THE CURE A production blending the band’s 45-year career with cutting-edge technology
SHANIA TWAIN Meet the team making the singer’s Queen of Me vision a reality
ADELE THE SUGABABES A The production band’s original with the star’s personality members grace and style the stage woven into of The every O2 arena detail
BLINK-182: WORLD TOUR The original line-up returns for a nostalgic show with special effects aplenty
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ALL ABOARD THE NOSTALGIA TRAIN With this issue featuring not one but two stories about three-piece bands bringing back their original line-up to the stage, the theme of nostalgia is very much running through this edition. The funny thing about nostalgia is that it forces you to reflect, and as I pen this final leader letter of 2023, it’s an ideal chance to look back on everything TPi has gone through in the past 12 months. We’ve welcomed Phil Tucker, Sheelan Shah and Alicia Pollitt into the TPi family, Fran and Alice have overseen our most successful TPi Awards ever, while Jacob, Pete and I have continued to broaden the scope of what we feature in these pages, with on-site coverage from new regions and hot topics covered in more depth than ever before. We also launched GTL Sessions, taking place in May next year, to provide a new platform in which tour managers and suppliers can mingle and trade thoughts on the future of the industry. Exciting times are ahead. For this month’s cover story, Jacob headed to one of the most anticipated tours of the year, as pop-punk pioneers blink-182 performed with singer and guitarist, Tom DeLonge for the first time since 2014 [p38]. The magnitude of this reunion was not lost on the crew, who all seemed to be excited to play a part in this historic tour, which certainly brought the firepower. Meanwhile, I pulled double duty, covering both Shania Twain [p52] and the Sugababes [p64] at their respective O2 headline shows. Having already toured the Queen of Me Tour in the US, Twain and her long-severing crew brought the glitz, glam and cowboy hats of this colourful production to her UK fans. With the artist assuming the creative director role, this was a production that in every way came from the mind of Shania Twain, from content creation to costume design. Meanwhile for the Sugababes, the relatively newly formed team were riding the wave of several successful appearances over the past 12 months and entered The O2 with 20,000 die-hard fans wanting to hear some of the band’s pop-R&B classics. Despite Alicia only being with us for a few months, she has already been hard at work, visiting the crew behind Luke Combs’ latest tour [p14], interviewing the band formerly known as Easy Life’s FOH Engineer [p26] as well as speaking to the visual team behind Karol G’s US stadium tour [pp32]. We also had Steve Jennings on site in the US covering The Cure [p20], while Jacob delved into the visual side of this year’s MTV Video Music Awards [p28]. Away from our gig coverage, I gathered some of the leading manufacturers from the world of in-ear monitors to talk about the three decades history of this now-vital element of live shows [p78], while Jacob spoke to the incredible Marisa Rinchiuso, who shared her experience within the live entertainment sector as an ambulatory wheelchair user and explained how she hopes to change the perception of what it means to be a modern-day ‘roadie’ [p102]. Outside of the magazine, planning for the TPi Awards is in full swing. As part of our new voting procedure, the company applications have now closed and I’m about to liaise with our newly appointed TPi Academy, to start collating their votes for all the individual awards. Tickets are still available at www.tpiawards.com – get them now to avoid inevitable disappointment. Thank you to everyone who has helped with all the content from the past 12 months. I’m sure between LDI, JTSE and The Conference: Live at Lititz, we’ll see many of you before the end of the year, but for those who we don’t manage to catch, here’s to 2024. Until next time, Stew Hume Editor
Issue #278 November/December 2023 Editor Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Editor Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7592 679612 e-mail: email@example.com Editoral Assistant Alicia Pollitt Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7508 441986 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Commercial Director Fran Begaj Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7852 336728 e-mail: email@example.com Account Manager Matilda Matthews Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7413 555978 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Account Manager Phil Tucker Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7522 130473 e-mail: email@example.com Account Manager Sheelan Shah Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7401 690960 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Digital Content Manager James Robertson Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7725 475819 e-mail: email@example.com Marketing and Events Manager Alice Clarke Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7752 392465 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial Director Peter Iantorno Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7763 233637 e-mail: email@example.com Chief Executive Justin Gawne Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7768 850767 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Accounts Lynette Levi / Sarah Miller: email@example.com Mondiale Group Chairman Damian Walsh Graphic Design & Production Dan Seaton: firstname.lastname@example.org Mel Capper: email@example.com Cover Photo blink-182 Photo: Joe Okpako Printed By Buxton Press • www.buxpress.co.uk Annual subscriptions (including P&P): £42 (UK), £60 (Europe), £78/$125 (RoW). Subscription enquiries to: Subscriptions, Mondiale Media Limited, Strawberry Studios, Watson Square, Stockport, SK1 3AZ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)161 476 5580 Fax: +44 (0)161 476 0456 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.tpimagazine.com www.tpiawards.com
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. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Publishers or Editor. The Publishers accept no responsibility for the return of unsolicited manuscripts, photographs, illustrations, advertising materials or artwork. Total Production International USPS: (ISSN 1461 3786) is published 12 times a year by Mondiale Media Limited United Kingdom. The 2023 US annual subscription price is 117USD. Airfreight and mailing in the USA by Agent named Air Business, C/O WorldNet Shipping USA Inc., 155-11 146th Avenue, Jamaica, New York, NY11434. Periodicals postage paid at Jamaica NY 11431. US Postmaster: Send address changes to Total Production International, Air Business Ltd, C/O WorldNet Shipping USA Inc., 155-11 146th Avenue, Jamaica, New York, NY11434. Subscription records are maintained at Mondiale Media Ltd. Waterloo Place, Watson Square, Stockport, SK1 3AZ, UK.
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LUKE COMBS’ CAMP RELY ON SHURE SOLUTIONS The sound crew behind the American country singer-songwriter’s first headline arena tour in the UK put their faith in Shure’s extensive portfolio to ensure uninterrupted audio is a prerequisite of the production.
Words: Alicia Pollitt Photos: TPi
RF Coordinator and Monitor Technician, Dan McLaughlin.
Luke Combs’ touring camp has recently entrusted a catalogue of Shure solutions to ensure reliable and interference-free audio transmission of its wireless microphone and in-ear monitor systems on the American country singer-songwriter’s Growin’ Up and Gettin’ Old World Tour, as it traversed the globe, performing in arenas across the UK. With streaming services pushing country music to the forefront of the UK music scene, and the triumphant Country to Country (C2C) music festival taking place annually, country music has never been more accessible. On site at London’s The O2 ahead of Luke Combs’ final night of back-to-back shows in the venue, marking his last date on the transatlantic touring calendar – Jack Drury, Artist and Entertainment Relations at Shure, emphasised the brand’s excitement for supporting this landmark gig for the growing country music scene, and the artist’s camp. “We are proud to support this tour. Jason Waufle [Shure Manager of Pro Audio Product Marketing] has done an awesome job at building and nurturing a relationship with the Luke Combs camp in the US. It has been a Shure-heavy rig from the outset and we’re happy to play a small part in the delivery of this impressive production.” Combs’ team of engineers and technicians utilised Shure Axient Digital’s Frequency Diversity mode to ensure uninterrupted audio with 40 channels of Shure wireless products, climbing up to 110 frequencies on stadium shows, including coordinating for the opening artists. On stage, Combs also personally used a Wireless Cardioid Condenser handheld
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KSM11 microphone on-stage – meaning that transmitting the audio from one capsule to two separate, uninterrupted frequencies was of paramount to RF Coordinator and Monitor Technician, Dan McLaughlin. “In the US, my DTV channel is six MHz but here in the UK it is eight MHz, which is more usable. It is even easier in Australia,” he explained, citing how he regularly takes advantage of Shure’s Wireless Workbench, as an early adopter of the free-to-access software. “This year, we switched out a few in-ear channels to be higher in the duplex gap because going into the stadiums, I had looked ahead of time at the scan data and I saw that it wasn’t going to work. Having that foresight and making a swift change to the systems has made for a much easier tour.” The wider Shure-heavy RF rig featured a PSM 1000 in-ear monitor system, an AXT600 Axient Spectrum Manager, a AD610 Diversity ShowLink Access Point, ADX2, ADX2FD and AD2 Beta 58 handheld transmitters, ADX1 and AD1 Backline bodypack transmitters. A PWS Alpha combiner was used on the Axient
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microphone/backline equipment to create a multizone antenna network. Collaborating with Mission Control, McLaughlin worked alongside Sam Cloud to help coordinate the tour’s RF in Europe. “The support from Mission Control and Shure has been amazing. Jason Waufle has become a good friend of mine; he provides regular support and is a top-notch person. Although Shure is a massive company, Jason has been my direct line of contact, which makes the world of difference.” Monitor Engineer, Michael ‘Zues’ Zuehsow mixed the band on a DiGiCo Quantum SD7 console with processing courtesy of three Rupert Neve Designs 5045 primary source enhancers, a Bricasti M7 reverb and a Klang DMI Card. “There was something about the KSM11,” he said, reflecting on Luke Combs’ vocal mic of choice. “When Luke sang into it during rehearsals, it struck us as exactly what Todd and I were looking for. We felt it was the one microphone that could capture and amplify the unique characteristics of his voice.” FIR Audio Xenon6 were the IEMs of choice for artist, band, and wider crew. FOH Engineer, Todd Lewis mixed the band of eight on stage, using around 128 channels on his DiGiCo Quantum SD7 console, including talkbacks. The complete control package was provided by Combs’ longstanding audio vendor, Special Events Services. For the UK dates, Adlib provided an L-Acoustics K1 and K2 PA system, offering further on-site support. “SES always provides excellent support and equipment, likewise with Adlib, who we are collaborating with for the first time in the UK.”
Despite running snapshots, Lewis preferred not to automate EQ within his mix, explaining: “I think it’s dangerous because we’re playing arenas and theatres and you can’t get away with it. Our tones are consistent; once I get a basic blend I can go from there,” he remarked. Lewis’ studio-worthy outboard gear included a Bricasti M7, an Eventide H3000, a Rupert Neve Designs 5045 and Portico II. Meanwhile microphones came in the shape of Shure KSM11 for vocals, Sennheiser E901 condenser bass drum microphone, Shure Beta 52A kick drum microphone, SM58 dynamic vocal microphone, Beta57, E614, E904, VP88, and Beta58 with DPA 5100 models chosen as ambience microphones. Between the famed nightly proposals and the sheer volume of the crowd, Lewis says every show is raucous, unpredictable and a pleasure to mix. “The audience hit 110dB at the first London show after a couple got engaged,” he remarked. Before a cascade of cowboy boots, hats, and plaid shirts descended on to London’s The O2 with a thirst for beer and live music, McLaughlin reflected on the astronomic rise of the artist and the camp’s growing symbiosis with Shure infrastructure in recent months: “It is cool to see how fast he, and country music in the UK and Europe is growing. This tour has been a career highlight for a lot of us involved, and we couldn’t have done it without the technical support of Shure.” www.lukecombs.com www.adlib.co.uk www.shure.com www.specialeventservices.com
Monitor Engineer, Michael ‘Zues’ Zuehsow; FOH Engineer, Todd Lewis.
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THE CURE: SHOWS OF A LOST WORLD The English rock band blends their 45year career with evolving technology, meticulous lighting cues and a dedicated crew to deliver a visually stunning and dynamic rock show designed for devoted fans and newcomers alike.
Words: Steve Jennings Photos: Steve Jennings
TPi recently caught up with The Cure on their Shows of a Lost World Tour 2023, where the band still exhibit long sets showcasing their historic catalogue and a rock show that defies odds despite Robert Smith’s plea to keep ticket prices low. As the band celebrate a 45-year career, the show is designed for dedicated fans and newbies alike. The Cure’s Lighting Designer and Director veteran, Angus MacPhail said working with the band all these years has been a process, an evolution: “The lighting and set have evolved quite organically, from my experience along with personnel changes and new technology.” MacPhail said that for him there was a rather large gap from the early years, starting in clubs and lugging around small lighting rigs, that enabled touring even a small country with several shows. Touring clubs in Australia and New Zealand, even touring with a circus tent in the Netherlands, noted MacPhail. “It’s not really possible now as most smaller venues utilise a house lighting rig to which adding a couple of specials is all that is necessary, if that.” MacPhail’s original period with The Cure ended with theatre shows and arena tours, a simple stage set and a mix of the then-available
moving lights, Telescans and similar, which were his personal preference over Vari-Lites. “For me the biggest change from that period was moving from clubs to theatre’s, which allowed for more than one truck, several extra crew, selecting fixtures that were not part of the norm then.” MacPhail began working with The Cure again in 2011, with an evolving rig. “This has continued, and hopefully remains so. There are still elements today that show 1980s origins, and it’s not being lazy, it’s just if the shoe fits. New equipment allows for more evolution, making ideas that are in your head a possibility. Also listening to advice from the lighting/visual team helps especially as they are more familiar with new consoles than I am. The grandMA consoles, especially the MA2 were a real eye opener to me. I did learn quickly that I was not a fast programmer and was never going to keep up with Ben Hornshaw, our programmer extraordinaire! He can easily interpret my cue’s and knows the system well enough to cover all of the possibilities. A big change happened here, in as much as an LD, you were now part of a team, not jack of all trades, every one part of the whole, as lighting tech was
beginning to advance at quite a rate. So, sharing responsibility seemed a natural turn of events,” MacPhail explained. MacPhail said visualisers are brilliant for programming as it’s possible with a little imagination to see the show as it pretty much is. “Live, I prefer ‘eyes to stage’, but using previs checking for compatibility with TV and video, - for glare, etc - is pretty much the norm.” Timecode is used for every song, but not always at the start, and endings vary, so it keeps MacPhail on his toes. “I like that as it allows for some live experimentation!” Even the waiting times between songs have evolved into little mini looks themselves, noted MacPhail. “Depending on which songs are in the following order, the visual looks can vary, so live ‘hands on’ are required.” MacPhail said the number of songs they have timecoded and the number of cues they have for any version of the show is enormous. Then there’s Robert Smith who is involved in the show on all counts: “It keeps us thinking both inside and outside the box. He has a great sense of logic,” commented MacPhail. New lighting fixtures to the current tour are 39 Ayrton Khamsin Spots and Martin
Professional MAC Encores to replace the PRG Best and Bad Boys. They also replaced all the smoke machines with Base Hazers, which give that ‘morning mist’ effect that MacPhail is particularly drawn to. “Venue air filters permitting. We have the GLP impression X4 LEDs that I really like as a visual asset as well as a lighting fixture.” MacPhail used Lee Filters as a constant, with occasional Rosco filters. Now he only uses (unless filming) Lee Lux 400, to soften up the 8-Lites, saying it’s the only filter that works for him. “I always liked Lekos and Source 4s, they’re great for subtle flesh tones and softer light in general. I would use them again in the right environment (small, arty, theatrical setting).” MacPhail likes the way strobes have evolved: “These days with a JDC1 strobe you can do some full-on effects that can give an edge to more subtle investigations of larger scenes. Claypaky Mythos have been a revelation and I have found no equivalent, close but not the same.” MacPhail noted that the band have pulled off some incredible shows. “All the crew have been great, the vibes are excellent, job well done! Chris Scott stepped in for Ben Hornshaw on the West Coast. Thanks, Ben, for prepping him so well. Looking forward to seeing you later in the year. We had a lot of laughs on the production bus, including
some ‘theme’ nights, no not that kind!” Lighting and Video Technical Director, Ben Hornshaw explained that there are over 150 songs programmed within the desk. But that covers years of shows they’ve done. “The band can basically choose from any of those songs to play in a show and we are constantly tweaking and updating them along the way.” Generally, the band sticks to a core list of songs and then will let the crew know in advance if they would like to play something new. “This allows us to check over the songs and update wherever Angus (MacPhail) or the band would like us to do. All the songs are timecoded with the video content and this aspect has allowed the band to be very precise about the show and where changes and intricate details happen in a song. Smith loves long builds over songs to a specific climax point for example.” Hornshaw will break down the song with MacPhail into cues and then sit and listen through the song a few times to get to know it and create a plan for the lighting: “This process is quite efficient and then when it comes to programming. It can be quick and methodical. That’s allowed us over the years to program so many songs in the short rehearsal periods.
Then once the core of the songs is in, we generally do some tweaking and add accents where needed. The band has a large say in the look of the show. Usually relating to builds and drops and colour choices. So, Angus liaises with them to make sure we all are on the same page, and they have what they want. The band’s lighting can be quite literal. Singing Under the Yellow Moon for example.” Hornshaw is on the grandMA2 in MA2 mode, which has been his console of choice for a long time. “It’s a solid board, a good flexible platform for a designer to create their show on. Anything is possible with enough thought. This show has evolved and developed so much over the years that I don’t know if we could ever move off the MA2 onto anything else. Its timecode implementation is fantastic, and its backup and multiuser features are second to none.” Hornshaw and MacPhail both operating the show with an MA2 has them perfectly in sync with each other, allowing them to have exactly what is always needed in front of them. Hornshaw puts out a special thanks to Chris Scott. “I have worked with Angus on this show since 2013 and never missed a show. But this year Chris took over halfway through
The Cure’s frontman, Robert Smith.
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the American tour and took on the batten and the mammoth show like a champ. It’s been a fantastic tour. Supported by PRG worldwide with equipment and crew. “Mark England has been our Lighting Crew Chief for years and is fantastic at bringing in new people to the family and making them all feel part of the show. It’s massively a team effort and I’m proud of the family feel on the tour between all departments. I’ve never done a tour where it doesn’t feel like lighting, video, sound, but one team.” When Video Director, Jon Priest joined the tour, it had already been out in the UK and Europe. This was his first tour with the band. He was taking over from an established show file. “I met up with Richard Menday (who had run the UK/EU tour) for some prep in the UK and he gave me some useful insight into the show file and how the band liked things to look. The show itself is quite straight forward but the back catalogue of songs that The Cure has keeps you on your toes with what we could be changing up each show with our huge evolving set list.” Priest had known Ben Hornshaw for a while and met Lighting Crew Chief, Mark England during prep and then Mac (Angus Macphail) in rehearsals. “The time during rehearsals was valuable to get to know everyone and meet up
with the band. Everyone across all departments were great and it quickly felt like I’d been a part of this group for a while.” Priest said the show is one VX4 disguise media server with an understudy, cameras go through disguise and through a Barco E2. A lot of the songs are content on the back columns and cameras to IMAG: “However this is mixed up during the show. We have seven cameras on stage and one at FOH. The camera at FOH is used for some effect looks on the upstage columns, Mac really likes the infinity look that this gives for the songs we use it on, the lights on those songs then enhance this effect. We have two Panasonic PTZ’s stage left, and right which Robert really plays up to which give a good look for the audience.” “It’s been good to work with both Mac and Ben, they obviously have had a lot longer time with the band, so they know what to do and don’t do, finding that balance has been important. From show to show there isn’t much variance in what we try to achieve, the US leg was interesting because of the variety of venues that we were doing but that helped in some cases so we could achieve some different looks.” Lighting Crew Chief, Mark England first worked for The Cure back in 1992 on the Wish
Tour. He then started up with them again in 2014 and has been with them ever since, up to the present world tour. PRG is again the lighting vendor for the tour, notes England. “The connection is Jon Cadbury, who has had the band’s back for 40 or more years. They have looked after The Cure all that time and they’ve always provided great worldwide service and support. There’s been no difficulty finding lighting packages the band requested as far as I’m aware. In Europe though it was quite hard to find experienced local crew. But otherwise, we’ve been very lucky. It’s a great production and always a pleasure to work for the band, and the production crew are a wonderful team of pros to be out on the road with.” The wider production crew featured Production Manager, Robin Scott; Tour Manager, James Monkman; Production Coordinator, Marie Gallop; Stage Manager, Phil Spina and Rigger, Kurt McLaughlin with technical support from Clair Global/Britannia Row Productions (audio); PRG (lighting and video) and Stage Call (trucking). www.thecure.com www.clairglobal.com www.britanniarow.com www.prg.com www.stagecall.com
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ALLEN & HEATH ON THE ROAD FOH Engineer, Peri Birtles, details how the functionality of an Allen & Heath CTi1500 mixing console enhances his mix for the Leicester-based band formerly known as Easy Life.
