of their systems over the years. It comes from the heart with them – it’s not just business.”
With collective mindsets safely out of the box, Funktion-One approached the sound system design for Wembley with a licence –granted by Cox and his production team – to experiment. While the venue is iconic and much loved, it presents some challenges when it comes to audio. Inside, the abundance of hard surfaces makes it very reverberant, while outside it’s surrounded by hundreds of newly built private residences. The aim was maximum audience enjoyment with minimum disruption to the neighbours. “We are in the middle of where people live. We can’t go renegade and say, right, we don’t care, turn it up, have everything. It’s how you cover the room with that amount of sound,” Cox remarked.
Cont rol of the low frequencies was fundamental to this. Funktion-One’s Tony Andrews explained: “We want to keep the sound out of the roof, not annoy the neighbours, and have more sound on the dancefloor. The way we’re going to do this is with a tower of 24 F124s. We know we can do a
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ground stack six tall and two wide, but beyond that it starts to get a bit dangerous, so we’ve got 12 on the ground and 12 suspended in a cage above, which is lowered to connect to the six on the ground, creating a 12-high, two-wide, 8.5m high bass tower.
“If your wavelength is bigger than your exit, you will start to get more and more diffraction as that difference increases. If we stack them 8.5m tall, we won’t have diffraction in the vertical dimension, meaning the soundwaves will mostly stay within the height of the bass tower. For rear rejection, the tower is a cardioid configuration. Furthermore, we have flown the Vero at maximum width apart to fully enjoy its stereo imaging capabilities,” he added.
“At one point I said to Tony, I have no idea what you’re doing,” said Cox. “I used to run sound systems and always put subs on the floor, but Tony’s a genius – I trust his vision.”
All sound equipment was supplied by Funktion-One partner Audio Plus, including PA, monitors, desks and all equipment requests from the artists.
Company Owner, Stefan Imhof directed the crew, alongside PA System Technician, Tino Reschke; Monitor Engineer, Stuart Thompson and Stage Technician, Ben Wilbee. FunktionOne’s Will Wright took on FOH duties, while Tony Andrews was very much hands on and ever-present throughout.
The sound system comprised stereo main hangs of 13 Vero loudspeakers each side, along with the 24 F124 bass tower stage right. To ensure even bass levels on the opposite side, a fill stack of six F221 dual 21in horn-
loaded subs was deployed stage left. The addition of Evo 7T infills and outfills provided seamless coverage to the front of the crowd.
Reschke said: “Apart from its renowned sonic clarity and imaging capabilities, Vero’s controlled dispersion behaviour was ideal to focus the sound precisely onto the audience area, keeping it away from reflective surfaces in the arena. The eight Vero V315 low mid cabinets combined with the huge vertical F124 array to present an impressive kick like no other large-format sound system on the market.”
Due to t he experimental nature of the system, testing was carried out at Audio Plus’s premises in Colchester in the lead up to the show. All the preparation, planning and willingness to try something a little different in the name of great audio was worth it.
‘A TEAM EFFORT’
With five live acts in the DJ booth at any one time, the team developed a roller system with wheel boards on top of the booth tables, with dedicated areas for the DJs and their team to set up prior to doors opening. “The rigging was a challenge,” Baggott reported. “We’re hanging a lot of stuff, which is mainly concentrated around a small stage area rather than a standard 60ft by 40ft stage, but we have managed to overcome these challenges.”
Baggott worked alongside Production Manager, Alex Anderson of Louder, who he described as “integral” and “supportive” throughout the entire production process.
“This is a team effort,” Baggott said. “Carl and his Tour Manager, Ian Hussey, like to be
PRODUCTION PROFILE 062
Funktion-One founder, Tony Andrews with Carl Cox.
involved in the creative process, which is always refreshing and helps create the best show possible.”
Anderson commented: “It’s been a pleasure to work with Carl Cox, Jim Baggott and Show Designer, Andy Hurst through the whole design process. They and our wonderful suppliers all rose to the challenge. It was a complicated build, but the outcome is outstanding and a testament to Carl’s vision for his live performance at the OVO Arena Wembley.”
Hurst picked up the story: “These types of one-off shows have to be run live because there are no production rehearsals – and with seven hours of continuous music, you never know what’s coming apart from the fact it’s live techno,” Hurst explained, noting the challenges of the task at hand. “Loading in a one-off show on the day always brings up some issues as it’s the first time it’s been built.”
Hurst’s production design centred around a DJ booth on risers, two ladders of lighting truss per side, a cascading back wall of LED and lighting, and a solitary front truss.
The rig was made up of 32 Ayrton Cobra, 24 GLP JDC Line 1000 and 16 impression X4 Bar 10 lighting units, which were split across flown lighting trusses, flanking the central DJ booth. An additional 14 JDC1 units were dotted above
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on a flown truss, with a further 16 making up the floor package, along with 12 Claypaky Xtylos fixtures, six situated on each side of the riser.
A cent ral back wall of 18 GLP impression X4 Bar 20s were spaced nine per side above the DJ booth with a pair of Domino LTs flown either side of central truss for key light. The visuals were controlled by Show Designer, Andy Hurst and Lighting Operator, Billy Jones, on a ChamSys MQ500 main and backup console, all supplied by Lights Control Rigging.
In addition to the creative capabilities of GLP, Hurst pinpointed Cobras and Claypaky’s laser-source Xtylos fixtures from LCR’s inventory as the workhorse fixtures of the lighting rig. “I’m really pleased with this production design, and I believe Carl Cox and his team are equally happy with the result. I must also complement the excellent visual content by Rebel Overlay and Lighting
Operator, Billy Jones, along with LCR, 80six and the wider production crew who have all done an amazing job.”
‘SIMPLY THE BEST!’
A staple of Carl Cox shows – having also collaborated on Space Ibiza live shows every Sunday through the busy summer season – ER Productions was on-hand to provide lasers and CO2 to proceedings. “All Carl Cox shows are great,” ER Productions’ Ryan Hagen commented. “He is simply the master of his art, so his shows need to match that.”
To this end, ER Productions provided six AT-20 lasers, which were positioned on the downstage edge along with six Cryo-Jets. “Once we are set and the systems are safe to use, we hand control over to the lighting team, so this means loading an ER Workspace onto the ER Servers and Andy Hurst and Billy
Jones taking control via the lighting desk and selecting cues in a similar fashion to video servers,” Hagen said, summing up the experience. “It’s always a pleasure working alongside Andy. We have a longstanding relationship which has seen us work together now for many years and to combine this with a Carl Cox show is simply the best!”
80si x Project Manager, Ben Annibal was tasked with overseeing the pre-production of the video elements of the show and subsequent delivery on site. “This is our first show with Carl Cox; Andy Hurst got in touch about coming on board to provide the video elements of the show after working together on some other shows recently.”
The upstage wall was made up of ROE Visual Vanish 8 LED panels, the DJ riser surround featured MC7, powered by Evision HD102 processors, Blackmagic Terranex Mini
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optical converters, a Lightware MX2 matrix and a Neutrik OpticalCON quad fibre system. “Vanish 8 enables the LD to have lights behind the screen for particular looks in the show – something that is quite common now and popular with lighting designers to help create depth,” Annibal said.
“I don’t think the video overpowers the other elements of the show, which can sometimes happen,” he acknowledged. “Spencer from Rebel Overlay did a great job of using PTZ cameras to catch some good action shots of Carl without it being too camera-heavy in the content. It’s great to collaborate with other people to create the best show possible.”
Squeezing the DJ riser screen onto a small stage, however, posed a challenge with the weight required to use as ballast. “The riser for Carl Cox is quite large, so we had to work with the staging supplier to manage the weight loading and positioning of the screen,” Annibal said. “Thankfully, we’ve managed to pull off a great show as a team.”
Media Server Operators and Content
Designers, Spencer Heron and Daniel Winchcombe of Rebel Overlay, mixed cameras, video loops and motion graphic assets live and in time with the music, while maintaining an overall aesthetic that matched and worked alongside Andy Hurst’s production design.
“We have worked with Carl Cox for a number of years, providing content and video playback since the Revolution days at Space Ibiza, and we are usually involved somewhere on his larger productions, like Carl Cox Megastructure for Resistance at Ultra Miami or his recent On The Beach Brighton appearance this summer,” the designers stated.
“This show is a simple setup and is made primarily for live performance. We never really know what Carl is going to play, but we have a good idea on style, aesthetic and tempo and we work from there.”
Describing their content style and aesthetic as “minimalistic”, Rebel Overlay manipulates the LED screens layout and shape to curate unique, custom inch-perfect pixel-mapped shows.
