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WWW.TPiMAGAZINE.COM HARRY STYLES: LOVE ON TOUR A modern touring production with old-school sensibilities SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 • #277
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THE TPi’S THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’
Editor Stew Hume
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As we move out of the summer and into the autumn touring season, I’m pleased to announce the appointment of two new members of staff who have joined the TPi family.
Firstly, we have Sheelan Shah who will be joining Fran, Phil, and Matilda on the marketing side, concentrating specifically on our TPiMEA brand. We are also pleased to welcome Editorial Assistant, Alicia Pollitt – our first new editorial member in four years. You can read some of her work in this issue. Both have already made their first industry outing with a trip down to PLASA and while Alicia has a long list of gigs now on her schedule, Sheelan is already organising his first trip out to the Middle East.
In t his issue, we’re delighted to bring you in-depth coverage of Harry Styles’ Love On Tour [p24], Sam Fender’s hometown shows at St. James’ Park [p50] and Pulp’s longawaited return to the touring circuit [p40]. We also take a trip across the pond to hear the story behind Weekends With Adele, the singer’s stunning residency debut [p62]. I even managed to squeeze in a trip to Spain to see the first festival deployment of Holoplot X1 at Marbella’s Starlite Occident [p16].
Aside from tour coverage, we’re pleased to share our exclusive feature with Robe and Avolites representatives following one of this year’s most talked-about acquisitions in the sector [p88].
We also have events news to share. First, we’ve officially launched TPi Awards 2024, complete with a brand-new logo, a change to the voting process and new categories [p12]. Secondly, we’re pleased to announce Morgan Dentch, Touring Director for Harry Styles, as our first keynote speaker at next year’s inaugural GTL Sessions. She’ll be one of several speakers at this brand-new event, which unites tour managers with service providers – including hoteliers and travel companies – for several days of networking and discovery [p114].
Until next time,
Stew Hume Editor
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TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL is a controlled circulation magazine, published 12 times a year by Mondiale Media Limited under licence. ISSN 1461-3786 Copyright © 2023 Mondiale Media Limited. All contents of this publication are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, in any form whatsoever, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Every effort is taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this publication but neither Mondiale Media Ltd, nor the Editor, can be held responsible for its contents or any consequential loss or damage resulting from information published.
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Issue #277 September /
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ON THE COVER
An extensive European stadium tour that blends modern technology with restrained production values.
TPI AWARDS 2024
12 The countdown is on with early bird tickets now on sale.
16 Ilusovi deploys a HOLOPLOT X1 system for Marbella’s Starlite.
20 Victory provides a turnkey solution for Gojira’s latest tour.
22 Enjoygalaxy illuminates the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.
4 0 PULP
The band return to the stage with lasers, liveness, and nostalgia.
50 SAM FENDER
St. James’ Park transforms into a beacon of citywide pride.
A team of creatives realise a show that has Adele’s personality and st yle woven into every detail.
76 Meet those powering this summer’s biggest outdoor events.
82 Neutrik reveals the consequences of falling foul of EU regulations.
86 Robe acquires Avolites.
90 Mark Calvert explains HIVE’s philosophy and ambitions.
94 TAG shares further plans to ex pand its global client base.
96 Discover why Wisycom is regularly appearing on riders.
100 Radiotek becomes part of the CSE Crosscom network.
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102 Breakthrough Talent Award winners, Jake Mazzuca and Sarah Philpot share their stories.
104 X-Laser previews the firm’s latest laser projector.
105 Katie Murphy Khulusi lifts the lid on Meyer Sound L2100-LFC.
106 CODA Audio combines art and tech to create SPACE.
108 Claypaky becomes ISO 14064-1:2018 certified.
110 Eventric introduces a new platform for production and tour managers.
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114 Tour Director, Morgan Dentch.
CLUSTER SERIES THE
The countdown is officially on for the 2024 edition of the TPi Awards and with early bird tickets now on sale, here are some updates on the live entertainment industry’s favourite night out.
With the end of festival season and a slew of autumn arena tours around the corner, it can only mean one thing for us at TPi HQ – we’re firing up the engine for the TPi Awards machine.
This year we have made some considerable changes to the TPi Awards categories and voting process. Firstly, the TPi Awards has made the difficult decision to retire the named dedicated awards – The Des Fallon Video Visionary Award, The Mark Fisher Set Designer of the Year, and The Dennis Sheehan Tour Manager of the Year. This was not a decision we took lightly, and those three individuals will continue to be honoured in other ways at our event and within the pages of TPi while also giving the opportunity to pay tribute to others that have dedicated their lives to the industry.
We’ll be making further announcements later in the year on how we’ll continue to honour these titans of the sector. It is worth noting that Tour Manager of the Year and Production Manager of the Year will remain as categories of the Awards.
The Des Fallon Video Visionary Award will now be split into two different categories – Content Creator of The Year and Video Specialist of The Year. Our hope is to ensure that we are shining the light
on both those individuals and collectives creating outstanding visual content and not conflating them with those on-site Video Directors, Media Server Operators and Video Technicians responsible for producing high-tech solutions for the touring world.
Favourite Bussing Company has been expanded to Favourite Tour Transport Company, which will open the floor to all companies providing artists and crew with transport options – from ground transport and tour busses to private jets – any business involved in getting performing artists, support teams and crew from A to B in style. 2024 will also see the amalgamation of Favourite Staging Company and Favourite Set Construction Company. Lastly, the Outstanding Contribution Award will be changing its name to the TPi Industry Recognition Award. Our aim with this accolade is to highlight an individual that made a real impact on the live events industry in the past 12 months.
For several years, the TPi Awards has been working on a one-time voting system, where we open the whole process to the entire industry to choose their favourite companies and individuals. However, after numerous conversations with voters,
shortlisters and winners about how we can make this process better and more inclusive, this has led to the introduction of the TPi Awards Academy. Composed of last year’s individual winners alongside other prominent industry figures, the TPi Awards Academy will be responsible for curating the shortlist for each individual category. We will then call upon the wider industry to vote for their winner. This will mean that for the foreseeable, individuals can’t win at the TPi Awards for two consecutive years, ensuring that we continue to highlight new names and faces within the scene.
Another major change will be in the company awards, with businesses now required to submit a short application highlighting the events they’ve been working on for the past year. All the company entries will then be whittled down into a shortlist by the TPi Awards Academy before going out to the public.
The Green Award, which was introduced back in 2020 and has its own individual application process, will remain the same for the 2024 version.
These changes will lead to more exciting and engaging discourse and help consolidate TPi Awards as the global live touring sector’s favourite night out.
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As Holoplot rental partner Ilusovi deploys an X1 system for one of its first appearances at a live outdoor show in Europe, TPi pays a visit to Marbella’s famed boutique Starlite Occident festival to hear the system in action.
Taking place a short drive away from the popular coastal city of Marbella, Starlite Occident festival is an epic three-month event where an old quarry is transformed into a temporary venue and club destination. With audiences being shuttled from the car park by Ford’s brand-new electric 4x4s, VIP packages offering table service during show as well as a club night that didn’t wrap up until 6am, this was certainly not your standard summer festival – there wasn’t a Wellington boot in sight.
This year, Starlite boasted an array of artists singing in both English and Spanish including Tom Jones, Pablo López, Marta Sánchez, Iggy Pop and the Black Eyed Peas. On the night TPi attended, Luis Fonsi of Despacito fame was headlining. Along with getting to witness the singer’s number-one single in person, TPi’s main reason for attending was the unbranded black boxes that flanked Fonsi on the stage – the Holoplot X1.
Since the launch of the company and numerous tradeshow demonstrations, the team at Holoplot has certainty made a stir within the industry with its solution that offers sound designers unparalleled levels of control. Due to the planar distribution of the drivers, the radiated sound of the system can be controlled in three dimensions in what the company calls 3D Audio-Beamforming. This gives system designers the ability to steer sound to precisely where it is required by controlling both the vertical and horizontal axis. “Aside from being the brand behind the largest sound system install on the planet at Sphere Las Vegas, Holoplot X1 has been used across a mix of projects, ranging from immersive installations to live entertainment deployments such as at The Beacon Theatre in New York.”
Aside from this, Holoplot has not been utilised for many traditional live shows so far, but this all changed at this year’s Starlite
Occident thanks to a new partnership with Spanish-based Ilusovi.
The origin of this new partnership started earlier in the year at ISE. After passing the Holoplot stand on the tradeshow floor, Jose Manuel Jimenez of Ilusovi tried out the company’s audio demo to hear the capabilities of the system. “As soon as we heard the demo, we went back and rejoined the queue to hear it again,” laughed Jimenez.
He was so impressed with the system that he called Aarón Alcántara Guerrero, Lead Audio Engineer for Starlite Occident, to explain what he had heard. “The conversation quickly progressed, and it moved on from being more than a simple purchase of a system to a strategic deal and partnership which could create many opportunities for the company in the future. I see Holoplot as a real Swiss Army Knife in loudspeakers that can cater to a variety of applications or clients.”
GETTING THE PIECES IN PLACE
With the agreement between Ilusovi and Holoplot in place, one of the first orders of business for Guerrero was to visit a Holoplot demo and training event in London. “I needed to reset my brain during those days as it’s not a line array,” he stated. “It’s a completely different concept, and I needed to learn what the system could do.” He explained this was vital as Starlite as a festival has an incredibly varied line-up through the summer season, with artists from multiple genres taking to the stage. “One of the most important things for me was that the system would be able to work with all these different types of music, but I’m pleased to say everyone has been really happy,” he reported.
On t he topic of training, Holoplot’s Ryan Penny – who was also on site in Marbella –explained that this was one of the key focusses for the company in the coming year. “We’ve
been doing a lot of demos at tradeshows, which has naturally matured into an education programme featuring physical workshops, which Aaron came along to,” stated Penny. “The aim is to soon have a full curriculum to officially certify engineers to use our equipment.”
Holoplot’s Segment Manager for Live
Performance Reese Kirsh played a key role in the creation of the event’s audio setup. “The team from Ilusovi were really keen to have more control over the sound at the festival,” he stated. “Starlite as a venue is quite a harsh acoustic environment with lots of reflective surfaces from the quarry walls. The team were also determined to ensure that every seat could be the ‘best seat in the house’.”
This proved difficult in previous years using other solutions as in the amphitheatre styled arrangement, the stage was quite low, meaning that a traditional PA hang would have to be deployed at an acute angle to ensure those at the back of the arena got a similar audio experience to those at the front.
Another quirk to the venue is the VIP bar and seating area on stage right of the main arena, which organisers naturally wanted to ensure had a good auditory experience –something that has proved difficult with it being positioned between a 45 and 90 degree angle of the PA hang. “With Holoplot’s tech and optimal coverage beams, we were able to achieve evenness as well as giving the team the ability to tune those different tiers of seating differently,” stated Kirsh.
The system comprised a six by two arrangement of boxes on the left and right of the stage with an additional two by one centre cluster. The boxes used in the cluster were a mixture of Holoplot’s two X1 modules – the X1 MD96 two-way Matrix Array and the X1 MD80-S three-way Matrix Array. In addition,
EVENT FOCUS 016
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: Ryan Penny
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two single MD96 modules were used as mono front fills and to give coverage for the areas closest to the stage.
To enhance low-frequency energy for certain performances, an external subwoofer solution with a centralised array of eight L-Acoustics SB28 subwoofers was positioned on the floor in front of the stage. Penny noted, “Our 3D Audio-Beamforming technology can be applied on any frequency range, with a suitably sized Matrix Array. If physical and economic constraints limit the possible size of arrays, a hybrid solution often makes sense. We’re working to delivering on this efficient and powerful LF control in future product releases.”
“One of the big issues we’ve had over the years is getting some of the high frequencies at the back of the room,” mused Guerrero. “But with this system, I’ve been able to cover everything. 90% of the entire audience area is receiving studio quality audio, which is impressive. I’ve also been so impressed with the coverage we have been able to give to the VIP areas.”
At t his point, Guerrero directed TPi to the VIP section and switched the beam heading to that section of the arena on and off to show how much of a difference it made. It was impressive – especially as all the audio was still coming from this single hang of speakers. On the other side of the arena, where there was a public bar, the inverse was deployed, averting the beams to create an environment that was easier to order drinks. With many engineers coming through Starlite over the summer and the vast majority mixing on a Holoplot system for the first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there would be a level of apprehension going into the show.
“It’s been nice that a lot of engineers have been quite open to trying it out,” enthused Guerrero. “We’ve had great feedback.”
Guerrero’s personal highlight was revealing the SPL the engineers were mixing at during their shows. “With X1, you simply don’t need to mix at the same SPL you would for a standard line array,” he stated. “Some engineers have come in asking for an SPL of around 103db and I’ve convinced them it’s not necessary due to
the distribution of the audio meaning you don’t have to push the speakers so hard. In fact, during the show I have asked engineers what SPL they think they are mixing at and many of them are shocked to see that the meters are reading 92db.”
While on site, TPi managed to grab some time with Luis Fonsi’s FOH Engineer, Yamil Martinez. Standing next to his trusted Yamaha CL5 complete with a classic Korg Kaoss Pad which he uses for live delays, he spoke about his first impression of the Holoplot system. “I’d heard about the system from a friend who recently toured through the Beacon Theatre and was intrigued as it’s a very exciting piece of tech,” stated the FOH Engineer.
“It’s very different from what I’m used to but I’ve really enjoyed the colour of the system and the high frequencies have been very impressive when you take into consideration the number of drivers in the box. I loved the fact that I couldn’t find any resonances. My main goal as mixer is intelligibility and a lot of PA boxes have resonances in the mid and low frequencies that cloud the region producing a lot of one tone bass but not with Holoplot.”
This was not Yamil Martinez’s first time at Starlite having mixed for Fonsi three times previously at the festival. “Every time I come here, Aarón is my wingman and it was great to have him on hand again,” he commented. “It was a perfect situation to be exposed to the Holoplot experience with Ilusovi. They’ve been our most recurrent provider in Spain that understand our needs and way of working so it was a smooth sailing.”
The setup at the show allowed for all engineers to bring in their own desks, which could then be patched into the overall system. “We’re using Outline Newton Processors and we’ve created our own matrix system,” stated Guerrero. “It’s interesting as most other loudspeaker companies provide you with pre-sets but here, we get to create our own. It’s essentially giving me another step in the process, which give me more control in the system.” Penny added: “Typically we are trying
Adrian Lara Moreno, Holoplot’s Head of Research, Ilusovi’s Andres Ibanez Gallardo and Jose Jimenez Manuel,Aarón Alcántara Guerrero , Lead Audio Engineer for Starlite Occident and Ryan Penny, Holoplot’s Head of Sales.
to take quite a neutral stance to how the system is presented to give users the ability to set up the system as they see fit.”
“Users have complete control of how the SPL works in the space,” Kirsh stated. “What is rare in our offering is that you can pick the time alignment across frequencies and within the same box you can define how the beams combine to determine how you want the speaker to perform. There are plenty of options and you can really create a custom setup depending on the specific demands of the show.”
It ’s also worth noting how the speakers held up in the searing heat of southern Spain. “We’ve not had any issue on that front, and they’ve been rigged up on the stage since opening night,” stated Guerrero. Penny also added that one of the other parts of Holoplot’s offering was that the company can monitor the performance of any speaker remotely as has been seen with more modern projectors. “The X1 system has built-in sensors that detect the temperature of various amp channels and do a
lot of IOT-connected services, which are auto flagged with a message that’s sent directly to our HQ if there are any issues, giving us the ability to provide proactive maintenance.”
This all feeds into the company’s customer service policy, which Guerrero was very complementary of. “We’ve built a close connection with the Holoplot team and if I ever have a question, I get an answer back within the hour. It’s been a great collaboration.”
Gi ving his final thoughts on the event was Starlite’s Raúl Rodríguez Sánchez. Having worked at the festival for nine years, he’s collaborated with Guerrero several times over the years. “Aarón came to me and spoke about this new system which was ‘incredible’. After so many years, we all trusted his opinion, and when we finally heard the system, it was absolutely amazing. The feedback from the artists has been great and many of them have been very impressed.”
www.starlitemarbella.com/en www.ilusovi.com www.holoplot.com
VICTORY FOR GOJIRA
Victory Project Manager, Nicolai Svenningsen reflects on a successful European summer tour with the French heavy metal band.
Words: Jacob Waite
With 25 years of experience as an audio, lighting, staging, and video provider, Denmark-based Victory hit the road with Gojira – providing a turnkey solution for the French heavy metal band.
“We began working with Gojira last summer with a headline set at HellFest 2022, followed by a series of arena shows in Spring and ending with a run of some of of the biggest European festival stages where we took sound and light to a whole new level,” Svenningsen said.
“After we received the creative drawings for this tour, we began assessing which kind and scale of venues on the tour, scaling the setup according to the space of the venue of the festival stage, without compromising the design,” he explained.
While UK-based Dynamite FX provided special effects and pyrotechnics, Victory’s ‘dedicated’ three-person strong team (two
visual technicians and a stage carpenter) delivered an ‘all-encompassing’ sound system to FOH and monitor worlds.
The sound package featured Avid Venue S6L-32D and -24D mixing consoles, corresponding stage racks and Waves Soundgrid Extreme servers. Victory also provided a Meyer Sound PANTHER line array system and LFC-1100 subwoofers for the indoor arena run.
“We set the sky ablaze with our fantastic light and video production. From epic light cascades to mesmerising video, we created a visual symphony that harmonised with Gojira’s musical rawness. Each song was not only heard but also seen and felt through our impressive visual setup,” Svenningsen explained, walking TPi through the lighting rig of 86 Claypaky Tambora Square, 20 Robe ForTE, 32 GLP JDC1 and seven SGM P-6 lighting fixtures, controlled
by MA Lighting grandMA3 full size and light consoles with MA3 NPUs.
Victory also debuted a high-resolution 12m by 8m upstage screen made up of 6.8mm REDOT Ultralight Carbon display panels with an output of 5,000 nits. Stage risers were fitted with 10mm Glux LED panels with a 2m catwalk for the band to traverse.
“The transparancy of the LED screen allowed us to provide enough space for special effects and light. All visual artwork and content was controlled by Video Operator, Pete Carey using Resolume media servers.”
The wider Gojira team included Production and Tour Manager, Taylor Bingley; Lighting Designer and Video Operator, Pete Cary; FOH Engineer, Johann Meyer; Monitor Engineer, Eric Shenyo. “They are all very professional key players that know what they are doing, but also listen to our suggestions of improvements. We
EVENT FOCUS 020
have a very good collaboration all together,” Svenningsen said, acknowledging the trials and tribulations of touring a production in varying venue sizes.
“Some of the major challenges with that tour was when we hit some of the smaller venues. The question was how to fit the design into the specific venue. We overcame that by producing a setup that was easy to scale down without losing important parts of the design, and then still being able to add most equipment possible into the specific venue.”
In closing, Svenningsen paid tribute to the band and its wider support team. “Thanks to Gojira for letting us be a part of this incredible adventure, and thanks to all the fans for creating an amazing energy at every concert. We are dedicated to continuing to bring innovation, passion, and technical expertise to every event we participate in. We look forward to continuing to amaze you with our sound and light magic in upcoming events!” www.gojira-music.com www.victory.dk
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ENJOYTECH AT THE SEA GAMES
Wireless LED products that are either worn or held by audiences have become increasingly popular recently with designers, giving the ability to turn a crowd into a giant screen. One of the forerunners of this technology is Enjoytech, which recently supplied its Enjoygalaxy product for the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Founded 22 years ago by husband-and-wife team, Cai Chaolai and Ada Chen, Enjoytech has specialised in interactive products for audiences, which vary from voting devices to get an instant poll result to crowd buzzers for game show type settings.
“Our Enjoygalaxy lighting system is one of many interactive products we’ve brought to market. It’s a wireless pixel lighting system, which turns everyone in the audience to a single star,” stated Chen while passionately describing the product and what it can bring to an overall production. “When we bring all the stars, we can create a galaxy in a stadium.”
Each Enjoygalaxy product comes in the form of a torch or a tube that is held by each audience member or mounted on a pole. “From there we can turn the seats in stadiums into a giant screen where we can display text, images and even videos,” stated Chen. “The video function is unique for Enjoytech.”
Enjoytech’s products have been used in many international shows with distributors and partners in over 100 countries. Like many companies, COVID-19 drastically affected Enjoytech with events coming to an
abrupt halt, but Chaolai saw the downtime as an opportunity to upgrade the company’s systems. “We also had organisers wanting to light up empty stadiums, so we helped out with these events,” Chen recalled.
Enjoytech’s involvement in the SEA Games was thanks to the event’s Director, Chen Weidan. “He wanted to apply our technology at the event having used it on many large-scale events back in China,” enthused Chen. “The people of Cambodia were initially anxious as the lighting system was new to them and at the time communication was still rather limited as COVID-19 restrictions were still in effect,” stated Chen.
Weidan’s goal for the event was to make a 360° wireless LED screen to act as a background to the main circular stage during the opening ceremony. In total 25,000 Enjoygalaxy torches were mounted on the sides of each seat.