Words: Alicia Pollitt Photo: Marisha Shanti Kelly
Keeping it in the family and acting as the FOH Engineer for his brother’s band, Peri Birtles has been with the group since their formation in 2017 and can boast career highlights such as mixing for Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage, touring the world, and engineering sessions at Maida Vale and Abbey Road Studios. “The main highlight I take from it all is looking back and seeing what we’ve achieved together, with the same core crew that we’ve built and turned into an amazing unit,” Birtles explained. Supporting him in these career highlights is an Allen & Heath CTi1500 console, supplied by Solotech. The portable kit weighs under an impressive 23kg with a flight case, adapting to the world of overweight airport fees, designed
to be a mobile console it offers engineers like Birtles flexibility when on tour. “There’s a lot I like about the system, the main thing being the functionality and ability to have extra controllers for dedicated functions like the IP8. The other thing I like about the console, is the power of the dyn8 and the way Allen & Heath have incorporated dynamic eq and multiband compression,” said Birtles. Discussing festival season, Birtles told of a mishap that happened at the band’s first festival this year: “We had our monitor desk, Allen & Heath dLive S3000, in place at the side of stage being built during one of the performances before the band’s set – the weather had been overcast all day but almost
out of nowhere a storm rolled in and unleashed a strong 10-minute downpour including a massive puddle that spilled over from the roof on to our monitor console, we had to hustle backstage to figure a new set up for our audio rig but managed to pull it together and get a show out.” Birtles and Monitor Engineer, Richie Taylor were introduced to the CTi1500 last year when Taylor utilised the desk with IP8 monitors. From using the dLive setup for years, Birtles made the move to the CTi 1500 recently, he elaborated: “The CTi just then brings all of that power and the same layout of screen, soft keys and faders as a bigger desk but in a more compact, lightweight model that you can fly with; in a Scott Dixon case it’s 21kg. The flyability, lightweight and small footprint means I can walk my FOH set up to position in the middle of a field and only need 1 sq m of space.” Going from a bigger console to a more compact piece of kit can be difficult, which Birtles explained: “I grew up using analogue consoles and mixing a lot of reggae dub bands, so I was used to having everything in front of me all the time, the good old days,” he enthused. “Previously, I would have wanted as many faders in front of me as humanly possible on the digital consoles, but we had a very successful summer season last year, using only the CTi1500.” Looking after the band’s crew since 2019, Birtles tells of the collaboration with Solotech: “They have really helped us on our journey, providing great support and audio packages for our live performances.” He concluded: “The show has grown so much since we started in 2017. It’s an honour to be able to work and have a lot of fun with my brother and the rest of the band and crew.” www.easylifemusic.com www.allen-heath.com www.solotech.com
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DESIGNING THE 2023 MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS Production Designer, Matt Steinbrenner and Lighting Designer, Tom Sutherland collaborate with an array of performing artists, support teams and technical production crew to deliver VMAs’ largest and most spectacular stage yet.
Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Getty Images for MTV
The 2023 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) returned to New Jersey’s Prudential Center in September for its biggest and most striking show yet. The event celebrated acts from across the globe including Beyoncé, BLACKPINK, and Taylor Swift – including a tribute to 50 years of hip hop featuring Run-D.M.C., Slick Rick, and Grandmaster Flash, among others. EMMY Award-winning Production Designer, Matt Steinbrenner and Lighting Designer, Tom Sutherland were among the key personnel responsible for creating and designing this year’s production, which saw 16 captivating performances across two identical stages. Speaking to TPi, the two acclaimed designers share their insight into the creative process. The production team used several steadfast vendors in Concord Creative (scenic), ER Productions (lasers), Fuse Technical Group (video), Jet Sets (scenic), Kish Rigging, Scenic Express (scenic), Solotech (lighting), Strictly FX (special effects) with a shared history of the annual showcase. “These vendors have been collaborators with me and my team for
decades… they, quite literally, make this set a reality,” Steinbrenner remarked. Having institutional knowledge of how the VMAs and other large-scale awards shows operate was critical to the success of this year’s design, according to the VMA veteran. “Over the past 13 years, I’ve gathered a wealth of knowledge that I was able to reference to make sure the stage design was not only impressive and dynamic but worked logistically. The VMAs are unique to other awards shows due to the sheer scale of the event. We had two stages, each about twice as large as the other awards shows with lighting, video, special effects, and scenery infrastructure for 16 performances.” Steinbrenner began sketching in March with the final scenic concept established in April. “The Helmet scenic piece alone took over three months to get technically drawn, engineered, and built,” he said, harnessing the creative capabilities of Procreate on his iPad to sketch design ideas before turning to Vectorworks and Cinema 4D to model the ideas in 3D. “The design was conceived
by imagining what a world would look like if audio waves ripped through the arena and sculpted the environment. A 35ft tall Moon Person helmet appears as if the power of sound was so intense that it carved its waves into the metal, etching an entirely new version of the distinctive MTV award. The chrome Moon Person’s visor appears to be shaped by equaliser bars frozen in time, creating a central portal from which the celebrity presenters emerged,” Steinbrenner described. Arching over the Moon Person sculpture was a video installation designed to “evoke the movement of audio waves” through the air and connect both stages anchored at opposite ends of the arena. Each stage featured LED floors and monolithic bi-parting LED walls with integrated lighting. “Intermixing these two medias as if audio waves left their indelible mark as they flowed through the space,” he remarked. The need for versatility of the stages, Steinbrenner highlighted, was foundational to the design. “From a creative standpoint, I worked to ensure that the video canvas behind
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each stage was large enough to showcase narrative scenes for the performance creatives, and to provide cross-shot coverage for the director. Tom and I worked together to integrate vertical lighting products into the LED surfaces, so he had plenty of horsepower to extend the high-energy lighting design into the background,” Steinbrenner said. From a logistics standpoint, managing the traffic of so many large performance sets backstage and swift turnaround times between artists was the primary challenge. A tunnel built for Shakira was so large that it required forklifts to get on and off stage and took a crew of dozens to assemble and disassemble it backstage during the live show. “The VMAs team not only push the boundaries of what’s possible, but we work together and go to extreme measures to realise the dreams that we set forth,” Steinbrenner stated, highlighting the finale of Shakira’s performance where she was raised up on a ribbon lift about 20ft in the air as his favourite
moment. “Tom created a huge laser look above her. We had a four-point spider camera system that was able to circle her 360° as she towered over the audience and dominated the space. It was truly epic!” ‘PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES’ Over the years, Sutherland has designed several iconic VMA performances including Blackpink’s explosive ‘pink venom’ as well as Eminem and Snoop Doggs’ first collaboration in two decades. “MTV let us push the boundaries with our designs, most shows would be paranoid with the amount of seat kills involved in a threestage design, but as far as MTV are concerned, the bigger – the better,” Sutherland explained. The LD worked closely with Steinbrenner during the initial stages to ensure that the lighting and production design worked in harmony. He then spent several weeks working on the lighting plans, engineering, and weight loadings. Once that stage of the process was
complete, he ensured the artists, and their support teams’ creative visions were met. “We used Vectorworks to design plots and Syncronorm Depence R3 for previsualisation. It is a great tool to see ideas rendered and animated before they happen. You’re able to tell if something isn’t going to work and then amend it.” Robe MegaPointes and iFORTEs were the ‘workhorse’ fixtures of this rig, along with ACME Lighting PIXEL LINE IP linear lighting fixtures, which spanned the circumference of the screens. “We were able to run both video and lighting programming through these. Our programmers created some amazing effects throughout the show to bring the stage to life. We also used CHAUVET Professional Color Strike Ms to line curved trusses and define the geography of the set,” Sutherland said, explaining his approach. “It’s vital that I tell a story, layer, and build the lighting for each performance. It’s crucial that we support the performance and not
overpower it. I had three lighting programmers on the show, a laser programmer and a PixMob programmer. Between us, we crafted the lighting design for each act.” PixMob Lighting Designer, Stefan Zubovic commented: “We used PixMob Wavebands with Radio Frequency technology to extend the lighting from the in to the audience. The wristbands were programmed to follow along with each performer, matching the colour and energy of each unique creative. The Wavebands also created a glittering, eye candy effect across the audience as awards and presenters were introduced.” Despite this symbiosis, curating a unique show of varying demands with the same rig was far from plan sailing. “It’s tough to ensure that everything is unique, it comes down to a huge team effort and everyone’s creative input. That’s what makes every performance stand out. Designing a rig with a variety of fixtures is
essential, you must always have something to go from and to. That’s key to the storytelling. This venue also isn’t the friendliest when it comes to weight, so we had to work closely with the riggers to find solutions to ensure that we could hang everything required.” In closing, Sutherland praised lighting supplier, Solotech. “They are a fantastic vendor and incredibly supportive in the process. Account Manager, Harry Forster, always ensures that we’re looked after. Surrounding yourself with an incredible team is always the key to success.” Summing up his experience, Steinbrenner described the project as a ‘dream come true’. He concluded: “It was an honour to have the opportunity to be the production designer this year. The experience and mentorship of great designers before me have been instrumental to my own career.” www.mtv.com/vma
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KAROL G: MAÑANA SERA BONITO TOUR Lighting Designer, Ignacio Rosenberg of Lightswitch reflects on the trials and tribulations of staging a reggaeton spectacle with little lead time.
Words: Alicia Pollitt Photos: Scott Harris
Demonstrating the rising popularity of non-English speaking artists on the global stage, Karol G – the first female artist to reach number one on the Billboard 200 with an entirely Spanish album – recently wrapped up a sold-out stadium tour of North America, backed by an impressive production. Lighting Designer, Ignacio Rosenberg of Lightswitch began working with the artist in 2021. Despite Karol G’s rapid rise to fame and the ever-increasing scale of her live shows, Mañana Sera Bonito feels very personable to the LD. He elaborated: “It’s a very communal environment, to the point where we did the
show and one of the big concerns for her was that she was going to be so far from the audience, and since I tend to design with the idea that people attend an event, not just go see a show, I always try to bring the show into and towards the audience, so lighting the far areas behind FOH seemed like a natural solution to both our approaches.” Strobes were a recurring highlight of Rosenberg’s lighting design. “The introduction to the show is very big – one of the first lighting cues is every strobe on. We wanted to set the bar for the audience showing them how big and ‘in your face’ the show is,” Rosenberg explained. “From opening acts to 200 strobes on is a
pretty big jump and I think that really informs the level of energy the show is going to have. Personally, I love it, it is such a simple cue, but it works so well for the audience to be slapped in the face with the scale of the show.” The reggaeton-inspired track list provided a unique set of challenges for Rosenberg, who chose to illuminate sections of show based on each track’s melody, as opposed to the beat, which he described as “really fun”. The story design came from Karol G, with scripting and storyline development by The Squared Division, placing the show in three sections beginning with blues as a mermaid takes centre stage, then onto magenta and following on with a final burst of colour. Overseeing the visual look of the show was Production Designer Travis Shirley. With just under two months to debut the show, finding a firm that could provide 700 moving lights in time proved challenging. Step forward, PRG. The lighting rig featured 190 ‘powerful’ CHAUVET Professional Color STRIKE M fixtures, which Rosenberg describes as his ‘workhorse’ fixture. “We’re battling with LED screens: everything that isn’t lighting is an LED screen. These fixtures are powerful enough to punch through the brightness of the LED.” A further 110 Robe MegaPointes; 45 VariLite VL3600s; 134 GLP X5 Bar IPs, 50 X4S and 48 JDC1s; 32 Martin Professional MAC Ultra Washes and eight Performances; 12 SGM G7 BeaSts; eight Ayrton Domino LTs; 13 TMB Solaris Flare Q+s; 22 Astera AX5s and a pair of Astera Titan Tubes made up the lighting package. Atmospherics came in the shape of eight MDG The One hazers, all controlled by an MA Lighting grandMA3 full size console in MA2 mode with a grandMA3 Light for backup.
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Rosenberg often strives to maximise the potential of a show while being budgetconscious: translating this to Karol G’s production by putting on a scale of the show that the artist desired. To this end, Rosenberg was closely involved in everything from the previsualisation stages to the build of the show. He noted that if this had not been the case, and he had waited for production rehearsals to begin, he would not have had enough time to programme and light the show. Using Syncronorm Depence software during the previsualisation stages cut the amount of time the crew needed with the physical rig. “I had a programmer making changes so I could be out doing rehearsals with Karol G, make notes and go back and forth with programmers,” Rosenberg stated. The collective nature of the show is important to Rosenberg, who summarised: “I think we’ve created some interesting, subtle and theatrical looks, which is hard to construct with a reggaeton show. Karol G is to the audience how she is to us, she is very genuine on stage and that is a big part of the final design – she really loves her audience, the songs strike a chord and ultimately, it is a giant party, which is what she wanted.” www.karolgmusic.com www.lightswitch.net
OPTOCORE FOR MAJOR TOM Communications, racks, and consoles all exist on a single fibre distribution network, powered by Major Tom-deployed Optocore Festival Boxes on Ed Sheeran’s +–=÷x (Mathematics) Tour.
Photos: Ralph Larmann and Optocore
With bases in the US and UK, rental company Major Tom has continued to work its flexible Optocore Festival Boxes to full capacity in high profile deployments during 2023, none more so than on Ed Sheeran’s extensive +–=÷x (Mathematics) Tour. The company first invested in the Festival Box point-to-point converter (with 12 SFP modules) back in July 2021. They recognised the advantages of being able to tunnel any audio protocol, as well as video and data, over a single fibre providing time, cost, and space efficiencies in multi-act scenarios. Major
Tom Project Manager, Richard Wonnacott commented: “We have found [Festival Box] to be incredibly useful. In fact, it has become the solution to almost every problem we encounter connecting one set of equipment to another, some distance away. The key benefits are the flexibility it provides to deal with whatever is thrown at us, not only in a festival situation, with multiple visiting consoles, but also the ability to run our communications.” Which is precisely how Ed Sheeran’s System Technician, Adam Wells, has been deploying it on the singer-songwriter’s latest world tour.
“Festival Box is the backbone of every show we do,” exclaimed Wells. “It’s fundamental to the point where I couldn’t do a show without it.” As a freelance engineer, who has worked for Major Tom for eight years, he was aware of the presence of this Optocore device in their inventory. “I knew it would be absolutely perfect for this tour,” he commented. “What you plug in is what you get out the other end. It is very intuitive and super easy to use.” The move to deploy it also received the blessing of Production Director, Chris Marsh. The original idea had simply been to use it with the tour’s two support band consoles. “However, the demands of our digital loop got bigger and bigger,” he said. “There were several devices, various SD Mini racks at each of the band positions, a DiGiCo Orange Box picking up MADI, a fully loaded SD rack under the stage for all the RF and another SD MINI at FOH, plus a Quantum 7 [console] with two engines. It became obvious that despite the size of the digital loop this wouldn’t affect Festival Box at all, and we still have multiple options for connections for support bands.” In addition, by dividing the Box into two logical halves they could achieve full redundancy with A / B connections to every device. “This means we can run one snake for the entire show and two support bands plus everything else around it – although it’s with communications that it has really saved the day,” Wells commented. The use of a DiGiCo DMI-OPTO card provided the production HMA connection and OpticalCon availability, with CAT5 connections for their AVB protocol (in this instance) at either end of the multicore. “We also run our communications network, which is an IP-based Clear-Com Helixnet and Freespeak, through Festival Box, as well as the switches that also distribute the
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communications IP network. One thing unique about our show which to my knowledge has not been done before is the ability to use the passive fibre ports on Festival Box for communications antennas,” he explained. “These are specific wavelengths, essentially giving you more fibre connections. We are using those to distribute Freespeak fibre transceivers under the stage. It was an idea I had because we needed a solution to distribute the four Freespeak transceivers, and we had run out of options with copper. We ended up picking up a 1310 nm multimode SFP at either end. It works like a dream and is rock solid.” Aside from Festival Box, Major Tom has enjoyed a good experience with other Optocore devices. “For instance, on the last Ed tour we used the X6R’s and multiple different units to distribute the fibre network, convert to AES and distribute to our Meyer Sound Galaxy processors,” Wells concluded. “There have been no issues whatsoever with Festival Box, how they have dealt with life on the road.” www.edsheeran.com www.optocore.com www.majortom.cc
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BLINK-182: WORLD TOUR 2023/2024 Pop-punk pioneers and their road-tested production team return to the global touring circuit with a raucous live show that sees a giant inflatable ambulance, alien and rabbit share the stage with a leaping Mark Hoppus, floating Travis Barker, and contorting Tom DeLonge. What did you expect from a blink-182 tour?
Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Joe Okpako and TPi
Billed as a ‘reunion tour’ – following the reintroduction of founding vocalist/guitarist Tom DeLonge as part of the pop punk band’s live setup for the first time since 2014 – blink-182’s eagerly-anticipated World Tour 2023/2024, affectionately named the Rock Hard Tour, hit the road on 4 May at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Serving as a precursor to the imminent release of the band’s ninth studio album, One More Time... the band, their dedicated support teams and a road-tested production crew descended on London’s The O2 for two back-to-back soldout shows. In Europe, the technical suppliers included Backroom (power), Beat The Street (crew travel), Clair Global (audio), Stagetruck (logistics), SGPS ShowRig (automation and set), Solotech (lighting and video), and Strictly FX (special effects and lasers). “It’s a fun crew to be around and there’s a symbiosis between departments,” commented Production Coordinator, Ashleigh Volz who supported Production Manager, Jimi Storey on the road, often from the confines of the travelling blink-182 production office. “Understanding each other’s workflows with some of us having pre-existing relationships from past touring camps has been beneficial and, as always, meeting new people is part of the allure of touring.” Preparing a canvas for the team to work from, Lead Rigger, Nicholas Purciful chalked up at the venue with two fellow rigging
professionals in the morning, with 15 trucks worth of equipment arriving shortly afterward, followed by local support and the wider production crew. “Everywhere we go is the first time they’ve done that load-in, and every venue has their own unique system between chalk and pulling points, so the speed in which we progress is often based on the talent of local crew and the infrastructure of the venue,” explained the 37-year-old, who says he grew up listening to blink-182. Stage Manager, Philip Riehl, helped coordinate the logistics of the load-in and -out. “This is a well-designed 40ft by 40ft diamondshaped stage. It was intentionally designed to fit seamlessly into arenas around the world. Although the infrastructure is different in Europe regarding ingress and general layout, overall, the entire touring package is pretty efficient, and can be tightly arranged when we need it to be,” he commented, highlighting the strength of the team. “It’s a well-staffed and organised unit. I’m sure young Phil would also be very proud, touring with blink-182. Man Overboard was my favourite song of theirs growing up, and it still gives me goosebumps every night.” ‘DEEP TAKES AND HIDDEN EASTER EGGS’ “One of the great parts about working for blink-182 is they have such a rich history of graphic content and narrative music videos. This tour is about celebrating the band being
back together and elevating their production without detracting from their aesthetic. blink-182 is a three-piece rock band that feeds off the crowd energy, so we knew the stage footprint didn’t need to be large and we wanted to get them close to, and surrounded by, fans. An advantage to producing video content inhouse is we knew we could really do the content justice and further the story telling of the lyrics while paying homage to the deep graphic history of the band,” TrasK House’s Eric Gorleski explained to TPi. The show was drawn in Vectorworks, which allowed TrasK House to integrate all departments. “For a show like this with so many moving parts this is integral. Our art department did all the drawings for the inflatables so the band could sign off and so we could convey the unique graphic styling to Inflatable Design Group. Once the drawing was signed off, we moved to L8 for lighting previsualisation,” said Gorleski. “The great thing about L8 is you can easily generate renders and automation to show the band how the show evolves over time. Rehearsal time is always at such a premium so we were able to see in the previsualisation stage what tweaks we should make, before lighting was prepared, to get the most out of the rig.” Controlled by Lighting Designer, Griffin ‘Griff’ Dennen, the rig included Claypaky Mythos, GLP impression FR10 Bar, JDC1 Strobe, Martin Professional MAC Ultra Performance, Mole Richardson Type 2921 Molequartz 1K Nooklite,
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and Robe BMFL lighting solutions. Ultratec Radiance Hazer, MDG theONE touring, DMX fans, and JEM ZR45 smoke machines helped create atmospherics. “Griff is the perfect person to operate the show because he cares deeply about doing the music justice, and he does it with a smile. When we were in the trenches trying to do tour rehearsals but lastminute headlining Coachella it stress-tested the team, Griff took it all in stride and with a laugh. He never shied away from the long hours necessary to pull off the variety of shows. Being an LD is often a thankless job, people only see the hours on the floor focusing lighting and running the show, not the countless hours previsualising the show before the gig,” Gorleski stated, praising the LD. “A lot of the visual content relates to previous tours; there are lots of deep takes and hidden easter eggs,” noted Griff. “Being obsessive over my craft, every day I finetune something. We have added FR10 Bars underneath the video wall for this European run. Being able to integrate and pixel map those fixtures to pipe video through is very impactful.” Gorleski concurred: “Watching the video content hit the end of the screen and turn into a shaft of light just doesn’t get old. The LED tape in the stage deck is all pixel mapped too, so even though the video wall is US, the feeling of the video is felt right at the stage.” Griff referenced the intentional juxtaposition of setlist, which saw the energetic Ghost on the Dance Floor immediately trail the more
emotional, narrative-driven Adam’s Song – and as is standard operating procedure for blink-182 live shows, the former features the inclusion of a flying Travis Barker moment, with the drummer and his kit elevated, tilted, and rotated on an automated platform amid an impressive drum solo. “There are lots of highenergy songs with a handful of intimate, darker moments within the set,” the LD noted. Family Reunion captured the profane hilarity of blink-182 and highlighted the attention to detail that is delivered throughout the show. “This song could easily be the last song that a content company does and just rushes through some fart graphics. However, what I love is if you freeze frame on any part of the song there is all kinds of over-the-top copy snuck in on the signs that furthers the hilarity,” Gorleski said. Solotech Lighting Crew Chief, Kevin Chan oversaw a team of six. “It’s been an interesting ride; every department has been extremely open to collaboration and we’ve assembled a team that helps each other on the load-in and -out, which is integral on a production like this where everything is stacked, with automation taking precedence,” he said, referencing the collaborative nature of the stage, which was furnished with band’s iconic logo – a smiley face with Xs for eyes and five arrows on the left side of its face – created using RGBW LED pixel tape, courtesy of SGPS ShowRig. “It’s surprisingly solid and fared well throughout the tour. The integration with the video team, who handle it day-to-day, has been
straightforward. It’s been a pleasure to work with Griff and the wider team.” SGPS ShowRig worked with TrasK House and Jimi Storey to provide automation for the video close down, lighting trusses, bunny and ambulance inflatable, as well as the drum gag. In addition to automation, the firm also provided a custom stage with the band’s logo cut into it, lit with pixel mapped LEDs. “For this tour, Travis wanted to go back to the original drum gag we built for him which we refer to as the ‘Magic Carpet’ – a turntable that we fly from a four point automation rig. This wasn’t as simple as just dusting off old equipment and reusing it. Travis wanted the unit to be slick compared to the raw aluminium rock ’n’ roll look of the past. We reworked the unit and installed lighting into it for a clean, fresh look,” commented SGPS ShowRig’s Benjamin Lampman. “None of this would have been possible without John McGuire of TrasK House. It is a great creative process where we test the limits of what we can do and expand our capabilities.” For lighting control, Griff harnessed an MA Lighting grandMA3 full size console operating MA2 software to timecode. “There are around 96,000 cues and tens of thousands of sequences. Although they may be a threepiece punk band, each of Travis’ drum fills have their own distinct look and treatment,” Griff revealed, praising the tour’s lighting and video vendor. “Shout out to Solotech; the lighting team is A1 – some of the best I’ve worked with.
Their support has been incredible, and they make my life very easy.” Solotech Video Crew Chief, Marshall Blair supervised the build of 144 ROE Visual CB5 LED panels within the set, spanning two automated video walls and a pair of 30ft IMAG screens, powered by two Brompton Technology SX40 processors with content and the LED pixeltape driven by four Resolume media servers, including a main and back up. “We work hand in hand with the automation department to ensure everything is loaded-in correctly. For us, the biggest transition from the US to Europe was a power switch over and changing distros. We have almost brought our entire system from the US, save projection and touring frames for the LED, which came from our UK offices.” Video Engineer, Mark Gonzaba, who was involved in 2019s blink-182 and Lil Wayne Tour, handled the camera side of the video package, which included the deployment of two Sony cameras at FOH, two cameras in the pit, three POV cameras on Travis Barker’s drum kit and a further camera situated on the downstage front of the lighting truss with another on the drum riser. He and Blair both chose the track,
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Aliens Exist, which saw the introduction of a giant, inflatable UFO, pop-up and sneak back into the video wall as a testament to the crossdepartment collaboration and their favourite moment of the set. According to Gorleski, video was the key storytelling tool. “You have a large portion of the crowd at these shows that grew up on blink-182 and now relate to the music on a whole different level. The narrative video content helps pull at those heart strings. Video as a lighting source also plays a part in everything,” he said, citing the inclusion of GLP FR10 Bars at the bottom of the video walls. For Aliens Exist, TrasK House created a bunch of fake historical alien conspiracy headlines including one that had Tom talking about his “brush with aliens” for the US dates. “By the time the European shows came around, world governments were acknowledging what they really know about aliens, so we added a modern, in colour, headline reading ‘Tom was right!’ which received hilarious responses from Tom and the band!” Gorleski remarked. ‘WE FIND OURSELVES AIR DRUMMING’ “Our goal is to make blink-182 sound better than they ever have, and I think we have achieved that based on the feedback we have received,” proudly stated FOH Engineer, Charlie Izzo, who was tasked with mixing what the crowd heard. “[Monitor Engineer] Ray Jeffrey and I first got the call to join this camp when Tom DeLonge
decided to rejoin blink-182 and they began working on the new record, having mixed his other band, Angels & Airwaves. Production asked us who we preferred as vendors and fortunately Clair Global, who were our number one choice, landed the gig. Their global network is unrivalled, and it allows us to source gear from anywhere we visit on the road.” Izzo mixed on a Yamaha PM10 RIVAGE console. “This is the first tour I’ve taken it out on the road and I’m extremely happy with it,” he enthused, showcasing his rack of studio-worthy analogue outboard gear and LiveProfessor software, which was fed via Audinate Dante using Focusrite RedNet for audio-over-IP. On stage, a rack of Rupert Neve Designs 5044 primary source enhancers handled the drums and playback – for synth, piano, shaker and tambourine, among other noises and effects – which arrived digitally to Izzo via MADI. “I do snapshots for every song, little changes in EQ, and a couple of fader moves, working and accenting the vocals and guitars when required. Other than that, the mix is mostly static,” he explained, paying homage to the wider crew. “Fundamentally, the band plays well, they’re great guys off stage, and the crew are equally brilliant.” Audio Crew Chief and System Engineer, Christian Peterson oversaw the Clair Global team and package for the band, as well as handling system design and optimisation of the PA. “This system is an L-Acoustics rig; throughout the various design iterations it has
altered a couple of times, based on the size of the room,” he noted. The arena package saw the inclusion of K2 loudspeakers for the main side rear hangs, flown and ground stacked KS28 subwoofers, supplemented by d&b audiotechnik A10 and A15 loudspeakers as ‘utility’ fills. “This setup has worked great for us. We’ve had a few stadium dates with more traditional K1 hangs with delay towers of K2, which has also sounded impressive,” he remarked, harnessing L-Acoustics Soundvision software for the system optimisation, tuning and measurement process. “Every room sounds different, which is something Charlie [Izzo] and I must overcome. “We spend a great deal of time ensuring there is not an unhappy seat in the house. The O2 can be a challenging venue and there are some spots where the sound wants to bounce around the floor, but we’ve managed to solve that problem.” Monitor Engineer, Ray Jeffrey mixed the band on a DiGiCo SD5 console with Wisycom, the in-ear monitoring system of choice. “This setup is great because we can take it around the world, get the support we need from Clair Global, and it has performed exceedingly well. I use a Rupert Neve Designs 5045 primary source enhancer to help take some of the room out of the equation,” he added, detailing the approach to mixing. “Each guy’s in-ear mix is different. Mark requires a full mix; Tom requires guitar on top and Travis likes a click track with
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everything else layered underneath. Both Mark’s and Travis’ are at fixed volume.” DPA Microphones, a favourite of the engineers, made up the bulk of the microphone package. “We have DPA Microphones everywhere which is a preference of Charlie and I. Around 95% of the microphones on stage are DPA – they’re small, sound great, are reliable and they look stylish,” he stated, highlighting some of his favourite moments of the set. “Stay Together for the Kids is my favourite song on the setlist – the chorus rips and production values are incredible. The room always erupts during that part of the show. I often find myself waking up with some of the new tracks in my head each day.” Peterson chimed in: “We find ourselves air drumming an awful lot!” ‘THE BEST ITERATION OF BLINK-182’ “Although my history with Mark [Hoppus] goes back about 20 years, I’d never toured with blink-182,” Backline Technician, Brian Diaz said, assuming the role of Bass Technician for Mark Hoppus, following the passing of Robert Ortiz, who he paid tribute to. “Having seen them live multiple times over the years, I and
many others believe this is the best sounding iteration of blink-182 yet.” Diaz maintained seven bespoke Fender Jaguar bass guitars and one particularly iconic Precision bass guitar. “All his bass guitars have jazz necks, and they are extremely comfortable. I’d never really played Fender Jaguar bass guitars before and now I’m so used to them, I want to change all the necks on my bass guitars at home,” he said, detailing the custom artwork of each bass. “All of them have ‘one of a kind’ custom artwork. The ‘P’ bass is pink with skulls and is affectionately referred to as ‘Skully’ – he has used that guitar since the ’90s. I believe it’s been in almost every music video and is more famous than me!” he exclaimed, jokingly. “I enjoy the whole set but Up All Night and the newer track, Dance with Me are highlights of mine. Hearing European crowds chant ‘olé’ during the chorus of Dance with Me is spine tingling,” he recalled, giving props to the band. “blink-182 are very crew forward and make sure everyone is taken care of. They know everybody’s names in the crew, and they’ll regularly call them out on stage for doing a great job. Mark often comes into catering to hang out with us, which is cool, and it looks
Monitor Engineer, Ray Jeffrey alongside FOH Engineer, Charlie Izzo with Audio Crew Chief and System Engineer, Christian Peterson; Stage Manager, Philip Riehl; Lead Rigger, Nicholas Purciful; Backline/Bass Technician, Brian Diaz.
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like they are having the time of their lives on stage. What’s more, the crowd are loving every minute.” ‘A FIERY FINALE’ “We have airbursts, confetti, flames, lasers, pyrotechnics, and streamers... There’s a lot going on,” SFX Operator, Tiffany Watson explained. “The special effects and lasers on this show are split evenly across the setlist. Towards the end of the set, the intensity is ramped up, building to a fiery finale with lots of flames and pyrotechnics.” Of the 26-strong setlist at London’s The O2, 15 songs featured an array of special effects – namely, Anthem PT2 (pyrotechnics and flames), Family Reunion (pyrotechnics and streamers), Up All Night (CO2), More Than You Know (flames), Aliens Exist (CO2 and lasers), Happy Holidays (flames), Stay Together (pyrotechnics), Always (lasers), Down (pyrotechnics), I Miss You (lasers), Ghost on the Dance Floor (lasers), What’s My Age Again? (airbursts), First Date (pyrotechnics and flames), All the Small Things (lasers), and Dammit (pyrotechnics, confetti, and airbursts). “My favourite
moment of the set is Happy Holidays, because it’s a flame solo – meaning it’s our time to shine,” declared Watson, who gleefully triggered pyrotechnics using a Fire 1 cue firing system, with lasers triggered by Crew Chief and Laser Operator, Joey Atkinson using Pangolin BEYOND software and everything else via Watson’s MA Lighting grandMA3 console. “I really like working with the band because I can see they are always looking and checking they know where to be,” Watson noted. The wider SFX crew featured Technicians and Spotters, Steve Lewis, and Laura Martin. Watson concluded: “I’m surrounded by a great crew and the band is awesome. During the show, the band acknowledges the hard work of the crew and that goes a long way...” www.blink182.com www.backroom.co.uk www.beatthestreet.net www.clairglobal.com www.sgpsshowrig.com www.solotech.com www.stagetruck.com www.strictlyfx.com www.traskhouse.com
SFX Operator, Tiffany Watson; Solotech Lighting Crew Chief, Kevin Chan with Lighting Designer, Griffin ‘Griff’ Dennen; Automation Operator, Daniel Sturman; Video Engineer, Mark Gonzaba with Solotech Video Crew Chief, Marshall Blair.
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SHANIA TWAIN: QUEEN OF ME TOUR Following an extensive run in the US, the American icon, and her road crew bring ‘Twain Town’ to her legion of UK fans. TPi catches up with the crew on their second day at The O2 to get the low down on this latest production.