For content, the designers used two Resolume Arena media server laptops with Traktor F1 midi control surfaces. For cameras, the designers used a DataVideo HS-1500T HDBaseT system with PTC-150 cameras. As an Awesome Soundwave show, the camera FX and looks are subtle in design with the objective of capturing unique moments and relaying that information to the LED screens.
Heron and Winchcombe pinpointed the DataVideo HS-1500T HDBaseT system with PTC-150 cameras as integral elements in their setup. “It’s quite geeky and perhaps not so
impressive, but they use just a single Cat6 line to each camera for power, signal and pant/tilt.”
At 10:30pm, as the doors to Wembley Arena opened and the crowd flooded in, Awesome Soundwave artists Charlie Thorstenson, An On Bast, Marc Romboy and Christopher Coe took their turns at the helm before Cox delivered the final performance of the night. This was a voyage through electronic music and an audio experience that left a lasting impression.
“It was the best sound I’ve ever heard in an arena like this,” Coe reflected. “The bass was consistent across the whole audience and it was so sweet, with a controlled bottom end that was warm, full and punchy, and a crystal clear top end. It was just brilliant.”
Cox concluded: “We all knew that we had our work cut out to produce the very best sound that Wembley has ever heard. It was an incredible journey – one I will never forget.”
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Since joining Pearce Hire last summer, it has been full steam ahead for the 23-year-old…
Steam engine enthusiast Dan Pratley is 23 and hails from Thetford, Norfolk. Regular visits to the Weeting Steam Engine Rally & Country Show might not at first glance appear to be connected to a career in production, but as will become clear, they played their part in this professional technician’s journey to being a full-time member of staff at Pearce Hire.
Prat ley’s passion for the technical aspects of live events began aged 12, when he started taping down cables for his high school’s drama and music productions. A deeper interest developed during his school years and led to him studying Sound Engineering at Access Creative College Norwich.
“I decided not to go to university and instead started work, aged 18, as a technician with Warner Leisure Hotels,” explained Pratley.
“Alt hough a promotion followed, I’d started to feel like I needed a fresh challenge, so I went along to a Production Futures event at Fly By Nite Studios in the Midlands. The atmosphere
on the day blew me away. The assembled companies were like a ‘greatest hits album’ of the industry, with so many networking opportunities – I felt it provided a real stepping stone to directly engage with, and learn more about, some of the leading events industry players,” he said.
It was during this event that Pratley spotted a familiar logo, one that he’d seen on the side of some immaculate blue generators at those Weeting Steam Engine Rally & Country Show trips. The logo belonged to Pearce Hire, and Pratley struck up a conversation with MD, Shaun Pearce (fellow steam enthusiast) and Jim Brown (not a steam enthusiast) about possible opportunities with the company.
He is in no doubt that this personal connection was invaluable in shaping his future: “I’m not sure how valuable it is sending out generic, boring CVs that can never show the real ‘you’ to companies who, more often than not, seem to have a standard stated
requirement of ‘three years experience’. In this instance, I was able to have that chat with Shaun and Jim and then forward my CV. On that basis, I’m sure the Production Futures events are just as useful to the organisation’s brand partners and supporters as they are to the young people who attend.”
Pratley’s initial conservation with Pearce Hire took place in late 2019, and early the following year he was invited to a further informal discussion about possible opportunities. That meeting abruptly became a Zoom call when COVID-19 struck and the best laid plans of all and sundry were thrown up in the air.
Scrolling forward to July 2021, Pratley left his employed position and took to the road for six months as a freelance touring technician, gaining wider experience and working with, among others, Russell Watson. He takes up the story: “After gaining great experience working on tour, I decided to contact Pearce Hire to see if they had any freelance work available,” Pratley recalled. “They remembered me, and my diary was quickly filled up with testing and maintenance work until, in April 2022, I became a full-time member of staff. It’s been a challenging journey to get where I am, particularly through the pandemic, but thanks to Production Futures, I’ve been able to land a perfect job with an excellent company.”
Look ing back on his journey, Pratley is keen to point out to other young people who are considering a career in production that university isn’t the only option, believing that his early hands-on experience was, in many respects, a useful head start. “I would never rule out the possibility of doing a degree at some point in the future, but personally, I’m very glad I took the path I did. As one of the clear beneficiaries of their vision, I’m so grateful for the work that Production Futures has done in connecting young people with our fantastic and dynamic industry.”
070 PRODUCTION FUTURES
Photo: Pearce Hire
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Breakthrough Talent Award winner, Subul Lodi reflects on her pathway into the live events sector as a touring lighting designer and technician.
What first sparked your interest in live events?
“I started doing sound for high school theatre productions and events. I didn’t want to be on stage but I always had an interest in anything technical.
“Following work experience placements in the local theatres at the weekends, I decided I wanted to go into lighting and when I went to see Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto Tour, my heart was set from there.”
How did you land your first gig?
“My first proper gig was landed through one of my lecturers at BIMM. Although I studied Live Events Management, I was much more interested in lighting. My lecturer shared his contacts with me and I began shadowing and working at some local venues in Manchester. Once I got my foot in the door, my first tour landed through word of mouth. It was hard work at first – I was working smaller gigs for not a lot of money at the start, while trying to build a name and a CV in addition to freelance work within different
venues. Once I had built myself a name, the touring work gradually started coming in.”
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
“Take every opportunity thrown at you but know your worth at the same time.”
Have you faced any barriers breaking into the sector?
“Honestly, there definitely have been some – especially with being a young woman within the industry. As women in the sector, I think we all have felt as if we have needed to work harder to prove ourselves, but I also know I’ve been extremely lucky to have the ongoing support of the vast majority of my male colleagues.”
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
“Hopefully still on a good career path, progressing with current clients would be amazing. Maybe crew chiefing or even as a lighting designer for larger tours.”
Photo: Production Futures
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DIRK VAN POPPEL TALKS VIDEO MAPPING
Hosted annually in Eindhoven, Netherlands, GLOW sees some of the world’s leading creatives and specialists in the art of video mapping descend on the city to showcase the very latest in what this visual technique can achieve. Although somewhat of a departure from the typical show that appears in the pages of TPi, we were keen to speak to some of the leading experts to find out the latest developments from this side of the industry.
As in previous years, the projection equipment for the event was supplied by Sahara Benelux. Two of the centre points of this year’s event were the Main Station and the neighbouring hotel, both of which were draped in projected content produced by Dirk van Poppel from TrackTo.
“I was originally asked to manage the production and oversee the content creation for two different buildings as well as produce light artwork for the main square, Stationsplein Eindhoven,” stated Poppel.
“I was also tasked with coaching the on-site team through a mapping process that was not common for them. Together with this team, we ensured that all the 3D mapping was upheld.” The team Poppel was coaching were all
employed by the event’s main sponsor. “ASML use the latest technology to make the most intricate machines to build extremely small complex chips,” commented Poppel. “It’s been interesting to see ASML combine their high technological standards with art projects such as this one.”
GLOW has earned a reputation as a platform to showcase the latest in video projection, and this year was no different.
“One of the main challenges this year was that we were projecting onto glass on the Central Station,” stated Poppel. “This is unique in the mapping world. Most of the time, the windows are forgotten, but that is not possible on the Central Station as there was so much glass to contend with. We had to put a special foil on the window that captured the light from the projectors.”
To achieve the desired effect, the production uses 350 sq m of foil to drape the building. “The public is used to being able to look through the large window into the building. We didn’t want to just block it out and the foil worked as a great solution and acted as somewhat of an optical illusion that we could play with inside and out.” Numerous Christie
Fresh from his success at the most recent GLOW Eindhoven event, video mapping artist Dirk van Poppel gives an insight into the world of projection and the benefits of the discipline.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: Christie & TrackTo
Opposite: Dirk van Poppel and Ronald Ramakers, Director of GLOW, along with Bernard Gosselink and Robin van der Heiden of Sahara Benelux.
products were utilised on the show. For the main station, there were five Christie Griffyn 4K35RGB laser projectors, fed by Christie Pandoras Box media servers. “The audience at GLOW have become accustomed to a very high-quality standard of mapping,” Poppel said, explaining the need for innovation in the field. “It’s very important for the artist to be able to make new things, new scales, and new combinations with various techniques. That’s the reason I opted for a building with a glass façade, which is very new and provides new possibilities.”
He went on to explain that the best designers are determined to merge content onto buildings with a lot more refined detail. “This means we push each other to new levels every time because more detail in the content means clearer imaging from the projectors. We find that the software between content and the projectors is getting better and better each year. I also find that in these types of projects, there are two artists – the one making the content and the other behind the technical deployment.”