Weidan and the team from Enjoytech ran numerous simulations to test the various looks to create the best solution. “The setup was incredibly quick,” stated Chen. “With 100 volunteers, it took three days to erect the poles, attach the torches and install the base units.”
The looks for the opening ceremony were so well received that the event organisers opted to use the system for the closing of ceremony as well as the opening and closing the Paralympic Games taking place after the event.
“I find every effect of the illuminated torches appealing, particularly at the moment when
all the spectators are seated, and the torches shine for the first time,” stated Weidan. “This creates a significant visual impact across a large area, with a grand visual arrangement. The initial appearance, accompanied by the audience’s screams, is most striking. The advantage of these illuminated torches is their ability to act as moving LEDs, capable of forming various shapes and sizes as desired, offering unlimited imagination and creativity. This feature is highly commendable.”
As well as lighting the audience, Enjoygalaxy products were also used by the performers during the opening ceremony creating patterns on the stage. One such example was when the designers had the system create 12 leaves on the stadium floor to represent 11 countries, with two leaves for Cambodia.
Weidan recalled that Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his appreciation for the effect of Enjoytech’s solution. To Weidan this was quite expected, because of “the significant visual impact, allowing both starry, romantic scenes and realistic depictions unachievable through ordinary large-screen technology,” commented the Director.
“We are going to be involved in a few international events for the rest of 2023,” closed Chen, looking to the future. “More event organisers around the world have seen how indispensable our solution can be for a largescale event.”
EVENT FOCUS 022
An Enjoygalaxy lighting system by Enjoytech helps transform the crowd at Cambodia’s Morodok Techo National Stadium into a giant 360° wireless pixelmapped screen.
Words: Stew Hume
HARRY STYLES: LOVE ON TOUR
As the English singer’s popularity continues to grow, he and his touring family set out on an extensive European stadium tour that blends modern technology with a restrained production that places the attention firmly on the extraordinary star of the show. TPi is on site at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium to discover more.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: Andrew Thornton, Cedric Vermette, Didi Okobi and Lloyd Wakefield
As I travelled down to Cardiff on a notably hot day in June, it took me a while to realise that I was the only person in my train carriage not wearing some sort of feather boa. As the train pulled into the station and I made my way towards the Principality Stadium, this group of flamboyant individuals quickly transformed into a massive army of Harry Styles fanatics, who were growing increasingly excited as the stadium came into view. By the time the singer took to the stage, it was clear that this was not going to be a casual gig experience, but one that the attendees would throw themselves into 100%, with pockets of the audience breaking into TikTok-inspired perfectly choreographed dance routines throughout and the sheer volume of the crowd giving the PA a run for its money. If any proof was needed of Harry Styles’ meteoric rise in fame and admiration, here it was.
This latest stadium run was the cherry on top of three impressive years of touring for Styles, which have included several production iterations including a record-breaking 15-night run at Madison Square Garden. Giving a bit of an insight to the past few years was long-standing member of the Styles touring family, Morgan Dentch. Having started with the camp in 2018 as the Tour Accountant, she was with the team through the turbulent time of 2020 and became Tour Director at the end of 2022.
“We were originally meant to be going into rehearsals in March 2020 when everything shut down,” she recalled. “What followed was months of uncertainty, before we got the green light in 2021 for a tour in between August and October.”
Dentch pulled no punches in stating how hard touring was in those days with mandatory mask-wearing, COVID officers and hotel quarantines, but the fact that Styles was one
of the first artists out of the gate is perhaps one of the reasons for this touring campaign gaining so much momentum and ending with the production now selling out multiple nights in some of the world’s biggest venues.
St yles’ mass appeal meant that audience sizes could increase dramatically even on the day of a show. “We’ve opened up more seats even today,” stated Dentch. The increased size has a knock-on effect for the production, with alterations required to facilitate the larger audience – most notably with side screens as well as the audio team having to account for the wider spread of people.
It is for this reason that the Tour Director role is so key, acting as an intermediary between production and management.
“Shows are getting bigger and more complicated and the cost of everything from materials to freighting is always increasing,” Dentch explained. “It’s become vital to have someone on tour who really understands the finances as well as the needs of the production. I try to marry financial conversations with those of production and design.”
The longevity of the campaign led to some personnel changes as key members of the team had to fulfil commitments for other clients that were now out on the road. One of the most notable changes was at the top, with Andrew Thornton taking over the Production Manager role from Eric ‘Ski’ Piontkowski.
“I spent two weeks or so shadowing Ski in America and South America, which acted as a bit of a handover period before I took over in January of this year,” stated Thornton as he walked TPi out into the stadium floor to reveal the stage.
Thornton was able to bring over many of his A-team from previous projects, including Stage
Managers, Duncan Ladkin and Jack Dunnett; Head Rigger, Colin Raby; Head Carpenter, Jem Nicholson along with Production Coordinator Cara McDaniel. “I am very fortunate to have such a loyal bunch of people around me. Without them none of this works,” said Thornton.
Having worked on several arena tours in recent years, Thornton explained some of the key differences when stepping up to the stadium level. “The flow of the schedule is very different from arena touring, with so many moving parts and split teams the logistics of the tour are much more complicated. We do get the luxury of load in days and multiple back-to-back shows in the same venue so there’s always time to catch up on sleep!”
The PM alluded to some more challenging shows ahead as the touring family set its sights on several mainland Europe dates. “Each show is different and brings its own challenges, today in Cardiff we have a closed roof so we don’t have to build all the wind bracing infrastructure for instance. This is something that is very time consuming so we’re happy when it’s not needed. We worked with Momentum to find the best solution to this problem, with rules and regulations getting more complicated every year it’s something that needs a lot of attention. This element has a team of three who just focus on just this. We have many upcoming challenges including festival stages and shared stages with other artists. The amount of complex forward planning required on a tour like this certainly makes life interesting.”
While most supplier decisions had been made prior to Thornton joining, he was more than happy with those on the roster. “I really like working with Solotech, which is one of our main suppliers looking after video and lighting,” he reported. “They have taken on the challenge of
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PROUD TO BE INVOLVED
this difficult LED Screen with great care and attention, we also have Britannia Row Productions providing audio – I’ve known the team there for many years.”
Also aiding the tour on this latest run were TAIT, Actus, Fly By Nite, Beat The Street, and Sarah’s Kitchen. “I was very happy to see some of my usual suppliers in place already, TAIT have delivered the custom elements of the stage (LED facias, and risers and painted flooring) with their usual high standards and design excellence.”
Stage Managers, Jack Dunnett and Duncan Ladkin had worked together on Shawn Mendes for seven shows before the Canadian singer took a break for touring, and they were happy to collaborate again.
“Shawn puts on a big show, but this production is on a different scale,” enthused Ladkin. “Prior to this, I was slightly intimidated by the ‘stadium tour’ as a concept, but this has been good. Going out on the road post-COVID was quite weird, but this has made me really enjoy touring again.” The success of split roles comes down to “communication”, according to Dunnett.
He elaborated: “It really is that simple. Duncan tends to do slightly more of the show stuff and we often end up playing ‘good cop, bad cop’,” he explained. “It’s about being consistent, so our responses are the same.”
Both were very complimentary of the entire touring team – so much so that Ladkin came up with an idea to praise the
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MUSE: WILL OF THE PEOPLE | COURTESY OF SOONER RAE CREATIVE AND TODD MOFFSES
work of the crew. “‘Roadie of the Week’ started as a bit of a joke and an excuse to purchase a bunch of gold hi-vis jackets,” laughed Ladkin as he pulled out a selection of the gold garments from under his desk. “However, management got wind of the concept and they have fully got on board with it. Every week our judging panel choose someone who has been exceptional on the tour, and they are awarded this beautiful gold jacket.”
As we spoke to Ladkin, he was readying himself to present the coveted jacket to this week’s winner – Briony Margetts from the video team. It was amazing to see a crew put someone up on a pedestal in this way, and a quick glance through social media showed that the winners even got the acclaim of the Harry Styles fans, who were clearly keen to discover more about the people behind their favourite artist’s production.
In terms of giving back to the industry, both stage managers also talked about the Women In Live Music (WILM) tours they had set up that gave those part of the organisation a chance for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium show and revealed what goes on with a tour of this scale.
Yet despite these positive stories, both Ladkin and Dunnett highlighted the lack of local crew available at many of the shows. “It’s not been great from our side and there have been times where we have four different labour companies providing crew to make up the numbers,” stated Ladkin.
“You can tell that many people coming to work have never done this before. In principle that is fine, and I’ve always had the mentality that a stagehand is only as good as the person instructing, but it’s still tough with so many new faces on local calls. A few years ago, everyone’s main concern was with the equipment supply chain, but I think a greater focus now needs to be put on the supply chain of people.”
Despite some new faces on this latest run, when it came to the show’s creative design, the core team of Production and Lighting Designer, Baz Halpin and Creative Director, Molly Hawkins remined in place.
Having worked with Styles since his first solo tour, Halpin spoke of the creative journey he’s been on with the artist for the last few years.
“That first tour was predominantly a theatre tour that grew into an arena run,” stated Halpin.
“It’s been great watching the rapid rise from theatres to stadia but not surprising. He is an extraordinary performer and songwriter.” The Lighting Designer went on to outline some of the initial design goals that he and Hawkins wanted to achieve with this latest campaign that harkened back to a “classic rock design”.
He elaborated: “Molly and I searched for a unique lighting fixture that we could lean on for the core of this tour’s look. I settled on the Vari-Lite VL5 LED for both its nostalgia and sophisticated optics. In the various iterations of the design we created monolithic groupings based around this fixture. We then complimented this core with various strobes and profile fixtures.”
Handling the visual deployment at FOH was Lighting Director, Tyler Santangelo and Video Content Director, Josh Key. With such a massive LED surface and an integrated lighting rig, it was perhaps no surprise that the duo worked together very closely. “Lighting tends to follow the colour scheme set by the video,” stated Santangelo. “We try to accent different parts of the song. For instance, Josh might take the snare hit and I’ll take the kick.”
Both Key and Santangelo emphasised that despite the scale of the show, many of the visual looks were quite constrained. “It’s a very clean show, which I feel differentiates us from other productions,” stated Key. “We are not throwing everything at the show when it comes
to gags – it’s all about Harry.” Santangelo concurred: “I’ve always been a firm believer that as soon as the visual takes away from the artist, you are not doing your job correctly. Our role is to set the vibe and not distract. It’s a mentality that I feel is not as popular in other lighting shows these days.”
This was a thought shared by Halpin. “This tour does not have the ‘gags and gimmicks’ but that’s not Harry’s style. His energy and presence drives the show. The design is there to accent the musicality and add visual energy.”
When it came to the LED surface, Solotech provided a huge amount of ROE Visual CB5, all of which were powered by disguise gx 2cs. “Our server package has had to be increased for this run due to the inclusion of the extra side screens,” stated Key.
Production Manager, Andrew Thornton was keen to highlight the work of Twenty Three in the construction of the LED surface. “They have an incredible niche in the market,” he explained. We needed to create these specific corner pieces on the set, which they created for us with no issue.”
In terms of the content, Key explained that almost 95% was IMAG, although with a lot of the live shots being integrated into Notch effects. Talking through the live shots used during the show was Camera Director, Larn Poland, who cut looks via 11 cameras with three at FOH, two in the pit around the thrust and three in front of the stage, as well was several Panasonic Robo cameras used on the stage. “We have one camera on a track in front of the main stage with a wide-angle lens, which we used to create a look reminiscent of Harry’s Fine Line album cover,” he explained. All the cameras were Grass Valley, as was Poland’s vision mixer.
Despite this show evidently being focused on Styles, Poland made the point that when it came to cutting the show, it was important to include all the other musicians. “You must go
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away to come back,” he stated. “It’s imperative that you show the structure of the music, so it’s key to show 30 seconds of the guitarist or the drummer to then go back to Harry. It means the visuals are supporting what the audio team is doing.” This idea of adding to the energy of the show also went for the audience shots Poland caught. “When I put people on the screen, I want to show people really enjoying themselves as excitement breeds excitement.”
To ensure the show was a tight as possible, a lot of the visual cues from video content to lighting cues were programmed to timecode. “There are some looks where I’m even matching some of my cuts to timecode,” stated Poland. “Our main Video Engineer, Briony Margetts, takes the timecode and then delivers a General Purpose Input (GPI) that triggers macros for those songs we want to be frame accurate.”
“The design we chose with the wrap-around video screen was not an easy canvas for Larn,” admitted Halpin. “But Larn and I have together for close to 20 years and he was able to not only embrace the challenging framing and angles but also create something that really elevated the presentation.”
Back at FOH, Santangelo walked through some of the workhorse lighting fixtures. For a show of this scale, the LD admitted that the lighting rig was somewhat lighter when it came to fixture count. “This all comes back to the idea that lighting should not take away from Harry,” he explained.
“One of the key fixtures in all the various designs in this campaign was the Vari-Lite VL5,” he said of the fixture, which adorned the back wall of the stage behind the band. “We also have CHAUVET Professional Strike 2s outlining the facia along with SGM P-10s and Robe iFortes out on the wing.”
The LD continued by complimenting the power of the Strike 2s, which appeared on many of the various designs over the past year. “You get the traditional look and feel of a blinder
but all from an LED source, which is awesome.” Elsewhere on the rig were Chroma-Q Color Force 12, 48, 72, TMB Solaris Mozart FLR and Flare Q+, along with MDG The One Hazer and Martin Professional AF1 Fan. Both Key and Santangelo operated their shows from MA Lighting grandMA2s using MA2 software. “As this initial campaign started some time ago, the MA3 software wasn’t quite ready and as the time between each leg has been so short, there has never been time to make the switch,” stated Santangelo.
The duo gave their final thoughts on working on this project. “This production has been a bit of a bucket list opportunity working with Baz and the team from Silent Partner – it’s been a great six months,” stated Key. “It’s been really cool to work with an artist of Harry’s calibre,” stated Santangelo. “He’s a superstar of this generation and it’s been cool to watch how much this show has scaled. Also getting to work with Baz, Molly Hawkins, and Steven Foster – another key player in the design process – has been amazing.”
Halpin gave his final thought on the tour: “It was great to be a part of this tour which culminated in Reggio Emilia with over 100,000 screaming fans. Harry is a completely unique performer and one that I never grow tired of watching and his music provides a unique design opportunity.”
BRACING FOR THE OUTDOORS
With such a large LED screen and no roof, the rigging department was certainly kept busy throughout this run. Having taken over from the original Head Rigger, Colin Raby – David Oldham walked TPi through this leg of the tour. “It’s been quite a challenge,” stated Oldham. “The biggest issue is the wind bracing that needs to be considered as the LED screen effectively acts as a sail.” He commented how the Cardiff shows had been a relief with the stadium having a closed roof. “We have three
extra people on this tour just to deal with the wind bracing simply because as a rigging team, we would not be able to deal with it as well as the 200 points that we’ve got each day.”
On top of the wind bracing, Oldham described that with there being so many elements designed so closely together, safety was a huge consideration – particularly in the load-in and -out. “During load-in, we are paying very close attention to the load cells due to the weight. The screen by itself is 46 tonnes, with a full show weight of 99 tonnes.”
MANAG ING THE MIX
Sitting at FOH before Styles took to the stage, you couldn’t help but notice how much room there was in the barricaded off section – not to mention the notable absence of an audio mixing desk. However, as soon as the singer took to the stage, it became clear why an engineer might decide not to mix out in the audience due to the sheer volume of the crowd.
FOH Engineer, Karl ‘Snake’ Newton instead could be found in the back of a Fly By Nite truck parked in one of tunnels of the stadium, which the audio team had converted into a full-blown studio complete with draping, air conditioning and even some plant life.
“I was on Harry’s first solo theatre tour in 2017 and it’s been an interesting ride as the venues have got bigger and bigger,” stated Snake, commending Styles on his hard work and praising how he has honed his craft as a solo performer.
Snake continued to discuss why he made the move from FOH to a remote studio to mix Styles’ vocals. “There were two reasons why I made the move. The first was the volume of the crowd,” he began. “There were times I was flying blind when it came to the mix, so being able to isolate myself and focus on the mix soon became a necessity.”
The second reason came down to the pandemic. “Harry was one of the first artists out
PRODUCTION PROFILE 032
on the road and the risk of infection was still very high,” Snake explained.
“On top of that, my show file – especially back then – was quite complex and I was firing multiple snapshots manually. It was the t ype of show file I would not be able to simply hand off to another engineer, so it made things safer if I was away from the crowd.”
The first iteration of Snake’s remote mixing position was during Styles’ in-the-round production, but since then it has evolved into a full-blown studio setup. One of those responsible for creating this studio was David
‘Dribble’ Poynter, Audio Crew Chief. “ We’d had Snake in remote locations to mix before and I took along images from some of those shows to Fly B y Nite to see if they thought it would be possible,” stated Dribble. “ In January, I went up a few times w ith all our FOH equipment along with some draping donated by TAIT and began creating this studio space.”
Fly B y Nite even put a hole in the floor of the trailer for the audio team to connect v ia fibre with audio supplier Britannia Row Productions also providing a 200m multi, giving the production a w ide range of options. “ The w hole studio only t akes 10 minutes to set up and involves me setting up the reference monitors with the Avid Venue S6L desk and outboard gear being bolted down.”
As well as some studio monitors, Snake mixed the show using L-Acoustics Contour XO IEMs. “ I t alked him into using them,” interjected
System Engineer Michael ‘ Monk’ Shear, who was one of the few from the audio team camped out at FOH during the show. “ The IEMs have a similar curvature to the L-Acoustics system we are using on the tour. Previously he’d been mixing on another brand’s IEMs, but since using the Contour XOs, you can hear the change in his mix.”
“I find w ith the L-Acoustics IEMs I can really focus on the full spectrum w ithout the downside of an acoustic environment,” added Snake. “ In the trailer, you can still hear the low end although it’s way out of time as we are usually parked down a tunnel. But w ith the IEMs I can really isolate myself and get a feel of both the top and low end at a reasonable volume.”
He also commented that he could also pump in comms from the stage and know exactly what was said. Compared to w hat usually happens when you have a reference monitor at FOH that you can barely hear, this is far better.”
Monk also commented on the benefit of Snake being away from the audience noise. “The crowd hit 118dB in South A merica!” he exclaimed. You can’t compete w ith that t ype of volume. There’s almost a psychological game you play w here you keep the show level at a certain volume w here the PA performs best and eventually w hen the crowd t ake a breath they start to listen.”
He then joked that the first songs can often be “interesting” and suffice to say, the Cardiff crowd did not disappoint. Monk explained
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The production team of Didi Okobi, Erica Devereux, Morgan Dentch, Jack Dunnett, Sasha Molin, Andrew Thornton, Cara McDaniel, Duncan Ladkin, Holli Strickland, and Sarin Moddle; Video Engineer, Briony Margetts with Camera Director, Larn Poland; Video Content Director, Josh Key with Lighting Director, Tyler Santangelo.
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how the audio team communicated. “You can pretty much throw out radios once the show starts, so what I introduced on this tour was a LAN messaging system. Snake has got the messenger on his laptop so I can send him messages throughout the show.”
Snake also pointed out that it was not just during the show where it was beneficial to be off the show floor, but even during the day.
“During the day, you’re supposed to be setting up for that evening’s show, all while barricades are being built and local crew are using various cleaning machines – it’s not an ideal environment to focus on a mix,” he stated. “However, from the studio, I can make better use of the day and work on things in peace.” Monk described the PA. “It’s a mixture of L-Acoustics K1 and K2 with K1-SBs both flown and on the ground,” he stated.
“We also have Kara front fills and A15 on the stage. The A15 has been especially useful to give me some extra coverage if more seats are sold around the floor. It’s become my Swiss Army Knife box.”
Monk went on to explain how throughout this run he’s had to be flexible with his PA design to accommodate for the fluctuating crowd sides. “Even today there are seats on the 270 that we didn’t have last night, so I’ve had to re-jig a few things. It’s one of the reasons I’m thankful for the K2 boxes as I can get the PA to cover more.”
“I don’t think there is a system better than K1 for this size of show,” added Snake, sharing his take on the system. “I’m a big fan of a system with 15in transducers. I find it suits the way I mix as I like fat snares and the ‘note area’ of bass guitars. I also think they suit the lower end of the male voice, making it ideal for Harry’s show.”
Due to the sheer size of the visual production, Monk devised a plan to ensure the PA didn’t obscure the video content. “I ensured
the PA was hung as high as possible. I also knew from the beginning that I would not be able to have large looms in front of the screen, so instead we had our looms come up and over the truss so they are above the video screen and then connect everything once the video wall is completed, obscuring the looms from sight.”
Monk went on to complement the service that Britannia Row had provided on this run. “They’ve been solid throughout. I’ve worked with them several times with Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa and Mumford and Sons, and everything has been solid. They have some incredible people working there; you can call with any issue, and they’ll give you a solution.”
Despite there being several new faces on this run, one department that had some of the longest standing Styles’ crewmembers was the backline department. “I’ve been with Harry for the past five years,” began Alex Oakley, Guitar Tech and Backline Crew Chief.
“It’s interesting because our department is one aspect of the production that hasn’t really evolved too much as we have kept a similar number of musicians throughout. We have made the shift from amps to KEMPER on this run and moved everything off cable to RF –both decisions that came in to keep the stage looking cleaner.”