Words: Stew Hume Photos: Shania Twain’s production
“I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m having the time of my life right now,” stated Shania Twain an hour into her Queen of Me Tour on the second sold out night at The O2 in London. With a career that has spanned three decades, it’s incredible that Twain still enjoys the rigours of life on the road. Not only does she seem to be enjoying her live performance, what TPi discovered was that this was an artist with a shared passion for understanding every aspect of her production. From overall content themes through to her hands-on approach with the wardrobe department – this was a live campaign borne from the mind of Shania Twain. Greeting TPi prior to doors opening was Production Manager, Denny Rich. Having worked with Twain as Stage Manager on the Now tour, Rich made the jump to the PM role for this latest live iteration. “Prior to this tour she had been doing a residency in Las Vegas, which had been overseen by Joel Ericsson,” he began, guiding TPi to the main floor of The O2. “As it was a residency, Ericsson was the production and tour manager. For this campaign, I oversee the production while he assumes the role of Tour Manager.” The idea behind Queen of Me was formed in the middle of 2022 as the singer’s Las Vegas residency run was winding down. “Queen of Me is a clean break with a new stage design and video content,” stated Rich, praising
“You often get artists that prefer to stay in their own dressing room and have their own private catering, but Shania is all about creativity and is very involved in the overall production.” Production Coordinator, Libby Dostart
the support of the suppliers – Fuse (video), Upstaging (lighting), Eighth Day Sound (audio) and TAIT (set). For the UK run, lighting and video was supplied by Lights Control Rigging (LCR) and Video Design, respectively. “It’s still Fuse’s account but we have brought Video Design to provide equipment for this short run. Likewise, Upstaging has partnered with LCR,” explained the PM. TAIT provided the video floor infrastructure as well as a rear platform with a Perspex staircase built by Das Design Works. In the UK, All Access Staging provided an all-rolling stage. Meanwhile, Beat the Street
provided busses while Transam Trucking handled logistics and Rock-it Global dealt with freight forwarding solutions. Production Coordinator, Libby Dostart highlighted how this tour differs from others: “You often get artists that prefer to stay in their own dressing room and have their own private catering, but Shania is all about creativity and is very involved in the overall production,” she stated, explaining that one of the main focusses is ensuring the wardrobe department have everything they need as this is one area that Twain throws herself into each day. Yolanda Coppola and Jin-Joo
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Maddy headed up this department, along with local seamstress Edie Muir. “I’ve never known an artist to be so involved in that side of her production – she must have been a fashion designer in a previous life,” said Dostart. THE BUILD The overall look of the show was linear with a large rear LED wall with a sizeable lighting mother grid above the main stage, wrapped with LED panels extending the visual content out into the audience. “We have 102 points and the rig weighs 104,000lbs,” stated Rich, highlighting the support of Head Rigger, Brian Collins and Daniel Gibbs. “We’re really quite quick when it comes to load-in,” stated Rich. “We’re usually done in around four hours.” It was clear from a quick glance around that this was not a simple carpentry job, with an abundance of integrated LED on the stage floor to contend with. However, having worked in lighting for a decade, Head Carpenter, Nick Pishghadamian explained it wasn’t too tricky to load in each day. “It’s just signal flow at the end of the day, and we now have this ‘pin system’ that TAIT has provided making load-in very simple.” Pishghadamian also acted as an assistant stage manager for the show, overseeing pyrotechnics for the performance. “Pyrotek has provided us with two LSG per side of the stage along with six up jets for the start of the show,” he explained. Stage Manager, Brandon Bogaert and his team oversaw the deployment of props on stage – namely, a streetlamp, tables
for VIPs and the now-famous motorbike, which was rolled out during the early stages of the show. “Despite its size, the bike is easy to move on and off stage. Our only real consideration is the one cable attached to it to power the builtin LEDs,” stated Bogaert, going on to underline the value of preparation. “One of my main focusses has been keeping our backstage clear and ensuring our storage is not messy. This makes everything a little bit easier and although it requires more effort, it makes load out significantly faster.” DESIGN “I first worked with Shania on her 2019 residency,” recalled Show Designer, Cory FitzGerald. “I was brought in as a creative producer and production designer to help facilitate and interpret her ideas. This latest tour was a complete ground up design where I was taking on a similar role.” He explained that one of the main goals for the show was the content and storytelling aspect to the performance. “For the first 10 songs of the show, we focus on telling this evolving story before going a bit more abstract. In many of those moments, we also have some fun ‘kitschy’ moments with the band interacting with what is going on in the LED screen. In many ways, this show is all about interpreting the LED as a visual landscape and scenic element.” FitzGerald went on to explain how he struck the balance between lighting and video. “My personal background and passion has always been lighting, and how you enhance the
musicality of a show,” he explained. “I knew we needed a sizeable rig but at the same time, I wanted to ensure we did not create any silhouettes or block the video screen.” With this thought in mind, the visual team opted to create what FitzGerald dubs as the ‘marquee’ that hid the flown lighting rig with a canopy surrounding the LED. With such a large LED element, the production brought in BLINK’s Rupa Rathod and Tom Colbourne. Having worked with Twain several times over the years, Colbourne discussed what it was like to be back on board. “When we’ve worked with Shania previously, during the Let’s Go! Vegas residency, she has always handled the creative direction herself,” he noted. “We are firm believers in the benefit of having a singular creative vision as with any show you want design cohesion. You can have the best talent in the world but unless there’s a director pulling everyone together, good ideas often get lost.” He went on to explain that he and Rathod would often speak to Shania through the creative process. “She explained that she wanted to take the audience on a dreamlike journey which made the visuals quite prominent. We created a framework that allowed us to have knowing nods to classic Shania, while also mixing in playful elements.” At the top of the show, the theme was centered around a rocket ship that crash landed into a western saloon town which then led to an alien invasion, which saw extraterrestrials running across the screen that the
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musicians then reacted to in real time. “Shania was very aware of the power of the screen as a theatrical staging device, so if we’re using screens to create a set for the Twain Town Saloon, she wants to have fun with that,” stated Colbourne. “She’ll make a point of performing directly in front of the saloon doors and work out all the band positions that will make best use of that stage set.” When it came to the side screens, Colbourne explained that the goal was to integrate them with the overall look of the show. “We were really pleased with the way the side screens integrated with the stage set and everything considered panoramically,” he said, noting the customisation that the video content underwent during the tour. “There was an idea to create custom signage in the content to make the show feel ‘local’ in each stop. Doing this on a massive world tour with a high-end 3D content was a lot of work, but seeing how effective it’s been for audiences, press and Instagram backdrops shows how worthwhile it was.” VISUALS When it came to lighting, FitzGerald collaborated with Twain’s long-time Lighting Designer and Programmer, André Petrus. “André has been working with Shania for a long time and is very aware of her style and aesthetic,” enthused FitzGerald. “He was
incredibly receptive to ideas and interactive throughout the whole process then really made the magic happen when it came to cueing and programming the show.” Overseeing the design on the road was Peter Smith. At the helm of a MA Lighting grandMA3 operating in MA2 mode, he walked through some of the highlights of the rig. “One of the biggest changes between the US run and the UK was with one of the main fixtures in the mother grid,” stated the LD. “For the US, we had the ACME Lighting Lyras but for the UK, LCR provided us with Ayrton Khamsins – 107 of them to be exact. They are doing a lot of work during the show.” Other highlights of the rig included the GLP JDC strobes along with GLP JDC Line 1000s which were used on the torms and the upstage area, with GLP impression FR10 Bars flanking the floor. “We also have the Robe Flare LRs which we are using as our main blinder with the Ayrton Domino Profile as our main audience light,” stated Smith. “There are four Robe BMFLs at FOH along with Forte upstage each with a corresponding RoboSpot controller.” With the show so integrated with the video content, timecode was a natural choice. “I ride the audience lighting as well as calling the spots,” stated Smith, who also explained that there were often some changes to the set list, and he often found himself reordering the
Production Coordinator, Libby Dostart and Production Manager, Denny Rich; Video Director, Bo O’Brien and Media Server Operator, Ben Rotella; Head Carpenter, Nick Pishghadamian and Carpenter, Tara Boughey; Stage Manager, Brandon Bogaert; Lighting Director, Peter Smith.
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show file to match up to these changes. “LCR has been great and provided us with a really good system,” stated Lighting Crew Chief, Adam Cooper. “I have to admit that I was a little anxious switching from Upstaging to LCR initially, but the team here in the UK have taken a huge weight off my shoulders.” Cooper explained what it had been like working closely with the video team, who he shared a tour bus with. “They’re a great bunch and I really like the look of the video banner at the top of the rig that surrounds the mother grid. Boxing in the rig creates a clean, crisp, overall look.” VIDEO Having worked with Fuse throughout the US run, Video Design picked up the tour inventory – supplying the substantial LED package made up of ROE Visual CB5 LED panels utilising Brompton Tessera SX40 LED processors. Also on the video kit list was a large YES TECH LED floor that displayed content throughout the show to match the themes of the main rear wall. disguise gx 3 media servers meanwhile helped drive visual content. “We’ve got a few Notch layers and it barely even cuts into the resources on this setup. It’s been running so smoothly, and it’s been a great test run using this setup,” Media Server Operator, Ben Rotella said, highlighting the
incorporation of video-over-IP. “We’re at the forefront of the new IP-VFC ST 2110. We’re not quite full 2110 and we go via SDI at times, however, we have full 4K outputs for the gx 3. I believe we are one of the first tours using this out on the road and it’s been very successful.” Video Director, Bo O’Brien shared his directorial goals for the show: “I’m not doing a lot of fast cuts on this show with the overarching goal being to keep the focus on her,” he said, pointing out that most of the IMAG cuts were shown on portrait LED screens. “I like shooting for a portrait screen. In some ways it can be a challenge as you can’t fit as much in the frame, but it allows you to focus on what she is doing and cut out a lot of the extra noise.” Cameras came in the shape of two long lenses at FOH with two handhelds in the pit. “We also have a Panasonic PTZ 150 camera in the roof,” said the VD, who cut the show on a Ross Carbonite switcher provided by Video Design. He closed by commending the cameramen and freelance operators brought in by the rental firm for this project. AUDIO With an impressive resumé which includes working for icons including Phil Collins and Prince, Rob ‘Cubby’ Colby spoke of his time working within the Shania Twain camp. “I started working with her during the Let’s Go!
FOH Engineer, Rob ‘Cubby’ Colby; Monitor Engineer, Connie Fernstrom; Backline Technicians, William Cunliffe and Kyle Henderson; System Engineer, Nils Knecht and Monitor Technician, Nathaniel Fenchak.
residency in Las Vegas,” the FOH Engineer began. “My overall goal is to try to represent the audio the best way I can while also incorporating her thoughts on the show. This is a live performance and there is a human element to each musician which I try to capture each day.” What became clear while speaking to the audio team was that this was a production that simultaneously utilised more modern technology while also making use of some tried-and-tested gear. Twain’s microphone of choice was a Shure SM58. “We’ve tried so many different capsules over the years, but we always come back to the SM58 as this is what she’s comfortable with,” stated Cubby. When it comes to mixing the engineer opted for the DiGiCo SD7. “I’ve been a long time DiGiCo user, since the company’s very early days and was one of the first batch of engineers that was giving them feedback when they were developing the first line of products.” In fact, Cubby’s faith in the desk saw him using very little outboard gear. “I use the Smart Research C2 Compressor across the mix bus to add a bit of flavour. Then I’ve got a few products on Waves such as vocal gates.
“My overall goal is to try and represent the audio the best way I can while also incorporating her thoughts on the show. At the end of the day, this is a live performance and there is a human element to each musician which I try to capture each day.” Rob ‘Cubby’ Colby, FOH Engineer
Otherwise, I’m just using effects on the desk. I’m happy with the inputs we have, especially when it comes to the drum microphones.” When it came to mixing, despite the visual department’s reliance on timecode to sync up the video and lighting, Cubby opted to avoid adding this element into his setup. “I mix the entire show and although I have several
snapshots, I usually find I’m ahead of them. In fact, the last residency had 380 snapshots compared to 65 for this show. I always could do more, but personally I like to be more engaged in the show and follow what the musicians are putting out.” The PA was a d&b audiotechnik KSL system. “I’ve been a fan of d&b for a long time,” Cubby
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revealed. “It was on a promo tour with another artist when we were doing several shows in Germany and France and each of the venues had d&b systems,” he explained, recounting his history with the manufacturer. “After that tour, I looked up who had the biggest stock of d&b in the States which led me to Tom Arco from Eighth Day Sound. Since then, whenever I can, I’ve used d&b – I like to stick with what I know.” Overseeing the PA deployment in The O2 was Nils Knecht. “We have 20 KSL on the main hang with 16 on the sides with six flown SL Subs in between,” listed Knecht. “For the 270°, we have 16 Vs. Then on the floor we’re carrying eight double stacks of SL Subs with some Y10Ps on top with some AL60 for front fills.” Driving the system was D80 amps with a few Lake Processing delays being used at FOH for signal distribution. “Although I didn’t design the system, how we’ve got the PA set up is very similar to what I would have done to ensure the PA didn’t get in the way of the LED screens. Although we don’t have a central hang, with the way the PA is set up, you’re still able to get a great stereo image in the centre of the room.” Monitor Engineer, Connie Fernstrom shares a storied history facilitating the singer’s IEM mix. “She looks for consistency in her mix,” began the engineer. She’s been on IEMs since I started working with her and we had wedges on stage just for dancers but for the longest time we’ve not had any speakers on the stage.” Twain’s IEM of choice was Sensaphonics. “She
prefers the softer IEMs compared to the harder moulds of other brands.” As for transmission, the production utilised the Shure PSM 1000s. “We’ve been lucky as all the video panels we have are not super loud and have not been affecting our RF transmission,” stated Monitor Technician, Nathaniel Fenchak. “In fact, in the UK, where everything is licensed, the last few shows have been straightforward. I’m dealing with the RF for the tour but too be honest including support we’re only talking about 42 frequencies so it’s not too bad.” Fernstrom reflected on his working relationship with the artist. “We’ve been working together for such a long time. I’ve got really good at reading her specific hand signals for what she is after.” Like Cubby, Fernstrom also opted to not include timecode into his setup. “It was raised at the beginning of this run, but I didn’t want to lose control of my mix. In my opinion, if there is ever a problem, I don’t want to be locked into anything.” Also, like Cubby, the monitor engineer utilised the on-board effects of his DiGiCO – a SD5 to be precise. BACKLINE Sitting alongside Fernstrom on stage left were Backline Technicians, William Cunliffe and Kyle Henderson. While Cunliffe was handling an arsenal of guitars, basses and fiddles, Henderson oversaw Twain’s Taylor Acoustic guitars. “We’ve got quite a busy spreadsheet
of guitar changes in this camp,” began Cunliffe. “On the whole, it tends to be a different instrument for each song.” The backline team was using somewhat of a hybrid solution when it came to amp modellers with both Neural DSP Quad Quotex and Kemper being used. “One of our guitarists still had a few of her older songs on Kemper so we still brought them out on the road with our main amp being the Neural DSP,” stated Henderson. “When it comes to effects all comes straight from playback. We find this just locks in the show more and means the guys can be anywhere on stage without thinking about it and makes for a much smoother show.” With the UK run of shows coming to an end, Shania Twain and her hard-working production team headed back to the US for their second run of shows, set to end in November at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver. www.shaniatwain.com www.silent-house.com www.blink-inc.com www.8thdaysound.com www.lcr-rental.com www.fuse-tg.com www.video-design.co.uk www.taittowers.com www.dasdesignworks.com www.allaccessinc.com www.transamtrucking.com www.beatthestreet.net www.rockit.global
SUGABABES: LIVE AT THE O2 In a year that has seen some notable pop group reunions, TPi checks-in with one of the most anticipated noughties comebacks – the Sugababes, who reformed with their original line-up at The O2 following several months of touring.
Words: Stew Hume Photos: Luke Dyson
Every month or so, we check through the events listings at The O2 in London and Manchester’s AO Arena to work out what our next production profile might be. What has been amusing is that the listings for 2023 could have been torn straight from the early noughties with the likes of Busted, S-Club and JLS all reforming to provide some nostalgia to crowds in the UK and Europe. It’s almost as if people might be wishing to look back at simpler times… One of the reunions which caught our attention at TPi HQ was the on-stage comeback of the Sugababes. The return of the original line-up of Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhán Donaghy has not been an easy road with the trio being embroiled in a battle over the use of the Sugababes moniker. The three singers have all discussed in the mainstream media how they have taken control following a chequered history of labels owning the brand. Now firing very much under their own stream, the band seem determined to bring their music back to the fans – a passion that has also filtered down to the production behind the group. Picking up the story was Production Manager, Chris Parker, who was last seen in the pages of TPi holding down FOH duties for Arlo Parks. “Working with Arlo for the past couple of years has been busy!” he began, giving an insight into working for one of the UK’s most hotly anticipated artists of the past few years. “Sugababes has been a different change of pace; the schedule isn’t on the road for as long as global campaign touring, which means the
artist, band and crew have more time to be at home with family. I joined the team back in 2022 as the girls built up for their comeback Mighty Hoopla and Glastonbury shows,” stated Parker who at the time was handling audio for the show. “There was clearly an excitement to see the girls back on stage, as expressed by the screaming crowds of fans across festival stages and on the headline UK arena tour.” Following the wave of excitement, the Sugababes took off for a tour of Australia, after which saw Parker take on production management duties. “I was juggling being a PM and a monitor engineer, which was a full-on role with two busses and a truck-full of audio, backline and lights. I looked to move away from the desk so I could focus on being a PM,” he chuckled, reflecting on the tour so far, which he noted was building up towards a large performance at The O2 arena in London. As the show drew near, aiding Parker in the production office was Production Coordinator, Elisabetta Alfonso and Stage Manager, Richard Preston. For The O2 show, Patchwork London continued to provide the audio control as it had done for the entire campaign, with Adlib supplying the PA and Colour Sound Experiment providing lighting and video. “We had All Access providing us with the staging and Strictly FX doing our lasers, confetti and streamers,” added Parker. Trucking was handled by Stagetruck, helping take the show from rehearsals at Millennium Studios to The O2, and onwards to an EU tour directly afterwards. “We were really
happy with the production we pulled together,” explained Parker. “It was a large endeavour for a one-off show, but the energy in the room was electric from front to back for the whole show, and the feedback has been overwhelming.” The PM went on to praise the various suppliers he’d brought on to the production. “The team from Adlib were fantastic,” he began. “As for Colour Sound Experiment, I have a longstanding relationship with Alex Ryan and Paul Gilzene and knew they would look after us.” OVERLOAD Overseeing the design of the show was Ed Warren. The TPi Award winning LD explained that joining the production team was somewhat of a nostalgia trip. “I have been a massive fan of the band since their first album, One Touch came out in 2000,” he began. “I used to DJ quite a bit back then and would always play Overload in among my usual Britpop and indie stuff as it fit really well.” Warren explained that he was hired as the production wanted to work with someone with more of a background in rock ’n’ roll rather than pure pop. “With that in mind, I set about delivering something dynamic, exciting, classy and a little bit weird. I wanted the three ladies to be the focus but I also wanted to make a spectacle of their incredible live band who perform along with them.” With many of the shows in the campaign being festival appearances, Warren created a show that could be adaptable to varying stage sizes and be rolled on and off with ease. “I then developed and expanded the show for The O2,
adding plenty of new tricks and gags. My main goal was to keep the audience engaged and excited, without distracting too much from the three Sugababes,” he explained. “There were some great moments where the girls were using the steps as a performance space and the whole stage was framed beautifully. The B-stage was a huge success and brought an intimacy to the giant arena, with the girls lit only by a mirrorball suspended low above them. I loved the video content created by the guys at More Eyes, along with the confetti, streamers, and lasers from Strictly FX.” Warren described the “most notable lighting element on the rig” – 56 GLP JDC1s split between four long horizontal strips. “They illuminated each step of the staging leading up to the live band as well as creating a frame for the girls to perform in and worked as an extension of the video walls at times.” With the live band being on a stage behind them, illuminating the steps helped connect the Sugababes with the musicians. “I wanted to highlight that this was a ‘live’ show rather than strictly playback,” stated Warren. Also on the rig were CHAUVET Professional Strike Array 2, Robe BMFL Spots, Robin MegaPointe, Martin Professional MAC Aura
XIP, Ayrton Karif, Huracán Profile TC and GLP impression X4 Bar 20 lighting solutions. The lighting designer’s desk of choice was the ChamSys MagicQ MQ500M. He was keen to share the advantages of the ChamSys workflow and why it was ideal for this production: “Free time is precious, so I spend a lot of time between shows on trains, planes and waiting rooms updating show files. I also spend a lot of time at home on my MQ250 updating shows. The fact that I can load the show between the various pieces of hardware without any problem helps me work on the move.” As the whole show was on timecode, Warren created his cue list in CuePoints software, uploading the cue stacks into ChamSys along with the relevant audio. “It made programming on the timeline so simple – especially being able to playback audio out of the desk as I was programming,” he noted. Supporting the visual team was Colour Sound Experiment. “Paul Gilzene and Alex Ryan are always accommodating and willing to offer solutions to some of my whacky ideas,” laughed Warren. He was also keen to shout out in-house CAD Drawer, Alfie Hursthouse; Lighting Crew Chief, Neil Smith, and Lighting Technicians, Tyler Paxton, Cem Hurrell and Simon Robertson.