To close, Poppel addressed the all-too-common debate, which pits projection mapping against LED video technology. “The mapping technique gives the possibilities to turn everything into a theatre,” he explained. “Buildings inside, outside, big, small, old or new, you can always project on it. With 3D mapping, you can transform the world into anything you dream of and enchant the audience with this illusion. It truly gives you the ability to create a fully immersive experience.”
Company CMO and Co-Founder
One of the overarching changes we’ve seen in the live events industry in recent years has been the growing complexity of audio networking. There’s no doubt about the added value it can bring for proAV devices, with open standard providing a sustainable and reliable domain for audio networks. However, the implementation process can create numerous issues for manufacturers. This is where Joyned steps in.
“We help manufacturers of professional audio systems to implement open-standard network technology into their products,” explained Richi Rozas, CMO and Co-Founder of the Austrian software start-up. “Our product is a software development kit that allows for easy integration of audio network technologies like the Milan protocol into ProAV products. This results in a quick time-to-market implementation. The software and hardware components have been carefully selected to provide good performance while keeping the cost in a competitive range.”
The company operates on a licence model that allows manufacturers to scale up without high initial costs. Combining this with open standard features like Milan and OCA make it the platform for future-proof systems.
Rozas explained that the solution that Joyned offers gives manufacturers the flexibility to create long-term strategies as they don’t have to invest in proprietary solutions. “The option to outsource the implementation process frees up internal resources to focus on their core developments,” he explained. “Those manufacturers new to audio network technology are looking for a solution that simplifies the technical implementation
process. And on the commercial side, a solution with lower acquisition costs is needed – especially to fit into the target prices for devices like microphones, small-format loudspeakers, and headphones. Our scalable pricing model will lower the entry barrier for these devices into the network domain.”
Joyned’s SDK is currently based on AVB/ Milan and the team is working to also enable OCA. “Standards will evolve continuously, and we will keep our SDK updated, delivering interoperability based on open standards,” stated Rozas.
The Co -Founder concluded by giving his predictions for the future of the company. “We are committed to open standards, and we are working to enable as many audio network devices into the market as we can. 2023 will be remembered as the year that open standards got significant traction.” www.joyned.at
Richi Rozas speaks to TPi about the vital services Joyned can provide within the complex world of audio networking.
Words: Stew Hume
Photo: Nicolas Pasqualini
Pictured above: Richi Rozas and Fabian Braun.
www.astera-led.com/runtimeextender V-Mount RuntimeExtender RuntimeExtender Gold-Mount Connect camera batteries to Astera lights RUNTIME RuntimeExtender is a battery plate to connect standard camera batteries to many Astera lights. This enables you to extend your production and work without worries when shooting ﬁlms or lighting events. The RuntimeExtender supports a wide range of Astera products. One RuntimeExtender can power: • 2 x Titan Tube • 2 x Helios Tube • 1 x Hyperion Tube • 4 x HydraPanel • 4 x PixelBrick
UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF DATA-DRIVEN DESIGN
GDTF, developed by the GDTF Group, is an industry standard for live entertainment technology, intended as a unified definition for the exchange of data for the operation of lighting consoles, visualisers, CAD programmes or similar tools. Integration with My Virtual Rig (MVR) – a file format that is used to share data for a scene between technology associated with live entertainment – allows the transfer of parametric and geometric data between different programmes.
At LDI 2022, GDTF & MVR originators –Vectorworks, MA Lighting and Robe – put
aside their competitive differences to provide TPi with an exclusive update on these developments and how this unifying opensource format is impacting the entertainment industry. In a somewhat fragmented and labyrinthine industry, in which the design of a production is often shrouded in mystery and so far removed from the knowledge of an average audience member, seeking out sector-wide support to improve this creative process can be equal parts challenging and rewarding for its forebears. Hoping to turn the tide in the favour of end users who are frequently faced with a
lack of, or nonexistent data, to build a project are Vectorworks Chief Marketing Officer, Jeremy Powell; MA Lighting Managing Director, Gerhard Krude; and Robe Customer Service Manager, Petr Vanek.
“We are proud to be a part of this initiative at MA Lighting. We all suffer from the same problem, in order to be able to control a fixture, it would be nice to have adequate information and data. This is something our users complain about. While our library is extensive, every now and then, there are discrepancies,” Krude explained, adding that the implementation of GDTF and MVR cuts out the middleman and the need for end users to ask a fixture manufacturer to present the data, by nudging them to provide it in an informative and easily accessible way that can be digested by a control desk, can connect to previsualisation software and other production planning tools from the top down.
“As a lighting partner and manufacturer, it was important for us to understand that this is not a problem of consoles and software which use our fixtures,” Vadnek stated.
“We tr y to develop products that are a key part of live entertainment, and we as manufacturers understand how they work, and we want to be able to communicate that information to the end user. The frustration that they express has been such that it has made us aware of the problem and we need to unite in order to solve it,” he added. “At Robe, we could never achieve this end goal solitarily, we require the input and information of other viewpoints of the controlling, planning, visualising point of views to understand the issue and provide a complete solution.”
As cited by its originators, for this to work, the creation of this rich metadata must also acknowledge and account for all facets of the
Live entertainment technologists unite to provide end users with access to standardised and easily accessible ones and zeros to ‘unify the industry’ and create a landscape where a production design can work the first time, every time.
Words: Jacob Waite Photos: TPi, GDTF and MVR
live entertainment sector – information on distribution boxes through to data providers, trussing and hoists, etcetera – as a resource for all parties involved in the production process. Powell commented: “We define this approach as an ‘open accessible standard,’ and one we continually develop. While this begins at DMX, architecting this approach to go beyond the DMX, is very important. We want to develop a system and language that is truly open and evolves to the point that these issues become problems of old.”
Krude added: “From the beginning, we decided not to approach this on a proprietary level, but open it up to provide a solution for our users, which is the most important part of developing a standard that can be easily adapted by people. We have invented a comprehensive language which can describe the technology on or powering live entertainment in a way that can be universally understood by end users and retained by the technology. This is our gift to the end user.”
GDTF and MVR can be integrated into designers’ existing wor kflows, allowing them to go bet ween CAD, previsualisation, and console, without unnecessary errors, costs, or other distractions. This ensures that devices work the first time, every time, and simplifies the
process of sharing data and project details. “This is a liberating experience for us as a partner, but also personally as a lighting operator, to be able to have a format I can understand, and if I need to change midway, I have the ability to amend the data as an end user,” Vadnek noted. “Equally, as a manufacturer, I am thrilled to be able to express how our devices operate.”
In recent months, GDTF Group has ensured its fixture builder is easier to use, mak ing files more intuitive, and producing video content to express their manifesto and how to build files, as well as improving GDTF and MVR technology under the hood, with MVR now recognising additional 3D file for mats that a lot of other soft ware applications can take in.
Powell hopes these steps will nudge manufacturers to supply data on their fixtures in GDTF to be used in MVR “This is a culmination of the efforts of multiple people from many manufacturers that are involved in our regular interface meetings with the sector. Their needs, questions and requirements have helped shape the development of GDTF and MVR and their subsequent adoption has risen,” Vanek remarked.
The GDTF file for mat has continued to evol ve with input and involvement from
manufacturers across the globe and critical feedback from its many adopters resulting in many exciting developments in recent years, resulting in a published update to DIN SPEC 15800:2022.
“We took a stand at LDI 2022 to demonstrate this as a standard in the industry,” Powell commented. “At this show, we discovered there are new companies developing that base their business on making GDTF files, which we are excited about and hope to learn more about.”
Summarising, Krude called for support from the wider live entertainment and technology sector: “It is vitally important that companies stand behind this,” he concluded. “Whoever wants to join us, the invite is there. Get in touch. We cannot do this alone.”
Pictured left: Robe Customer Service Manager, Petr Vanek and MA Lighting Managing Director, Gerhard Krude with Vectorworks Chief Marketing Officer, Jeremy Powell exhibit on the GDTF and MVR stand at LDI 2022.
IN PROFILE: 22LIVE
We at TPi are no strangers to covering stories on the establishment of new companies or entities within the live events sector, but what is incredibly rare is for us to be writing about a new company that is already out on the road with two separate touring parties. However, 22live – the newest face in the world of professional audio – has done just that, supplying touring PA and control packages for Sigur Rós as well as The Australian Pink Floyd Show.
Although the name 22live may be new to many, the people behind the company will be familiar to most within the industry. Founded by Paul Timmins, the company has taken on several known audio industry professionals including: Simon Gladstone, Technical Director; Stefan Phillips, Operations Director; and now in January 2023, Alex Penn, Spencer Beard and Ian Bidmead all join the management line-up as Commercial Director, Managing Director and Finance Director, respectively.