Oakley stated that it was a slight adjustment for some of the musicians to move to this setup, but the result was a great sound. “It’s a very quiet stage now and a different environment.”
Newcomer to the backline family for this tour and looking after keyboards and playback was Luke Oldham. “All across the stage, there are multiple directions of midi. We have our keys players playing instruments within an Ableton project, while others have triggers launched via Ableton. The only exception is Mitch, our
The audio team of Rod Clarkson, Daniel Ibanez, Jony Santonja, David ‘Dribble’ Poynter, Owen Nagel, Christian Zuniga Zevallos, Michael ‘Monk’ Shear, Isaac Cawte, Charles ‘Chuck’ Wells, and Daniel Fathers; The Backline team of Kodi Bramble, Kyle Henderson, Will Sanderson, Luke Oldham, John ‘JC’ Colangelo and Alex Oakley; Tour Audio Engineer, Karl ‘Snake’ Newton, Chopper with Michael Flaherty.
036 PRODUCTION PROFILE
guitarist, who is triggering his effects via a KEMPER Pedal board.”
The playback system was found on stage left with all the information coming from an iConnectivity box with an A and B laptop.
Having been part of the camp for a long time, Oakley commented on how this latest run of shows had been. “There is a lot more space backstage than some of our other runs,” he chuckled, reminiscing about their previous in-the-round show where the backline team worked under the stage and not bashing the guitar headstock was an everyday worry.
“This stadium run has been a bit of a luxury – especially being able to walk away from the show and come back the following day.”
FROM A TO B
“It’s been a busy old summer and amassing the number of trucks required for a show of this size has been difficult,” commented Fly By Nite’s Matt Jackson. “We work a lot with Andrew and the whole team from 24/7 Productions and we know the drivers that they like, so we tried to put together a team that the production team was familiar with.” Simon Sinclair was the Lead Driver for the run, having worked with Thornton on multiple occasions over the years.
Jackson also used the opportunity to reflect on changes within Fly By Nite (FBN)
post-pandemic in terms of how the company is structured to ensure a seamless service while working within Brexit legislations.
“During 2020/21, we focused on the implication of Brexit and since then we’ve been able to get most of our drivers European compliant before the events came back in the spring of last year.”
Part of the Brexit implications also led FBN to open an Irish base within the European Union as UK trucks can currently only make three stops in the EU – “it’s not ideal for a touring company,” stated Jackson. Along with the Irish base, FBN also has a Dutch operation where the company has a joint venture with an existing Dutch entity.
“We then registered a number of trucks in the EU with drivers also doing the Irish CPCs (Certificate of Professional Competence).” Jackson also mentioned how FBN, alongside with a few other companies working in the touring sector, have been given special dispensation to use its EU trucks on event work in the UK without being subject to the three top rules on British soil. He concluded by giving his thoughts on how one of the FBN trucks was turned into a state-of-the-art studio for the tour’s audio team.
“We built a wall half-way down the trailer with door access big enough to get the desk
and power in, fitted an air con unit to the front and lined the walls with heavy black out drape,” stated Richard Brown, Transport Manager. “Our workshop fabricator, Rob Fleming, designed all the fittings and installed everything to exacting requirements. It was taken on a test run and everything worked perfectly. The trailer did the whole tour and was so successful that it has been requested for another tour.”
Following Styles’ UK run, the touring family set their sights for mainland Europe to close out these epic few years of touring. In a summer full of stadium shows, it was notable just how much of a frenzy Styles brought when his Love On Tour rolled through town. It was also great to see a production that really lent into some old conventions of show design. Harking back to old-school sensibilities of what a stadium show should be, the production relied less on bombastic gags and elaborate props and instead set the perfect backdrop for a star who is on top of his game.
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PULP: THIS IS WHAT WE DO FOR AN ENCORE
Pivotal members of Pulp’s latest production reflect on the band’s longawaited return to the stage with lasers, liveness, and nostalgia in abundance.
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: Kai Markuske and Amanda Rose
Discussions of a potential Pulp stage return between Jarvis Cocker and Lighting and Set Designer, Douglas Green began amid the maiden Glastonbury appearance of the frontman’s solo project, JARV IS… in 2022. Cocker handed Green a copy of Kevin Foakes’ Wheels of Light: Designs for British Light Shows 1970-1990 and shared his abstract ideas about a huge curtain, a staircase... and an orchestra. “He said it was going to be the final Pulp tour, so he wanted it to be a celebration of everything they have done up until now, and at the same time a completely new and contemporary experience,” Green recalled. “Jarvis is at once a cultural enigma and an encyclopaedia, and one of the things that makes collaborating with him so rewarding is his address book of creative friends. The brilliant film director, Garth Jennings was on board as a Creative Director and equally iconic graphic designer, Julian House joined as Art Director. Along with Rob Sinclair, Leo Flint, Joel Stanley, and everyone else it was humbling to be a part of such a stellar team.”
What followed was an ‘inspiring and organic process’ of idea sharing and trying to nail down the inner workings of Cocker’s brain to develop the concept to creation. Production Director, Joel Stanley; Video Designer, Leo Flint; Production Designer, Rob Sinclair; Creative Producers, Octavia Peissel and Katie Richardson; Artist Manager, Jeannette Lee; and Tour Manager, Liam Rippon soon followed, masterminding 13 shows of varying scale and gravitas over a whirlwind three-month-long touring cycle.
Vendors included Bite Catering, Blackout (drapes), ER Productions (special effects and lasers), Studio Flint (screen direction and content), Freight Minds, Glide Travel, Mission Control (RF coordination), Neg Earth Lights, The Next Stage (video infrastructure), Opto Live (playback), Phoenix Bussing, Skan PA (audio), TAIT (risers and set), and Video Design.
“I’m familiar with most of the crew, which allowed us to hit the ground running,” said Production Director Joel Stanley, noting the band’s relaxed approach to overcoming the rigours of touring as a 17-piece band (sevenpiece band backed by 10-piece string section – dubbed The Elysian Collective – who double as backing vocals, percussion and ‘even hold up lights’ amid the show) with a revolving door of musical toys, pyrotechnics, and automation in tow. “We ended up hiring more people during this campaign to make the band’s vision a reality and provide them with the level of service required.”
The resulting stage design saw the inclusion of a four-tier riser system dripping in LED, IMAG screens, and an upstage wall, prop lifts, an automated drape, pyrotechnics, confetti, and lasers. “We strived to deliver greater production value than ever for the band who haven’t toured for a decade,” Stanley stated, recounting the trials and tribulations of a dynamic show with no timecode in sight.
“W hat you may consider a simple show ended up being very show call heavy. There are 10 people involved in the show moves alone –from the drape to pyrotechnic and lift spotters, through to those loading the props lift. It’s been a learning curve, but we’ve finessed it with each passing show.”
Blackout provided an automated track system and velour front tabs, which opened at the start of the show. In collaboration with
Rigger, Jerry Hough, Blackout deployed a Triple E Heavy Duty Track drive system to deal with the heavy velour drapes and the sharp bend, which took the tabs from the front of stage and then moved them upstage out of the way. The firm spent a lot of time with Green selecting fabrics that met the brief.
“It’s a stock modular system that can be adapted to fit any venue. The Motor Drive unit, TDRIVE HD, drives a rope mechanism which incorporates open, close and stop functions. The velour was dyed to a specific colour reference and fire treated to an M1 standard so it would be compatible with the European shows,” Blackout’s Kevin Monks explained.
“W hile we haven’t worked for Pulp directly until this tour, we have a long relationship with Joel. Funnily enough, when I looked at the schedule for this tour, I noticed that there was a show at Neighbourhood Weekender. My first festival experience was working behind the bar at the same site in Warrington for V Festival in 1996. The headline was Pulp. Life’s journey has many roundabouts...”
Having traversed indoor theatres and arenas, outdoor festivals, and clubs with sets of varying lengths, no show was ever the same. “It’s a very involved show that is demanding and requires collaboration among all departments. Every show felt fresh and, on the edge,” Stanley stated, noting Cocker’s penchant for the authentic buzz and hum of instruments, proudly displaying their road scars as well
as manual cues. “It has been an amazing run. We’ve been blessed with great weather during the outdoor shows, but the highlight for me has been working with Jarvis, who is incredibly hands-on – he is at every budget meeting, every creative call and is uniquely himself. He personally interviewed me for the role, and he texted me before every load-in to wish us good luck. I have never worked with an artist who is that approachable.”
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME?
Referring to the Pulp frontman as a ‘dream client, style icon, song-writing genius, and the voice of a generation’, Sinclair rekindled his working relationship with the band. “I’ve known Pulp for 12 years and I am so happy to be able to play a small part in their history. It’s also a little sad after the untimely passing of bassist Steve Mackey – I worked closely with him on the previous shows and his influence is both still felt and sorely missed.”
As well as singing the praises of those on stage, Sinclair was equally impressed by those behind the scenes – highlighting the inclusion of a sunrise lighting tower, the moon, and Common People’s supermarket-inspired visuals with Marley Mackey, Steve’s son, filling in on guitar as among his favourite moments of the production.
“Garth Jennings came with a strong idea, and everything developed from there,” Sinclair stated modestly, recounting the embryonic
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stages of the design. “I’ve long admired Garth Jennings and Julian House, so it was a joy to work with them. Every conversation with Garth is a masterclass in directing – I’ve learned so much,” he added.
“Jarvis is also a very visual, articulate person, so it’s a pleasure to work with him; his breadth of reference is so impressive, he has great ideas, concise feedback and is extremely appreciative. Meanwhile, Douglas is a brilliant lighting designer, a great collaborator, and a smart and funny human. I was very much pulling levers gently in the background of this production. Garth, Julian, Douglas, and Leo Flint should all share the limelight – it’s their show and it’s a triumph,” he concluded.
“Jarvis and the band’s performances are so fantastically engaging, so we wanted to create a world that allowed the audience to see them perform the music,” Green began, reciting the creative process. “His silhouette is iconic, so we wanted to make it larger than life – we silhouette Jarvis against an LED moon, a tungsten sun and on the screens using some live-camera AI Notch and disguise media server magic, which Leo Flint aced.”
Familiar elements of Pulp’s world were planted throughout the show in slightly more subversive ways, such as woodchip on the wall, a light-up dancefloor, the Busby Berkley ‘eye of
the storm’, a supermarket, and a big green laser courtesy of Luke Perry of ER Productions for Sorted for E’s & Wizz. Green cited the influence of Dave Byers, who lit Pulp’s shows ‘back in the day’ and created a ‘wonderfully dark, colourful, and chaotic world’ for the band, which he studied hard to embrace.
“Knowing what kind of environment Jarvis likes to perform was integral, making him and everyone else feel comfortable on stage while maintaining the visual dynamic of the show was paramount. After that, five years of discussing things like favourite colours, films, artists, and caves kept the ideas focussed.”
Green also sought inspiration from a familiar source in Sinclair. “He gave me my first touring job as Lighting Director on David Byrne’s American Utopia and since then has been a fantastic friend I can look to for solid advice and an exquisite brunch. Being one of those creatives in Jarvis’s address book, it was only natural that he was involved. His vast amount of experience both with Pulp and in the wider concert design world guided us towards some very solid solutions. His presence was supportive and reassuring for everyone on the team and I’m very grateful for it.”
From a technical standpoint, Green used Vectorworks to draw the plans and Syncronorm Depence R3 for previsualisation. “It’s software
I’m familiar with and they produce professional results that communicate ideas clearly,” he commented. “I tended to sketch ideas on my iPad or use reference images to communicate creative ideas to the band as the digital aesthetic of renders didn’t really resonate with them. However, when it came to preprogramming the show, its Depence’s accuracy was exquisite and made the quite dry process of sitting in a dark room programming with a visualiser much easier to get excited about.”
For control, Green harnessed the creative capabilities of MA Lighting grandMA2 light consoles on tour with two MA NPUS. With headline festival shows making up many of the dates, the bulk of the fixture budget was devoted to a suitable floor package, with a minimal overhead rig. Martin Professional MAC Aura PXLs, GLP JDC1s and Ayrton Perseos, Dominos and Boras were the lighting fixtures of choice, along with Robe RoboSpots and a smattering of tungsten fixtures, supplied by Neg Earth Lights.
“The band doesn’t play to track and it’s important that each night feels like a unique event created in the moment... so, I operate the whole show live. It’s programmed as cue stacks with flash buttons over the top. Also triggered from the lighting desk are video content via the disguise media server and some of the lasers.
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Automation and special effects are all triggered manually, and I call those cues, too. Ben Cash of Flare Lighting programmed the show for me. We’ve been collaborating for years, and it was a real joy. His patience when matching evolving tempos and specific little sounds was in-exhaustive,” Green said, praising the wider visual team.
According to the LD, using new technology to create ‘old and analogue looking’ visuals was the name of the game. “The Ayrton Domino LT was particularly impressive. We had three at FOH and their brightness and accuracy were unmatched when it came to projecting custom gobos and saturated colours,” he stated.
“I also enjoyed using its unique coloured animation wheel as front light. It brilliantly replicated the look of a painted oil wheel in a Solar 250 on an arena scale. What I wish had been available for this tour is a sizeable LED wash fixture with a single lens face. I needed the punch, movement, and big face of the Aura PXL, but the multiple LED sources are completely wrong for a band like this.”
Referring to LED and video content as ‘the foundation’ of the visuals, Green concentrated
on matching colours and compositions to complement video.
“The two elements work well together and there are some gorgeous moments when it’s hard to tell whether you’re looking at video or lighting, or a combination of both.” That said, the retina-melting tungsten sun is a bit of a favourite. “‘It’s worth the ticket price alone’ as a very dear friend said to me after the show. It was completely Jarvis and Garth’s idea – I just brought it to life with the technical help of Andy Cox at Neg Earth.”
The wider Neg Earth crew featured Account Handler, Damien Jackson; Crew Chief, Antti Saari; Dimmer Technician, Barry Branford; Moving Light Technician, Davide Palumbi and Account Associate, Henry Gardner.
“It’s the first time we have worked with Douglas but hopefully not the last; we had a great time collaborating with him and helping to turn his vision into a tangible touring product. It’s clear that Douglas gets it from a supplier’s point of view; he was open to discussions all the way through the process and seemed to trust in our process. It’s a great looking show and I’m really pleased we had the opportunity to work
together on the project,” Jackson commented. “It’s always great to be involved in a project that has a big buzz around it, and being involved in Pulp’s return to the stage is something we are incredibly proud of. I was massively into Pulp for a period of my youth but never got the chance to see them live, so working and playing a small part was special.”
Having been involved with JARV IS… with Green, ER Productions provided an EX25 laser, which was rigged on the lift at the back of the stage along with six BB4 units – two on lifting columns, controlled and zoned by Pangolin BEYOND software.
Six pyro positions on the downstage edge fired a mixture of mines and comets. Six stadium shots in the pit with streamers and six stadium blasters fired biodegradable orange confetti under the careful gaze of ER Productions Lead SFX Engineer, Michael ‘Biscuit’ Morey; SFX Engineer, Cameron Dominic and Laser Technician, Luke Perry.
“It’s good to have a familiar team out on the road,” ER Productions Project Manager, Ben Couch said. “It’s all about the creativity; bold looks as Jarvis runs his fingers through the
laser beams – creative rather than all lasers flashing. We work closely to ensure the crew and the performing artists are safe. Common People is a crowd favourite with plenty of pyro. It’s great to be involved in this project, work with Joel – who is a fantastic production manager, and bring Douglas’ creative ideas to life.”
Video Design supplied an upstage screen made up of ROE Visual CB5 15.6m by 7.2m and four rows of CB5 half tiles risers and steps, along with two FOH long lens cameras – two situated in the pit, Robo PTZ cameras on the stage and a disguise media server for video content. Video Design integrated LED modules into the set design that rose in 600mm steps from the front to the back.
The base stage, risers and lifts were crafted by TAIT, while The Next Stage provided a set of custom fascia boards to attach video panels to the multi-tiered stage.
“CNC fascia panels were cut in-house with brackets and pins to quickly attach to the risers. Location pins on the LED modules had a corresponding hole and series of magnets to hold them in place without the need for a permanent fixing – making for quick, tool-free installation and removal,” The Next Stage’s Laight said, highlighting the importance of creating a solution that worked as intended as
soon as it arrived on site. “It was a pleasure to be involved in a project that so many fans and collaborators were keen to make happen.”
The Video Design crew consisted of Crew Chief, Gary King; LED Engineer, Jack Middlebrook; Camera Operator, Rod Williams; Media Server, Ben Gittos; Systems Engineer, Mark Cranham. “I’m a fan of Pulp, so it was a pleasure to join the band of the road. The vibe on the tour has been great,” King enthused. “The opening of the show is a great look as Jarvis comes up on a lift in front of the upstage screen in front of a moon, so you see his silhouette, which looks cool. I loved Common People every night as the crowd went wild for it and the video content builds with the tempo of the song. It’s been a great tour to be part of and seeing people enjoying the show, be it youngsters discovering Pulp at a festival or hardcore fans that have been waiting a long time for an encore. I hope there is more to come and would jump at the chance to be part of the crew again!”
WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU DO FOR AN ENCORE?
FOH Engineer, Barak Koren mixed on an Avid S6L console with Waves SoundGrid Extreme server plug-ins and outboard including
Universal Audio Lexicon 480L reverb, two distressors, API 2500 compressor, Smaart, and Sooth Live. “Skan PA’s technical support and equipment are top. The crew are professional and thorough,” he said of the tour’s audio vendor, going on to praise the PA system. “d&b audiotechnik KSL is the best system on the market from design to execution and projection. Creating a big sound with a 10-piece string section and a loud stage was initially challenging but this was overcome by correctly positioning musicians on stage to create the optimal amplifying environment. Then came the choice of microphones, pick-ups, and musical content adjustments. It’s been a pleasure to tour with a talented collection of individuals.”
Monitor Engineer Ilias Andrianatos, who has been involved with Cocker’s live projects since 2017, picked up the story: “We have developed a harmonious relationship; I know what he wants, and he knows that I can deliver. Also having three JARV IS… members in the Pulp camp made things easier for us,” he commented, talking TPi through his setup. “I needed a console that could handle 109 inputs and 31 mixes. I have a combination of wedges and in-ears on stage, so the DiGiCo Quantum 5 with two SD rack 32bit was the logical choice. I also have Reaper Record on MacBook Pro
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connected via DiGiGrid MGB, nodal processing and mixing groups into auxes.”
Skan PA provided 18 d&b audiotechnik M4 wedges on D40 amps, three L-Acoustics ARCs (Wide and Focus) side fills per side plus a pair of SB28 on LA12-X amps and AF15 on LA12-x amp for backfill. Andrianatos oversaw 24 channels of Shure PSM 1000 IEMs, 10 channels of Axient Digital with nine headsets and an Audix OM5 channel for Jarvis. “I love mixing the entire set. I use most of the available channels mixing This is Hardcore and Common People,” he remarked.
A Clear-Com FreeSpeak II system aided crew communications on site. The wider audio team comprised Audio Crew Chief and RF Engineer, Emma-Jane Lee; FOH Technician, Jan Pickup; Monitor Technician, Alfie Wilcox, and Stage Technician, Elliot Heal.
“My relationship with Skan PA spans over 15 years. Top equipment, attention to detail and great support is what they are known for,” Andrianatos declared, reflecting on the feat.
“I k new this would be challenging when I was told The Elysian Collective (a 10-piece string section) will be touring with us and eight of them will sing backing vocals. DPA Microphones and acoustic instruments’ pick-ups don’t coexist in harmony with loud pop-rock stages, in my opinion. This was made more of a challenge by not bringing in an extra engineer to mix the orchestra or giving them the means for self-mixing. However, it all came together seamlessly and seeing 17 people walking off
the stage at the end of the set, smiling at me was priceless. I’m honoured to play a part in this campaign for many reasons. New audiences are getting their first taste of this iconic outfit and every single member on this tour is at the top of their game, so I’m proud to be one of them.”
In closing, Green stated the fundamentals of ‘collaboration, research, play and process’ as necessary conduits to creation. “This brief tour has been successful in so many ways, however, my favourite part is when people who were unfamiliar with Pulp’s music come away with an appreciation for the remarkable level of storytelling in the music. Everything on stage is rooted in those stories, or at the service of them, so the response from the crowd feels like the ultimate seal of approval.”
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SAM FENDER LIVE AT ST. JAMES’ PARK
Newcastle’s St. James’ Park transforms into a beacon of citywide pride as Sam Fender and his close-knit crew return for two landmark sold-out shows.
Words: Jacob Waite
Photos: Steve Sroka
There is a palpable sense of pride in Newcastle that an artist born 20 minutes from St. James’ Park has made it to the big leagues; reaching stadium status with two critically acclaimed studio albums under his belt. Far be it from conventional, Sam Fender’s touring team is reflective of the DIY ethos his band embody – a tight crew who have ridden the rollercoaster ride which has seen them go from operating in 600-capacity venues to 52,000-capacity stadium in a matter of years.