“They were all brilliant as well as Matt Bull and Paul Spencer from All Access Staging, who helped us develop and build the stages.” Strictly FX were on board to provide confetti, streamers and lasers for the production. “We were first approached by Ed Warren to add even more spectacle to an already spectacular show,” stated Strictly FX’s Scott Eales. “After an initial brief, we were given a fair amount of creative control over the laser programming with Ed signing off on the final design. He is with-out a doubt, one of the nicest guys in rock ‘n’ roll. It was great to work with him and collaborating on this one was no different.” For lasers, Strictly FX opted for four Lightline 40W lasers along with its arsenal of eight Magic FX XL Super Blasters, and eight Magic FX Stadium Shot MKIIs. “The biggest thing I personally took away from this gig was how friendly and welcoming the whole crew behind this show were to us,” he concluded. “Production Manager Chris Parker and his team pulled off an impressive show.” Also representing the Strictly FX on the show was Raefn Weather and Laser Technician, Lavine Reindorf. “This was my first arena show so that in itself is a big deal, it was inspiring to be a part of such a big production and for a group
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like the Sugababes was a nostalgic experience for me,” stated Reindorf, who helped aid Strictly FX with the load-in and-out for the show. “The visual team did a great job of creating an infectious atmosphere for both the artists and the audience alike, each element complimented the other well,” Reindorf added. “Ed [Warren] is a cool guy and was great to work with from a lighting perspective. He was very communicative and had a great creative vision.” Prior to the production Reindorf had been a participant of the 3T (Tour Tech Training) course, which looks to address the imbalance and provide visibility and confidence for black women in the live events industry by teaching a broad set of technical skills and knowledge required to break into the sector. “3T has been a massive help in my live career,” enthused Reindorf. “It has opened my eyes to a world of opportunities within the realm of live production that I did not previously know about or have access to. Through 3T, I went on tour for the first time in 2022 and I have been keeping busy and learning as much as I can ever since. Thankfully, I have a strong community to lean on as I continue my journey.” CAUGHT IN A MOMENT While the show design had evolved from the initial run of performances back in 2022, the video content was a brand-new element for The O2 show. “It took a lot of back and forth to get it right as the band were very particular about some of the content used for the show,” mused Warren. “However, the video team of Matt Sharp and Pete Thornton from More Eyes and our Video Director, Steve Price absolutely nailed it!” Much like Warren, Matt Sharp also admitted to being a fan of the Sugababes back in the day. “To be given access to all the archive material was such a privilege,” reflected Sharp. “I remember watching all the performances on TV when I was younger and all these years later finding myself
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editing and curating for the band was really quite surreal.” The project also gave the More Eyes team its first chance to collaborate with Warren. “We have wanted to work with each other for some time, but the stars really aligned on this one,” explained Sharp. Much like the LD, the brief that More Eyes received was that this performance was “not a typical pop show.” Sharp furthered: “One theme we all stuck to from the start was ‘the poppier the track, the edgier the visual.’ From our first discussions with the band, we decided to blend archive filmed content and never before seen behindthe-scenes stuff with up to date bold CGI content and motion graphics. All the while keeping far away from the realms of your standard glossy pop show. I think we delivered a fantastic audience experience for those at The O2 that stood up against other ‘pop’ shows currently touring.” Sharp continued to point to some of his favourite moments of the set, including the Push The Button, Red Dress, Hole in the Head medley, which saw More Eyes take three different concepts and blend them into another as the track progressed. “Thanks to our partners at blinkinLAB for bringing this to life on a very tight deadline,” he added. “Freak Like Me was also a highlight. It was another track where we built a world behind the band with a grimy concrete bunker with neon lighting panels timed to work with the Gary Numan synth line and Ed’s real world lighting rig and programming to bring the stage alive.” Colour Sound also provided the video equipment for the tour which included ROE Visual CB5 LED panels. Holding down directorial duties was Steve Price. He explained that this project was quite an undertaking as he only had three operated cameras to work with and no rehearsal time. “I watched a run through from Millennium Studios the night before which gave me some idea of the shape of the show,” began Price, who then spent two days learning their music playing close attention to which band member took the lead vocals for each song. “My visual mix was required to be functional, making sure I had the featured vocalist on screen throughout the show while also finding a way to add a layer of creative impact.” Price had one camera at FOH with two further cameras situated on sticks in the pit and an additional two robotic cameras on both sides of the stage. “I always thought you prove yourself as a director not when you have lots of cameras but when you have few. It’s a lot harder to make a show look interesting and beautiful when you have your hands tied like that but I’m fortunate that I had good operators offering up winning shots throughout the show. I was amazed by the result,” he explained. Price discussed the collaboration with More Eyes. “I had never worked with More Eyes before, but it was an absolute pleasure. Matt and Pete are lovely people, not to mention very creative, and we hit it off straight away.” It was a feeling that was shared by the team at More Eyes. “We’re so glad that Steve came on board,” stated Sharp. “He was the perfect
Show and Lighting Designer, Ed Warren; Production Manager, Chris Parker with Callum Luckhoo, Drum and Key Tech; Audio Technician, Megan Collier; FOH Engineer, Charles Bidwell; Monitor Engineer, Tom Whitbread.
choice for the job. We really tried to stick with more traditional in-camera techniques and simple looks and concepts for the IMAG content. Steve was able to play with the lighting and LED setup when filming the girls on stage with some fantastic results like intense feedback effects and crash zooms to give this a really individual feel and audience experience.” PUSH THE BUTTON Despite jumping on and off the sound desk throughout the summer, for The O2 show Parker focussed on the PM role – leaving mixing duties to Charles Bidwell at FOH and Tom Whitbread in ‘monitor world’. Although Patchwork continued to supply audio control – as it had done for the past year – for The O2 production, Adlib was brought in to provide an L-Acoustics K1 / K2 PA system. “I was brought on at the beginning of the year,” reflected Bidwell, while discussing his time mixing for the Sugababes. “They wanted to maintain their iconic ’90s R&B ‘wall of sound’ vocal blend.” He explained that another interesting challenge was that with the three singers constantly interchanging who had the lead in parts of the song, each vocalist mix needed to be able to be prominent in the mix while at other times act as support providing harmonies and ad-libs. “This could be tricky especially when you have 20,000 fans nostalgically singing the lyrics,” he laughed, noting that with
a combination of communication, equipment choice and programming, they were able to make it work. Talking of equipment, Bidwell used an Allen & Heath S7000 mixing console. “I like a hybrid mix,” explained Bidwell, who walked TPi through his use of the dLive, UA Audio and outboard equipment. “It means I can mix ‘little and often’. Where the dLive cleans up input sources with high and low pass frequencies and source expanders, UA Audio adds the analogue colouration and groups the inserts through outboard. I run multiple scenes and send MIDI information to trigger external units.” The engineer shared his thoughts on the PA system: “After using L-Acoustics on most summer festivals, it offered the grunt and smooth high frequencies required for this show. The show is a nostalgic pop show booted home by a slamming rock-gospel band. When the girls sing those anthems, people just lose their minds and the K1/K2 system helped to deliver that.” On the topic of vocals, Bidwell discussed the microphones the singers used. “We used Shure Axient Digital with sE Electronics V7 capsules. The V7 is super tight and punchy, which was very helpful in arenas – particularly when they moved to the B-stage with the mics minimising unwanted spill.” Whitbread took up the conversation outlining the three singers’ IEM mix preferences. “They like to hear a bit of everything, but they have each of their vocals
front and centre with the other two vocals panned either side and slightly lower in their ears. After that, they all have a pretty balanced mix of the band.” Whitbread explained that he spent most of the show cycling through the girls’ mixes. “I like to take a more ‘hands on’ approach to mixing,” he furthered. “Depending on the song, there may be a partial detail that one or more of the artists might like to hear, so I would add it into a snapshot to cover all three mixes at the touch of a button – the snapshots only triggered fader movements.” For IEMs, the production utilised UE11s. “They were on a different brand when they first reformed onstage last year before moving to Ultimate Ears,” stated Whitbread. “The difference was immediately noticeable. We’ve also had great support from UE. For example, we needed to get hold of some spare cables between shows in Belgium and Amsterdam, which UE were able to get out to us the very next day.” The entire band was also on Shure PSM 1000s “which sounded great,” according to the engineer. “I’ve done several A/B tests with many artists using other brands and the Shure system has always been the clear stand out. Add to that the RF Stability and you have a clear winner,” he remarked. Whitbread mixed the show on a DiGiCo Quantum 338. “DiGiCo consoles are outstanding,” he stated. “They sound great
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and allow for so much flexibility. This show started out on a 225 then outgrew it so the next logical step was the 338. The Nodal processing is fantastic. With people on different IEM models and brands everyone is going to hear things differently, so I can send someone their instrument exactly how they want to hear it, and then I can process the same channel differently to sit within the mixes that I am sending the girls, without having to make multiple duplicates of the same channel.” He also complemented the desk Spice Rack where he’d been using the Chili 6 on vocals and the Naga 6 on some of the tracks. “I’ve never been one to use external plugins when mixing. With the additional latency, it’s just not something I’ve ever got into when mixing live. So, having some of the options that would previously have only been a plugin, now available inside the console is great.” On the topic of the control setup, Whitbread complemented the audio package put together by Patchwork. “They provided a great audio
package that had been prepped immaculately – as they have done all summer – as well as an excellent crew.” Along with the control packages Patchwork also provided crew to aid in delivery of the show – namely Megan Collier, who was responsible for overseeing patching the stage, supporting with RF as well as aiding in the movement of chairs and mic on and off the stage. Having been involved with the production since their Mighty Hoopla performance in 2022 she explained what it was like taking the production into The O2. “It was a large production to give up in a short space of time and to make sure it was all working,” stated Collier. “I prepared all the equipment at Patchwork beforehand, so I know the inside of that rack like the back of my hand. A lot of time was saved by the organisation of equipment before it arrived on site.” Collier was also integral during the B-stage portion of the production. “I used a talkback system to relay any monitor adjustments back to Tom and to cue the playback team,” she added.
“It was amazing to see a room full of 20,000 people singing along to Sugababes classics – which I’m sure a lot of us still remember.” In a time when multiple pop groups are reforming on the arena level, there’s no doubt that the Sugababes’ revival brought with it an elevated sense of excitement, not just within the fan reception but also those working behind the scenes. The reincarnated Sugababes are clearly not just a nostalgia trip, but a band reforming on stage for the love of performing; and with the group bringing out new music in the past few months, this revival looks set to continue for many years to come. www.sugababes.komi.io www.patchworklondon.co.uk www.nextlevellights.com www.adlib.co.uk www.coloursound.com www.moreeyes.co.uk www.strictlyfx.com www.allaccessinc.com www.stagetruck.com
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WESTLIFE: FIRST GLOBAL ACT TO TOUR CHINA POSTPANDEMIC In a world-first, Production Manager, Toby Johnson reflects on the tour’s remarkable success, revealing the pivotal role played by the crew and technical suppliers in navigating the unique logistical and production challenges.
Words: Alicia Pollitt Photo: Nikki Zeng (@Nikkiiz)
In the aftermath of COVID-19, it is rare that post-lockdown firsts are still prominent. However, this is not the case for Westlife’s The Wild Dreams Tour, which became the first international campaign to tour China since the grounding of live events. With meticulous planning and a dedicated team, Westlife’s production defied expectations, showcasing to the vast Chinese market and setting a new standard for international tours to come. “It’s a testament to the band, the fact they have been together for 25 years and have just done the biggest tour of China for an international act – it’s crazy,” said Production Manager, Toby Johnson, who has been a key player in multiple touring milestones for the group over the last two years. According to Johnson, the tour’s success depended on the pivotal role played by vendors 24/7 Productions (with tour direction by John Pryer), Adlib (audio), Equinox (travel agent) and Freight Minds (logistics). With China divided into provinces, Johnson highlighted the difficulty of freighting and how simple switches to technical equipment – namely the choice of media servers, SMODE – significantly reduced the amount of kit that had to be freighted while still being able to run notch effects. “Freight Minds also made my life a lot easier,” he remarked. Johnson was meticulous in ensuring that the production was secure and easily transportable. The team brought along media servers that required two small cases, along with six Peli Cases containing wardrobe props
and three production cases. The audio kit from Adlib was also compact and fit for air travel in six Peli Cases. “It was nice having that bit of breathing room because if I had a big production case that I have on shows at home, everything would have had to be freighted. The small pack meant I had options. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, in my opinion, if you’ve got what you need,” said Johnson. The PM also touched on the cultural differences pre- and post-pandemic. “I thought the country would be a lot more cautious, like the UK in the beginning, and there certainly were more people wearing masks. However, it felt normal. There was an eagerness to work.” Advancing was a challenge for the camp due to the scale of the production. Traversing through different provinces meant that each show had its own quirks that local teams hadn’t seen before. “Each region had its own way of doing certain things which is where the advance team were a real advantage. They know the show and know what is expected but the local teams really did do a great job,” Johnson explained. The PM led a team of around 10 dedicated members who have been with the camp for the entire duration of the tour. They work together to put on the show, while two other members travel ahead to prepare for the next stop and ensure the tour runs seamlessly, shown by the band doing three stadium shows back to back. “Every time the lights go down and that excitement builds it’s just amazing,” Johnson
enthused, praising the lighting design by Tim Routledge. “It is an impressive and impactful design that works in completely different venues, both arenas and stadiums, and that in itself a big achievement.” Johnson had already prepared his team to excel knowing the pressure that awaited them from tours that wanted to explore into China. “I knew that different production teams and promoters out there were looking at us to see how this was going to go, so we had to be on our A-game.” The wider production team included Production Coordinator, Becky Brylewski; Production Coordinator, Siobhain Brackenbridge; Stage Manager, Stuart Watson; Lighting Operator, Morgan Evans; Media Server Engineer, Jade Parsley; FOH Engineer, Chris Pyne; Monitor Engineer, Becky Pell; Playback Technician, Luke Oldham; Head of Wardrobe, Natasha Spano; Venue Security, Shae Stanford and the Advance team of Sam Savile and Paul Sadler as well as Travel Agent, Lisa Liguori. In closing, Johnson believed the tour set a precedent for international artists, displaying the huge market in China and the fan bases that exist there. Johnson concluded: “I’m sure that Westlife’s The Wild Dreams Tour will provide an example for future world tours.” www.westlife.com www.24-7productions.co.uk www.adlib.co.uk www.equinox-travel.com www.freightminds.com
IN-EAR MONITORS: THREE DECADES ON With hearing health never far from the thoughts of artists and crew alike and the technology within the in-ear monitor market continuing to grow to meet the increasing demand, some of the key market players discuss their innovations and share valuable advice for users.
Words: Stew Hume Photos: 64 Audio, Cosmic Ears, JH Audio and Sensaphonics
When I started at TPi, I remember one of the first questions I would ask a monitor engineer was: ‘What are you using for the artist’s onstage sound?’ Back then, many productions opted for one of three options – wedges and side fills; in-ear monitors (IEMs); or, what was often the most popular option, a hybrid of the two. With the ever-growing sophistication of IEMs, not to mention a lot of guitarists and bassists opting for digital amp options, completely quiet stages – bar the drummer – have become the norm, with all on-stage sound being delivered through IEMs. While the increasing use of IEMs has been ‘music to the ears’ of show designers who now have a larger canvas to work on, the advancement of the technology has seen many more benefits than just a cleaner stage design. TPi was keen to speak to some of the pioneers of the IEM world to hear about the latest developments as well as why everyone working within the industry should really be taking hearing health more seriously. We started our conversation with Jerry Harvey, the founder of both Ultimate Ears and
later JH Audio. With decades of experience as an audio engineer, Harvey spoke about how he stepped into the manufacturing space. “When we started Ultimate Ears back in ’95, we didn’t know the technology would take off,” he recalled. “However, slowly they started to be accepted, first by drummers then singers. Almost three decades later, it’s clear they are not going away.” It’s a thought that was echoed by Filipp Sklyarov, Marketing Manager for 64 Audio. “Back in 2010, IEMs seemed to be reserved for a minority of musicians whereas now it’s a prerequisite for a live performance,” he explained. “While the bar for sonic quality continues to be raised by fellow manufacturers as well as 64 Audio, there is also an unprecedented availability of low-cost options. While this makes it more difficult than ever to compete with those lower price points, we welcome the challenge and hope to see more musicians being well served in the IEM space.” This widening of the market has benefitted 64 Audio when it comes to product development. “Our customer base is split
between pro-audio and high-end audio and we can use the diverse feedback of those two types of customers to improve our products and processes.” INNOVATION Despite IEMs relatively short history, there’s been a huge amount of innovation in the world of IEMs since their early days. Harvey spoke of some of JH Audio’s greatest achievements. “JH Audio is perhaps best known for its passive crossover IEMs, and we’ve recently made a breakthrough with our new Pearl Processor,” stated Harvey. “Created in collaboration with Audiotonix, Pearl is a tri-amp micro speaker processor that makes for a perfectly tuned IEM. It provides the ultimate frequency response for audio signatures with a click of the mouse.” The system is available exclusively with JH Audio’s new Ruby IEMs. “With Pearl, we have once again pushed the technology into the future, and we think we will now see passive earpieces fall by the wayside.” According to Harvey, there is now far less apprehension towards IEMs among artists.