With an established team in place and a warehouse fully stocked with the latest Martin Audio PA systems, numerous DiGiCo desks as well as custom-built flight cases from Flightcase Warehouse, and a whole new approach to line systems, 22live is very much open for business and excited to offer an alternative solution for touring clients, placing itself as one of the few truly independent companies within the audio sphere.
To speak about the organisation and the ethos of the company, TPi sat down with
22live’s Founder and Hire Director, Paul Timmins, in the depths of the O2 Apollo Manchester, as the Icelandic post-rockers, Sigur Rós line checked in the floors above. As he took in his surroundings, it was clear that Timmins was getting a real buzz being back on site, having left his previous position back in early 2021. “When I first left, I knew I wanted to take a break,” began Timmins.
With a project of converting a house on the cards, he very much stepped away from the industry, but after a period of reflection, he realised he still had “another chapter left in me”. He continued: “I really started to miss going to shows and with the industry opening up again, I got a taste of what retirement would be like and realised I wasn’t quite ready for it.”
After toying with the idea of joining a smaller company and bringing his 40 years of experience into a fledgling outfit, he ultimately decided to start something completely new. “I set about building a business plan; it was exciting to realise that I had real options and prospects to do something independently.” Timmins created a roadmap for how to get 22live off the ground.
Although the option was there to buy out an established company, Timmins instead decided to start from scratch. “If you buy a company, at least of a size that I could consider, the reality is that around 30% of the gear will be good and modern, but the rest will be older stock. I opted instead to start afresh. A clean slate would allow me to build the business and
A second-generation independent audio rental company, 22live enters the market with a clear set of working principles, focusing on giving the end client the best quality and care while out on the road.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: James Cumpsty
Pictured above: The 22live team made up of Ian Bidmead, Paul Timmins, Simon Gladstone, Stefan Phillips, Spencer Beard and Alex Penn.
presentation with complete control allowing me to do things the way I wanted to. This, however, also came with the caveat that we would be unlikely to become cash positive for at least the first 12 months, which was quite unnerving.”
Litt le did Timmins know, but the interest in his new venture would soon lead the company to accelerate the timeline. “In February 2022, I got a call from Thomas Stone who was the tour director of Sigur Rós at that time,” Timmins recalled. “I had worked with him and the band in the past and as he heard I was doing something, he wanted me to take on the tour. At that point we didn’t have a single piece of gear,” he chuckled.
Despite the current supply issues, Timmins was able to source two DiGiCo SD12s and a Sennheiser RF package which would be required for rehearsals in April to cover the North American and Asian legs of the tour from there. This then bought him some time to arrange a PA required later for the European leg, which was due to commence in August. This came in the form of a Martin Audio Wavefront Precision system.
“By the end of June, we were in a fairly good place with a good stock of PA, more mixing consoles and a more developed plan for our own infrastructure which we were now starting to build – and we started dry hiring, which began to bring some money into the company.”
PIECES FALLING INTO PLACE
As the adage goes: it’s not the kit that matters – it’s the people. Just like Timmins, the rest of the 22live team have all worked within the pro-audio sector and had a huge amount of
experience between them. TPi took some time to chat to the most recent recruits of 22live –Spencer Beard, Managing Director, and Alex Penn, Commercial Director, who started their new positions on 3 January 2023. The two new recruits discussed what attracted them to this new adventure.
“22live gives me the opportunity to go back to my roots,” stated Beard plainly while explaining the hands-on nature the company is looking to offer clients. “We all know and have worked with one another and are passionate about providing the best kit to produce the best results at a gig.”
Penn agreed, adding that it is 22live’s independence that made it such an appealing prospect. “We have all the control to make decisions and with the company being based in one location, we can keep things simple.”
Having worked with Timmins previously, both Penn and Beard explained how it was an easy decision to join forces. Like Timmins, Beard also took some time away from the industry and was also keen to jump back into a role that was more hands on and company facing. “I wasn’t just missing the gigs; it was all the stuff that comes with it – getting the gear together, deciding what equipment to purchase. So, when Paul explained the concept of 22live and we saw who was involved, it was like getting the band back together.”
As many might have guessed, 22live has set up its HQ in the Midlands, UK, with all the staff – bar Timmins – being based in the area. “My role within the company was always going
to be remote and based at home,” explained Timmins. “I also never intended to set up a base in London again with the costs of running an operation in the capital simply making things so much harder.”
The company has now secured a warehouse facility to house its rental stock. “It’s the perfect place to operate from,” stated Beard. “It’s also got a lot of other companies from the industry based nearby, including PRG, Christie Lites, Fly By Nite and, of course, SSE Audio.”
Penn interjected: “You just can’t discount the overall cost of establishing this business, so to be able to save money with the premises being based in the Midlands can really make a difference.”
Timmins went on to explain why Martin Audio was the brand of choice when it came to the 22live’s PA offering. “When I started in the rental business in 1999, Martin Audio was the only brand we stocked, so I know it very well. We might look at bringing on another brand in the future, but I’m keen to keep it simple. I find when you have too many brands, your knowledge gets diluted, which goes against our main goal of being able to deal with all our clients’ issues personally.”
WHY IS THIS THE RIGHT TIME?
Speaking of the wider business landscape, there has been a clear trend within the live events market of more companies joining forces, be that in agreed partnerships or acquisitions. Some may argue that this is an indication of a growing industry, but despite this changing landscape, the 22live team still believe there is room for independence
in the increasingly compressed market. “We are never going to compete with the capacity of the big global corporations,” stated Beard plainly. “22live is all about providing a service that has a very boutique vibe and delivers that personal touch. If you have a problem, you can call one of the team directly and they will be able to deal with the issue rather than having to go down a chain of command.”
He went on to state that he knows that their size will mean they are not attractive to everyone, but the team wants to focus their attention on those that want a more personal service. “We want to create something with 22live that is enjoyable, sustainable and offers something new and different; a company for the industry if you like,” he asserted
Timmins went on to explain that the company has been set up with all the founding directors having shared ownership. The concept is that anyone within the 22live management team can have independence, enjoy their roles, and have easier options to
make changes to their lives when the time is right for them. “So often you end up with an owner wanting to leave a company and it simply not being possible for them to exit. This was also the reason I did not want to do this all by myself. This is a long-term proposition for all of us. We hope to build a successful small-tomedium-sized business, and we will aim to build a middle management team in the long term that can continue to take this forward.”
CONCEPT IN PRACTICE
While 22live was still very much in its embryonic stage, many within the industry have already been in touch with Timmins to see if the company would take them on as a client. 22live has already been the audio suppliers for Sigur Rós’ latest campaign as well as The Australian Pink Floyd Show’s European and UK run. Both productions had worked with Timmins previously and were keen to once again use him as their supplier. Standing at FOH with Sigur Rós’ audio team, they spoke about their
084 IN PROFILE
Pictured above: Paul Timmins of 22live; FOH Engineer, Ingvar Jónnson; System Technician, Joseph Pearce; Audio Crew Chief, Jonny Buck; Monitor Technician, Tim Burke; Monitor Engineer, Throstur Albertsson.
www.22live.com +44 (0)121 740 0022 firstname.lastname@example.org
2022 collaboration with 22live. “We were very keen to jump into this show with Paul as he had been very kind to us on previous tours,” stated FOH Engineer, Ingvar Jónsson. “Anyone can supply equipment, but having the right crew and support you need for the tour is the most important thing.”
Monitor Engineer, Throstur Albertsson echoed this sentiment. “The whole process with 22live has been top notch,” he said. “Even from the first rehearsals, we got to have handson training with DiGiCo. We did not ask for this, but it was just provided and then the same person came to train us on the Klang system.”
Jónsson explained the comfort of knowing there is someone who will respond 24 hours a day if there is any issue. “You can feel instantly that everyone at 22live really cares about what they are doing,” he enthused.
That t rust was also echoed within The Australian Pink Floyd Show camp. Speaking from the Production offices of one of the final dates of the latest UK tour were Band Manager, Kevin Hopgood and Production Manager,
Chris Gadd. Having been at the helm of this production for 20 years, Gadd explained how the touring party was particularly close-knit. “We often find that people stick with this show for a very long time and it’s really a close family.”
An extension of this family in many ways has been Timmins, who used to supply the audio package for the team in his previous role. “I’ve known Paul for 40 years,” commented Hopgood, who chuckled that Timmins gave him his first paid gig several decades ago. “He explained to both me and Chris what he was working on with 22live and asked if he’d be able to quote for the European run for this show. Everyone has those companies they want to work with, but periodically it’s good to freshen things up and we were happy to take on 22live for this run,” stated Hopgood.