Af ter a stint covering monitor mixing responsibilities on 2019s Hypersonic Missiles campaign, Rob Simpson of Nub Sound stepped up to the ranks of production management in advance of Sam’s first arena tour due to head out as the pandemic hit in March 2020. “The trajectory of Sam’s shows put us in an odd position post-pandemic – we were touring Hypersonic Missiles while 2021s Seventeen Going Under record was released, so we had to amalgamate both campaigns with different designs – the latter being a considerable step up from the first,” he said, recalling the camp’s astronomic rise.
His vendors of choice included Adlib for PA, automation, lighting, video, and communications; Cine-drone for drone filming; ER Productions for pyrotechnics and special effects; KB Event for trucking and logistics; Nub Sound for set infrastructure and audio control; Star Live for staging; The Unlimited Dream Company (UDC) for video content and
Vision Factory for production design. “All of our suppliers have risen to the challenge to deliver these shows. Having one point of contact to disseminate information has allowed me to free up time to focus on the day to day,” he said, praising the involvement of Adlib. “I reluctantly got involved in the set element of this design. Sam already owned a riser package, which we bolstered with more deck and custom sections manufactured by Alistage. Thankfully, being part of Nub also allows me to consolidate audio equipment in advance and within budgetary and time constraints.”
As w ith the supplier roster, the crew has largely remained the same. “We punch beyond our weight,” Simpson admitted. “We don’t quite have the manpower or resources as an established stadium act, so we aim to create a spectacle within those confines. These shows require a devoted crew, which we are certainly blessed with. We front load our resources so often the mechanics or the back end of things aren’t as buttoned up or amazing as you may think from a superficial point of view. However, these two shows are a huge step up for all of us and have been universally praised.”
‘FROM AMBIENT ACOUSTIC TRACKS TO STADIUM ANTHEMS’
“There was always a feeling this was going somewhere, but not many artists can sell out their hometown stadium two nights in a row,” reminisced FOH Engineer, Peter Fergie – who
was pinching himself at the prospect of mixing his biggest show to date, in front of thousands of expectant black and white clad Geordies. “While there are some additional logistical challenges associated with St. James’ Park, it simply had to be this place, so much of their iconography – from the rendition of Going Home (Theme of the Local Hero) at live shows to the album artwork – is embedded in the fabric of who they are as a band.”
The L-Acoustics PA system, overseen by System Engineer, James Coghlan, featured 12 K1 and four K2 on the main hangs with 12 K1SB loudspeakers flown behind for ‘low frequency reinforcement’. The side hangs were in an asymmetric configuration with 10 K1 with four K2 flown stage right and left each. A further 38 KS28 were situated on the floor with A10 and X15 chosen as front fills and lip fills.
The ground delays were also configured asymmetrically, with 10 K1 with two K2 down situated stage left, with the stage right ground delay closer to the north seating block, and six K1 with 10 K2 selected as down fill. The ring delay system came in the shape of 68 K2, four hangs of which were eight K2 deep, with flown amplifiers to reduce the cable length, and the remaining six hangs were six K2 deep with amplifiers on the floor, where Adlib could drop cables in pre-existing seat kills due to sightline issues. “The stage is in a particularly difficult configuration in relation to the audience planes, so there has been a lot of thought put into how
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to make the most of the available floor space for ground delays and making it work with the asymmetry of the venue, and above all, make it sound good,” Coghlan explained.
“I use Soundvision to develop the design, which I export into LA Network Manager, which I’m using to drive control of the amplifiers. I’m also using an Outline Newton as my frontend system processing and L-Acoustic P1 as an AVB break-in into the system. The whole system is driven via AVB, which sounds better and is much more flexible in its routing. L-Acoustics have helped us out by building a working Soundvision room model – their support has been top notch, which takes the weight off our shoulders when we know we have the support of the manufacturer.”
Having formerly mixed in ‘monitor world’, Fergie acknowledged the benefits of ‘relationship building’ with the band during those early shows. “There is a lot of trust between us, so you become familiar with what’s required on stage. This gig has exploded over the years with guitars, mandolins, baritone saxophones, trumpets, trombones, guest and backing vocals all on one stage – which makes for a fun and engaging show to mix. Ultimately, good performances come from happy and content musicians, and [Monitor Engineer] Terry Smith appreciates that my background as a monitor engineer provides us with the flexibility to collaborate to make this the best sounding show possible on both ends.”
Both engineers mixed on Allen and Heath dLive consoles. “I’ve had this desk since the early days, and it’s grown with us. I’m very close to maxing out its capabilities, particularly inputs
and buses, but it’s so intuitive. There are not many consoles where you can mix a show of this complexity without outboard or plug-ins, which I don’t have. I’m happy to tour the world with this setup – if I can get my hands on a dLive, I can make the show sound consistent,” Fergie commented.
“Mixing on an Allen and Heath dLive is unusual for a stadium-sized show but it does the trick,” Smith noted. “This gig requires a lot of routing and talkbacks, so I run ‘utility’ scenes behind the cue list to tidy up any discrepancies that don’t affect the setlist.”
Despite these tricks, Smith admitted he was stretching the capabilities of the dLive with no buses and only five out of 128 inputs left. “This is not one of those gigs where you set a mix up and it’s good for the whole show; we go from the quietest most ambient acoustic songs through to stadium anthems with a range of instruments, so there is a lot of snapshotting and doubling up certain instruments to treat them differently and make it work.”
For microphones, Smith deployed DPA Microphones 4099 and 2012s on most instruments; a Sennheiser MD 435 for vocals; MD 445s for backing vocals; SM57s and 4099s for brass and Neumann SH 150 gooseneck microphones for trumpets. In ear monitors were primarily Jerry Harvey Audio Roxannes.
Smith outlined his goals for the IEM mixes: “There’s a balanced in-ear mix with vocals laid on top for Sam with an instrument specific focus for the individual band members’ mix.
All the band have worked closely with Sam for years – particularly [guitarist] Dean Thompson, who has engineered and produced elements
of his back catalogue and is a fantastic live and studio engineer in his own right, so he knows exactly what he wants and can be specific.”
‘A CHILDHOOD DREAM COME TRUE’
The asymmetry element of the stage design helped connect the band to the audience to recreate indie rock band conventions on the big stage. The concept devised by Sam Tozer of Vision Factory and Set Designer, Flora Harvey, was previsualised by CAD Designer, Tom Cousins of Nub Sound, who collaborated with Tozer using Vectorworks and Syncronorm Depence R3; Lighting Director, Luke Avery; and content specialist, UDC.
“Watching Sam’s live shows grow in such a short period of time is crazy,” mused Tozer. “We wanted to create a stage that was diverse enough to match the different moods and tempos of his music and carry a visual language and aesthetic that grounded the show. I typically start the design process with the shape of the design which in this case led to an asymmetrical design. Once we found the shape, we dug into dynamics, researched theatrical techniques to create shapes with light. Flora and I have an obsession of using heavy looking materials that aren’t typically found on stage. I wanted to evolve the stage as the show went on, so automation was a vital tool to create new positions for lighting.”
Automation was constant throughout the set overseen by Operator, Giulio Ligorio; Project Manager, Mike Blundell and Spotter, Jordan Whyment. “This show is quite simple and safe to operate because there are a lot of 300kg lighting pods spread across the motors.
PRODUCTION PROFILE 054
With the video walls running the full width of the stage we needed to deploy a few solutions to keep things running safely. The automation and backline departments have access to a video feed with four cameras including a [Panasonic UE160] PTZ camera with a controller at the automation position to cycle through angles of the set, as well as having Jordan in the stage left pit as a spotter,” Ligorio said, walking through the Kinesys system with Vector control and LibraCell on every point.
“Most of this show is quite high up, the lowest to stage is around 3.5m, where a pod comes above Sam at a safe distance and Jordan, and I have ‘deadman handle’ which we can use at any point to engage the system.”
The triangular shaped automation rig matched the lighting with five pods situated above the band and one located further above the stage, which is manipulated throughout the set to create steps or fingers of lighting.
“A show like this requires a lot of programming and hours,” Ligorio said, praising the Tyler GT Plus and Total Fabrications truss systems, which made the build “easier and quicker” to assemble. “There’s a vibe at this gig that the crew look after each other, which makes for a nice dynamic, especially as I’m used to being a one-man band.”
The lighting rig comprised a range of lighting solutions in 43 Ayrton Domino LT; 32 Ayrton
Perseo-S; 33 Martin Professional MAC Ultra Performance and 45 MAC Ultra Wash; 73 GLP impression X4 Bar 20, 22 JDC Line 1000 and four GLP JDC Line 500; 75 ACME Pixel Line IP; four Robert Juliat Lancelot followspots; 11 Robe Forte with five RoboSpot controllers. Six MDG TheONE units were chosen for atmospherics with a pair of MA Lighting grandMA3 full-size consoles, along with Adlib’s custom control racks of Luminex nodes and switches selected for control and distribution.
Tozer referenced a tunnel of warm light generated by a Mole-Richardson 20K Fresnel as a focal point of the lighting design. “This light creates a large parallel shaft that pinpoints Sam,” he reported. “The other important fixture within the rig was the Martin Professional MAC Ultra Wash. I wanted a large aperture wash fixture that could create four lines of light pointing towards the stage.”
Tozer pointed to contrasting looks such as the all-out visuals of Howdon Aldi Death Queue and Spice through to the strippedback, theatrical lighting of Alright as among his favourite visual moments of the show. “There’s a clear intensity shift, which makes the crowd go crazy,” he said, praising the on-site influence of Avery. “He’s not just a brilliant lighting director but he also helps design the lighting. He k nows the show like the back of hand and is kept busy with the constant button pressing
required. As do Adlib, who I have worked with from day one on this project. Our relationship with them is the reason we can pull off these shows. It’s hard work but when you stand there with 50,000 Geordies chanting it’s all worth it.”
SF X Crew Chief, Jasper Sharp collaborated with Tozer to select special effects and pyrotechnics relevant to the show’s aesthetic and colour palette. “This was a long process but ultimately rewarding” Sharp stated. “We brought flames and confetti to the delay towers to immerse the audience in the action and make it feel more like an arena show where you’re closer to the effects instead of a stadium, where you can feel far away from it all. Once the final sequence of pyrotechnics lit up the stadium, it put Sam, his band and Newcastle on the map.”
For a venue that doesn’t often host live events, it was a lot less “stress free” from a production point of view than Sharp had anticipated. “ER Productions has had my back from the start, handling and liaising with the venue regarding health and safety. Time constraints are the only challenge associated with this show, however, while I typically programme and operate shows alone, on this project, I had the support of Galaxis Programmer, Max Webb for pyrotechnics and SFX Programmer, Keiran Frame, leaving me able to concentrate on operating the shows.”
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Five firing positions were spread across the Newcastle United Football Club sign. Eight downstage pyrotechnic positions and four IMAG positions. Ultratec, Le Maitre and Wells were the products of choice with Comets throughout the ending sequence; Theatrical Flashes and Mines during Howdon Aldi Death Queue and White and Silver Tails, Crackles and Glitters chasing the on-screen content amid Hypersonic Missiles
“T he energy was unbelievable, when he first walked on the stage, I had goosebumps. I can’t imagine how they felt on stage. To ride this rollercoaster with the crew and the band is special. Triggering flames for special guest, Brian Johnson of AC/DC was a dream come true,” Sharp enthused.
‘THE PROUDEST MOMENT OF MY CAREER’
Project Manager, Nicholas Whitehead, oversaw video systems on site and integration of media servers and sitewide crew communications.
“To be able to provide technical expertise and reinforcement across multiple key departments on a gig of this size is a testament to the company. With the Projects team being able to fluidly work across all departments is crucial to the success of the show, there are elements of integration that we can figure out months in advance of production rehearsals. Equally, this wouldn’t be possible without the warehouse, assets, logistics, and account
management teams behind the scenes. It’s a huge show for Adlib to put out with all of Adlib’s Rental departments working in total harmony to meet the challenge.”
On stage LED came in the shape of ROE Visual Vanish 8 Touring with Black Quartz 4.6 panels chosen for IMAG screens completing the 630 SQM LED surface. All screens were powered by Megapixel VR HELIOS LED processors. Live footage was captured by six Panasonic UC4000 with Canon lenses and Vinten legs using a track in the pit, and two Panasonic UE160 remote PTZs.
A fully integrated Adlib Flypack package boasted a Ross Carbonite Ultra, operated by Camera Director, Tom Wearing, as well as Ultrix Routers, Tallyman Control and Skaarhoj universal RCP.
The Unlimited Dream Company’s Harrison Smith and George Thomson headed up content and live camera effects direction, the pair referenced the contrasting looks of Dying Light, which saw Fender playing a solo on a piano with paired down visual content and lighting to the all-out nature of Spice and Howdon Aldi Death Queue as impactful moments of the show. “Pushing the envelope of creative content and experimenting with the shape and dimension of the video surfaces is a pleasure,” they explained.
UDC harnessed a mixture of analogue and digital design approaches, utilising tools like
058 PRODUCTION PROFILE
Production Manager, Rob Simpson of Nub Sound with FOH Engineer, Peter Fergie; Lighting Director, Luke Avery with Design Associate, Harry Williams; Monitor Engineer, Terry Smith; Systems Engineer, James Coghlan.
Cinema 4D, Unreal Engine, Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Notch and frame-by-frame scanning. The latter of which was best demonstrated on the track, The Borders – a journey of two friends growing up becoming different people.
“Frame by frame animation has a reputation for being long winded and tricky, so it was a case of trusting the process. Sam’s music’s very textured and analogue, so having the same level of personal human touch in the visuals as in the music was ideal.”
All the objects scanned during that track were meticulously selected as things you may find in your memory box, packed full of easter eggs like beer mats from a club Sam used to work at, a telephone number for fan engagement and flyers of early gigs.
Pl ay God combined satellite imagery and pre-recorded drone footage of the stadium and transitioned to live drone footage as the content and live drone combined and descended into the crowd revealing the spectacle – piloted by cine-drone’s Shane Hedges with Fran Hedges operating as a spotter.
Meanwhile, Get You Down saw a car driving through a late night in Newcastle. Using Unreal Engine, UDC could trigger, and animate lights
based on Fender’s vocal performance. Spice saw UDC take control of five of eight camera feeds with energetic, rock ‘n’ roll zooms showcased in tiles on the LED screen via custom camera feeds.
A Notch block could then manipulate content and add effects as well as keyframe animations, triggered live throughout the set by Notch Designer, Lewis Bailey and Media Server Programmer, Charlie Rushton using disguise gx 3 and gx 2c media servers linked via Avery’s grandMA3 full-size console at FOH. “Walking down the tunnel at St. James’ Park was an amazing and novel experience, everybody involved in this project nailed the brief to create a spectacle,” the designers concluded.
Adlib Project Lead, Jordan Willis reflected on the feat: “Technically, this show was complex – from integrating video and lighting to using fixtures as additional video pixels and automating the rigging for the lighting system. Additionally, we had 10 extra ring delay hangs to cover the ‘gods’ of St. James’ Park, requiring hoists with 45m chains. And yet, despite the complexity, the entire team delivered. Thanks to their expertise and unbelievable mentality, no challenge was too difficult to overcome. Even when presented with challenges regarding
space and time, teams across all departments seamlessly interchanged throughout the day and night to not overwhelm the stage and get the show in on time.”
He concluded: “These shows are the proudest moment of my career. I joined Adlib from school as an apprentice and have been here for 13 years. Witnessing the company go from strength to strength to deliver a stadium show of this scale is quite something. So, a massive thanks to the Sam Fender team for putting their faith in us to deliver these two incredible shows.”
‘THESE SHOWS WILL GO DOWN IN
Despite being a famed destination for football fans, according to Simpson, there are a multitude of reasons why touring artists don’t often put on shows at St. James’ Park, most notably the one single tunnel with its limited height restrictions to load-in and -out. According to the PM, this was where KB Event’s prior experience of the venue came into play; undertaking site meetings, agreed schedules and operational methods with the technical suppliers, promoter, Kilimanjaro, and St. James’ Park before getting approval for production.
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The tunnel in question has a height restriction of 3.67m. Megacube Artics, even with their air dropped, stand at 3.9m. Rather than having to unload everything in the car park or on the service road and run equipment in with forklifts and local crew, KB Event devised a method of operation that managed to get two trucks at a time under the stadium and parallel with the VOM road.
“We could then ramp out onto the VOM ramp or run forklifts to the back of the trucks and load into the bowl, which saved a great deal of time and reduced crew required for the loadin and -out,” said KB Event’s Stuart McPherson.
Despite this plan, access remained tight, and the manoeuvre required accomplished drivers to get the trucks into place and back out again as well as a robust traffic management plan for other delivery vehicles. To compound this, the venue had historic stone plaques and sensitive flooring areas which the artics had to travel over.“The venue was quite rightly protective of these,” McPherson stated, explaining how KB completed a risk assessment and managed the process to ensure minimal time was spent crossing the plaques. “No plaques were damaged in the production of these shows,” he confirmed.
Space was at an absolute premium. “We had to work very closely with the Kilimanjaro and the SC Productions team to plan arrival times and dates of vehicles, where they parked and how they manoeuvred. We had to hold trucks off while the flooring was unloaded, and the staging loaded in. The available parking space and the ‘boneyard’ was at full capacity until the morning load-in. The arrival of trucks was phased to meet the load-in order. We also had to have some flexibility to call trucks earlier
if we got ahead of schedule. Trucks were then parked in a specific order after load in to allow us to call them into position in the correct order for load out,” McPherson recalled.
The logistic specialist also worked closely with Simpson and stage management to configure a way to load-in and -out support acts. “Getting the supports clear before show down and main production load out was imperative,” stated McPherson. “The production load-out is the most challenging part of the trucking operation and not having to worry about the support acts made things a whole lot easier.”
McPherson underlined the collaborative nature of the affair: “The crew and suppliers were an absolute delight to work with. Everybody kept good humour in not the easiest of environments and we all delivered something remarkable.”
He highlighted the work of his fellow Trucking Managers, Richard Burnett, Howard Dearsley; Lead Driver, Alan McKellar and Second in Command, Pete Gregory, who took care of trucks, vans, and splitters – navigating road closures during the show to make sure their arrivals, movement and departures were possible using 15 Megacube Artics.
Peter Holdich, Stages Director at Star Live and the project’s Account Handler, added: “The initial brief was a 25m Vertech system, however, as the production developed, we ended up providing a custom designed 25m system with open sightlines. It is unusual to have a stage in a diagonal configuration in a stadium, but looking out the way the terraces are set it’s the optimum position. The biggest challenge has been the logistics. Having a fully drivable pitch has made such a huge difference, despite
space outside being limited. Project Manager Denzel ‘Denz’ Barrett and the team did a sterling job.”
“T he other big challenge worth pointing out is t hat there was a rugby match here before load-in, so as well as the logistical challenges of getting the kit in, the scheduling challenges of getting the stage in and up within a short time frame are compounded,” Barrett added.
St ar Live deployed an extended 12ft cantilever on the front of the stage to take the inline audio with the wings extended to account for the array of video surfaces. “This allowed the artist to get right out and up close with the crowd, who saw him from all sides,” Holdich pointed out from the rafters of St. James’ Park.
Over two shows, Fender had shared the stage with his brother, Liam, during a rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire; his former guitar teacher, Phil Martin and fellow Geordie rock royalty, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, for a rendition of Back In Black and You Shook Me
All Night Long. “He’s a rock star as well as a lovely human being who’s been through so much and is respectful and appreciative of the entire band and wider crew involved,” Simpson concluded. “This is not only an historical moment for the band but for the city of Newcastle. These shows will go down in Geordie folklore.”
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WEEKENDS WITH ADELE
After the well-publicised cancellation of the singer’s first Las Vegas residency, Adele rallies a team of creatives to help realise her vision for this career milestone by creating a show that has the star’s personality and style woven into every production detail.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: Stufish Entertainment Architects
The past few years have seen some notable show cancellations. A variety of reasons have contributed to this, but in the case of Adele’s Las Vegas show, the singer explained in an emotional video that the production was simply “not ready”. When the dust settled, the question remained what the next step would be. Several months later, and with a lot of new players working behind the scenes, Adele returned to Caesars Palace, Las Vegas in November 2022 with a show that garnered much acclaim. Amid its second run, TPi caught up with some of those responsible for this stunning reincarnation.
HELLO… IT’S ME
One of the first people the singer called after deciding to pull the plug on the first show was Matt Askem. The Video Director turned Creative Director has worked with Adele since 2016.
“During that first call she asked if I could help her build a new creative team,” reminisced Askem, reflecting on his first outing in the Creative Director role. Among the first people he contacted were Ric Lipson and Ray Winkler of Stufish Entertainment Architects.
“A lot of people I brought in I’d worked with and trusted including our Show Director, Kim Gavin,” stated Askem. “The only person I hadn’t worked with before was Lighting Designer, Cory FitzGerald, but that appointment came from Adele, who really liked some of his previous work including Kendrick Lamar.”
Paul English, who had previously been the Stage Manager on the original show, assumed the role of Production Manager. “Stufish were already creating designs as we were going into Adele’s Hyde Park performance in the summer of 2022,” recalled English. “I knew we needed someone to help steer the ship, so I put myself forward to take on the Production Manager role
as well as keeping my Stage Manager position.”