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“The only major pushback is the isolation and head voice from the occlusion effect of sealing ears,” he stated, adding that for artists where this is an issue, JH Audio has produced the Ambient Pro – a solution that incorporates DPA Microphones 6060 Series Subminiature microphones. “We transmit them to the desk with a Lectrosonics DCHT Transmitter and DCR822 Digital Receiver. The monitor engineer creates a natural mix and feeds it back to the artist, making it sound as though there is nothing in their ears.” As a fellow engineer, Harvey closed by musing about how the job of a monitor engineer has changed dramatically since the complete adoption of IEMs by the market. “There’s no question that the days of wedge and side fill mixing were far more forgiving, and it was all about giving more gain and not having feedback. Mixing IEMs is almost like doing multiple FOH mixes. You have to be a better mixer these days because an IEM mix is much more critical.” The job also requires far more maintenance than the days of wedges. “Not having a proper test rig to make sure all IEMs are working to specification is the biggest mistake being made out on the road,” he revealed. “The only thing
making it possible for a pop star to perform in front of thousands of fans is a piece of plastic in their ears and in my opinion every engineer should have a Gras RA0045 ear simulator and Smaart Rig to test all IEMs before each show.” The topic of IEM maintenance was an issue also picked up by Sklyarov. “It’s the biggest mistake we see from end users,” agreed the 64 Audio Marketing Manager. “We recently released the VAC Pro Mini Cordless Vacuum and suggest that users clean their IEMs after every use.” Sklyarov explained that this was of the utmost importance to those engineers looking after multiple IEM units on tour. “Now more than ever, the IEM world is thriving with technology made specifically for these products. Our advice is to pay close attention to dehumidification, whether it is compact electric dehumidifiers or disposable desiccants. Moisture is damaging to IEMs, causing corrosion especially when left unattended for prolonged periods.” He also offered a helpful tip that ear wax, like blood, reflects UV light. “Engineers should invest in a proper UV light to help them see ear wax when cleaning.” According to Sklyarov, there is still a need for IEM users to be educated on proper use of
the products. “Although they are built robustly, they are still highly technical tools that need to be handled properly,” he added. HEARING HEALTH There is no doubt that the adoption of IEMs for musicians has led to greater audio quality for on-stage mixes as well as cleaner stages, which can lead to more interesting stage shows. However, there is also the more important fact that the use of IEMs has gone a long way in improving the hearing health of artists around the world. The focus on hearing health was one of the key principles that Sensaphonics was founded upon by Dr. Michael Santucci. Coming from a medical rather than an engineering background, Santucci started coming across musicians as a young audiologist back in 1985. “Stages were loud back then, and musicians simply couldn’t hear properly,” he began. “As a brass player and coming from a musical family, I realised there was a need to take musicians’ hearing more seriously and hence Sensaphonics was born.” Prior to working on IEMs, Santucci was involved in the creation of some of the first ear plugs designed for musicians with the
company Etymotic Research. “There has been huge progress when it comes to attitudes to hearing health across the industry,” he mused. “I remember when we started attending tradeshows in ’87, people literally laughed at us when we posed the idea of hearing protection for musicians. Fast-forward to 2019 and Sensaphonics was on site at Lollapalooza with MusiCares fitting crew and artists with custom musician ear plugs.” The first IEM that Sensaphonics brought to market was the ProPhonic IV, which was picked up by the Grateful Dead, moving Santucci into the manufacturing business. Taking all his experience as an audiologist, he explained however that simply moving from wedges to IEMs is not enough to maintain an artist or crew’s hearing health. “Research shows that musicians instinctively turn their IEMs to the same level as the wedges, so nothing really changes. The key is to educate and motivate musicians to turn them down to a safer level.” Santucci also suggested that one of the greatest recommendations for all those who
work in the industry is to form a relationship with a music audiologist. “I’d suggest having your hearing checked once a year as hearing changes are often very gradual. Regular checkups are key.” He also suggested that keeping ear plugs handy is “a great rule of thumb”. He elaborated: “Whenever you are around loud sound including non-musical sound, ear plugs are a great way to minimise your exposure.” Santucci also expressed his opinion that will likely be shared by engineers worldwide –“Keep both your IEMs in at all times!” He furthered: “Taking out one earpiece is a huge risk and should never really be done. Remember, it is not just how loud but how loud for how long that defines safe exposure time.” To attempt to dissuade artists from removing an IEM when performing, Sensaphonics, in collaboration with its sister company ASI Audio, developed the 3DME Gen2 Music Enhancement IEM system, available in Custom Tour and universal-fit versions. Using patented Sensaphonics Active Ambient technology, each earpiece includes an
JH Audio founder, Jerry Harvey; 64 Audio’s Filipp Sklyarov; Sensaphonics’ Dr Michael Santucci; Cosmic Ears’ Mike Bufton.
embedded microphone to capture stage sound with full directional cues, which the user can then add to the monitor mix. It also includes an app for EQ and limiter functions. “What I’m most excited about however when it comes to our latest releases is the dB Check Pro in-ear sound level analyser,” continued Santucci. “It’s programmed to work with 140 different IEM (and headphone) models from 12 different manufacturers, so the whole industry can benefit. The dB Check Pro not only shows how loud you are listening in real time but converts that into how many minutes you can safely listen at that level. It’s like a speedometer for your ears.” Sensaphonics is not the only IEM manufacturer that has taken steps to ensure the hearing health of artists and crew. Enter Cosmic Ears, which is now offering hearing check-ups performed by its in-house team. “In late 2022, the Cosmic team were qualified as Ear Health Practitioners through Tympa Health, which is officially accredited by ENT UK, The British Society of Audiology and The British
Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists,” explained Cosmic Ears Business Director, Mike Bufton. “This means that we can provide the gold standard of wax removal microsuction. In the past, we had to signpost all our customers to trusted audiologists for impressions because as many as one in three had impacted wax, preventing a safe impression from being taken. Our new service allows customers to come to us for ear health check-ups, microsuction and ear impressions.” With Tympa Health Technology, if any issues are noticed when doing a health check, the team at Cosmic Ears can send a video to a panel of ENT specialists who can then assess the footage and suggest the best course of action to the client. “This new service gives our customer more than just custom products – it’s a wraparound ear health care service,” explained Bufton. “We encourage customers to come and see us at least once a year so we can monitor their hearing and give them peace of mind.” As well as diversifying its offering, Bufton was keen to explain how Cosmic’s general
client base has grown outside of just the music industry. “Not only have we been working with extreme air sports athletes creating customer ear protection for high wind speeds and loud aircraft. We have also supplied IEMs for all of this year’s Rugby World Cup referees, showing our commitment to the sporting arena,” enthused Bufton. It will certainly be exciting to see what the next major steps in the IEM world will be, but already we’ve seen companies look to provide more spatial offerings to in-ear mixes as opposed to the traditional stereo option, in many ways following a growing trend within the world of loudspeakers with more manufacturers offering immersive solutions. As well as technological innovation, the hope is that with more artists and crew on IEMs than ever before, the longevity of hearing health across the industry will continue to improve. www.64audio.com www.cosmicears.com www.jhaudio.com www.sensaphonics.com
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BEHIND THE GREEN WALL: THE ART OF CRAFTING VISUALS As one of the few creative studios to offer clients a full in-house suite of production services, Green Wall Designs shares its guiding principles for creating immersive visual experiences and helping shape the future of live entertainment.
Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Alma Bengtsson, Green Wall Designs, Johan Persson and TPi
Green Wall Designs, a creative studio based in Sweden, is renowned for crafting captivating visual experiences in the world of live entertainment. Specialising in video, lighting, and scenic elements, the firm has contributed to some of the most thrilling live productions in recent memory. With 15 years of experience as a studio, Green Wall Designs has evolved into a fully-fledged (and ironically green wall-less) studio featuring a collaborative team who seamlessly bring their clients’ visions to life. Among Green Wall Designs’ impressive portfolio are remarkable projects such as Loreen’s winning performance at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, ABBA Voyage, Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour, and The 1975’s Still... At Their Very Best, to name a few. Distinguishing itself as one of the few creative studios offering a comprehensive suite of in-house production services, TPi journeys to Green Wall Designs’ headquarters in Stockholm to delve into the studio’s origins, meet the brains behind the operation and reflect on its exceptional body of work. Having met and become closely acquainted on the touring circuit, Green Wall Designs cofounders – Production Designer, Producer and CEO, Fredrik Stormby; Creative Director and Producer, David Nordström Abelli and Creative Director and Producer, Viktor Rundlöf – all share a passion for live entertainment, despite their varying disciplines. Despite cutting his teeth at an audio company, Stormby has a keen eye for lighting; Nordström Abelli in video and content, while Rundlöf is a motion designer with a penchant for software. “We began working together in an office in downtown Stockholm, and at that time, no
fellow creatives wanted to touch, let alone specialise in video, but we shared an eagerness to integrate video with lighting, which is now fairly commonplace,” Stormby recalled, going on to explain the reasoning behind the unique business name. “People ask if it’s to do with green screens, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we settled on the name because we couldn’t agree on what colour to paint the walls of our first offices, the only thing we could collectively agree on was the colour green,” he laughed. In 2013, Rundlöf – who was on the road with The 1975 at the time of writing – joined the lofty ranks of what is now a studio which employs 16 full-time members of staff with a pool of 25 core freelancers. Over the past few years, Green Wall Designs has implemented more defined workflows and production pipelines as well as investing in next-generation products – adding motion designers, content producers and creators to its team. “We are looking to expand our production team, which is an exciting and challenging prospect. To be honest, we have learned how to be employed by having employees,” Stormby said, modestly. “Over the past year, we have sent a lot of key personnel on the road
for landmark projects which require a lot of attention, such as ABBA Voyage, Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour, and Melodifestivalen (‘the Melody Festival’) – Sweden’s annual pre-selection competition for the Eurovision Song Contest. Although we have invested in equipment on site, we have also invested in remote work solutions for multiple workflows and curating a hybrid working environment.” Indeed, Green Wall Designs’ state-of-the-art headquarters currently boasts two production and rehearsal spaces for clients. Studio 1 spans 100 sq m and boasts a ceiling height of around six metres. It is equipped with traversing trusses, providing versatility for equipment needs and can be completely darkened for precise creative control. Meanwhile, Studio 2 is primarily dedicated to lighting/video programming or temporary workstations, It also functions as a control room. Following its involvement in Sweden’s winning Eurovision Song Contest entry in 2015, Green Wall Designs received more calls for projects outside of Scandinavia. Nordström Abelli, who was key in curating the winning performance together with Director, Fredrik ‘Benke’ Rydman, explained Green Wall Designs’ holistic approach to visual design: “We’ve
always seen lighting, video, and content – in some cases, choreography – as one, big visual set piece. We initially just wanted a space where the client could come in and collaborate with us to deliver them an entire visual package, instead of focussing on one visual discipline. I truly believed that in the future, lighting designers would have to be able to operate video and those who didn’t, and focussed solely on lighting would probably be phased out. While that has not necessarily happened, I think that most modern-day creatives now see production design, particularly the visual approach, as a complete package, given the evolution and widespread adoption of pixel mapping and colour matching lighting fixtures with LED screens and surfaces.” Although admittedly not involved in the XR and AR boom synonymous with the lockdown of traditional live events amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Green Wall Designs are looking to explore immersive technologies. “ABBA Voyage pushed the envelope of what is possible, we spent a lot of time experimenting with emerging technology. Another milestone is our continued partnership with Production Designer, Tobias Rylander on The 1975’s live shows, Beyoncé’s Renaissance
Tour as well as corporate or broadcast projects on the other end of the spectrum. I think we’ve been very lucky to specialise in and provide solutions for multiple markets, which while we initially approached with trepidation can be equally as inspiring and influential,” Stormby explained, theorising on the future of creative workflows. I find AI an interesting prospect, particularly amid the first stages of a production when you want to experiment to work with something that doesn’t require you to model it yet. Traditionally, we’ve built a space, which we then fill with lights and then you render it. Now, you can draw something out of nothing by feeding or prompting it with different inputs. As a studio, we regularly produce terabytes of content and for us to be able to feed AI technology with things we have produced and train something that we have produced or in train it is an exciting avenue of exploration. AI is also very intuitive and fun to bounce thoughts around to see what comes back but, in the end, it only inspires and does not take creative ownership of a project.We put a lot of effort into learning how to use AI, which is another level of computing power, and adding it to the studio as a tool while also learning how to work with it responsibly.”
Green Wall Designs Junior Motion Graphics Artist and Social Media specialist, Olivia Ramviken, agrees: “It is a way of pushing the boundaries a little bit and experimenting with your own mind. It’s an extension of how our brain works because we draw inspiration from each other anyway.” Moving forward, the creative studio plans to explore new markets and experiment with commercial film shoots as well as live entertainment projects. However, the constant expansion of the company will inevitably drive costs up. “We try to take on the jobs that we will enjoy but also make sense, financially. Combining technology with art is in our DNA,” Stormby remarked, sharing where he believes the room for growth is. “The quality of LED surfaces and video screens are so much better nowadays. We can work with video in a very precise way today and be in total control. Lighting, on the other hand, still requires improvement. Next year, we will head to Malmö to embark on the lighting design and programming of the visual elements of the entire Eurovision Song Contest, working closely with each contestant’s delegation and support teams.”
Nordström Abelli concurred: “We love to use advanced technology to portray a feeling or an idea but we believe that the viewer shouldn’t be overly conscious of its presence.” The co-founders – who very rarely take periods to reflect, given the pace of projects – say they are proud of the team as well as the vast and varied body of works it has forged. Meanwhile, progression means taking stock of where there are gaps in the company, and the sector at large.” We are consciously trying to bring in more women and the next generation of creatives. Having a range of backgrounds, disciplines and skill sets in your ranks makes a huge difference to creativity. We recently collaborated with Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) on ABBA Voyage, and I was so inspired by the diversity of their team,” Stormby said, disclosing his vision for the future of the sector. “Although we consider this as the ‘coolest job in the world’ – that message is not necessarily filtering through to where we recruit from, I think there is a lot of work to be done to not only make this a visible industry but one which can encourage people to stick around with better working practices.” www.greenwall.se
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ER PRODUCTIONS: LAYING ROOTS DOWN UNDER Following the announcement of the company’s new Australian base, ER Productions Commercial Director, Chris Harrison highlights what this new chapter means for the laser and special effects specialist.
Words: Stew Hume Photos: ER Productions
The last time TPi sat down with the team from ER Productions was back in March 2022, following the announcement that it had acquired Pyrojunkies. Since then, the company has had an incredibly busy year, having been involved in some of 2023’s biggest productions including The King’s Coronation Concert and The Eurovision Song Contest, not to mention working with the likes of YungBlud, Muse and Bring Me The Horizon. It’s also been a key period in the company’s development, with ER opening its Ibiza warehouse in April to support clients on the island while also continuing to expand its
presence in Saudi Arabia with the continued growth of its Riyadh warehouse. Then later in the year, news broke that the company had officially laid down roots in Australia. Speaking about the latest development was ER Productions Commercial Director, Chris Harrison. He began by explaining that the Australian office had been in the pipeline for some time. “Australia has always been a special place for ER Productions,” he began. “The Australian Pink Floyd Show was one of our very first clients when we formed the company in 2007. We have always seen Australia as an important and exciting market
for ER and have been looking for the right time to make the investment into the country.” As well as The Australian Pink Floyd Show, ER has supplied services for numerous acts including Rufus du Sol and Kylie Minogue, and this year the company took the plunge and invested in a warehouse in Sydney. It has also shipped a wide range of lasers and special effects equipment to Australia, in preparation for launch. “This investment will enable us to better support both new and existing clients in Australia and New Zealand by offering our award-winning design and rental services locally,” stated Harrison. Historically the region has been a difficult one to supply equipment to due to high shipping costs, which often results in shows being scaled down or productions being passed between service providers as they enter Australia. “For our international clients, we will now be able to offer a seamless global service with offices in North America, Europe, The Middle East and now Australasia,” stated Harrison. “Our local clients will now have better and more cost-effective access to ER Productions’ award-winning laser and special effects products and services including our Kinekt laser range and liquid-flame units.” The new base will also stock ER Production’s Atolla range of laser heads, its new range of CO2-free cryo-jets – the EcoJet – and its range of paper confetti and streamers, which are now certified biodegradable. The new Australian base will be led on the ground by Ron Spizak with support from the ER Group, globally. “Ron is one of our project managers with many years of Tech experience on some of our major tours and shows and he has successfully project managed our biggest Ibiza Season this year, looking after Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel and Hï Ibiza nightclub,” stated
Harrison. “In 2024, we plan to grow our Australia team – both in terms of permanent staff and our local freelancer network. We are always looking for enthusiastic and talented crew to join us, so get in touch!” As well as expanding its base, Harrison was excited to share that the Australian branch will be supporting Robbie Williams tour in the region in November, coinciding nicely with the official launch of the new operation. “This year, ER Productions has continued to go from strength to strength with some major developments and investments made in our multiple global locations and services provided,” he said, expressing his excitement for the rest of the year and beyond. www.er-productions.com
Ron Spizak takes the lead of ER Productions’ new Australian base; ER Productions Commercial Director, Chris Harrison.
MEGAPIXEL: REDEFINING VISUAL TECHNOLOGY In a bid to deliver spectacles that captivate audiences worldwide, Megapixel expands its multinational team and embraces the emergence of cloud-based solutions.
Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Megapixel
Amid the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of live entertainment technology, Megapixel has earned a reputation as a pioneer in the field of LED processing, real-time monitoring, and bespoke live event solutions. Founded in 2017, the firm has emerged with a clear vision – to be an engineering-first, solutions-driven organisation that tackles the most ambitious and technically challenging projects the sector has to offer. From the outset, Megapixel has been driven by a ‘relentless passion’ for ‘flawless’ project execution. “We saw an opportunity to revolutionise the manufacturing space by setting new standards for quality and performance. Our journey began with the completion of the MGM Cotai project, at the time it was a monumental achievement featuring the largest amount of LED technology under a single roof,” Megapixel co-founder, Jeremy Hochman began – reflecting on a project which would become a litmus test for the company’s creative capabilities, fuelling its determination to take on even grander spectacles. “In our pursuit of excellence, we realised that controlling the very essence of our technology was paramount. Thus,
we established our own processing and distribution infrastructure, solidifying our foundation to undertake ground-breaking ventures. Unexpectedly, our processing technology garnered attention from thirdparty display companies, leading us into a new dimension of business. Today, we proudly balance our roles as a processing manufacturer and a driving force behind industry advancement, while continuing to execute ambitious projects that keep our team engaged and excited,” Hochman reported. One of the company’s defining moments was the sector-wide shift in LED processing by adopting a fibre-based infrastructure model. This is a concept Megapixel championed during its work on the MGM Cotai project which, in collaboration with Electrosonic, Smart Monkeys, and disguise, saw the team seamlessly power multidimensional art with hundreds of millions of pixels as well as an integrated theatre with 10,000 sq ft of LED, making it one of the world’s largest theatrical LED screens with 28 million pixels. “This innovation proved prescient, as it set the course for the future of LED processing. The transition from baseband technology to network topology is now the norm, with both
fixed installations and live events embracing this progressive approach,” Hochman said, explaining the driving force behind Megapixel’s popular onsite aggregation and monitoring tool. “OMNIS was born out of our necessity for 100% uptime in LED panels, and it serves as a comprehensive solution for logging, diagnostics, and remote monitoring. Our products are not just inspired by market demands; they emerge from our hands-on experience in executing projects successfully.” Megapixel’s rapid ascent has been punctuated by landmark projects, with its continued involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest a cornerstone achievement. “This massive endeavour required meticulous coordination and unwavering support for our partners at Creative Technology and Faber Audiovisual. Our technologies, including HELIOS and OMNIS, played pivotal roles in monitoring LED displays, projection systems, power management, networking infrastructure, and video routing, ensuring a seamless and unforgettable event,” Hochman stated proudly. Looking ahead to the future of live events, Megapixel continues to push the envelope of technical innovation. “Our involvement in
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XR projects predates the very term ‘virtual production’, and we remain committed to pushing the boundaries of LED processing and physical construction. We understand that onsite technicians require user-friendly, reliable equipment, and we incorporate their feedback into our product development process. From ultra-fast seam adjustment to deviceagnostic interfaces and cutting-edge cabling infrastructure, we prioritise innovation for the benefit of live event technicians.” The year 2024 promises continued growth for Megapixel, following the expansion of its team and the exploration of new horizons. “We’re excited to offer a 100G ST 2110 input module for our HELIOS platform, catering to the evolving needs of the live events industry. Our cloud platform, designed for HELIOS and OMNIS, empowers users to deploy and manage installations remotely – a feature set to become increasingly crucial in the coming years,” Hochman said, noting that cloud technology will enable users to support each other from anywhere, monitor equipment globally, and manage entire fleets effortlessly. “I believe this level of sophistication we bring to the display industry is unrivalled, and we are constantly striving to raise the bar – down to the pixel.” www.megapixelvr.com
MGM Cotai; The Eurovision Song Contest 2023; Camila Cabello’s Familia: Welcome to The Family; Megapixel co-founders and COOs, Keith Harrison and Jeremy Hochman.