“Wor king with a smaller boutique company that has a personal touch is really important to us,” commented Gadd, commending the support he and the team had been given by 22live for this run. “I believe there is still room for independent small companies with a more
086 IN PROFILE
Pictured above: Monitor Engineer, Kevin Smith; System Technician, Mark Edwards; PA Technician, John Arundel; FOH Engineer, Trevor Gilligan and Simon Gladstone of 22live.
bespoke touch,” added Hopgood. “Especially as that is exactly how we run this tour. There will always be a place for the larger companies and for some tours those resources are exactly what you need.”
With 2023 now upon us, 22live is set for its first full year of business. Timmins concluded by expanding on where he thought the business could grow for the rest of the decade. “When I’m asked to describe 22live, I always come back to the point that we are a second-generation independent audio company and we want to remain so,” he stated. “Over the next five years, we want to grow in size but never allow quantity to overshadow quality both in terms of equipment or service.”
He was also keen to highlight that he wanted 22live to embrace innovation in the sphere. “We want to be a global supplier, but we’re looking at tackling things differently. Like many, we are trying to be as conscious as we can when it comes to being greener. As such, we’re looking at developing partnerships with other companies like us around the world but on a more formal basis than some of these agreements have been made in the past.” The 22live team is certainly bringing a new dimension to the audio rental market and with a clear appetite for such a service, it will be interesting to see if others follow in its footsteps.
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SOLOTECH ALIGNS ITSELF AS A KEY FIGURE IN LAS VEGAS’ SUPPLY CHAIN
Solotech increases its footprint and presence in the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ with a ‘people first’ approach and the formation of a state-of-the-art, 80,000 sq ft facility.
IN PROFILE 088
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: Solotech & TPi
With over 18 strategic locations in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and China, 45 years on from breaking ground in Montréal, Solotech is considered as a trusted source for audio, video, lighting, rigging, soft goods, control, and collaboration solutions and services. To support its growth, the company has recently opened the doors to a state-of-the-art, 80,000 sq ft facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eschewing the city’s ageold slogan - what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas - the company was forthcoming in providing TPi with a sneak peek of the space amid the revelry of LDI 2022.
From t his new strategic Sin City location, a stone’s throw from its contemporaries, Solotech will be able to serve the entire West Coast – particularly entertainment hubs, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“This is a well laid-out space that has great features,” Aaron Beck, Business Development Manager and Senior Engineer at Solotech Las Vegas, said of the new facility. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, and we know where we want to go in the future.”
Solotech strives to stay abreast of the latest technology and innovation with an inventory including over 300 renowned manufacturers, making it a preferred choice for high-profile clients in Las Vegas and beyond. “With the world and technology changing quickly, we need to stay ahead of the game,” added Beck.
Irish-born John Flynn began his career with White Light in 1998 and progressed up to crew
chief of the largest touring productions such as Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience and Taylor Swift’s Reputation stadium tour. He now finds himself filling the boots of VP of Operations, and tasked with supervising the delivery aspect of a show and project management, including QC and preparation process built around delivering the highest standard possible for the shows and events Solotech is involved in.
“Things have expanded rapidly in the US market – so much so that we’ve moved into this new facility, which is 50,000 sq ft larger than our previous premises,” he said, adding that this move comes as the company’s Nashville branch has also set up camp in an even larger, 120,000 sq ft facility in recent months.
Solotech’s Las Vegas headquarters sees the company’s flourishing Sales and Integration and Live Production teams unite under one roof with the addition of a demo training room, a pre-visualisation suite and upgraded preparation spaces.
While the company is internationally recognised for its expertise across music, sports, business, culture, and education markets, Solotech’s clients also benefit from its service centre, online store, and virtual technology offerings.
“There are over 50 members of staff including Systems & Integration in this building alone,” Flynn explained, recalling the ‘bedding in’ process of the move. “There’s a mixture of new and pre-existing members of staff. With
this expansion, we’ve had an influx of new ideas and enthusiasm, which is always welcome.”
‘FROM SURVIVAL MODE TO EXPANSION’
Like most companies, Solotech’s operations were pared back to the ‘bare bones’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We now find ourselves transitioning from ‘survival mode’ to expansion; the pace has been frantic, simply due to the demand for shows and entertainment, which has been through the roof,” Flynn noted. Solotech’s Systems & Integration division provided a much-needed life raft amid the lockdown. “While live events shut down completely and all trucks returned to base overnight, the Systems & Integration and building work only stopped for around a month and soon picked up momentum during COVID-19,” he recalled. “Thankfully, Solotech is like a family, so it was nice to be able to turn to another division in adversity. From a business perspective, our investment in equipment is not only for live production but can be used for multiple disciplines and verticals.”
As such, Solotech was able to explore emerging markets – particularly with the development of the Media and Entertainment Technology Division (MET) for esports and the formation of a new XR studios opening in Los Angeles. However, with increased
demand comes a greater need for staff. “We’re expanding, so we require more personnel. We have positions open, which we are trying to fill with the right people with the right skillset, as opposed to simply throwing numbers at it,” Flynn said, acknowledging the challenges facing the sector. “We’ve hired some key people, stalwarts of the industry, to guide the next generation.”
Despite this trajectory of new staff, Solotech also banks time for internal growth. “Solotech encourages internal growth. I came in as Director of Lighting and then I moved up to the Project Management team for Lighting and now I’ve been promoted to VP of Operations,” Flynn enthused. “Last year, we had around 140 employees in our US divisions, and now we have nearly 500, with more positions still open. The growth has been exponential.”
‘COMMUNICATION IS KEY’
When it comes to the challenges the Las Vegas HQ faces amid global crisis, Solotech has adopted an approach of not overcommitting. “Nobody ever wants to go back on their word, so we’re very diligent when it comes to bidding and fulfilling contracts,” Flynn said, explaining that this ethos relies on the manufacturers and the support of the supply chain. “If we commit to a show, we want to deliver it to the highest
IN PROFILE 090
Previous page: John Flynn, VP of Operations at Solotech Las Vegas.
standard possible. Talking to manufacturers at LDI 2022, they are looking at maybe another 18 months lead time before we’re back to the old days of ringing up and having 100 lights turn up within a month.”
This is compounded by the rising costs associated with transport. “We are discovering ways to operate more efficiently as a company,” Flynn reported. “Having inventory located in the key areas of the US has allowed us to stop moving gear around needlessly, therefore reducing our carbon footprint.”
Solotech is fully supported by three major shareholders: Claridge, Desjardins Capital and Investissement Québec. The company employs over 2,000 professionals in its offices located in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Nashville, Miami, Orlando, Pensacola, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Saguenay, Halifax, Macau, and Hong Kong. Despite this global reach, Solotech still operates on a communal level, with weekly calls involving key decision makers within the company from UK, US and Canadian time zones.
“Communication is key,” Flynn underlined. “The more information we can download or upload from them, the smoother it is for productions. Even if it’s just a control package from the US to the UK, we can duplicate and pick up the gear locally, instead of air freighting it. Between our three bases in the US, our inventory is split evenly and equally supportive of lighting, audio, and video applications.”
According to Flynn, it is this investment in people that sets Solotech apart from its competitors. “Gear is gear, but it’s all about the people. We can move equipment around but it’s all about the service and the people you deal with,” he stated.
“The pandemic has made a lot of people reassess what is important to them –particularly the more experienced members of touring crew, who have looked to transition off the road to spend more time with their friends and families – so, we’ve worked hard as
a company to reassess our working practices and we champion a conducive work-life balance at Solotech.
“Our workforce is incredibly experienced and knowledgeable,” Flynn summarised, going on to explain that a skilled workforce in multiple disciplines enables Solotech to showcase its equipment and expertise not only in live entertainment venues but casinos, theatres, hotels, and nightclubs up and down the Strip. “One thing is for certain, the future’s bright.” www.solotech.com
IN PROFILE 091
“Having inventory located in the key areas of the US has allowed us to stop moving gear around needlessly, therefore reducing our carbon footprint.” Solotech Las Vegas VP of Operations, John Flynn.
INTRODUCING FOMO LONDON STUDIO
Matteo Cifelli began his career in audio as a studio engineer in 1987, but since moving to the UK 15 years ago, has found more opportunities and prosperity mixing live sound. After many years visiting and being underwhelmed with rehearsal spaces, he decided to band together with video specialist and projectionist, Nicola Romanini to create a space in the heart of London, which both veteran Italian-born engineers would not only be happy to visit but to service visiting production teams and artists.
“For me, a studio should be somewhere that breathes and inspires creativity,” Cifelli began. “I’ve never been happy about rehearsal spaces I’ve visited as a touring sound engineer. It has been a dream of mine to create a nice, friendly space for artists and visiting production teams.” The duo were handed the keys for what would become FOMO LONDON in November 2020. “Matteo and I had a site visit, we instantly looked at each other, recognised it was a big job at hand, but decided to go ahead with it,” Romanini recalled. “Two years on, we haven’t stopped since.”