As for the suppliers, the production brought in TAIT to handle staging, Clair Global for audio, Neg Earth for lighting, and Solotech for video. English also brought in J.E.M FX from LA and Sin City Scenic from Las Vegas to supply SFX and installation, respectively, as well as LA-based Rando Production, which aided in the singer’s magical illusion at the end of the show. Finally, UK-based Artem worked on the exploding piano effect while the production put its faith in Freight Mind to handle logistics.
“We are very fortunate to have been chosen to handle the Adele production freight at a very early stage of our life, which we will be forever grateful for. We would like to say a big thank you to Paul for supporting us and entrusting us at such an early stage of the company,” said Freight Minds’ Matt Wright.
This was not only English’s first time production managing a show of this size but his first experience on a Vegas residency. “I’ve stage and production managed some fairly big events over the years including Glastonbury and Download as well as working with Muse for 16 years, but I must admit the residency show was a baptism of fire,” he chuckled.
“Just getting the show in proved interesting. The stage can only hold so much and we had to be tactical about bringing in our 30-plustruck fleet. Take our suspended 20 metric ton performer wall for the orchestra – it is only two trucks of set carts, but the amount of space it takes up on stage to build it means nothing else could come in at the same time and it had to be built overnight due to time limitations.”
Although Adele was playing for multiple weeks, English had to be conscious how quickly the show would have to be dismantled at the end of each run. “After the first run of the show finished on a Saturday night, we had to hand the
venue back by 08:00am on Tuesday morning,” he stated. English created a 24-hour timetable to ensure this was done while navigating the USmandated union hours for the crew.
“We can load out the show in five 10-hour shifts. Thankfully, we made a deal with the house to keep our motors in the roof and build half the show ahead of our re-opening nights a week before. Jerry Seinfeld is the booking before us and he performers in front of a red curtain, which means we can build a decent amount of our set behind the curtain.”
On top of the load-in and -out logistics, English had to make some major infrastructural changes to the venue. “Projection was a big part of this show and Solotech provided us with some 50K Panasonic laser projectors,” said English, who brought in Sin City Scenic to make alterations to the venue’s balcony –allowing them to install the projectors without obstructing sightlines.
To deliver this unconventional rig, Sin City Scenic’s Brian Rogerson created a cantilever system with ModTruss, using a 6ft by 6ft extrusion to hang multiple 400lb projectors mounted between amphitheatre levels, protruding from each deck’s overhang, affixed to a 2in runway in front of the seats. No overhead rigging was allowed, and limited alterations to the building were permitted. The endless bolting track on the extrusion, coupled with the substantial load capacity of the aluminium beams provided much-needed flexibility to adjust both the cantilever beams and the projectors to their ideal position within the limited space available safely.
The low-profiled, black 6ft by 6ft extrusion beams provided a clean, almost “invisible” look, which was highly desired by the client according to Rogerson. The extrusion beam cantilever solution was designed, stamped by a PE, cut to
064 PRODUCTION PROFILE
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size, and delivered to the theatre in under two weeks. “The solution worked flawlessly and was well received by the client and all associated parties,” enthused Rogerson. “The venue was impressed by the efficiency, functionality, and look of our ModTruss cantilever system.”
On t he topic of infrastructure, English was keen to highlight the work of TPi Award winning Rigger, Colin Raby. “He’s been a superstar,” enthused the PM.
“We’re working with 272 points and when you look up it truly is immense what we’ve been able to achieve. We are hanging 100 metric tons which is incredible as we are getting close to the safe working limits – obviously safety is paramount. I can’t sing Colin’s praises enough for doing such an amazing job.”
English was also keen to praise the work of Malcolm Birkett who worked to pull all the elements together in endless revisions of CAD drawings during the design phase.
While PM duties were new to English, the Stage Manager role was very much business as usual. “With this being a residency, there didn’t seem to be any need to take on a new Stage Manager,” he noted.
“Essentially, I’m working from home here in Vegas from Monday to Wednesday taking care of my PM duties then I’m at the venue from Thursday to Saturday. This is only possible thanks to the wonderful team I have around me. Particular praise and my biggest thanks must go to Maya Gas our Tour Logistics Manager along with John Dalton our Tour Accountant. Maya and John are integral to the running of the show, covering the logistics and financial aspects of the production, they provide incredible support and take the pressure off which means i can
truly focus on the practical essentials. Without their input and skill it’s fair to say i would struggle to manage both roles of PM and SM.
“On stage, I have my Floor Manager, Emily Burton, Assistant Stage Manager, Matt Kaye and my Head Carpenter, Lonnie Adams. We also have a terrific Show Caller, Carolyn ‘Nog’ Wyld. These are just a handful of the amazing team that make this show work.”
Along with Creative Director, Askem, the main players within this creative inner circle were Show Director, Kim Gavin, Ric Lipson of Stufish Entertainment Architects, Lighting Designer, Cory FitzGerald and famed magician Rob Lake.
“One of the first things she said to me was that she wanted a show that she’d be comfortable in,” reflected Gavin, recalling the initial conversation he’d had with the singer.
“We didn’t want to create a show that wasn’t ‘very Adele’ and it had to embody her character.” What followed was several pitching sessions while the team at Stufish began to mock up some set ideas. “She’s great to work with as she’s very decisive; if she isn’t 100% happy, she’ll ask to see more,” stated Gavin.
With this inclusive creative process, Gavin believed the result was a production that “looked like an Adele show with her DNA built in”. It raised an interesting point; while Vegas residencies don’t have the limitations of touring, which means that show designers can push the boat out, as Gavin pointed out, this sometimes works against the artist as it becomes less about them and more about the production. It’s a theme that all members of the creative team impressed on TPi that restraint and subtlety
was preferred to excess. Of course, while the production may ‘appear very simple’, according to Ric Lipson, making all the elements fit together seamlessly was ‘really quite complex’.
One of the initial references that Adele provided was a photo of her fireplace at home. “Coincidently, we had already started talking about creating a show with layers and developing an A-shaped stage, which matched nicely with the fireplace reference,” stated Lipson. “She also wanted every seat in the house to get an intimate experience, which we considered throughout.” As has become standard practice for the Stufish team, they provided 3D renders of the proposed show design which both Adele and the wider creative team could then experience with a VR headset and see the view from each seat in the house.
When it came to the stage setup, Lipson stated there were three main aims. “The first was enabling the musicians to move backwards and forwards on the stage, which resulted in automated band risers. The second was the ability to make the show bigger and smaller, which we achieved with intersecting panels. Finally, we needed to find a way to reveal the orchestra, which resulted in the creation of the giant performer wall up stage.”
The performer wall, which English referred to as ‘Hollywood Squares’, was an enormous piece of set, weighing 20 tonnes, which was suspended by 20 two-tonne motors.
“T he entire process was quick, with our first meeting taking place in February and then going into an intense period of research to find the right materials,” stated Lipson, referring to the material that the video department projected onto. “We’ve done several Vegas Residency
shows before but this one was different. Not only had we not worked with Adele before, which we were over the moon to do, but the show design that we and the team created allows her to really connect with everyone in the room and reflect her character. It is special when you are able to make that happen.”
CAN I GET IT
Having initially been shown designs in late April and following a two-month bidding and development process, TAIT won the project in July and delivered the show for production rehearsals in Rock Lititz in late September.
“Collaborating with the team to bring this show to life was a great experience,” commented TAIT Project Manager, Logan Lower. “TAIT and Stufish have a long-lasting partnership, which made communication easy and helped with quick decisions on several details of the design.”
For the stage, TAIT provided a Mag Deck system with a custom show surface laid over the top. “This created a consistent black surface finish through the entire stage,” commented Lower. “Using the Mag Deck was key to give the team the flexibility and modularity required as well as allowing the production to incorporate several hidden effects such as the flame trays and water catchment systems for the rain curtain.”
The flexibility of the set was a clear necessity as simply getting the show into the venue appeared to be one of the biggest issues for the production. “Fitting all the elements into
such a compressed space onstage was a major achievement,” highlighted Lower.
“Every inch of airspace is being used for the show.” In fact, space was so tight, TAIT developed a new tracking and automated trolley system to fit within 10ft of space to maintain precise alignment and avoid collisions on the deck and in the air.
While talking about equipment up in the air, Lower discussed the sheer amount of automation taking place on the show. “There are 300 axes of automation on the show,” he revealed. “This is all controlled by TAIT’s automation platform, Navigator. Further Navigation hoists are used to automate the upstage video wall and a new custom built trolley track moves the projection screens.”
Mobilators were used to move the band risers up and down stage. While up in the air, 250 Nano Winches were used to create a kinetic lighting rig over the stage and audience with custom-built LED lanterns.
With some of the automated set objects being projected on, precise positional data was vital for the visual team. “Using TAIT Navigator, we can output positional data (PSN) for each automated axis of lighting, video and projection,” explained Lower.
“T his means all the departments can take our data and track the pieces through their software to adjust the images and beam accordingly. The design and production team set out with the ambition to create an experience that would immerse the audience and make every seat feel like the ‘best seat
in the house’. Having played a part in the production has been really rewarding.”
TAKE IT ALL
It should not be understated just how big the video deployment was for this production – a fact that wasn’t lost on Askem, who explained that Adele is an artist who in the past has “found it hard to engage with video content”.
He said: “Adele has always preferred the theatre experience compared to stadium-type shows both as a performer and an audience member. She wasn’t keen on LED as a medium.”
Prior to the show, Adele provided Askem with several references to immersive experiences she had enjoyed, which all had one thing in common: projection. The team opted to utilise a giant arsenal of 18 Panasonic PTRQ50K 4k 50K laser video projectors, provided by Solotech.
However, there were still question marks over the projection surface. “We often build a grey box when we are designing immersive projection experiences, but the issue with this type of material is that as soon as you shine a light source on it, it appears milky and washes everything out,” outlined Lipson.
To avoid this issue, Stufish suggested a relatively new product called Carbon Black. “It’s a very dark material that responds incredibly well to laser projection and not so well to traditional light sources,” stated Lipson. “It’s amazing and almost has the brightness of LED when it’s projected onto,” said English on the “elegant solution”. He added the Carbon Black
068 PRODUCTION PROFILE
material while being the perfect projection surface for the show also brought challenges.
“ Its manufactured in limited sizes, the widest roll available only being 16ft. Given the enormity of our proscenium projection area and the limited size of the Carbon Black fabric we could only cover the area using a large number of seams in the fabric, something which Adele found particularly jarring – I therefore employed Rosebrand with their wealth of scenic experience to machine the delicate fabric as seamlessly as possible across the vast proscenium, they excelled themselves, the seams are flawless, near invisible,” said English.
Speaking to the creative team, it was clear just how excited they were about the video delivery, which resulted in ultra-high resolutions, with the canvas of 11,860 by 3,264 pixels projected onto multiple surfaces more than 260ft wide.
Askem continued by stating that when the content was shot, the team had to be conscious of how high-resolution the footage would have to be to work on this giant canvas. “We were using high-end RED Cinema cameras that were 8K tipped on the side to ensure we got the highest resolution. Re-rendering any footage of this size was always going to be problematic so we needed to be very in-tune with her to avoid the need for any last-minute changes.”
Aiding Askem in the content creation department was Treatment Studios with Sam Pattison and Lizzie Pocock leading the project for the company.
When it came to overseeing the video infrastructure for the production, Askem brought in Media Server Programmer and Operator, Richard Turner, who oversaw the deployment of 10 disguise gx 3 media servers.
“This production was not for the faint hearted,” began Turner, not wishing to downplay the level of technical expertise needed. As the video team were projecting onto surfaces on different planes that were also automated, the
projector calibration needed to be “ridiculously accurate,” stated Turner. “We took a leap of faith with disguise’s OmniCal Calibration and it paid off. The relative calibration of the projectors is near perfect after OmniCal.” Turner said, explaining the process of making a disguise model work in a real-world scenario. “I’ve never seen projectors lined up better.”
Providing his two cents on the use of projection in the project was disguise’s Project Manager, Ollie Newland. “Knowing that gx 3 media servers were about to launch at the time, Solotech recommended that Adele’s production design team consider the new product for their increased pixel-pushing capabilities and the processing power they offer,” he stated. “Coupled with our OmniCal camera-based projector calibration system, the disguise solution was a win-win for the show.”
Newland also used Adele’s show as an example of many more productions looking at projection as a solution over LED. “Although projection has taken a back seat to LED in recent years, Solotech sees it making a resurgence,” stated Newland. “Every projector, however, needed a full-scale image and for a show with the scope of Adele’s – featuring 18 4K projectors – means driving a massive number of pixels compared to what is needed for an all-LED display.”
Turner further outlined the importance of ensuring the best possible image on the projection surfaces, especially as the front row was only four metres away from the downstage surface. This meant the production had to create a workable solution where they were able to create a high enough resolution image without the team at Treatment having to create content that was unworkable when it came to file size.
“Before I was even brought into the production, Treatment called in the help of Brandon Kraemer due to his expertise in post-production workflow and colour science,”
stated Turner. “Between the two of us we went through all the various factors and decided what the best compromise between resolution and bandwidth would be for each surface. We also had the added complication that we run the tracked screens at a higher resolution because of audience proximity,” explained Turner. “But that image either needs to ‘stick’ to tracking panels and or be ‘cut’ by them as they move. These two different mapping principles both rely on mm accuracy on the positional data being sent by TAIT Navigator over PSN.”
Turner shared his thoughts on PT-RQ50K projectors. “They’re a real game changer. They’re incredibly bright and sharp and the only real choice for projecting on black. Early on, we asked Solotech to arrange a shoot-out between the available options. Not only were the Panasonic 50ks the standout we also were able to establish what the potential depth of field in focus would be.
“O verall, this production was a textbook example of how to produce a world beating show,” enthused Turner. “No egos or major panics and the best team I’ve ever worked with across the board. I must give a special mention to [Solotech Video Crew Chief] Dany Lambert who somehow managed to get it all in and working, along with [Media Server and Networks Engineer] Jeff Bertuch. Without him, I would have been a gibbering wreck.”
Since opening night Askem has been personally directing the IMAG. “I’m a film director first and foremost and I never want to cut an image when she’s on screen,” he stated. “I think it adds a layer of fuss to proceedings that is unnecessary as we just want to keep her as the focus.”
Askem was complimentary to the lighting design. “With the screen content, we looked to grade the picture in a post-production style to deliver them to screens and Cory’s lighting was fantastic to do this. We had to be careful how we managed the levels to ensure consistency
each night and we use LUT’s on all the screens. If there is any discrepancy in the lighting, the IMAG would be comprised.”
Another key player to ensure the lighting worked well for both the IMAG, as well as any photo taken by the audience, was Brett Turnbull. “Brett has been my DOP on numerous film projects over the years,” explained Askem.
“On this production he worked closely with Cory, going into the finer detail of the spotlight levels and colour temperature to ensure that any photo taken by someone in the crowd would look fantastic.”
Askem praised the wardrobe and make-up team, overseen by Lisa Bernson with the aid of Hairdresser, Sami Knight and Makeup Artist, Anthony Nguyen. The production were also keen to commend the work of Jamie Mizrahi, Adele’s Stylist and responsible for coordinating the singers outfits each weekend and delivering them to Bernson and her team.
“They provide a level of consistency for every performance,” he remarked. In terms of aiding Askem with his technical requirements, the Director gave thanks to Camera Systems Engineer, Paul Barilla. “He’s been responsible for implementing Brandon Kraemer methodology every evening with the IMAG images,” he said.
Askem used a Grass Valley 4k Broadcast Korona K-Frame switching system, while action was captured on Grass Valley LDX86 4K Broadcast cameras. It’s also worth noting that despite the production’s propensity for projection, the team also deployed 540 ROE Visual CB5 LED panels driven by four Brompton Technology LED processors.
LO VE IN THE DARK
“The growth of the show was my main focus,” Lighting Designer, Cory FitzGerald commented. “Through the show, more of the set is revealed, and we wanted to help build those looks visually with light.” He explained that the approach
was akin to lighting a Broadway show than to a standard music performance.
Before getting into the design, Stufish had already created a physical 3D model of the show to demonstrate all the various automated moves that would be taking place. From there, FitzGerald and the wider lighting team created the show file in Syncronorm Depence software.
“The frames and the projection were already established before I started creating the lighting design, so I helped to emphasise those set elements and continued those lines and angles.” Embracing musicality, the LD further lit background musicians on risers with key light during certain points of the show.
FitzGerald predominantly used Ayrton Khamsin and Domino lighting fixtures – 180 and 26 respectively. “I also had 135 GLP impression FR1s and 72 FR10s,” stated FitzGerald.
“This was to give a similar feel to the light on the floor and on the sides. We didn’t want to do so many dynamic shifts during the songs, opting instead for more of a theatrical build. The last thing we wanted to do is pull people away from her performance.”
The rest of the lighting rig featured 48 Atom, 30 CHAUVET Professional Colorado PXL Bart 16, 14 ACME PIXEL LINE IP and eight Robe FORTES lighting fixtures, the latter controlled by eight RoboSpots. The lighting team also made an in-house rig of 18 Robe T1 and 18 Vari-Lite VL3500 Spots.
“We often use the T1s and the VL3500s to help light the entire crowd so she can see everyone,” stated FitzGerald. Adding that they even use the main house lights to show everyone in the room. “I’ll think we’ll all agree that artistically this isn’t always our favourite moment in the show,” chuckled Askem, acknowledging that it served the far more important purpose of allowing Adele to see everyone in the venue.
On a show-to-show basis, the lighting was operated by Davey Martinez with programming
aided by Associate LD and Programmer, Sam Paine. “They are fantastic,” enthused FitzGerald.
“They’ve both been coming back to do set-up and load-ins to facilitate the show as there are a lot of specific focuses that need to be done, thanks in the most part to all the automation elements and the multiple configurations we have for our lighting trusses.” Another key player for production was Lighting Crew Chief from Neg Earth Andy Beller. Lighting was controlled by an MA Lighting grandMA3 console, operating in MA3 mode.
“This was the first time that most of us had done a major show in this format,” stated the LD. “It’s come along a long way and the Depence stage of the process – with the help of Earlybird Visuals – ensured that we could dial everything in before we went into Lititz for our first rehearsals.”
Despite seeing the show on numerous occasions, FitzGerald was regularly blown away by the ‘beautiful’ and ‘genuinely entertaining’ delivery of Adele each night.
“Despite hearing those songs many times, she still makes each performance so unique and personal. It was also great to go back to my theatre roots and approach a lighting show with more restraint. Having loads of fixtures doesn’t always make for a better show and I think this one came together well.”
“We always jump at the opportunity to work with Cory,” added Neg Earth’s Lindsey Markham. “His drive to collaborate, both with us as a supplier and inter-departmentally, generates a harmonious and mutually beneficial working environment. He allowed us to propose fixtures and solutions if we felt they were advantageous for the production. It’s always exciting to work with designers who are continually looking for opportunities to enhance the show.”
SET FIRE TO THE RAIN… AND THE STAGE
Despite the ideas of restraint and theatrical
072 PRODUCTION PROFILE
sensibilities, this was still a Vegas show and no Vegas show is complete without its fair share of tricks, gags and illusions. Brought in to create most of the big moments were SFX producer J.E.M FX, with additional support from Rando Productions and Artem. “J.E.M was a major player on this one,” enthused English, explaining how the company collaborated with TAIT to build a 100ft flame bar into the rear of the stage.
The company also provided the production with eight Flame Cubes – a propane-based flame system that can shoot flames up to 20ft in the air – along with a total of 30 Silent Storm Confetti Machines.
The SFX specialist also provided a Confetti Drop Rig, which dropped 30lbs of confetti from 40ft above the stage, which was used in Adele’s now famous illusion at the end of the show, that had been developed in partnership with magician Rob Lake.
“J.E.M does a lot of work in the film industry and the team did an amazing job for us,” enthused English. “Take the rain curtain – we could have gone for a digital version of this effect, but the fact that Elia and Mikee from J.E.M FX custom built us a real one made all the difference. We spent a lot of time developing this look as we wanted the ability to change the
‘type’ of rain it was producing through the song. It goes from an incredibly heavy downpour to a lighter shower and the team at J.E.M went to a lot of effort to make this possible.”
Two of the major gags centred around a piano. The first was during Set Fire To The Rain where the piano burst into flames, while during Rolling In The Deep, the instrument explodes. While the burning effect was handled by J.E.M FX, the exploding piano was put together by UK-based physical special effects company Artem. “Kim Gavin had done various projects with Artem for other artists over the years” explained English.
Gavin spoke about the origin of using the piano as the focus point for many of these moments. “I remember saying to the wider team that if she is a piano ballad artist, we need to make the most of the instrument within the set,” he outlined. “One of her most iconic performances was at the BRITs when it was just her and a piano; we were keen to recreate that as a moment, but then we pushed the boat out with these other two moments.”
The most Vegas-style gag came at the end of the show with Adele’s illusion act. Under the guidance of Magician, Rob Lake, and with the support of Rando Productions, following a large confetti drop onto the singer, Adele seemingly
vanishes from the stage. For those who aren’t lucky enough not to get out to Vegas, I’d encourage you to look up the video online.