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25 YEARS OF TAF Truss Aluminium Factory (TAF) CEO, Jaroslav Rozboril delves into the past, present and future of the company.
Words: Alicia Pollitt Photos: TAF
Notwithstanding a global pandemic and a financial crisis, TAF has gained a reputation as a stalwart of the truss industry – from the TAF headquarters and factory in Olomouc, Czech Republic, to TAF USA, TAF Hong Kong, and its newest office that will open soon, TAF UK. TAF aims to continually increase its market share across Europe, the UK, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia via its offices and dealer network, while pushing the standards of aluminium truss and support structures. “Our history is filled with many achievements that have contributed to TAF’s reputation as a manufacturer of high-quality ‘made in Europe’ truss and support structures on the global market, which have earned the trust of its loyal customers around the world,” Rozboril reflected. “Over the past two and a half decades, we have continuously extended our product range, which includes truss segments with three types of connection systems – quicklock, fork and bolted – as well as towers, roofs and more, to satisfy an impressive spectrum of our customers’ needs.”
Employing 62 people by 2008, Rozboril emphasised that the growth didn’t end there, adding up to some 155 members of staff across the world, which includes 75 welders, and with plans to increase management teams soon. In 2021, TAF was the first in the industry to add a fully automatic, robotic welding machine to its production process, which significantly reduces turnaround times and increases output. TAF is also investing in future generations with a partnership with a tech school in Olomouc. Over a turbulent number of years, hurdles have existed for the company: “The financial crisis in 2008 was certainly a challenge for us, both production-wise and financially, as well as the COVID-19 epidemic. However, we survived both and even doubled our production over the past ten years. Material costs increased in 2022, but we were also able to weather this storm due to our strong, longterm relationships with suppliers,” Rozboril continued. “We always strive to maintain the high quality of our products and our team of experienced professionals – both in the factory
and in the office. As TAF is a family business, we are fortunate that employee turnover is not a problem. We are like one big family.” Increasing its share in additional markets in the United States, which include sports, government contracts, construction and more, is a priority for TAF going forward. TAF is also looking at expansion into Central and South America soon. As the company grows, sustainability is of paramount importance for TAF: “We have installed solar panels on the roofs of our production halls, which provide electricity for 25% of our needs. We have installed LED lights in our factory and offices as well, which have decreased our electricity consumption for lighting by 25%,” Rozboril explained. “We also use HydroREDUXA 4.0 low-carbon aluminium in the manufacturing of 80% of our products. We are the first company in the industry to utilise this material for truss products. This special aluminium is sourced from smelters and foundries in Norway, where the production process of this material is closely monitored to ensure reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions.” Artists are ramping up the volume as productions get bigger and as this pressure rises TAF is aware of the demand. According to Rozboril, this has resulted in the company doubling its production output and expanding its range over the past decade while maintaining the quality and competing with the demand of larger, more complex productions. Moving forward, TAF plans to increase its portfolio of products and continue building a reputation worldwide. Short-term goals for the company include breaking into additional markets. Meanwhile, increasing the stability of the brand across its customer base worldwide and expanding its production hall in Olomouc, Czech Republic are prospects for the future. “After 25 years of success on the global market, we look forward to keeping our promise of providing solutions for our customers that are consistently delivered on time,” Rozboril proudly concluded. www.taf.cz
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RORY WARNER Neg Earth Lights’ Rory Warner looks back on the start of his career as a member of local crew with Showforce and on to opportunities at the independent firm.
Photo: Neg Earth Lights
working hours, getting as much experience as I could, and I’d started pushing Neg for more and more work. The first video shoot I ever did was with about 30 lights – the most recent, in Paris with Blackpink, was more like 300 or 400 lights!” Warner feels that he works in an environment where he is valued: “My managers Joao and Jack have been hugely supportive of my endeavours both inside and outside the company. They take the time to make sure that the team is happy, asking about our personal lives and taking a real interest in what we’re doing outside Neg. That’s really encouraging and creates a great space in which to learn and develop as a person as well as a technician.” A look at his recent work on a job for
“The first gig of my career was with Showforce, aged 17 from there I was just completely infatuated with the whole industry. Although I was doing music tech at college, I didn’t get on with it. I knew I wanted to do something with music, but I didn’t really consider production to be a ‘thing’ – I still think that’s a problem for the industry – not enough young people really know about the opportunities. It was only when I started working as a member of local crew that I fully realised the scale of the production industry and what it might offer.” Warner pursued a BSc degree in Live Event Technology at the University of South Wales, whilst at university he continued to work, stepping in at his local theatre on sound and lighting duties, gaining more experience
alongside his studies. In the summer of 2019 Rory then began working as a casual employee at leading independent lighting, rigging and control supplier, Neg Earth Lights. “I’d always assumed I was going to do something with sound but when I started at Neg Earth, I was like – ‘wow, this lighting stuff is cool’ as well! I’d never really been that interested in it before, but from there it just snowballed. The early part of my involvement in the industry had been a kind of slow and steady build, but suddenly, this was lift-off,” Warner commented. Learning his craft with Neg saw him become a full-time employee, Warner explained: “I think my first ‘site’ day with Neg last year was loading in Gorillaz for rehearsals at our studio. I remember them being complimentary about my work. I was still doing my own stuff outside
Stormzy at Abbey Road Studios illustrates his progress, and just what is possible for young technicians across the production sector. Warner explained: “For the Stormzy gig my role was as a general lighting technician, which covered a host of duties from cleaning and preparing cables and fixtures before load-in, to helping with the building of the truss structure. I witnessed and was involved in some quick thinking and problem solving before all the lights were rigged and flashed and the gaffer was happy. For me it was two days prepping cables and fixtures, and one day to build. It was great to be a part of a gig from start to finish and hugely valuable for me to see the coordinated effort put in by every department at Neg.” Warner’s aim is to become a freelance lighting technician. He believes that his role at Neg will be instrumental in helping him to fulfil that goal. He concluded: “Working at Neg has developed my skills and understanding, allowed me to meet and talk with big names in the lighting and events world, and shown me a career path that I hadn’t thought possible before. The beauty of this industry is that whatever area of production inspires you, if you’re willing to learn, work hard and adapt, there’s a broad spectrum of roles available.” www.negearth.co.uk
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PRODUCTION FUTURES ON TOUR Production Futures celebrates young talent, provides networking opportunities and industry insights at Production Park.
Words: Alicia Pollitt Photos: Matthew Pittman
Production Futures has grown exponentially since 2016, and recently concluded its busy ON TOUR series of events at Production Park in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, offering young people networking opportunities and industry insights: the event also celebrated young talent in the industry with the Breakthrough Talent Awards, supported by TPi Magazine. The event consisted of workshops throughout the day from companies such as Vectorworks, Sennheiser, ChamSys, and CHAUVET Professional, including interactive tours of Production Park. Business leaders, nonprofit initiatives, key decision makers and industry professionals from the BBC, Rock Lititz, TAIT, 4Wall Entertainment and Riedel Communications held talks with a further networking lounge hosted by The Power of Events’ Sophie Beasor featured panel discussions with Recruitment Specialist, Richard Wear; SOS Global Logistics’ Bob O’Brien; Audio Engineer, Sofie Hunter and Stage Engage’s Chris Ablett. “The biggest highlight for us is always how diverse the nominees and winners are, we
are reaching a wide pool of talent. After 22 years in the events industry, it is a joy to see positive change and we are here to celebrate it,” Production Futures CEO, Hannah Eakins commented. “Breakthrough Talent Awards are also about creating a free networking event that newcomers feel welcome to attend and be part of an inclusive community.” Representing newcomers in the industry, the latest rendition of the ceremony not only aims to recognise the hard work put in but to offer winners an opportunity to pick the brains of each award sponsor. Opportunities include paid work to mentorship and tours around their sponsors headquarters and offices. “We love this new concept because it means so much more than a medal. Having these links to industry-leading businesses is a prize that money cannot buy!” Eakins enthused. “The future of this industry is in the youngsters, it’s so important that we recognise and champion this. As employers we need to open our doors and provide support through workplace apprenticeships or training,” said Lights Control Rigging’s Mike Oates.
“Breakthrough Talent Awards is invaluable for nominees and winners, providing an opportunity to show their talents and spend some time with industry professionals in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.” Reflecting on the past year of events, Eakins said: “It has been the best show of the tour yet. The panels and special guests were great, and our partners are now bringing the latest technology to create more engaging learning zones. Most importantly, the atmosphere was extremely positive. “We know that if we build the show, people will come. We’re here to offer pathways to all newcomers because there is no ‘one-size-fitsall’ method, we feel it is important that people understand the industry and the opportunities available, and this only increases as Production Futures gets bigger.” Production Futures’ next ON TOUR event will take place in February at Fly by Nite Rehearsal Studios. “We cannot wait to make our next show bigger and better ever, with more partners, technology and guests.” www.productionfutures.co.uk
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THE 2023 BREAKTHROUGH TALENT AWARDS WINNERS EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR (LESS THAN 3 YEARS)
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
APPRENTICE OF THE YEAR
LIVE EVENT PRODUCTION NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
FESTIVAL PRODUCTION NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
TOURING PRODUCTION NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
VENUE PRODUCTION NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
MUSIC PRODUCTION / STUDIO NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
TV / BROADCAST PRODUCTION NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
YI WEN LIM
AUDIO NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
LIGHTING NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
VISUAL ARTIST NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
VIDEO NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
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SYNCRONORM LAUNCHES DEPENCE R3.1 The latest version of Sycronorm’s multimedia show design and visualisation software hits the market with widespread support from production designers.
Words: Jacob Waite Photo: Syncronorm
Depence R3.1 is the most recent free update for the latest iteration of the Depence multimedia show design and visualisation software, developed and distributed by Syncronorm. The new release builds on the improvements and enhancements of R3 released earlier this year, which for the first time also enabled the visualisation of fireworks in multimedia shows among other dynamic show elements in real time. The update was developed for the creation of huge shows with the possibility to work with up to 1,024 DMX universes via known industry standards like ArtNet, sACN or the grandMA3 Vizkey hardware tool. For this purpose, not only were the corresponding parameters adjusted, but also emphasis was placed on performance and speed during loading, which affects both render times and real-time visualisation. This improvement is based on the CPU side of rendering, which makes projects with more than 2,000 fixtures in terms of visualisation technology possible in the first place. This also includes load times when visualising multiple crowds at festivals or various other animated objects like stage elements. Such a prestigious project among others was the Eurovision Song Contest 2023, which was pre-programmed with the help
of Depence. “The outstanding features of R3.1 include the render quality and high performance,” commented Flo Erdmann of Flo Erdmann Lichtdesign and von|Berg, who used the software to pre-programme Berlin’s Special Olympic World Games Opening 2023 ceremony, which required over 255 DMX universes. “It was the only software solution that offered this number of universes. We also benefitted from the performance upgrades, so we had about 3,500 fixtures patched. the combination of render quality and preproduction tool is the advantage of Depence R3.1. It has become an indispensable tool.” With the latest update, the team at Syncronorm is not only focusing on performance but also on the quality of the renderings. The new Ambient Light feature allows the show visualisation to be even more realistic than before. Also calculated in real time, this new feature, which is based on an approximation to dynamic indirect light, allows dark scenes to appear in a fresh new light. The new Decal feature has also been implemented with Depence R3.1. With the help of this tool, PBR (physical based rendering) textures such as signs, lettering, or wear effects can be placed directly on 3D models
within the software. This makes stage designs even more realistic. After the inclusion of fireworks in the show design cycle of the Depence software system R3, the update also comes with the exciting addition of indoor fireworks effects. To that, effects like gerbs or flashes have been added to the growing Depence library. “The fact it can also visualise lasers, pyrotechnics, and special effects makes it the complete package,” said Markus Neubauer of Lacave Records and X4 Collective – who has used Depence to visualise, and pre-programme shows for the likes of Helene Fischer, Robbie Williams, Parookaville Mainstage, World Club Dome Outdoor Mainstage, AIDA Ships, among others. “I often use the new indoor firework feature for visualising huge EDM shows and festivals and to adapt my busking show file in the office, which is much more comfortable than spending hours pre-programming at night on a real festival rig. I also like to add artists in realtime via the green-screen key, which provides a good way to simulate shows while the artist/ management are hanging out in the office and get a realistic impression of the show.” Depence R3.1 is free for Depence R3 users and can be updated within the software. www.syncronorm.com/depence-release-31
CHAUVET PROFESSIONAL REM SERIES EU Product Manager, Ben Virgo shares what makes CHAUVET Professional’s REM family stand out from other video wall options on the market.
Photos: CHAUVET Professional
What was the inspiration behind the creation and development of the REM Series? “The development of the REM Series started from listening to the needs of our customers and the needs of other brands within the CHAUVET family. Users wanted a more versatile solution with integrated convex/concave curving capabilities, corner protection, and low latency performance for both the indoor and outdoor rental markets. While Kino Flo (a CHAUVET brand) saw the need for a solution with top-tier performance and signal processing for VR/XR environments, this led to us pushing for DCI-P3 colour gamut LEDs which offer 26% more colour possibilities compared to the standard sRGB LEDs from our F series.” How has end user feedback shaped the creation of the product line? “We worked with several key users and consulted with them during the development of the REM Series. Understanding the needs of the market is crucial and helps shape the products we produce. The REM Series is no different, customers wanted better corner protection and the ability to create curves without specialised panels, which helps them to protect their investment and offers them more flexibility with their stock.” What are the differences between the REM1 and the REM 3IP? “REM 1 is an indoor video wall solution with a high-resolution 1.9mm pitch, while REM 3IP is an indoor/outdoor IP65 hybrid video wall
solution with a 3.9mm pitch. Both feature curving, corner protection, and low latency performance for VR/XR studio and live applications. Plus, versatile installation options, easy servicing capabilities thanks to universal magnetic LED modules, and high-quality performance with 7,680 Hz refresh rate for camera-friendly operations.” How important is it to create and develop hybrid solutions? “REM 3IP has been designed for both indoor and outdoor applications. We paid special attention to ensure that by adding the IP rating we didn’t compromise on the performance, serviceability and ultimately the useability of the panels. We worked with customers to understand their requirements whether these be outdoor festival stages or VR studios.” Which features will end users benefit from and be excited about? “The new VMP COEX Platform from NovaStar we have adopted is going to be a massive step up and is going to make mapping quick and easier. It also allowed us to push for higher performance both in terms of the refresh rate of the panels, for better on camera performance, and in the colour control. Thanks to the new platform we have achieved 22-bit grayscale and can dynamically boost images to give the best quality possible. All systems come in road cases with power and data link cables included and we offer a variety of different rigging options including a ground stacking system in a scalable road case.”
Where are we likely to find the REM Series in the future? “The first orders have been delivered in the last couple of weeks and we are excited to see it out on events and tours over the winter months. It is important to mention and thank our UK/ EU rental partners who kindly supported the development of this range, with their real-world experience and feedback. IPS have received their first shipment and are busy putting it to work on events across the UK.” www.chauvetprofessional.com
CHAUVET Professional EU Product Manager, Ben Virgo.
EMPOWERING ACCESSIBILITY IN LIVE EVENTS Marisa Rinchiuso shares her hopes of cultivating greater accessibility within the live sector as an ambulatory wheelchair user and changing perceptions of what it means to be a modern-day ‘roadie’.
Words: Jacob Waite Photos: Marisa Rinchiuso
Touring the European continent can be challenging at the best of times and with a greater focus on cultivating accessible spaces for the live events industry, Marisa Rinchiuso, who has a deteriorative neuromuscular disease, muscular dystrophy, recently embarked on her first experience on the road, assuming the role of Assistant Stage Manager on the European leg of The Weeknd’s latest stadium tour. “The interesting dynamic of progressive disabilities is that it is constantly evolving. My first time working onsite with TAIT was at the 2019 VMAs, I had no mobility aids and worked 15-hour days. I’m mortified when I think back, because my discomfort was due to a lack of knowledge and resources, and fear about utilising mobility aids in a work environment. I was eager to find industry role models I could learn from,” Rinchiuso recalled, highlighting the importance of representation, and creating
opportunities for adaptive methodologies within the fiercely competitive industry. “There can be a mentality of earning your stripes as a young person, but how do you do that if your body doesn’t work in the conventional way? Understanding my disability and what my needs have always been a challenge for me with an ever-changing disability. However, starting a dialogue with my supervisor(s) and my team about where I may need support has been helpful. It felt a lot easier to ask for accommodations later because the door was already open rather than going in with no previous context.” Rinchiuso began working with The Weeknd camp in 2021, helping develop the scenic and automation elements of a North American campaign as a Project Manager at TAIT. “I had this perception that a stage manager needed to be this person who was physically strong, could lift heavy things, and hop in a truck at
a moment’s notice, which is not me by any means, so I felt empowered by the team when they were willing to take a chance on me,” she recalled. “With The Weeknd’s camp, I felt seen as a live event professional and a disabled person. Because the work is very physical, I used my electric wheelchair most of the time. When there were things I couldn’t do physically, I felt comfortable asking for help. The crew always made me feel supported and I knew we were always looking out for each other. On site, Rinchiuso spent most of the load-in and -out in the field, overseeing several trucks of equipment for multiple stages. “Something I still think about to this day was the care and attention of our Beat The Street bus driver. We toured with double-deckers, which are tall, and the steps are hard to climb, but the driver would put down a four-by-four palette for me as a booster step to get in, and that gesture made all the difference.” Even for the most battle-hardened road crew, travel can often be an uncomfortable experience, especially after working long days. “My fellow crewmates helped me navigate countless airports, challenging venues, and even the occasional after-work hang out spot that posed accessibility issues” she remarked, noting that accessible design benefits everyone. “There are lots of changes venues, vendors, and production teams can do to increase accessibility with little or no cost, however, I feel the most substantial change is cultural. Being willing to try something in a new way or re-thinking old methodologies improves accessibility, but also inspires innovation.” However, what made Rinchiuso feel the safest was the camp’s cultivation of care for people on the road. “My experience had quirks that most touring individuals don’t have, but the experience of needing help occasionally is a universal one. I’m a very independent individual but the offer of support was always there, and no one ever forced me to take their
help and respected that I wanted to at least give something a try before asking for help. I always felt that my tour family had my back” she commented, explaining how simply being on the site was a way to encourage accessibility in live events spaces. Following her maiden voyage, Rinchiuso is embarking on a graduate programme in social work and clinical sex therapy, doing what she really cares about: taking care of people. “I want to be a mental health resource for live events professionals because I and so many of my friends have experienced feelings of burnout, even just a few years into this career. Investing in resources that support people in their work and help maintain the things that
bring them joy is something I’m extremely passionate about. Something I particularly loved about The Weeknd’s camp was that friends and family of the crew would come visit, when possible,” Rinchiuso said, underlining her hopes of encouraging more humanity and creating a more sustainable lifestyle for the sector’s workforce. “People who get injured, age, or have a disability are often realising that this industry no longer feels accessible to them. Imagine the kind of community we could create if we continue to foster inclusive environments, working with people from all over the world, surrounding ourselves with different cultures, skill sets, and experiences.”