Cifelli and Romanini, along with a team of builders began demolishing the pre-existing space, knocking it down to its foundations, and building it from the ground up. Over 13 months of “cathartic” sledgehammer sessions, 30 skips of dust and material, and months of work allowed them to begin taking bookings as lockdown restrictions eased in September 2021. “We refurbished the building from the ground upwards, all of the studios are acoustically treated, with oak furnishings and new flooring with a number of layers of
material in addition to rubber to reduce the sound emission from other rooms,” Romanini explained. “We can have two bands with masses of amplification performing on each level and we have no issues whatsoever.”
Located on London’s bustling Camden Road, the space boasts a large neighbouring load-in and out corridor for visiting productions, with the main entrance leading visitors into a large green room. On the ground floor visitors will find Studio One, complete with a separate control room. Flexible Studio Two and Three generally double as production offices, or spaces for back vocals to rehearse or backline to fix equipment, in addition to Studio Four, and kitchen and restroom facilities.
“If clients feel comfortable in our space it reflects in their productivity and their creativity. Although we are engineers by trade, we know what clients want from a space and we put that into practice here,” Romanini added. “The basic skills we have required for touring, like customer service, logistics, and planning events, are wholly transferable to the rehearsal business.” Additional restroom facilities, an office and Studio Five, joins on to a further green room on the second floor. In addition to its larger size, the pull of Studio Five is its exposure to daylight. “We uncovered this beautiful view of the skyline and two windows while we were demolishing the space,” Romanini said. “It provides people with a nice barometer of time, which can often be lost in rehearsal studios.”
With eight studios in total. One kitchen. An office and three toilets within the building. FOMO LONDON makes for a comfortable
and spacious retreat amid the chaos of central London. “We had 60 sessions alone in September 2022, and it gets busier by the day,” he remarked.
‘A GAMBLE THAT’S PAID OFF’
The space now known as FOMO LONDON initially became available when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “It was the perfect time for us to invest, as tours were not going ahead and we found ourselves literally out of work but with time on our hands,” Cifelli reported. “The location is perfect. Fortunately, we had some savings to put into this space, however, we have ended up spending around four times our initial budget. Thankfully, we have been able to outfit the place properly and professionally during the lockdown.”
The duo described their investment as a “gamble”, coupled with the ever-presence of a global pandemic. “The only sure thing we were sure of was the distinct lack of rehearsal spaces with, sadly, some big spaces closing their doors. Bands and engineers were crying out for someone to fill that void and we were more than happy to be the solution,” Cifelli stated, acknowledging the challenges of the current climate. “Now, with the way the world is, we are entering a strange period, which will undoubtedly affect the sector,” he reported. “The live production industry is one of the first and hardest hit industries by economic uncertainty. However, we are positive for the future – we have a unique space and there are few competitors in the area.”
Key to their success, Cifelli believes, is being aware of not replicating the errors or
Matteo Cifelli and Nicola Romanini harness their decades of experience on the road to provide a unique level of service and Italian hospitality to visiting production teams at one of London’s newest trailblazing rehearsal and recording studios.
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: FOMO LONDON STUDIO
their dislikes of other facilities as well as their Italian hospitality, with Romanini tapping into his background in catering to provide visitors with an authentic experience. “We have devoted our energy to the cleanliness of the space, everything from bathroom facilities right through to the communal areas,” Cifelli explained. “Nicola and I are both Italians, so it was important to provide a welcoming space. He is also a fantastic chef. The kitchen was actually the first thing we fitted in the studio, each day we were cooking for 10 builders throughout the pandemic and now we regularly cook for our clients.”
Romanini added: “Our customers appreciate that we provide a nice, clean space with beautiful, vivid colours and interior design, with lots of decorative light. I refer to it as a ‘hotel experience’. We are always on hand to provide assistance, whether that’s in the technical or logistical, or even in the kitchen, and that, I believe, sets us apart from other dry hire models.” In addition to operating primarily as a dry hire model, there’s also the ability to bring along or tap into internal gear like PA, desk, cable, stands and a selection of microphones at FOMO LONDON – making it the ideal space for rehearsals, recording, streaming services and Podcasting. The mixing room in Studio 4 will soon be operative as Dolby Atmos studio. “It’s important to adapt,” Cifelli pointed out.
“This space will adapt to the business. The rehearsal for touring bands works for us, but we are prepared to diversify and pivot in which the way the market dictates. We are now beginning to attract television production companies, and as such, are booked for rehearsals of ITV’s The Voice.” Other clients include a raft of big names and rising stars in Anne-Marie, Years & Years, The Script, Soulsaver –Dave Gahan, Little Mix, Sir Tom Jones, Ed
Sheeran, Westlife, Chrissie Hynde, Pet Shop Boys, Liam Gallagher, Stormzy, TEMS, Little Simz, Jorja Smith, Celeste, Mark Owen, Aitch, Tiana Major9, Amy Macdonald, Tom Walker, Faithless, Calum Scott, Anastacia, SG Lewis, Cat Burns, Sugababes, The 1975, James Bay, Tiwa Savage, James Blake, Disclosure, Sam Smith, Noel Gallagher, Gabriels and Yungblud, among others. “The 1975 and Pet Shop Boys were among our clients that fully realised the capabilities of the space, using it for recording as well as rehearsing and everything in between,” Cifelli cited.
According to the duo, the look and sound of the rooms, in addition to its location and around-the-clock hands-on support is all key to attracting clientele. “All of our clients have been to the studio at least twice, which is a testament to our space. They love coming, they know they are welcome and we take care of them,” he furthered.
Summarising the past two years of building and returning to the road as a FOH Engineer with longtime client, Sir Tom Jones, Cifelli commented: “Running a studio has not only been a challenge but it has invigorated my passion for the sector, post-pandemic. I am able to get a front-row seat to witness how the other engineers and crews work, which I have found very interesting. With decades of experience in the industry, we consider ourselves veterans, so speaking on behalf of Nicola and I, it’s been a privilege to learn something new and witness how our contemporaries do things and draw inspiration from them. I must confess, however, that I do still enjoy touring, and I hope to balance remote management of the studio in addition to touring and possibly expanding our pre-existing facilities,” he concluded. “Watch this space.” www.fomo.london
Pictured above: Matteo Cifelli and Nicola Romanini.
EQUINOX LAUNCHES CLEAN SKY INDEX
Equinox has launched the Clean Sky Index, an initiative that empowers clients to control how their travel impacts the environment. The effort allows travel buyers the choice to favour private and commercial aircraft operators when it comes to booking, thus taking concise action towards reducing their travel’s environmental impact.
Through its private charter and fullservice travel management units, the UK travel company will demonstrate to clients how prospective operators perform within two specific criteria. The first is net zero initiatives towards emission mitigation from Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) use to offsetting efforts and future tech investment).
The second is flight operations toward emissions minimisation, including flight procedures, in-flight performance, and efforts to reduce non-CO2 emissions. “Beyond carbon offsetting, some of our clients, the end users, are unsure how they can support sustainable
flying,” stated Elliot Bottomley, Managing Director of Equinox Charter. “The Clean Sky Index provides our clients continually updated information to support their choices. By choosing sustainable operators, those that are making real and accountable efforts, our clients are empowered to make an immediate impact on greener travel.
“Empowering client choice is paramount,” he added. “Not all operators are the same and simple differences between them, including how the aircraft is operated, can make a major difference. Every kilo counts!”
Thanks to a combination of publicly available information and active discussions with operators, led by Equinox’s Sustainability Consultant, Douglas Corbett, Equinox found that there are substantial and reliable results for commercial operators. Airline operators including easyJet and Air New Zealand top the commercial assessment, demonstrating strength in a clear mission objective, use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels, future technology investment and flight operations procedures and initiatives. Business Aviation assessments demonstrated in general, some ground to cover. Yet, the work of companies like VistaJet and Air Charter Scotland in this segment is encouraging and is beginning to set the standards for others to follow.
The Clean Sky Index forms part of several sustainable travel assessments useful to travellers and buyers of travel, under Equinox’s Enhanced Sustainability Initiative (EESI).
The initiative empowers end users to assess which private and commercial flight operators are aligned with their own environmental goals.
Photo: Equinox Charter
Pictured above: Ian Patterson, Chief Executive Officer of Equinox Travel and Equinox Charter.