CAN I GET IT
With the creative team wishing Weekends with Adele to be an immersive experience, it’s no surprise that the sound followed suit with the production utilising L-Acoustics L-ISA to absorb the crowd the singer’s back catalogue. Provided by Clair Global, the nine-hang frontal system comprised seven ‘scene’ arrays each with 14 K2s and two ‘extension’ arrays of 16 KARAs each. There were also two sub arrays of eight KS28s each and two outfill arrays of 18 KARA IIs each. On the floor were eight KS28s with 29 5XT spatial front fills and two X8 outfills.
The relatively small audio team consisted of FOH Engineer, Dave Bracey; Monitor Engineer, Joe Campbell; L-ISA System Engineer and Audio Crew Chief, Johnny Kierle, with Thomas ‘Chip’ Valentino looking after all RF and stage, and Nicholas Reiker overseeing crew communications.
Having handled Adele’s FOH mix since 2015, Bracey has been with her as she ascended from arenas to stadiums. “As far as her live show goes, for this residency the band has stayed exactly the same with the only addition being
that the string section has expanded from 12 to 24,” outlined Bracey. “This production was my first foray into L-ISA and it was a perfect opportunity in a great venue to see how special we could make it sound. Our goal was to set a new audio standard in Vegas… but I’ll leave it for others to say if we achieved this.”
Bracey mixes the show on a DiGiCo Quantum 7. “I find that mixing has become easier as the spacial elements of the show created by the L-ISA scene is something quite special that I can mix into. It’s a very different sound and feeling compared to listening to just two PA hangs with a phantom image between them,” he described.
“This was my first time designing an L-ISA show - both from a system design perspective and an immersive mix perspective,” said Kierle. “The L-ISA design approach and help from the team at L-Acoustics made the loudspeaker design process simple. The only compromises I had to make were with the front fills. We wanted a clean stage edge with no loudspeakers visible. While originally pushing for X8 front fills, I opted for smaller 5XT spatial fills, which ended up being perfect for the application.”
Kierle was also keen to compliment the work of Rob Gurton from Clair Global who was the “brains behind” the L-ISA setup for the show. “Preparing FOH for the immersive system offered challenges neither Dave nor myself had experienced,” explained Kierle.
“This mostly consisted of finding infrastructural solutions for the new hardware (L-ISA Processors) and learning corresponding software control (L-ISA Controller). For example, instead of taking a LR feed from the console to a drive rack, we had to decide on solutions to take all 96 outputs from the mixing console into my world. Similarly, we had to find solutions to feed both primary and secondary processors, while making sure everything was clocked, networked, and powered suitably.”
The System Engineer continued by discussing the challenges of designing a system around an already busy grid.
“This show has a very busy roof but thankfully very little in front of the proscenium,” explained Kierle. “We had enough real estate in the grid upstairs to position all sources where desired, and even enough space for all hoists, motor control, amplified controllers, and signal
to power distribution.”
One of the biggest challenges for Kierle in the design phase was the false proscenium.
“The entire proscenium is treated as a projection surface,” he stated. “I tested an enormous number of materials to find the most suitable combination of acoustically transparent projection surface and acoustically transparent black backing. All this information was considered in the mechanical design of the loudspeaker system resulting in a fantastic looking projection surface that doesn’t compromise the performance of the PA.”
Bracey explained how there was still a large element of live mixing during the show.
“Musicians play slightly differently each night, so there are always adjustments to ride. Every song starts with a snapshot of course, but I use timecode-directed snapshots to fade in, for example, the sting mics before they play or as a means of bringing up the mics after their riser stops moving to negate the riser noise.”
Bracey was also keen to compliment the support of the production’s audio supplier.
“Clair has been a very easy company to work with and a pleasure on every level. As for the residency, I’ve been very happy with the experience. The chance to continually improve on the result and the fact we only work weekends – it speaks for itself really.”
Clair Global also supplied the communications package for the project.
“Nicholas Reiker, who is responsible for implementing all the house comms equipment into our greater communications system, is an extension of our audio team,” enthused Kierle, complimenting the work of the technician.
Handling the singers’ and musicians’ onstage mixes was Joe Campbell, who also opted for a DiGiCo Quantum 7. Having worked with the singer since 2008 he walked TPi through his set up for this iteration of her live show. “My desk and control position is upstage left but quite far away from the stage with no view of the performance area at all,” stated Campbell. As a result, the Monitor Engineer had several monitors supplied by video supplier Solotech, which gave an overview of the whole stage from camera positions out front to close-ups of the artist throughout the show.
“There’s no speakers on the stage, although I have the L-Acoustics SYVA at my monitor
position,” said Campbell. “All performers and crew have their own bespoke IEM mix, meaning I’m doing monitors for around 40 people!” While the orchestra were supplied with generic earbuds, all the band and crew have moulds provided by 64 Audio.
For wireless distribution of the IEM mixes, the production utilised the Wisycom MTK952 IEM transmitters and MPR50 receivers. “I used the Wisycom IEM system which is very versatile and sounds fantastic. The combination of DiGiCo, Wisycom and 64 Audio gave me the best sounding mix I’ve done in my career so far.” For vocal mics, the production utilised the Sennheiser 6000 Series wireless microphones.
ONE AND ONLY
If there was one word to describe Weekends with Adele from a production standpoint, it would be ‘purposeful’. Having spoken to the various departments involved, the focus on creating a show which the singer was not only comfortable to perform in but also was very much ‘her show’, was clear. In a time when we often see productions going above and beyond with more elaborate moments, to have a production that demonstrated restraint was certainly refreshing.
As Ric Lipson stated, although it may be simple, the technical innovation going on behind the scenes is truly remarkable. Much like Adele’s music – on the surface they may be piano ballads but delve a bit deeper and you uncover layers of complexity that keep you coming back.
NO WORDS NEEDED
THOUGHTS FROM THE FESTIVAL GROUNDS
We catch up with some of the hard-working companies and individuals powering this summer’s biggest outdoor events and discuss how this year’s latest trends may affect future events.
The summer of 2023 has been an unusual one for the live events industry. With festivals back in force, we have also seen more stadium tours than ever before. Although an equal share of TPi’s focus has been taken up by the likes of Coldplay, Harry Styles and Sam Fender to name but a few, we’ve been keeping up with our friends during the busy festival season. As such we were keen to bring some of the news from this summer and highlight some notable trends that we’re looking forward to seeing more of in the future.
To give an overall summation of this year’s festival season, recent results seem to suggest that revenue for many gigs and festivals across the UK has returned to pre-pandemic levels with various indicators suggesting the public is still choosing to spend money on live events despite some concerns that this might not be the case following COVID-19. Off the back of these positive results, LIVE CEO, Jon Collins reacted to the season.
“T he UK’s live music sector has burst back to life after the pandemic, with world-class festivals and concerts delighting millions across the UK over the last few months. In London alone, recent figures have revealed that over one million people attended live music events in the capital in the first week of July. While we saw fewer fans purchasing tickets and attending live music events following the pandemic, compounded by the cost-of-
living crisis, we are now witnessing an upward trajectory in the number of tickets being sold and fans attending events.”
Summer 2023 saw notable new additions to festival tech riders. Coachella saw the deployment of PixMob wristbands for headline sets from Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK. “It’s so cool to bring this stadium experience to the festival grounds,” said PixMob Director of Tours and Entertainment, Hila Aviran. “The goal was to make sure everybody feels like they’re part of the Bad Bunny show. When you look around and see colour, you can see the rhythmic movement in the lights around you. We watched the stream the following morning and there were incredible aerial shots of almost 100,000 people leading up to the beat of the music.”
According to Aviran, several years ago the thought of deploying this number of PixMob wristbands would not have been financially viable. “Over the past three years and emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic, our products are super scalable, which allows us to tour with global artists doing 50 to 100 shows on the road,” stated Aviran. “Seven years ago, it was $5 a person and we are no longer in that range.”
As w ith all its shows, sustainability was a major focus for PixMob with festival goers able to recycle their wristbands after the performance. “Sustainability is the future, and in
order to make a future happen, we have to take action,” enthused Aviran. “That means reducing the number of single-use plastics we produce and give out to the world. We’ve recycled an estimated three million units since launching our recycling programme. We’re reusing the wristbands and we have designed a wristband made of compostable materials for Coldplay’s latest tour.”
On t he other side of the pond and in keeping with modern advances in technology, The Secret Garden Party partnered with Celestial to create the UK’s first drone show with lighting, lasers, and fireworks. The captivating drone display, titled Cosmic Wisdom, was produced by Celestial, and supported the festival’s pursuit of a more sustainable experience by adding cutting-edge and environmentally friendly drone technology to their traditional fireworks.
“It’s hard to put into words the excitement felt by the team when working with Celestial to realise this vision. The journey we have been on has been exhilarating and life affirming. This was collaboration at its purest. It is everything we have ever wanted The Secret Garden Party to be able to do and hope to continue to do,” stated The Secret Garden Party Founder, Freddie Fellowes.
“For years, we have dreamed of combining the timeless wisdom of Alan Watts with our ethereal light displays, which appear like the stars brought to life,” enthused John Hopkins,
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: Robin Böttcher, Matt Higgs and Martin Audio
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Celestial Founder and CCO. “We have finally created a mesmerising and thought-provoking show in Cosmic Wisdom, which pairs animated sacred geometry with some of Alan Watts’ most profound messaging. We are so grateful to The Secret Garden Party for allowing us to design this unforgettable intersection of innovation and beauty.”
LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE
It seems like yesterday that live entertainment was centred around livestreaming, following the waves of pandemic-induced event cancellations. However, with events returning to full force, TPi was curious to see if any of the trends born out of the pandemic had manifested in 2023 – most notably the inclusion of virtual reimagining of real-life events.
Back in 2020, we interviewed the team behind Lost Horizon, a virtual event from the people who brought you Shangri-La Glastonbury, which saw 4.36 million viewers descend on its platform. During those conversations, the organisers mused that virtual events could coexist alongside in-person events post-lockdown.
“Lost Horizon Festival was one of the most exciting projects I’ve been part of,” stated Fiona McGarva, Head of Communications for Lost Horizon and Managing Director of Sundae Communications. “Shangri-La is radical, creative, and constantly evolving, so when lockdown hit, they were among the first to embrace the metaverse. Within weeks the team had adapted their skills and were working with Sansar, out in San Francisco, to build a creative playground in the metaverse, to fill with music and visual art.”
With a few years having passed, McGarva spoke about how she had seen virtual events be embraced by the festival scene. “Often
festivals are seen as a step outside of reality and leaving the trappings of technology behind. That’s certainly the case with a festival like Noisily, which is part of a global community of transformative festivals. Having said that, this year they did trial a new Lumenate experience to a live audience at Noisily, technology developed in lockdown that uses stroboscopic light sequences from your phone’s flashlight, to neurologically guide users into an altered state of consciousness.
“Shangri-La, always looking forward, introduced the Shangriverse into the field in 2022, which has brought motion capture, metaverse sets and even an AI robot artist into a festival environment. Shangri-La is a mirror to the masses, and so as the metaverse became relevant in people’s lives, for them it was important to bring this type of experience into the field.”
McGarva believes that if the recreation of a festival in the digital realm was going to really gain traction, then some serious progress was yet to be made. “You can’t recreate the feeling of being physically present, so a virtual experience needs to go beyond that. Gamification is key. People realised early on in lockdown that standing in the metaverse watching a show, however visually stunning it may be, doesn’t feel the same. You need an extra layer of something to do, to help people interact and keep them entertained.”
On t he topic of producing content for those outside of the festival grounds, Constantijn van Duren of NOMOBO, the video service agency responsible for capturing and livestreams for several events over the summer including Ultra Music Festival joined the conversation: “We encountered numerous festival promoters in 2022 who were coping with massive budget issues as they had to catch up with all the
losses brought on by COVID-19 but this year the team at NOMOBO have noticed things are getting back on track with the festival we partner with,” stated van Duren, explaining that organisers are putting greater thought into their livestreams to increase exposure of the brand.
“Organisers used to want to have livestreams of the festival on closed platforms because they wanted the email addresses for their marketing purposes. But this meant they got limited exposure and certainly didn’t help them sell tickets. Our opinion is you must produce super high-quality streaming on open platform like YouTube and try to get connected with a global audience.”
A sign of the increased importance of the livestream can be seen with the increased sophistication of NOMOBO’s video package it now deploys on events like Ultra. “An example is the frequent use of the Blackmagic URSA Broadcast G2. It’s such a cost-effective camera system and the image quality is fantastic creating beautiful images for livestreaming with a cinematic approach,” enthused van Duren.
There were also numerous cases this season which saw events make a real effort in aiding the next generation of technicians get their foot in the door. One such example was Black Deer Festival in the UK and their collaboration with Supajam – an organisation that gives 16-plus students with special educational needs an alternative to mainstream education, introducing them to various opportunities in and around music.
Black Deer for several years, has hosted the Supajam Stage which has been an incredibly popular area of the site with students working hard backstage to keep the show running. The stage had industry support from AED which provided an audio and lighting package along with the aid of Paul Jones and his team
078 FESTIVAL FOCUS
QUICK ADJUSTMENT. EASY TO HANDLE.
from Ethix Management. “We need, as an industry, to open opportunities to young people from all backgrounds and take time to encourage and help develop confidence for those who have not had the best opportunities, and to give them a chance to prove what valuable assets they can be.” Asserted Gill Tee Co-Founder and Festival Director of Black Deer. “We need to nurture more young people to become the next generation of specialists.”
FE STIVAL INFRASTRUCTURE
The demands of audiences in 2023 have also seen significant changes in what is required for a festival. Speaking of one of these demands was Extreme Network’s Patrick Groot Nueland. “The network is the invisible headline act of any festival,” asserted Nueland. “It must perform to provide an optimal experience for data-hungry festival goers wanting to stay connected with their friends and family throughout the event to capture the biggest moments. Secondly, they can use Wi-Fi to access information about the event throughout the day. And third, it gives fans the opportunity to interact with the festival, including things like voting for your favourite performers or participating in games and challenges.”
As well as audience demands forcing festivals to rethink the technical infrastructure of their events, this summer has seen some events make headlines for all the wrong reasons with residents suffering from the noise pollution of innercity festival sites.
Since its release of the MLA system in 2010, Martin Audio has looked to create new possibilities for sound field optimisation which looks, among many things, to give more control to event organisers. This has continued with further formats of MLA released and subsequently joined by Wavefront Precision, which extended the flexibility of the optimisation process through scalable resolution. With an optimised sound system covering a defined area, it is possible to have higher SPLs for the
audience area while also experiencing significant reductions outside that space.
It is this level of control that has led to festivals like BST in London’s Hyde Park being given a new lease of life after once being considered “unworkable”.
“I personally walk the site to satisfy myself that we are achieving the best sound coverage possible, and I have no doubt that we delivered an amazing audio experience for our audiences,” said Dave Grindle, Venue Director and co-CEO of BST management company, LS Events. “Given that we’re working in an urban environment that is surrounded by densely populated residential areas, the numbers of complaints have been remarkably low. The tech teams work hard to achieve a balance of an incredible experience for the fans while remaining within the licence conditions and minimising the impact on our neighbours.”
It ’s not only with festivals in densely populated areas where optimisation plays a useful role. For festivals with multiple stages, an optimised system helps organisers to avoid spillage between performance areas so that audiences can focus on the act they want to see. Perhaps the best example of this comes from Glastonbury where MLA and Wavefront Precision arrays are used across a variety of stages.
“T he technology behind Martin Audio MLA and Wavefront Precision allows us to deliver a full-range intimate experience at 350m from the Pyramid Stage and yet within 50m of the edge of the arena, we can reduce the levels up to 15dB and even lower beyond,” explained Simon Honywill, Audio Consultant for Glastonbury. “The accuracy of this system is unmatched. It’s like stepping through an invisible door as the sound rapidly fades around you.”
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CONNECTING WITH THE WIDER MARKET
Neutrik is on a mission to highlight the importance of understanding product safety and compliance of power cables and connectors – and raise awareness of the consequences of falling foul of EU regulations. events industry.
Based on the Low Voltage Directive (LVD 2014/35/EU), a new standard has now been set for the world of cabling. EN IEC 60799:2021 (IEC 60799:2018) specifies the requirements for cord sets and interconnected cord sets. The LVD ensures that electrical equipment within certain voltage limits provides a high level of protection for European citizens, and benefits fully from the single market and covers health and safety risks on electrical equipment operating with an input or output voltage of between 50 and 1,000v for alternating current and 75 and 1,500v for direct current. Due to this range, the legislation applies to a wide range of electrical equipment for both consumer and professional usage.
Those who do not adhere to this latest measure could face serious legal consequences, from a hefty fine to jail time. Requirements for locking power connectors of an assembled cable are described EN IEC 60320-1:2021. On connecting to an appliance any connector not fulfilling the requirements of this standard is simply not allowed.
Neutrik’s Mark Perrins and Stefan Frick explained how this legislation could impact those in the live entertainment sphere. “This legislation came into effect in April 2016, although it has recently been implemented with greater effect,” Frick clarified. “It applies to a wide range of electrical equipment including power cables. To be more specific: appliance connection cables (cord sets) and continuity appliance connection cables (interconnection cord sets).”
These rules mean that cables entering and being used in Europe must be CE marked
Words: Stew Hume
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– a logo that most will be familiar with. A prerequisite for the use of the CE mark is a declaration of conformity. The declaration of conformity is a legal document that formally declares the compliance of a particular product, that falls within the scope of CE marking, with the essential health and safety requirements of the relevant product safety directives. By signing the declaration of conformity, the manufacturer or importer takes full responsibility and liability for the product’s compliance with the applicable legislation. “Connectors also fall under this legislation, so many years ago we ensured our products were compliant,” explained Perrins. “In fact, we’re the only manufacturer worldwide with cable connectors and chassis certified according to IEC 60320-1 required by the European Low Voltage Directive.”
With the proliferation of products coming from other regions, the duo believes there is more chance that end users might come across non-certified or falsely CE marked equipment. If a product unlawfully affixes the CE marking, the government of the specific member state can enforce measures.
Products can be withdrawn from the market and penalties can be imposed. Manufacturers, importers and/or authorised representatives will be held liable if the CE mark has been fixed illegally or if the product does not meet the standards indicated by the EU harmonised standards.
For each directive or product group, one or more supervisory authorities or inspection services have been designated at a national level in the EU countries. These institutions –often government bodies – inspect products
not only for CE marking but also for other legal aspects. In the Netherlands, failure to affix the CE marking or not having a valid EU Declaration of Conformity is a violation of the Dutch Economic Offences Act. Penalties of up to six months in custody could be imposed, or a fine of € 20,500 per offence. “This legislation is all about safety and is not just for the sake of it,” asserted Frick.
“If you introduce the public to noncompliant power, you will affect your public liability insurance,” added Perrins, explaining why event organisers and venue owners should take particular interest in this topic.
Fr ick continued: “We want to make sure the OMs and manufacturers understand that they are also at legal risk. If a manufacturer’s MD or compliance officer signs off on a product being CE compliant, it’s not just a case of a hefty fine but in Germany the punishment can be as severe as a four-year jail sentence.”
Fr ick cited a recent open letter by VDE – a German certification institution. “It states that it’s not sufficient that only the components which are connected to a cord set or an interconnection cord set are certified according to their related component standards. The compliance of these requirements of EN 60799 can be verified by testing and certification at an independent testing institute. Thus, building a new product based on certified components will not result in a compliant product.”
Going forward, Neutrik will continue to warn the industry of how to remain up to date with these regulations with a white paper as well as webinars expanding on the sector-wide issue. www.neutrik.com
Mark Perrins and Stefan Frick.
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Whether used indoors or outdoors, the high level of impenetrability minimizes the need for maintenance and the resulting use of time and resources, allowing you to fully dedicate yourself to the show.
ROBE ACQUIRES AVOLITES
In late June, a statement came through the wires that Robe had agreed to acquire Avolites. Although it had been common knowledge that Avolites had been looking to sell the company, it was a rather shrewd move to announce the deal prior to everything being signed. According to Avolites Chairman, Richard Salzedo, this was a purposeful decision.
“Too often when it comes to deals of this nature, things are kept under wraps which inevitably leads to numerous leaks and people making assumptions,” stated Salzedo. “We wanted to make it clear from the beginning what this deal means for both companies.”
Speaking at the time of the announcement, Robe Lighting CEO, Josef Valchar, commented: “This is a great acquisition for Robe. Avolites has always been at the pinnacle of lighting control with products that complement our lighting fixtures; this will add significant value to sales made throughout the global distribution networks of both companies.”
The move marks a significant milestone in Avolites history. For those unfamiliar with the company’s background, Avolites underwent a significant reshuffle with a management buyout in 1991, leading to a time that the company refers to internally as Avolites 2.0.
“You always have to think of the future,” Salzedo stated. “Maintaining the culture of the company has been at the forefront of our
concern since the early ’90s.” This inevitably led to another big move in 2018 with the appointment of Paul Wong as Managing Director. “One of my key remits was to prepare the company for acquisition,” stated Wong, plainly. “With this sale, some key points had to be satisfied. The deal would not just be a cut and dry ‘sale’, but a negotiation that would add value to the company.”