Opposite: Assistant Stage Manager, Marisa Richiuso with Stage Manager, Sean Kohl and Assistant Stage Manager, Alex Furlan in Stockholm. Above: The Weeknd camp; Marisa sad having been sprayed by a bottle a forklift ran over.
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TRAINING FOR GROWTH: ACORN EVENT STRUCTURES Acorn Event Structures’ Becky Williamson highlights the importance of its specialist training programme geared towards those working in the live events sector.
Words: Stew Hume Photo: ESITS
In all avenues of the live events industry, there has been a notable sea change when it comes to the attitudes towards training incentives. In 2022, TPi spoke to the team at UK Rigging about its Project X scheme, which saw the company bring in and cover the costs of training a batch of aspiring riggers as they worked towards their National Rigging Certificate. In the same year, Acorn Event Structures launched its Event Structure Industry Training Scheme (ESITS). Crafted in collaboration with Simian – the nationally recognised training and consultancy provider focussing on specialist areas including scaffolding and general construction – the scheme provides specific training and certification in the field of building Temporary Demountable Structures such as Staging, Seating and Media Production Structure for those working in the live events space. The programme is split into several levels. Starting with the General Events Crew Operative (GECO), or green card as it’s affectionately referred, this one-day course caters for new entrants to the industry, aiming to get them up to speed with the required knowledge to work on-site safely. Once competed, crew can then make their way through the other stages, including the 10-day TDS Trainee Technician Course (the red card),
followed by modular TDS Technician Course (the purple card). The scheme also has several further qualifications including the TDS Master Course, the Safe Management of TDS SMTDS and TDS Inspections scheme. “We started initial discussions with Simian about this training programme back in 2017,” stated Becky Williamson, Acorn’s HR representative. “Prior to this course, there was no specific training available to our industry. The event and construction elements that were available were just not relevant and this highlighted the need for more specific and bespoke areas of training in our industry.” So far, Acorn has had 92 of its staff pass the green card certificate with 43 obtaining their TDS Trainee Technician certificate and 18 completing the TDS Technician Course. As well as classroom time, the courses also have several on-site assessments and through the summer 2023, numerous Acorn staff were assessed at some of the UK biggest outdoor events and festivals including Arctic Monkeys’ latest stadium tour and Creamfields. Williamson explained why incentives such as this are so vital for the industry. “Health and safety standards need to be improved and brought up to the standards like other industries and we felt it would be convenient for people to be educated. We have spent
£119,000 in the past two years investing in our workforce,” asserted Williamson as an example of how seriously Acorn takes this incentive. It’s worth noting that Acorn has an alternative model to many other companies in the entertainment sphere – namely due to its preference for full-time employees over freelancers. “The majority of our staff are employed by Acorn directly – even those seasonal workers that are brought in from other countries during the summer.” The goal is that all those working for Acorn will be qualified under the new scheme, creating a standardised level of training among its workforce. John Watson, an employee of Acorn who recently completed the Green ESITS training, spoke to TPi about his experience on the scheme. “It was a helpful course for those just starting out in the industry to be able to learn the basics of health and safety,” he stated. “I am looking forward to progressing to the Red ESITS level having gained some experience out on the field this season. Another employee of Acorn Craig Morland who is one of the first to complete the purple ESITS course said: “Personally, I have many years’ experiences within the events and construction industry and it’s great to finally have a qualification that proves my competency in both.” www.acorn-structures.com
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TWENTY THREE: QUALITY OVER QUANTITY A year on from TPi’s last conversation with Twenty Three, CEO Kristof Soreyn explains the steps the company is taking for greater quality control in LED manufacturing.
Words: Alicia Pollitt Photos: Twenty Three
“I want to be a specialist – I don’t want to be a competitor,” explained Kristof Soreyn, CEO of Twenty Three, when talking about the steps the company is taking in becoming a powerhouse in the live events industry. Now in its fifth year, Twenty Three has become a well-known name within the live events sector, providing specific LED framing solutions. As well as providing solutions used in the install market, the company’s framing solutions have also found themselves on some of the world’s biggest tours for the likes of Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran and Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, as Soreyn asserts, he does not want to compete with any staging specialists or become a rental house, but to offer a muchneeded solution for those who use LED in the entertainment space. With bases in China and Belgium, the company has recently expanded into the US, opening a new factory in Nashville. Soreyn talked through the new hotspot and its benefit of centralisation in the US while also distinguishing the difference between the China office. “We don’t want to replicate what we’re doing in China, which is focusing on the mass production of the LED frame,” he commented, explaining how the European and US offices focus more on the custom solutions for productions that require bespoke LED framing solutions. “The combination of different factories and the different kinds of people makes us strong in delivering highquality products.” Utilising sophisticated manufacturing to meet the ever-growing demand and increasing
scale of productions, Twenty Three values quality over quantity. The company employs the latest technology in the pursuit of the highest standards. One technology that is unique to the market is the ‘water jetting’ method used to cut sheet metal. While water jetting is much more expensive than alternative methods, Soreyn explained that the precision that comes with it is worth the extra expense. “Laser cutting generates a lot of heat, which can result in expansion, whereas water jetting doesn’t allow this room for error. Industries such as aerospace use water jets for precision as they don’t want the changes to materials.” In addition to its water jetting and multiaccess CNC machines, Twenty Three is looking
towards future investments in the next year. Further automation is key for Soreyn. “That can improve quality even further,” he commented. “Especially in mass production, so you can eliminate the margin for human error while maintaining quality levels.” Despite exponential growth over the past five years, further expansion into different parts of the world isn’t a priority for Soreyn. Instead, he wants the company to build further out of the US factory due to the scale of the market in the US and the number of rental companies in Nashville. “The growth of a company is important but maintaining the quality standard is even more important, therefore, we must balance our growth,” he concluded. www.twentythree.be
Twenty Three’s Belgium base; Members of Twenty Three’s Nashville factory.
POWER OF EVENTS: INDUSTRY INSIGHT Founder of Smyle Group and The Power of Events, Rick Stainton outlines the goals for The Power of Events’ newly-launched Industry Insight platform.
There has been a clear need to provide a cross-industry picture across insights and trends within the live events industry. Striving to provide multiple data points is The Power of Events. The collective’s approach and research, now catalogued in a new app – Event Industry Insight – will enable comprehensive input from all sectors by providing scale, representation, and a dynamic user experience. The app also facilitates customised target contributors and stands as an open results publication, featuring academic expertise from leading universities for data analysis as a tool available for the industry partners to support research requirements. Rick Stainton, one of the founders of The Power of Events, walked through some of the goals of the app. How can I access the app? “The app is available now to download and register for free from app stores, it will have an update in mid-November to be ready for posting notifications for live research projects.” Which markets are you and the wider team drawing inspiration from? “We sought advice from a number of app developers who have worked with other markets regarding the user experience, but as the events industry is unique with its event professionals’ breadth, operational market, seven core sectors and related data focus, we wanted to build on the trust and support the platform has already generated. The app is an extension of that in tone, look, user experience and efficient engagement/output – The Power of Events Taskforce and Research Action group all contributed and offered feedback as the wireframe and development progressed.” What are some of the key pieces of research are you hoping to undertake with this app? “Several insight projects are already in
the mix, including a project with Leeds Beckett University on employment resilience and others. Another is focussed on underrepresented backgrounds and accessibility into the event industry as a career and another on procurement evolvement and inclusivity of the supply chain. We are asking the industry to suggest potential projects we can support throughout the launch tour so there are likely to be more in the pipeline very soon.” Is the goal of the platform to produce reports from the research? “Some results could be published immediately on the app and updated live as each respondent submits their answers. Other longer-term and more deep dive projects will likely work alongside some of our University partners to assess, collate and interpret the data into trend and insight analysis, to then produce infographic and more detailed reports as required, these will then be published for the industry to benefit from as appropriate.” What are some of the main goals of The Power of Events’ upcoming roadshow? “The Power of Events is about engaging with the whole industry and its stakeholders so what better way than to go out to all the sectors, in person, across all four nations at over 20 different industry events in six weeks and meet thousands of them. We really want to listen to them, showcase the work on the platform and the new insight app, as well as profiling the new Careers Hub section going onto the platform in November and the Schools Engagement programme starting in December, with an East of England regional pilot as a start. The team will be offering opportunities to get involved in and help shape all these projects, as well as asking for suggestions for new ones into 2024 and beyond.” www.thepowerofevents.org
The Power of Events founder, Rick Stainton
BLACKTRAX: THE TRUTH BEHIND COMMON MYTHS BlackTrax Training and Senior Product Specialist, Nicholas Lau, highlights some of the common misconceptions when it comes to the company’s tracking options.
Words: Nicholas Lau Photos: BlackTrax
In the fast-paced world of technical production, myths and misconceptions often overshadow the truth about innovative technologies like real-time tracking. As a pioneering solution in the industry, it is essential to debunk these myths and reaffirm trust. Tracking not only offers an extensive list of benefits, but also improves existing, even outdated equipment and technologies, a fact that is often overlooked. MYTH 1: BLACKTRAX CALIBRATION IS TIME-CONSUMING BlackTrax calibration typically takes between five to 20 minutes, depending on venue size. For lighting integration, allocate an additional minute per lighting fixture for calibration and you are set. Accidental sensor bumps will not disrupt the entire system. BlackTrax relies on sensor coverage overlap, ensuring uninterrupted tracking as long as two or more sensors can see the trackable. BlackTrax’s
Continuous-calibration feature, runs in the background and uses the tracked beacons data to constantly refine the system calibration and precision. MYTH 2: BLACKTRAX IS PRONE TO RADIO INTERFERENCE Contrary to some beliefs, our system is not susceptible to radio interference issues. While classic beacons use radio signals for synchronisation, they transmit data infrequently, reducing the chances of interference. By strategically placing the Timekeeper (transmitter) near the stage and selecting non-overlapping frequency bands, potential conflicts with other equipment can be mitigated. Mini-Beacons or Mini-Beacon Waves, rely solely on infrared tracking. MYTH 3: IT CANNOT TRACK ANIMALS BlackTrax is not limited to tracking humans and objects. It can track anything equipped
with a BlackTrax beacon, including animals. From dogs and horses to massive mechatronic dinosaurs. The rule is straightforward – tag a beacon and make sure that it remains visible to the sensors. MYTH 4: IT TAKES TOO LONG TO PROGRAMME It is a misconception that programming BlackTrax is a time-consuming process. BlackTrax offers a streamlined workflow that can quickly establish a basic tracking setup. However, the real strength of BlackTrax lies in its advanced features like prediction, offsets, delays, and zones. While fine-tuning these features may demand a bit more effort, they grant designers unprecedented control over their productions, leading to superior results. MYTH 5: IT CANNOT TRACK IN SUNLIGHT Another common myth suggests that BlackTrax falters in sunlight, hindering outdoor
events. While it is true that direct sunlight can challenge infrared-based tracking systems, BlackTrax remains versatile. It can be calibrated the night before or at dusk, circumventing direct sunlight and excelling in various environments, including outdoor festivals and stadiums. Additionally, BlackTrax provides tools to mitigate infrared interference caused by indirect sunlight. MYTH 6: OPTIMAL BEACON PLACEMENT IS COMPLICATED Placing tracking beacons on performers is surprisingly straightforward. Stringer LEDs or Mini-Beacons require only their tips to be exposed for tracking which also makes it easy for discrete costume integration. Ideally, position them on the performer’s shoulders, collar, inear, wig, or lapel. For individuals with long hair, shoulder placement is recommended. Using two LEDs or MiniBeacons on a performer provides redundancy, ensuring seamless tracking even if one is temporarily obscured. MYTH 7: BLACKTRAX IS EXPENSIVE BlackTrax introduced the BT-1 system, a costeffective solution to your production needs available from $29,999. In closing, dispelling these myths and embracing the facts behind BlackTrax Tracking technology, paves the way for a brighter, more confident future in technical production, ensuring innovative and extraordinary live experiences for audiences worldwide. www.blacktrax.cast-soft.com
BlackTrax Training and Senior Product Specialist, Nicholas Lau
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TPi #278 AD INDEX 4Wall Entertainment ..........................................................................................................5 64 Audio ............................................................................................................................... 79 Absen .................................................................................................................................... 23 Acorn .................................................................................................................................. 105 Adam Hall Group..................................................................................................................6 Adamson Systems Engineering ............................................................................... BC ADJ............................................................................................................................................4 AED Group............................................................................................................... IBC & 10 Ayrton....................................................................................................................................29 Beat The Street ....................................................................................................... 41 & 55 CGS.........................................................................................................................................89 ChamSys..............................................................................................................................69 CHAUVET Professional .............................................................................................. 109 Christie Digital ......................................................................................................................7 Contrik ..................................................................................................................................84 DAS......................................................................................................................................... 93 DiGiCo ................................................................................................................................... 19 Digital Projection........................................................................................................... 105 Elation ................................................................................................................................... 31 EM Acoustics ..................................................................................................................... 71 ER Productions .................................................................................. Reverse Gatefold Freight Minds......................................................................................................................77 Gloshine ............................................................................................................................... 21 GLP.......................................................................................................................................... 73 GTL Sessions ........................................................................................................................8 Harlequin Floors ............................................................................................................... 35 HK Audio.............................................................................................................................113 HOF.........................................................................................................................................63 Indu-Electric.......................................................................................................................85 INFiLED.................................................................................................................................. 16 Interfacio .......................................................................................................................... 103 IPS .........................................................................................................................................112 ISE ................................................................................................................................. 12 & 13 Kvant ......................................................................................................................................83 L-Acoustics............................................................................................................................3 Lightswitch..........................................................................................................................33 Martin Audio ....................................................................................................................... 75 Martin Professional ....................................................................................................... IFC Megapixel ............................................................................................................................ 25 Millennium Studios ..........................................................................................................68 Neutrik UK.......................................................................................................................... 111 Patchwork London........................................................................................................... 67 Phoenix Bussing ............................................................................................................... 15 PixMob...................................................................................................................................43 Pro Tapes ............................................................................................................................. 91 Production Futures .........................................................................................................99 Radiotek-CSE Crosscom .............................................................................................87 RCM ........................................................................................................................................34 REAN ..................................................................................................................................... 24 Riedel Communications ................................................................................................ 95 Robe .....................................................................................................................Digital DPS ROE Visual ........................................................................................................................... 51 ROXX Lights ....................................................................................................................... 11 Schnick-Schnack-Systems ........................................................................................ 81 SGM ....................................................................................................................................... 37 SGPS ShowRig................................................................................................................... 47 Spartan Crew ..................................................................................................................... 59 Strictly FX UK............................................................................................................44 & 45 Syncronorm........................................................................................................................ 74 TAIT......................................................................................................................................... 27 TPi Awards........................................................................................................................... 17 TPiMEA Awards................................................................................................................. 87 Twenty Three....................................................................................................................107 Vectorworks........................................................................................................................ 49 X-Laser.................................................................................................................................. 57
RIK WEIGHTMAN Live Nation Production Director, Rik Weightman shares his passion for the live entertainment sector, after another successful calendar year of business.
When did you first get you start in the music industry? “I started working for a small recording/ rehearsal studio/promoter hub in Plymouth called the Plymouth Music Collective (PMC) back in 2004 after I’d finished my degree. I’d been in several bands across my teens in South Wales and in my early 20s when I moved down to Plymouth. It was a world I was already very much a part of within the pubs and clubs around the city. However, prospects at the time were limited and I was turned down for a temporary job in a department store a few days prior to being offered the PMC role. I was very lucky indeed!” You spent several years as a tour manager. What were some of your highlights from this time in your life? “I remember the first tour I went on was with The Martin Harley Band. We toured around the UK in a small van with the instruments in the boot, playing pubs and clubs and sleeping in people’s spare rooms and floors or random hostels in half-built bunk beds. I loved every minute of it! It was my first introduction to being part of a ‘tour family’. I toured at this level for a couple more years with various other acts, learning the ropes and meeting a load of wonderful people who exist on that circuit. For pure entertainment, I rate those touring days at a highlight. Speak to any stadium roadie and they’ll all remember their first van tour fondly. It’s a rite of passage and an incredible way to meet a whole load of people.”
“Live music has never been more in demand. We produced a record number of shows over 2022/23 and it doesn’t look like we’ll be slowing down in 2024” Rik Weightman, Live Nation Production Director
How did you end up working at Live Nation? “After leaving Plymouth and moving to London and working as a freelancer. As well as being a tour manager, I had also had a stint as a promoter representative for a local London-based promoter. I got a gig as a stage manager for KOKO in Camden and made a lot of connections with the promoter reps who were coming through the building on their various tours. One of those reps was Bruce Saunders who worked predominantly for Live Nation, who mentioned that they were looking for people and it went from there. I started off doing tiny shows and kept going until it became my predominant source of work. In 2018 I was taken on as a full-time employee.” What does your role entail? “My team works alongside promoter reps who are constantly out on the road looking after the club/theatre and arena tours. In addition to supporting those guys, our production
department works with touring production teams to ensure their show works within the various indoor venues as well as outdoor stadium shows during the summer. For the stadiums we set up the site, liaise with the riggers and coordinate with local crew to load the shows in and out of the building as well as ensuring the backstage is set up as needed by the artists team. Alongside this we work internally with the other departments to ensure ticket buyers have the best experience of the show possible. It takes an army of people to do this. The reward is a prepared site, production in, and the gates open to the public.” What are your thoughts looking back on the 2023 season? “Live music has never been more in demand. We produced a record number of shows over 2022/23 and it doesn’t look like we’ll be slowing down in 2024.” www.livenation.co.uk
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Permanent installations present their own set of expectations and need a purpose-built product for those demands. The IS-Series brings the rider acceptance and performance of Adamson’s touring products to the world of integration. The new ultra-compact IS7c point source takes the well-rounded IS-Series to 12 application-specific boxes. For more info visit adamsonsystems.com
New! - IS7c Ultra-compact , light-weight, passive 2-way coaxial speaker Frequency Response: 80 Hz - 20 kHz | SPL: 130 dB