In a bid to prevent tour managers from frantically sifting through their inbox to find that one important email with guest list information, a promoter contact, or a parking plot, tourmanagement.com – a platform developed by touring professional, Roeland Veugelen and fine-tuned by over 200 bands and crews – allows tour managers to focus on what is really important when on the road: creating memories for concertgoers with the fewest headaches possible.
While touring with Belgian singer-songwriter Milow in 2008, Veugelen began developing an online tour calendar that could do the planning of individual band and crew members and centralise call sheet information. “My goal,
from the beginning, was to replace the tour book – ‘the book of lies’ – with accurate and real time information distributed to an entire travel party, which is also available to access on their laptops and phones,” he explained. “Although I initially made it for myself, local promoters became interested in it.”
Based on the positive feedback of dozens of tour managers using the self-made software, Veugelen made the decision to develop a fully-fledged commercial iteration of tourmanagement.com in 2013. “We began to offer it as a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, so people could start using it.”
As time passed and uptake increased, additional features were added. “What we
tried to do with that first version was to make a centralised space for all tour-related information,” he explained. “Everything from a tour calendar to timesheets, setlists, venue, hotel, and travel information, easily accessible, and more importantly, all in one place.” The platform allows end users to organise their events, add detailed timings for shows, rehearsals, and promo days, as well as a personal calendar for artist and crew members, integrated with laptops or smartphones.
Tour management.com also boasts an extensive location database with the ability to add additional GPS coordinates. Tour managers can calculate artist fees, based on ticket sales, costs, bonuses, etc, and keep track
Roeland Veugelen lifts the lid on a platform developed by touring professionals and designed by musicians.
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: tourmanagement.com and Jokko - Joris Bulckens
of artist and crew passports, visas, personal data, and travel preferences.
It can also manage guest lists for shows by allowing band members to add their own guests directly into the system; centralise hotel, travel, flight, promo and other information; and distribute set lists to artist and crew camps, as well as PRS agencies.
Customers to date include Scooter, a-ha, Moderat, Tame Impala, Matt Simons, Hooverphonic, Racoon, Triggerfinger, Caro Emerald, Selah Sue, Simply Red, The Bosshoss, Milow, Ictus, Kamelot, Within Temptation and Scorpions, among others.
“We have roughly 200 productions active on the platform, ranging from small local Belgian bands and Dutch artists, right through to the likes of Simple Minds, Simply Red, Scorpions, Nick Cave, Chrissie Hynde, Andre Rieu, Lorde –the list goes on,” he remarked.
Almost two years ago, given the swing in uptake, Veugelen decided to revamp the website, which he declared as a “costly undertaking and substantial investment”, but equally “rewarding” in the long term.
“While we centralised all this tour-related information, we wanted to implement the ability to really assist end users and make their work on the road easier, from suggesting
rooming lists to warning you when a visa or passport is set to expire, to sending specific notifications for an upcoming soundchecks or push notifications for last-minute changes. We implemented APIs to get flight information, and data on currency exchange formats, as well as improving our database and providing venues an option to use the platform as a technical venue writer. Bands can verify that information in partnership with the venue.”
The software update was based on things both Veugelen noted during eight years of operation and feedback from end users. “For example, we always had a guest list function on the platform, however for larger bands, due to the demand for guest list spots, they often require a few layers of approvals,” he said, adding that additional layers of user specific permissions to the platform is one of the key requests. “With our latest update, a member of the band or touring camp can request a guest list spot, which then must be approved by the powers that be.”
Developing new features costs time and effort in tourmanagement.com’s pre-existing framework, so Veugelen decided to go from scratch to explore the possibilities and remits of a totally new product, based on elements of the old model. “We want to offer our end users
the best experience,” he said. “Our philosophy aligns with mid-size touring acts upwards, and I believe we are the best solution. There is some all-round band management software on the market, which include touring planning elements but focus on marketing, internal band account, website presence, as opposed to the nuts and bolts of touring.”
Of paramount importance was presenting a customisable platform that can adapt to the challenges and fluidity of a modern touring production. “The offset of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic crisis presents new challenges for touring productions with budgets more limited, less crew and equipment available. With a platform like ours, there’s a lot of opportunity to make it easier for tour managers by making the organising of administration as centralised and efficient as possible, so they can focus on the big picture – and that’s having a great show in the best possible circumstances.”
Since the invention of mobile phones and emails, touring has been a “last-minute industry”, according to Veugelen. “Navigating admin is now more fragmented than ever. Lead times are extended and, in my opinion, this has only got worse since the pandemic because supplies are limited, but crews are also wary
of postponements or cancellations due to a variety of reasons, whether that is ticket sales, supply chain worries or otherwise,” he noted.
“Wor king with a team of external software developers, we want to make it easier to organise a tour. Instead of dozens of Microsoft Excel sheets, we’re looking to provide an intuitive platform which was not only built by someone who has toured for decades but retains the ethos and values of those ageold methods. After all, it would take years to understand what end users require without having that hands-on experience,” Veugelen stated, explaining that some UK touring crews rely on what3words’ proprietary geocode system to navigate backstage, so he and his developers are building-in specific functionality upon request.
“This is a logical and next step in professionalising touring practices, as things
on the artist side have developed when it comes to advanced security measures and huge leaps have been made on the technical side. I’m amazed to discover mammoth productions still operate on an archaic administration structure,” he stated, underlining his goal to save time for tour managers and wide production crews and artists.
“In the long term, it would be nice to create a community for people to use our platform to exchange knowledge and data among them and with other partners relevant to their tours,” he said, looking to the future. “This is something we can do at a faster pace, but until then our hope is to double in size to 500 active bands, with growth areas in Europe and the UK.”
The latest version of the software launches on 23 January. Prospective users can sign up to a free trial of the platform or explore subscriptions at: www.tourmanagement.com
Pictured above: Roeland Veugelen, Tour Manager and Founder of tourmanagement.com.
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THE UNWAVERING IMPORTANCE OF DISCHARGE LAMPS
With benefits like greater reliability, increased energy efficiency and less maintenance for a lower cost of ownership, the transition from discharge lamp-based lighting fixtures to LED sources in the entertainment lighting industry was understandable if not inevitable. Then, as LED engines began to compete with discharge-based fixtures in terms of brightness, the writing seemed to be on the wall – it was surely only a matter of time before discharge-based lights would disappear from use completely.
However, that hasn’t been the case. So, why are manufacturers still launching lighting products with discharge sources? “It’s really about what you want to accomplish optically,” stated John Dunn, National Sales Manager at Elation Professional’s headquarter office in Los Angeles. “The physics behind an LED source don’t make sense for all types of fixtures and some effects are still not achievable with LEDs. A great example is a long-throw beam fixture. When you need that pronounced beam of a narrow beam aperture product, you just can’t duplicate the centre intensity that a lamp and reflector gives you with an LED engine.”
Roger Hamers, R&D head at Elation’s European office in the Netherlands, picked up the story: “It has to do with the construction of the lamp working with an internal reflector. The size of the lamp and reflector is key. With a discharge lamp, because it is relatively small, the focal point is very near the output of the light, which gives you a narrow, very intense beam. You could do the same with LEDs but because of each LED’s relatively low wattage, to get the same effect you would need a very large LED chip and quite a large reflector, so the fixture would be too big.”
Discharge lamps involve an internal electrical discharge between two electrodes in a gas-filled chamber, and it’s at that point that the level of intensity is extreme. It’s that power that can be harnessed, isolated and
thrown out as a collimated beam of light. When producing an ultra-narrow beam with an LED source, that concentrated intensity is missing and consequently the beam lacks density and doesn’t travel as far. “It’s at distances that you really begin to notice differences,” Hamers said. “With an LED engine, you don’t have the pronounced centre intensity that you are looking for in a long throw narrow collimator beam fixture.”
Hamers explains that in the past, with a discharge lamp, a somewhat large reflector was needed because the electrical arc was relatively big. “Today though we have tiny discharge lamps with arcs of only millimetres. The Platinum lamp has a very small arc of only about 2mm. The light is concentrated in an intense beam, which lets you build a powerful light in a much smaller housing.”
It’s that discharge lamp technology that Elation Professional has exploited so successfully, even as it developed and transitioned the majority of its product line to LED. Working with Netherlands-based Philips lighting to develop the Platinum lamp, the short-arc design opened up new possibilities for engineers. The result was a series of Platinum lamp luminaires in 2009 and culminating in the breakthrough IP65rated Proteus Hybrid in 2017. Platinum lamp technology advanced even further with the introduction of Platinum lamp FLEX technology.