According to Wong and Salzedo, Avolites had spoken to several companies about a possible acquisition, but Robe was the one that ticked all the boxes.
“Robe has bought into this plan which included the management team, our customer base and distribution network,” noted Wong, “Robe will help us achieve these plans.”
Wong continued to explain some of the ways he foresees Robe aiding these ambitions. “I’m hoping that the pace of our R&D will increase notably. We know what we are trying to achieve but we need extra resources which will, in turn, aid our customers by getting products developed in a shorter time frame.”
Salzedo points out that these “resources” are not just money, but the support of a large company. “Robe has enormous buying power – a resource you simply can’t buy. This was something that became evident in the past few years and one thing that held us back when it came to getting parts for manufacturing in
Representatives from Robe and Avolites speak exclusively to TPi about one of this year’s most talked about business deals.
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: Loo Stickland
Robe lighting CEO, Josef Valchar with Avolites Managing Director, Paul Wong at PLASA Show.
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2020/21.” Since the announcement, Wong reported that the response from customers and the wider industry has been positive.
“The only concern expressed is a worry that Avolites might ‘lose its identity’,” which the MD is keen to assure will not be the case. “We are still going to be made up of the same people and we’re staying at our headquarters in west London. We’ll just have access to more resources than ever before.”
Wong also noted that the famous Avolites logo will remain: “We redesigned the logo in 2021 and it was a ‘line in the sand’ moment for us. The logo is bolder and more confident to reflect our direction and energy.”
Robe’s decision to acquire a lighting desk manufacturer does highlight a growing market trend with multiple desk brands now falling under the wider umbrella of a lighting manufacturing company. “As industries mature and organisations become bigger and less ‘boutique’, it is inevitable that as manufacturers continue to grow, they will want to have a slice of every bit of the pie,” stated Wong.
“What was favourable about Robe is that from the beginning their team expressed the wish to keep the Avolites branding which does provide some general separation. Their philosophy is that the company needs to survive on its own two feet. It’s for that reason
that this deal will certainly not mean we sever ties with other lighting brands. The simple fact is that without those relationships, we don’t have a business.”
Speaking of the acquisition, TPi took the time to speak to some of Avolites’ longstanding employees and hear what they thought about the deal and what it could bring to the company.
“For a long time, we’ve enjoyed a close working relationship with Robe,” stated Peter Budd, Avolites’ Software Testing Engineer. “They often use our consoles at tradeshows and demos, and have very much been part of the Avo story so I think it’s going to be a very natural fit.”
Avolites’ longest-serving employee, Adam Proffitt, who has been with the company for 36 years, shared his thoughts on the deal: “There are so many lighting companies out there, it could be tricky to know which would be the best fit for us. Robe certainly seems like an ideal partner, all the way down to how the company is structured, and that it was started by individual owners just like Avolites,” the Senior Firmware Engineer said.
“I think in many ways when the deal was announced there was a sense of relief,” mused Olie Waits, Titan Lead Developer and 20-year veteran of Avolites. “We’ve known the company
was up for sale for a while and there was always a risk it might go to an organisation that was not sympathetic to lighting. All of us at Avolites are passionate about lighting and we want to aid designers in making great shows. To have an owner that thinks exactly the same is a relief.”
Waits believes it’s vital to have the backing of a bigger company to make strides in this field of lighting control.
“The complexity of software and the cost of developing these solutions is increasing. There are not many programming jobs that have to deal with the challenges that we face, while also needing a product that is sensibly priced. Our solutions encompass lighting design and previsualisation rather than simply lighting a live show, so having access to a wider range of Robe products and tools will be beneficial for end users.”
The greater “complexity” of products inevitably means the need for more customer support – from hardware manufacturing to delivering products with advanced software capabilities. “This means providing more support to our growing customer base which we are hoping this deal will allow us to achieve,” commented Avolites Marketing Director, Andrew McKinlay. www.avolites.com www.robe.cz
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IN PROFILE: HIVE
With the goal of challenging the conventions of what is expected from a media server company, HIVE is aiming to put video into the hands of more creatives at a lower price point than many of its competitors. TPi makes the trip to the company’s HQ to learn more…
A 10-minute chat about skateboarding like the one we had when we visited HIVE’s Horsham HQ is an unusual way to start an interview; but then again, HIVE is not a usual company. When we met the team at ISE earlier in 2023, they pitched the idea that HIVE’s media server offering could open the world of video to a wider market with a more competitive price point and ease of use. Since then, the company has been making waves within the entertainment sphere, being used on numerous immersive events and exhibitions around the world, as well as partnering with several musical acts including Eric Prydz and Bicep. To find out more, TPi spent some time with Co-Founder Mark Calvert, who explained the philosophy of HIVE and shared his ambitions for the company. This is not Calvert’s fi rst rodeo w hen i t comes to starting companies. In f act, we lost t rack w hen he g ave a brief highlight reel of some of t he ventures he a nd fellow CoFounders Dave G reen a nd Trey H arrison h ad
been involved in – one notable example being the creators of t he eventual A I media server, which was t hen sold onto Avolites.
“ HIVE was not our fi rst foray into t he media se rver world a nd we learned a lot d uring t hat time,” stated Calvert, reflecting on t he A I years. “One of t he key lessons we learned was th at 8 0% of media projects don’t need all t he bells a nd w histles t hat come w ith most other products. For example, most of our users do not need v irtual production tools w ithin t he media server t hat a re not only complicated but raise t he price point of a product.”
Price was a key topic t hat Calvert was keen to highlight. T he f act t hat HIVE’s offering is cheaper does not mean t hat t he company has scrimped a nd s aved on core f unction, production a nd presentation. In f act, w hile walking a round t he office, we got to see t he effort t he team m ade in t heir product delivery, right down to t he packaging.
HIVE’s new product offering includes t he BeeBlade a nd B eeBox, w ith i ts fl agship, t he
BeeHive, coming to m arket l ater t his year. “ The na me HIVE comes f rom t he basic concept of how our products work,” outlined Calvert. “Our boxes exist on a network a nd a ny of t hem c an be t he ‘queen’ w ith t he others being workers’. Distributing t he workload as bees do, a ppeals very m uch to t he HIVE ecosystem of products. We h ave developed ou r proprietary B eeSync software to keep all of ou r products working t irelessly w ith each other, on a network, perfectly in sync - similar to how Ge nlock works on other products, but w ith t he added features of working on HDMI clock sync - w hich we believe is a world’s fi rst.”
A ll HIVE products a re currently ma nufactured at t he company’s Horsham HQ. “It’s a f airly lean operation,” stated Calvert, alluding to t he f act t hat he predicts t he company w ill soon outgrow i ts current f acility and need to increase i ts m anufacturing, s ales and support departments.
G etting into t he specifics, Calvert explained how t he small B eeBlade media server c an integrate seamlessly into display h ardware.
“T he HIVE B eeBlade is designed to connect directly to a ny product t hat includes a n Intel SDM slot, m aking i t compatible w ith products such as Panasonic DLP Projectors a nd SMD compatible displays. T his innovative solution ma kes i t efficient a nd convenient, eliminating the need for complex signal distribution networks or a l arge control room footprint th at poses heat management challenges,” he described, adding t hat t he smaller footprint boosts HIVE’s g reen credentials.
HIVE’s products h ave found a n atural home at several m useums a nd a rt exhibitions, wi th t heir small size ideal for keeping t he technology hidden f rom v iew. However, w ith both Calvert, G reen a nd H arrison h aving a background working w ith t he m usic industry, it is only n atural t hat some HIVE servers would ma ke t heir way out on t he road. T he t wo most notable acts t hat HIVE h as already worked w ith are B icep LIVE a nd Eric Prydz HOLO.
“HIVE h as proved to be a flexible, portable and bulletproof control u nit for our live shows,”
Words: Stew Hume
Photos: HIVE and Luke Dyson
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commented Zak Norman, Show Designer for Bicep. “By stripping away the complexity of a media server to its essential components, you are left with a product that is simple to use and easy to master yet powerful enough to run some of the biggest shows out there.”
“HIVE solves a problem that has plagued the AV industry for the longest time,” added Punkette, Eric Prydz Video Director. “Perfect playback under immensely demanding conditions, without the need for huge, heavy media servers. It’s a total game changer.”
Another fan of the company’s work is Óscar Sáez, General Manager for Empty, which was involved in the National Museum of Qatar and the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. “The hardware and software that Mark, Dave, Trey and the team have designed and remote support they gave us was faultless,” enthused Sáez. “HIVE has demonstrated a high level of professionalism and technical qualification. The company always offers original, reliable, and cost-effective solutions, alongside a cando attitude to solving any difficulties.”
HI VE’s growth has been exponential.
“Originally there was just me, Dave, and Software Director, Trey Harrison, who is based in the United States,” Calvert revealed. “Since then, we have added four members of staff with a new Sales Director due to be announced.”
A key milestone for the company was also recently announced with HIVE’s strategic partnership with Production Park.
“Production Park is where the industry comes together, and we’re thrilled that our technology has a place there,” remarked Calvert when the announcement was made to the industry. “It’s also important to us that the people around us are aligned on our core values, such as innovation, education and sustainability, and the expertise and experience at Production Park is rooted solidly in these foundations.”
“HIVE stands for all we believe in here at Production Park; innovation, sustainability and a dedication to transferring the tools and the knowledge to the next generation of live experience professionals,” commented Lee Brooks, CEO at Production Park. “We’re delighted to be able to support their exciting growth story.”
The use of video within the live events environment has clearly moved on leaps and bounds in the past few decades, with lighter and even smaller LED pixel pitches opening more possibilities for designers across multiple sectors – and with HIVE’s latest offerings, these options are now becoming available for a far greater range of end users. www.hive.run
HIVE Technical Director and Co-Founder, Dave Green; Head of Production, James Belfield; Commissioning Engineer, Selvin Cooper; Head of Support, Kane Sargent with Managing Director, and Co-Founder, Mark Calvert; BICEP live at Alexandra Palace with Show Design by Zak Norman, photo by Luke Dyson; Eric Prydz’ HOLO.
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TAG BUILDS ON ITS GLOBAL REACH
Renowned for managing countless notable tours across the planet, TAG continues to earn the trust and admiration of the most iconic names in music. From one-off club shows to stadium tours, the organisation oversees comprehensive touring travel logistics and offers global solutions. Recently extending its reach to 18 global offices and adding Latin touring to its repertoire, TAG has surpassed milestones on its mission to further expand and broaden its client base.
Since 2021, the popularity of the Latin music industry has been explosive. Artists like Bad Bunny, Karol G, Rauw Alejandro, Rosalía, Maluma, RBD, among others have taken the Latin music scene by storm and continue to top charts worldwide. Some of its most recognisable names have performed recordbreaking tours across the globe, while others are set to tackle the road and are expected to gross millions.
TAG jumped at the opportunity to impact a larger audience by launching a Latin touring sector to serve the Latin music industry. “Latin
music has had a massive global influence in recent years,” TAG’s Group Touring Director, Byron Carr explained. “While this music has been around for decades, it is incredible to see an exponential increase in its popularity.”
When asked to further comment on TAG’s decision to launch a new sector dedicated specifically to Latin touring, Carr noted: “We have worked with some of the biggest names on the planet across all genres of music. After keeping a close eye on the booming industry of Latin music, we wanted to diversify our offerings to service a broader client base. The Travel Specialists at TAG are known for their abilities to find solutions to anything, even with the complexity of touring travel itineraries. Our goal is to support the expansion of Latin touring by launching this new sector. We wanted to bring this service to the Latin music industry and solely focus on supporting these artists and their tours.”
The UK-based company understands that launching a sector within a diverse community requires more than simply the decision to do
so. “It has been important to us to be able to give the Latin touring sector the attentiveness that it deserves. We recognised that not only would we need to put together a separate team well versed in managing touring travel, but that organising a bilingual team to properly communicate with our Latin clients was critical. Our newly promoted Supervisor of Latin Touring US, Tiago Palhares, is the perfect fit to lead a team that suits those needs,” Carr reassured.
Palhares will lead the launch of the new sector, based out of TAG’s brand-new office in Orlando, Florida. He will be taking on the challenge of growing the US Latin touring business and overseeing all touring in Latin America. Palhares shared: “It’s been more than 10 years since I joined TAG in London. Growing up in Portugal, Latin music reminds me of home and is something that I identify with culturally. I am confident that with this new sector, TAG will become one of the leading travel management companies to specialise in Latin artists. I am thrilled to be presented with the opportunity to not only launch a sector that means so much to me, but to do so alongside the opening of our Orlando office.”
Opening an office in Florida is a huge move for TAG as the location greatly suits the needs of the Latin music community. Carr said of the new opening: “While currently focusing on our touring division, Orlando holds great opportunities across all TAG divisions in the future.” The office is fully staffed and strategically opened its doors on 1 September to coincide with the launch of Latin touring.
Even after 11 TPi Award wins as Favourite Travel Company, TAG has proven that they have no plans of slowing down any time soon. The company is drafting up plans to extend the Latin touring sector to have a base in the United Kingdom as well.
In addition to the launch of the new specialisation and their office opening in Orlando, the distinguished travel management company is also working through the process to open an office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This decision comes after supporting clients in Saudi Arabia for the past two years, at
Considered a trailblazer in entertainment travel for more than three decades, TAG shares further plans to expand its global client base.y.
numerous MDLBEAST events. Due to the success and popularity of MDLBEAST Soundstorm, XP Music Futures and Balad Beast in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the choice to open an office in KSA was easy.
Fahim Jalali has stepped into the role as General Manager for the Riyadh office. “Saudi Arabia has taken strides to become more accessible for everyone – unveiling cultural and creative opportunities and delivering state-of-the-art entertainment experiences,”
Jalali noted. “Upon working with MDLBEAST for the past few years and becoming more and more familiar with the area, we recognised the opportunity and need to service clients in the Middle East. As we enter into our third year assisting with MDLBEAST, we are excited to continue to be welcomed into the country with open arms and look forward to seeing how we can and will make a difference in the lives of our future clients there.
Opposite: Group of TAG staff who assisted with MDLBEAST 2022 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Pictured above: TAG’s Byron Carr, Fahim Jalali and Tiago Palhares.
Regularly appearing on the tour riders of some of the world’s biggest artists, Wisycom is quickly becoming a mainstay of the live events industry. TPi checks in with the Italian company to learn why its wireless solutions are becoming so popular in the live sector.
is certainly a massive commercial advantage of our system,” enthused Stangherlin.
The company’s IEM product range includes a True Diversity receiver pack, the MPR50-IEM, essential for maintaining robust RF signals in the harshest environments and Wisycom’s own ENS compander firmware, specifically developed for the live market, to provide accurate rich audio. Both features have been warmly embraced by performing artists and monitor engineers alike.
The Wisycom IEM package has recently taken a stride forward through the introduction of a new dual channel transmitter, the MTK982, which boasts a huge number of impressive features. The system’s end-toend performance is further enhanced with complementing products such as the CSi16T passive IEM combiner and superb LNN2 log periodic antennas.
What do Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Gorillaz and Cirque du Soleil all have in common? This isn’t the set-up to some dreadful joke… the answer is that all have selected Wisycom’s wireless IEM solution on their tour riders in recent years. Supported by a 30-year history in the film and broadcast industry, the company is increasing its presence into the world of live events, with many artists now donning a Wisycom beltpack to receive their IEM mix.
Speaking from Wisycom’s Italian HQ, Sales Director, Marika Stangherlin shared the story of the company’s move into the sector.
“We have enjoyed being one of the leading RF equipment suppliers within the broadcast TV and film world for some time but we’re now receiving a huge interest from the producers of live events,” she explained.
“We are already very used to working with the demands of large arenas across the globe. A fine example is Formula 1 and Moto GP racing where our products’ ability to reliably work in remote areas all over the world is a huge asset.”
There is a clear focus within Wisycom to develop premium RF products utilising latest design technology mated with the most advanced software. Everything is produced in Wisycom’s own facilities in Italy. Stangherlin explained that the company’s goal is equipment firmly aimed toward high-end users. “We’re not distracted by the mass consumer market,” she stated. “This has allowed us to work closely with our new live market partners continually adding hardware and firmware changes to meet their exact needs and requirements.”
While Wisycom has a higher price point than some of its competitors, there are some key differences that appear to justify the cost. One of the major selling points that has garnered the interest of many within the live events field is Wisycom’s broad tuning range. With many tours likely to pass through multiple continents – all of which have very different spectrum availability – Wisycom’s wide tuning capability reduces the number of required units significantly.
“The ability to take a single rig on tour that can be deployed virtually anywhere in the world
“It is also worth mentioning that if required our products are compatible with a number of other brands, meaning they can work alongside equipment that the artist may already be using,” added Stangherlin, while talking about how Wisycom’s equipment can be incorporated into tour riders. In 2019, Madonna’s crew toured with Wisycom IEM transmitters, paired with existing Sennheiser 2000 Series beltpacks as they were the form factor the artist knew and liked; however the band were all on Wisycom MPR50 IEM packs.
With Wisycom already working with several big name acts, TPi asked Stangherlin whether the company might look at working with a broader range of artists. Her response? “An interesting question, we are fiercely defensive of our design ethics, high quality and amazing performance always comes first,” she continued. “However, we must not completely ignore artists working with different budgets.”
One long-time user of Wisycom products is Ali Viles of Mission Control, who was featured in the previous edition of TPi where he spoke about dealing with the RF delivery for Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres Tour. For that project, the band and crew were all on MPR50-IEM packs, utilising MTK952 transmitters and Wisycom’s MFL RF-over-fibre system to deliver seamless stadium-wide coverage for all users. “I first used Wisycom products during the filming of a music
Words: Stew Hume Photos: Wisycom
video for Coldplay’s Hymn for the Weekend,” reminisced Viles.
“We were shooting in Mumbai. The band were all wearing IEMs for the shoot so that no one heard what at that time was an unreleased track, and I needed a battery-powered, high ERP, IEM transmitter with a wide tuning range that could transmit the musical content to them. I carried one MTK952 transmitter powered via its DC option in a backpack, along with a couple of spare batteries, and was able to walk freely around the streets of Mumbai, following the band and the film crew.”
Viles explored the use of Wisycom products further while working on a South American tour
with British band Gorillaz, where he was able to make full use of the system’s frequency agility as the tour moved between festival sites and countries in South America.
Viles explains how the broad tuning range offered by Wisycom’s products has become incredibly beneficial for modern live events.
“Part of Mission Control’s offering to the market is that we hold a substantial database of current spectrum availability and regulatory information for a huge range of countries around the world,” stated Viles. “In recent years, the available spectrum for radio microphones and IEMs has decreased significantly while becoming much more congested, so having
products with a broad tuning range is essential when working on large format global tours.”
With Wisycom becoming more of a popular choice for audio teams working in live events, more rental houses have begun to stock the solution. “It has been a gradual build, but we now have many of the big rental outfits stocking the system after they realised the level of performance and audio quality of our products,” stated Stangherlin, adding that the company is undergoing a large growth period. “We’re in the midst of hiring a lot more people and also excited to be announcing some new products in the near future.”
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Created out of a shared love of music, Radiotek was founded in 1993 by the husband-and-wife team of audio engineer Nigel Morris and Tracey Morris. Having experienced receiving radios in crates and cardboard boxes while on tour, Nigel was inspired to start the business to supply the industry with something more robust and practical. Starting with tour kits in plastic peli cases, the company moved on to producing bespoke custom rolling cases that included all the communications kit a tour would need.
Some 30 years later, with live touring accounting for more than 70% of Radiotek’s rental business, and the remainder consisting of summer festivals and large-scale one-off events, the company is a household name with long-standing relationships throughout the industry. So, when the Morris’s were discussing retirement in 2021, they were not ready to let their industry nor these relationships down and
an approach from global communications giant CSE Crosscom came at the ideal time.
“Nigel and Tracey wanted the legacy of the strong business they had built to continue to serve the sector and grow and were very passionate about ensuring their loyal employees were looked after,” explained Operations Director, Laura Swain, recalling how the acquisition came about. “CSE approached them, and the legacy is secured.”
She added: “The strategic move aims to leverage Radiotek’s core strength in shortterm event rental while providing scaled and expanded opportunities to serve a broader customer base and larger event capabilities.”
With the Morris’s having stepped back from active management duties in 2021, the future of the company is in the hands of its loyal team, which will have new opportunities under the new leadership. “The long-standing employees have a host of connections, knowledge, and
experience, and CSE can offer the opportunity for growth for personal development, training, and promotion,” Swain said. “For example, one of the Radiotek engineers has recently joined the sales team, which is great with his fieldbased background and knowledge.”
While Radiotek now falls under the CSE Crosscom umbrella, the company is determined to offer the same level of service it always has while investing in new products and technologies. “It’s inevitable that things move on, but the goal of the new leadership is to create a balance of old versus new,” Swain stated. “We’ve worked hard to ensure that each client has received the same quality of service and support while we have been transitioning. All contact details and the day-to-day running of the business is the same. We have a new logo, which is being rolled out across the website, paperwork and on products we use, and all customers have been notified of the commercial and business details that have changed. The transition has been seamless.”
With the company celebrating its 30-year anniversary in August 2023, Morris looked back fondly on some of Radiotek’s many highlights, including supplying the comms at Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and seeing Brian May dance on the palace roof.
Morris also recalled some challenges over the years – one being the difficulty in servicing clients once they had left the UK on tour. Swain picks up on this, citing a recent occasion when Ed Sheeran needed some extra equipment for a venue in the US at short notice. “With the new ownership, CSE Radiotek could accommodate this the very same day,” she revealed, recalling that another CSE-owned company, Orlandobased Radio One, was called upon to supply the kit, resulting in no disruption to the tour. “With the new ownership, we now have global reach giving us greater capability and support.”
Af ter navigating the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic and serving the industry in the incredibly busy period since, Radiotek CSE is set to continue its growth under its new ownership. “It’s been a busy time,” stated Swain, reflecting on the skewed state of the industry with tours rushing to get out after lockdown. “For the 2023 season, we expect things to go back to previous year’s norms.” www.csecrosscom.co.uk
As the radio hire specialist joins CSE Crosscom, TPi checks in with Co-Founder Tracy Morris, along with Operations Director, Laura Swain.
Words: Alicia Pollitt
Breakthrough Talent Award winner, Jake Mazzuca, discusses his new role as Head of Production at Only Helix…
What advice would you want to offer to those who want to follow in your footsteps?
“I’ve been lucky in meeting the right people at the right time, but I think the reason that has happened is because I have worked to be in the right place and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I would encourage anyone looking to progress in this competitive industry to go above and beyond. I began life on the road as a FOH Engineer, but I went above and beyond – planned routing, allocated budgets, and helped bands and performing artists as much as possible, even if it wasn’t in my job spec. The social aspect of touring is equally important, you can be the best at your job technically but if you’re not personable or able to share a bus with other people then you’re much less likely to be invited back in my experience.”
How did it feel to scoop a Breakthrough Talent Award at Production Futures ON TOUR?
What first sparked your interest in touring?
“I grew up in a music orientated household, I’ve played drums in bands and have been involved in music in some way from an early age. After spending my early teenage years learning music production, I decided to study studio and live music production at university. Initially, I wanted to work in a music studio and produce records. However, I fell into live music, began learning audio engineering from a live point of view and started mixing live gigs and absolutely loved it. The different challenges posed by live shows suits me as an individual, I’ve spent my fair share of time working in offices before and they aren’t as fun, to say the least!”
What does your new role at Only Helix entail?
“I was approached by Only Helix Director, Tom Nicol, who I had known for a couple of years at this point, to come on board to oversee production at Only Helix, which is an exciting opportunity and feels like the right step for my career. I now oversee the production side of the company’s portfolio alongside Only Helix Director, Steven Down. As a production
company we’ll start by getting into the strategic planning of a tour and liaise with suppliers, managers, and labels to then formulate budgets and advise on the best way to execute a show or tour. We then build and plan the tour, creative and team to go on the road with the setup. I’m proud of the work we do and the team we have.”
Why was Only Helix the perfect fit?
“We share the same way of working and our morals and guiding principles are aligned. Only Helix invests in people, and they strive to develop and nurture young talent in the sector – which is something I am passionate about having been given the same opportunities myself.
Only Helix has the experience of doing the biggest shows and tours in arenas and stadiums, which is somewhere I aim to be very soon. Taking on this role was a big step up for me but is an equally beneficial opportunity for me to learn – Tom and Steve are so good at what they do, and they are very willing to pass on their knowledge which for me is invaluable.”
“It was a welcomed surprise. It is something that I am very proud of, and it felt like the perfect indicator that I was on the right path in tour and production management. It has inspired me to make as much of my career as possible, I have high expectations of myself and even though it was nice for the work I have been doing to be recognised and rewarded – I believe that there is still so much more work for me to do before I reach the high levels I have set myself and have been inspired to achieve by the amazing people around me.
What’s next for you and the team?
“We are working with over 13 unique touring artists now so it’s an incredibly exciting time at Only Helix. Recently, I hit the road for a sixweek tour of 16 festivals across Europe with KALEO. This was followed by headline shows with The Snuts at SWG3, a tour of Australian and Japanese festival slots, as well as providing production/tour management responsibilities for Olivia Dean’s Somerset House show before further gigs in Japan and the US.”
102 PRODUCTION FUTURES
Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Production Futures
Breakthrough Talent Award winner, Sarah Philpot, reflects on her transition from lighting design to mixing live sound, and the backstage gender bias she’s encountered along the way.
What first sparked your interest in sound engineering?
“I spent most of my childhood stood next to PA desks in pubs because my parents were in bands and toured the pub circuit. I also used to perform at open mic nights, playing piano and guitar. I stepped in as a lighting tech last minute for a school production, but my heart was with live sound, so I began learning the basics using ancient theatre equipment.”
Have you faced any additional barriers breaking into the sector?
“Most people are really interested in getting me on board their company, band or their venue and it can be a really uplifting experience until we get to things like rigging and derigging, where suddenly I’m deemed not strong enough to pitch in. I knew when I was beginning that being weak wasn’t going to work in my favour, so I worked hard to make sure that even if I
couldn’t necessarily do a thing the way a man would do it – I have a different approach that would mean I could still lift a heavy speaker onto a tripod stand. There is still an outdated preconception that men are stronger, more capable and should exclusively lift heavy equipment. However, like I tell everyone, if I need help, I will ask for it.”
How did it feel to win a Breakthrough Talent Award at Production Futures ON TOUR?
“It was a shock but I’m so happy to have won, I later found out that my close friends and previous winners, Gabi Wilson and Elliot Baines, as well as the course leader from my masters course had nominated me, which was unbelievably sweet.”
What advice would you offer others looking to follow in your footsteps?
“Have confidence in your abilities and know
your worth. If someone expects you to work for free, they don’t believe you have enough knowledge or experience. Doing work for free is what makes this industry white and middle class because that demographic is more likely to be able to work for free. Equally, networking is an important part of the industry, so make sure you push yourself out of your comfort zone and build as much valuable contacts as possible.”
Where can we expect to see you in the future?
“I’ve recently been working for Barefoot Live as a sound technician. I have been working as a sound technician at at weddings which is good fun, it’s a great pathway to the touring circuit. During and post-university, I was entering venues that already had systems in place, but I soon realised that I didn’t understand how a PA system was put together, so working at weddings has helped me learn exactly that.” www.productionfutures.co.uk
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X-Laser President and CEO, Adam Raugh reflects on the months of in-house development, machining, and prototyping in collaboration with Strictly FX, which led to the development of the firm’s latest laser projector.
What are the origins of the Triton laser?
“We’ve collaborated with Strictly FX for years and it’s always led to some of our most creatively fulfilling projects. The Strictly FX team is incredible; they’re smart, focused, open-minded, and driven. The Triton came from Strictly FX wanting a system that was road ready for multi-year tours and had phenomenal colour balance instead of the more typical ‘blue-heavy’ systems you see in the higherpowered laser market these days. This was also a system intended for a decade or more of service, so it was designed to be incredibly serviceable and upgradeable over time. Even now we’re fabricating some upgrades for the mounting system that are a direct bolt-on replacement that can be done in the field.”
How long did it take to introduce this fixture to the market?
“Around six months. We started with some rough designs in CAD then built a system to test the thermal design using large resistor plates to accurately simulate the thermal load of the diode modules we intended to use. After testing the thermal design, we noticed that there were a few phases of revisions but at the end of that process we knew we had a good thermal design and could move forward with fabrication of the first-article system. That first article had the fewest changes for production of any other first-article system we’ve ever built, in large part thanks to having refined our design process for these systems.”
What makes the 36W and 10W version ideal for Coldplay’s latest production?
“The most standout feature of the 36W systems is their colour balance. A 36W
projector would typically have about 6W to 8W of red, but the Triton has 14W of red laser. This makes the laser system cost more, makes it larger, makes it heavier, but it also means you get some of the most incredible colour palettes ever seen out of an RGB laser system. The 10W systems are built for being rugged on the road with the same extreme long-term serviceability as the 36W systems, to the point where we designed the 10W systems to have as many interchangeable parts as possible with the 36Ws. Parts from the EtherStop switch, power distribution unit, yoke mounts, even the entire rear panel of the system with all its electronic components are completely cross-compatible so the Strictly FX team has greater familiarity and consistency with the systems.”
What features will end users be excited by?
“As an engineer, I love the mechanical features and serviceability, but by far the feedback I hear the most is about the colour palette and beam quality. Instead of pushing to get the tightest beam possible we seek to match our beams to be the same across each colour. This gives you better colour mixing and the higher level of red in the system allows for super rich, deep oranges and magentas that you don’t typically see out of higher-powered laser systems.”
Where can we expect to see Triton in the coming months?
“Outside of Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres Tour, 36W Triton systems have mostly been used for large outdoor pyrotechnic events and winter festivals. We’ve limited distribution of these systems to a few select clients who we know will do great work and push the limits of what these projectors can do, then take their
feedback to launch the next generation of this system in 2024 with a wider release.” www.x-laser.com
Photo: Anna Lee (@annaleemedia) and X-Laser
X-Laser President and CEO, Adam Raugh.
MEYER SOUND 2100-LFC
Meyer Sound Engineering Director, Acoustical & Mechanical, Katie Murphy Khulusi lifts the lid on the company’s latest self-powered loudspeaker.
Why was the 2100-LFC created?
“To introduce a new high-powered subwoofer that brought the power of an 1100-LFC, but the new technology and compact profile that our customers expected after the success of PANTHER.”
Which key features of the subwoofer will end users benefit from?
“A few things come to mind: the ultra-low distortion, extended bandwidth, and consistent linearity even at high power.”
How did the pre-existing PANTHER family inspire the creation of 2100-LFC?
“From our success with PANTHER, we saw that it was very important to keep dual analogue/ Milan AVB inputs, prioritise size, weight, and ability to be easily manoeuvred, and general ease of system integration.”
How important is the ‘active cooling’ feature?
“In a self-powered loudspeaker, not allowing the amplifier and driver(s) to overheat is the key to high-powered performance. Our active
cooling system ensures that as the needs required from the loudspeaker increase, we keep the inside of the driver cool. This makes sure that performance stays linear, with very low distortion, even at the highest of levels.”
What does the 2100-LFC weigh in at?
“The speaker itself is 235lbs (106.6kg). We were able to save weight with our new Class D amplifier, single 21in driver, and more efficient, holistic design principles. From the beginning, we put a priority on weight savings and a compact footprint.”
What has the response been from end users?
“The 2100-LFC is just making its way out into the field as the new subwoofer started shipping in August. We are looking forward to hearing feedback on the highly anticipated new sub.” www.meyersound.com
Photos: Meyer Sound
Meyer Sound Engineering Director, Acoustical & Mechanical, Katie Murphy Khulusi.
SPACE BY CODA AUDIO
What was the idea behind SPACE by CODA?
“Content is becoming more immersive, and most people now value 3D audio more than ever before, but there are still questions about how to play it. Many people listen to immersive content on headphones, but this doesn’t provide a totally authentic experience. It is much better to listen with speakers, but that means a lot of black boxes which can ruin the aesthetics. In a trade-off between looks and sound, most people choose looks. Our goal was to create something that meant no compromise was required. We adapt audio to life, not life to audio. The goal was to create crystal clear audio in the CODA mould and be able to improve the space in terms of looks and acoustics, instead of making compromises. So, the concept of SPACE was born.”
Which features will end users and audiences appreciate and benefit from?
“Audiences have become more discerning. They want flexibility and don’t accept any compromises in any area of life. That’s why we have created SPACE, which is so adaptable. Users and audiences value the fact that they can choose between a stereo setup and an immersive setup, and that the panels can be provided in custom sizes and designs for their exact specifications. Users also love the fact that the acoustic treatments are inbuilt. This means they don’t have to worry about
using drapes or hanging acoustic treatments separately. SPACE by CODA takes care of this invisibly. As well as flexibility, audiences appreciate the elite audio performance that SPACE provides.
How long did it take for this product to go from concept to creation?
“The whole project took over three years to get to the point of a working demo. A huge R&D team was involved in developing the technology that makes SPACE work perfectly. Research and testing were the biggest step. This was the biggest and most difficult project our team has undertaken as it is a whole new audience for CODA, and our goal is to create the best products on the market.”
How does SPACE challenge the conventions of how we, as an industry, perceive pro audio?
“The main way that SPACE challenges the industry standards is that people think there will be compromises due to the sound. This is not the case, thanks to our innovations and the fact that our team thinks outside of the box, we’re able to create things that people don’t necessarily think are possible in a 2.75in (7cm) panel, such as bass response as low as 45Hz (easily expandable with our hidden subs). Thousands of people have heard the subs in person and the feedback has been overwhelming. At our demos, people have been
discussing the fact that SPACE by CODA opens new possibilities in the world of audio, which is exactly what we set out to achieve.”
What was it like to collaborate with JeanMichel Jarre for the launch of SPACE at ISE?
“Like all the CODA team, Jean-Michel believes in not making compromises. This made him the perfect person to share the concept and our creative ideas. We see opportunities where other people see problems, and Jean-Michel has the same approach. When it came to the stage where we could demo the concept, Jean-Michel was a perfect match. He loves the flexibility and quality that SPACE provides and uses the products daily.”
Why is it important to develop a solution which is scalable and adaptable to any environment?
“This was the whole idea of the product. Audio that can adapt to your space, that is better than the competition, not just a passable alternative. People can see from the frequency response, SPL handling, and how our product handles the time domain, that using our SPACE panels provides a better sound than black box alternatives, even though it is totally scalable and adaptable for use in theatres, all music venues, lecture halls, houses of worship, galleries, and anywhere else professional audio is required.”
Premiering at Integrated Systems Europe (ISE), David ‘Webby’ Webster reveals how SPACE by CODA Audio combines technology with art to create a unique audio-visual experience.
Photo: CODA Audio
The Only Truly Integrated System Solution space.codaaudio.com Art and Music meets technology
CLAYPAKY: LIGHTING EFFICIENTLY
Claypaky Sustainability Manager and Facilitator, Andreas Huber reveals the steps taken to become the lighting sector’s first ISO 14064-1:2018 certified company.
Since 2022, Andreas Huber has spearheaded Claypaky’s Sustainability Project, which recently achieved a notable milestone in becoming ISO 14064-1:2018 certified. Developed by the International Standards Organisation – a non-governmental organisation in Geneva, the ISO 14064 provides companies with a framework of best practices upon which to build a Greenhouse Gases reduction programme. Claypaky has now completed the first part of the initiative and is proud to have become the first company in the entertainment lighting industry to receive certification in the carbon inventory management system. As well as achieving this milestone, Claypaky has defined and implemented several projects to reduce the environmental impact of its business activities. They include plasticfree packaging, investing in green energy, and offsetting its aeroplane travel as well as implementing a Kanban control system into the manufacturing process to increase efficiency and reduce waste.
“Our sustainability goals have been driven by CEO, Marcus Graser,” explained Huber. “We have some ambitious plans but if we don’t have the backup and support from the top down, we won’t succeed. You need the belief and resources to enact the changes we have made.”
Huber believes his extensive background in Claypaky’s R&D department has helped facilitate the ISO certification process. “From the very beginning, we had a clear plan of which steps we had to take. Having worked within the technical department and understanding the material used, as well as the supply chain has been incredibly beneficial. You can only handle your carbon footprint when you ‘understand’ your carbon footprint,” Huber said, recalling the companywide evaluation of raw materials, transportation, and how materials are processed through to manufacturing, packaging, and the life cycle of each lighting fixture.
After the intense investigation over nine months, Huber enthused that Claypaky now knows “precisely” what its CO₂ emission footprint looks like. Following this analysis, Claypaky is now able to put in place concrete measures to compensate, reduce and eventually neutralise the company’s carbon footprint. “We are pressing ahead with the development of a comprehensive sustainability strategy and setting ourselves specific targets with the goal of making our own operation carbon neutral by 2030.”
These efforts are also influencing the creation and introduction of new Claypaky products, software, and features. “We’ve made significant strides to provide end users the ability to analyse the energy consumption of each fixture, giving productions the ability to calculate their carbon footprint,” concluded Huber. “We are also working hard to improve the efficiency of each of our lighting solutions. That is also one of the reasons why we invest heavily in laser technology, as such sources deliver high lumen-per-watt efficiency. For example, a powerful Beam like the Xtylos consumes around 300 to 400W, whereas an LED source would consume around 1,000 or 1,200W.” www.claypaky.it
Words: Stew Hume
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AN ESSENTIAL TOUR TOOL
The brains behind Eventric’s Master Tour explains how the cloud-based software is set to transform the workflow of production and tour managers.
Words: Alicia Pollitt
Master Tour, a cloud-based software created to assist production and tour managers with the organisation of their logistics, has become a familiar name within the live entertainment and touring industry with 65,000 monthly users. Initially developed to help build tour books, Master Tour has adapted to the shift from paper to digital platforms in recent years with an accounting feature, guestlist module and a section on advancing a tour among the key features.
“Master Tour has grown in popularity organically, primarily through ‘word of mouth’ recommendations from trusted relationships in the live entertainment and touring industry,” Eventric CEO and founder, Paul Bradley commented, highlighting the creation of sister platform, Master Venue.
“The first t hing we’re doing is going out to venues and saying ‘80% of the tours visiting your venue use Master Tour – here’s a new tech pack’, which is standardised whether it is a festival, club, arena – we’re going to be able
to go to the Master Tour directory and see the information.” Going forward, Bradley hopes to introduce a crew database which is more accessible for production crew and support teams by providing end users with access to every tour they’ve ever worked on.
This, he believes, will allow them to create resumés and promote their skill sets on the platform. With greater focus than ever before on fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment on the road, Master Tour plans to partner with industry-related mental health charities and support networks.
“We’re talking with Backline to help bring mental health into different tour services because when you’re out there, especially touring globally, it can be a chaotic atmosphere, but there are lots of wonderful people that can bring these services to those who need it the most.” While it’s still in Beta stage, Bradley expects Master Tour to be released by the end of the year. www.eventric.com
Ian knows live event technology. He knows his products & customers and sees & creates the future.
We work with world-leading Audio, Video and Lighting brands and suppliers to help find top talent for their business and engineering teams in the UK, EMEA, North America and APAC. Interfacio connects professionals with world-leading pro AVL brands.
Int: +44 208 986 5002 | USA: 1-800 578 0144 www.interfacio.com firstname.lastname@example.org @interfacio
Eventric CEO and founder, Paul Bradley.
Ian looks after your product so that your customers can look after their business.
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TPi is pleased to announce it’s first confirmed speaker for GTL Sessions, Harry Styles’ Tour Director Morgan Dentch. We sit down with her to hear about her history with the live events industry.
When did you land your first job in the live events industry?
“I went to university for theatre to become a stage manager. Upon graduating, they laid out two strategies: go to New York, work at Starbucks, and try to make it on Broadway; or go on tour, have no bills, and see the world. I found the second option far more appealing, and my first tour was with Sesame Street Live They didn’t have a stage manager opening, so I was hired as the assistant tour manager and my first task on tour was a meet-n-greet with Elmo and 100 excited kids. The four years I spent with that show provided me with an excellent education on touring, management, and logistics. I really did learn to count tickets, merchandise, and luggage on Sesame Street!”
How have you found the transition from Tour Accountant to Tour Director?
“I really enjoy the niche role of tour accounting. It utilises similar skills as tour managing, but with the ability to dive deep into spreadsheets, contracts, and reports. However, it can feel limiting – tallying up what has already happened, with only some ability to affect change. As Tour Director, it is great to have a 360° perspective, especially with an artist as dedicated and dynamic as Harry Styles. With the focus more on the planning, budgeting, and hiring; helping to combine everyone’s hard work to achieve a successful show.”
What does your new role entail?
“The role of Tour Director can alleviate some of that pressure – providing a bridge between artist management and the tour, while serving
as an extension of both entities. They ensure that communication and efforts are aligned between all involved, keeping the team functioning, on schedule and within budget. The Tour Director position may be a luxury for most productions, but it is a necessity for the big ones.”
How have the past two years been?
“I’ve had the privilege of touring around the world with some of my favourite artists, including Dead & Company, John Mayer, and Harry Styles. I’ve also joined Full Stop Management as their Director of Touring. I’m very excited to expand my attention further in
this role, lending support across the talented and hardworking artists we represent.”
Are you looking forward to GTL Sessions?
“I am very much looking forward to the GTL Sessions this coming May! We’re often too busy working to take the time to reflect and reconnect with our peers. Tour Managers and Directors navigate unique challenges and varied needs, with high expectations to deliver. And we depend so much on our travel partners. What a treat to spend three days in a beautiful location while learning from and connecting with some of the best in the industry.” www.gtlsessions.com
114 BACK CHAT
As Tour Director, it is great to have a 360° perspective, especially with an artist as dedicated and dynamic as Harry Styles. With the focus more on the planning, budgeting, and hiring; helping to combine everyone’s hard work to achieve a successful show.”
Morgan Dentch, freelance tour accountant, director and manager.
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