“Wit h the Platinum FLEX lamp, basically we have packed the advantages of LED into a discharge lamp,” stated Marc Librecht, Sales & Marketing Director at Elation Europe. “Lamp life improved significantly – five times or more compared to traditional lamps – which has lowered lamp costs over the lifetime of a fixture. The discharge lamp/ballast allows it to be dimmed and set to hibernation mode when not in use. This lowers power consumption and reduces heat, which protects electronic components and reduces overall
fixture maintenance. We are now reaping the advantages of both worlds with a new type of discharge lamp.”
The Platinum FLEX lamp began a revolution in savings for discharge-lamps yet its development was always about more than economics. “It’s about what you want to accomplish optically,” Dunn reiterated. “In fixtures like our beamspot Smarty series that excel at aerial effects, you want more intense narrow beam optics that can define a beam or pattern and a short-arc discharge source gives you that. It also gave us the freedom to create smaller and lighter fixtures that have as much punch as much bigger models.”
The latest fixture to benefit from the FLEX lamp technology is Elation’s Proteus Excalibur, a 0.8° beam fixture with MSD Platinum 500 FLEX lamp that launched last year. “Our goal was to create a really powerful beam moving head fixture that could replace xenon searchlights,” remarked Hamers. “We just weren’t able to create that high beam intensity at this level with an LED engine, not yet anyway.”
So, will LED ever be a feasible replacement for long throw discharge lamp-based fixtures? Haitz Law, the principle that the amount of light generated per LED package increases by a factor of 20 each decade, tells us so.
Elation’s R&D team has stayed on the forefront of the technology and has already developed products with LED engines that mimic the centre intensity of a discharge source. “We’re emulating that centre peakedness of a lamp in some of our LED products already,” concluded Dunn. “Proteus Lucius, Proteus Maximus, Artiste Mondrian, and Artiste Rembrandt all have a white LED engine designed to create that parallel collimated beam with the pronounced centre. The ratio is not as pronounced as with a discharge lamp, but they are very impressive at distances and a big step in the right direction.”
If LED is king, then why do we still need discharge lamps?
Words: Larry Beck
Photo: Elation Professional
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WORKING THROUGH CRISIS
Following its acquisition by HME, Clear-Com implemented Lean, a continuous improvement approach where all members of the organisation can bring their informed opinions on how to improve things into a structured process to be incorporated into the whole.
Lean tools were initially developed within the manufacturing disciplines but have gradually expanded to impact Product Development, Support, and various other back-office activities. Our parent company HME stays current on Lean through membership in the Association for Manufacturing Excellence and coordinates various activities through both dedicated team members as well as ‘Lean practitioners’ across a variety of departments within the business.
Since early 2020, we have turned to our Lean principles to address COVID-related challenges, first in keeping our Manufacturing and Product Development activities safely operational during the peak of active COVID-19 spread, and subsequently in addressing challenges to our ability to produce products due to extended lead times and staffing disruptions from mid-2021 until now.
These activities have included collaborative work between Manufacturing and Engineering to replace unavailable and/or discontinued products, reframing daily activities in the factory around an interdisciplinary crossfunctional team, and extensive and ongoing refinement of the manufacturing processes to best address ‘burst mode’ component availability. In parallel, our SAFe product development methodology, which is actively guided by Lean principles, has allowed our development teams to continue to innovate while still supporting the changes required by component replacement.
We even have a dedicated Director of Lean Strategies and Operational Excellence, Diem Lewis, who affirms that “one of the pillars of Lean is people capability development.
During the last two years, HME has enhanced our training offering to include skills such as empathy, flexibility and resilience for both employees and managers. Dedicating time and resources to develop or fine-tune these skills has helped our people navigate through the challenges the past two years have brought. When problems come up, employees show understanding and work together to work through the challenge at hand. We have witnessed improved communication and collaboration amongst our teams and are able to do things better than we have ever before.”
Our new VP of Engineering, Marco Lopez, agrees that “communication is the number one weapon to slay the pandemic monster.” With staff working remotely, our Agile development process was put to the test, but, Marco states, “I can confidently say it shined. Through the structured and streamlined touchpoints of daily stand-ups, bi-weekly sprint loading and reviews, as well as a more formal quarterly presentation of successes to our senior management team, we were able to maintain a high level of communication with all teams within our several development facilities across the world. “
Our Director of Program Management, Vincent Morency, adds that our Scaled Agile Framework enables close collaboration between Engineering and Product Management, and regular and preset planning windows offer the chance to track progress against our development roadmap and make necessary adjustments when new priorities or unforeseen challenges arise. “It’s not just about achieving development velocity,” he said, “but even more so predictability and consistency.”
Having seen how powerfully our Lean focus has helped us address some very significant challenges in the past few years, we are renewing our commitment to this paradigm moving forward. While the COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst that made us focus more on
Lean manufacturing tools and techniques, this is not a transitory focus; rather, we are making a long-term commitment to future success.
Customers may be unaware of the importance that Lean holds in the successful development, construction, and support of their products, but the quality, the innovative capability, and our ability to support them in the successful operation of their systems for years to come are standing on that foundation behind the scenes.
We believe that Lean tools and techniques play a powerful role in our success, and therefore in the successful operation of so many Clear-Com communications-enabled activities around the world. www.clearcom.com
Clear-Com President, Bob Boster shares the value of the company’s adoption of Lean manufacturing tools and techniques in the face of economic uncertainty.
Words: Bob Boster
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The brand-new STAGECO CEO discusses his all-encompassing role and shares his future plans for WICREATIONS.
When did Hedwig De Meyer start talking about you taking over as STAGECO CEO?
We began talking about a possible transition in Autumn 2020 just before the pandemic closed down all our activities. Focus then went on to surviving as a business for both STAGECO and WICREATIONS; keeping our people in their jobs, re-scheduling, contract updates and all kinds of insurance claims. 2022 was a year of explosive revival absorbing all our operational attention but just before the summer festivals and tours began, Hedwig contacted me to pick up the transition talks. Being 68 he wanted to retire and the question was how can this happen in the best possible way for STAGECO, the stakeholders and his family.
Could you describe what will be happening at WICREATIONS when you take on the STAGECO CEO position?
I will divide my time between the two companies with as fixed as possible WI and STAGECO moments. At WI, during the pandemic we rethought our business model and went through a pretty tough but interesting strategic and digital transformation. We rethought decision making, WIACADEMY became a reality, and we also launched WICOMMUNITY – a brand-new online community and ‘talent hub’ where we started hosting free tech webinars. Not only that but we also opened our brand new warehouse WI02. Not only that but we also opened our brand new warehouse WI02.
The next big things are sustainability, UN labelling and circularity. A transformation and modernisation process has to happen at STAGECO. So, in the first instance, with joint WI and STAGECO teams, we’ll explore how we can work together to optimise operational, marketing, HR and crew issues with underlying supporting data systems.
Will there be any changes to STAGECO’s upper management?
“The key people at STAGECO Belgium
will remain in their positions and are very necessary with the tsunami of projects flooding in. I’m sure new people will be attracted from project managers, warehouse workers alongside those who work with data and ERP flows. In a second phase, management will have the opportunity to make their ambitions clear and redefine their jobs and responsibilities as now with WICREATIONS new opportunities can pop up.
“As for the STAGECO Group, we will have to attract some new upper management profiles because of retirement, which will be announced in due time.”
What are you most looking forward to about your new position?
“Working together in the fields of digital marketing, socials, HR, crew recruitment, data and ERP flows will enable us to create better staffed teams and attract dedicated specialised skills in certain domains. In this way operations, logistics and projects will be even better supported.
“The pure core business of STAGECO will remain at STAGECO HQ and the same applies for WI, keeping the focus on automation engineering. However, by infusing projects with the collective expertise of STAGECO and WICREATIONS, we want to create a new scope
of next level solutions and deliver clear cut benefits. Clients will always have the choice either to go for a joint WI-STAGECO concept or to work separately in combination with other production businesses. No strings attached is the rule, just pick the solution you think is the best one for you. It’s our challenge to deliver the best solution.I’m really looking forward to both companies collaborating and working out really solid and actionable solutions for productions. In first instance, to add value of course but just as important, to diminish stress levels by solving problems in a more smooth, very practical, data supported and cost efficient manner possible.
“In these times of fierce disruption, optimising synergies is the best scenario for both WICREATIONS and STAGECO if we want to continue delivering prime solutions, explore new ones and thus remain competitive on the global battlefield of live productions.
Collaborating will give us the wings we want and need. Guiding principle is authenticity. We are driven and powered by our own unique strengths, DNA and the sustainable values we cherish and have always cherished from the day Hedwig De Meyer built his first stage in the mid-1970s.”
106 BACK CHAT
By infusing projects with the collective expertise of STAGECO and WICREATIONS, we want to create a new scope of next level solutions and deliver clear cut benefits.
Hans Willems, CEO of STAGECO and WICREATIONS
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