TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL
LIVE EVENT DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY • DECEMBER 2020 • ISSUE 256
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THE INDUSTRY’S FAVOURITE AWARDS CEREMONY RETURNS ON 24 MAY 2021. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of TPi’s annual get together and, with this in mind, we’ll be celebrating 20 years of winners while also acknowledging some of the key innovations that have taken place this year. After such a challenging 12 months, next year’s awards will be a much-needed reunion, a celebration and a chance to catch up in-person as we bring the magic of the TPi Awards to the physical events space. Stay tuned for more information. Until then…
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D8plus Ultra Look to the future... Well, we’ve made it, December 2020… who needs a drink? As for us in ‘sunny’ Stockport, currently under tier three, this unfortunately means a quick stop to the supermarket as our pubs are still shut, but still, we’d like to raise a glass (can) to all the crew, rental companies and manufacturers that have supported us and worked tirelessly throughout this year to ensure that the live events industry lives on. In this monumentally challenging year, it has been truly inspiring to witness first-hand the ingenuity, creativity and out-of-thebox thinking of this industry which, against the odds, has continued to make music accessible to a global audience. Our cover story details our first foray into the world of virtual events, taking this year’s Production Futures online. With over 1,200 students, freelancers and budding future live events personnel in attendance, the event welcomed almost 90 expert speakers and leading names in the industry, who helped us provide an entire of interesting and engaging content. I’d like to personally thank all the speakers and supporters who made the event possible – especially the team at FIX8Group, who facilitated our journey in the digital space and ensured that everything ran smoothly throughout the week. Due to popular demand, TPi will present another Production Futures event in the first half of 2021. Read all about this year’s action on p8 and catch up on-demand by visiting the Production Futures website. One of the most popular sessions at Production Futures Online came from the organisers of the ground-breaking 3T (Tour Tech Training) course. Founded by Nao and Mura Masa in partnership with Native Management and Sony Music UK, the incentive provided 10 young Black women the opportunity to get hands-on technical knowledge from experienced crewmembers and discover exactly what it takes to break into the live music and production sector. We spoke in-depth to the organisers, course leaders and, most importantly, the students on p26. Of course, it wouldn’t be an issue of TPi without a healthy dose of production profiles, and this month we have covered several events that, once again, prove the live events industry is still pushing the boundaries during these trying times. From James Bay’s latest livestreamed show at Shakespeare’s Globe (p48), to rising Kiwi star Benee, who set out on her first full-production tour of New Zealand (p40), innovation and creativity abound. Here’s hoping that 2021 will see the rest of the world following in the footsteps of New Zealand and return to sold-out shows sooner rather than later. Finally, we are pleased to officially announce the date of next year’s TPi Awards – 24 May 2021. Later than normal to account for COVID-19, TPi Awards 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of our annual soirée and as such, we are treating it as both a celebration of the past two decades of innovation within the sector as well as a much-needed opportunity to get together once again. More information will be coming your way in the new year but, until then, make sure you save the date. Until next year... Stew Hume Editor
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EDITOR Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8385 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ASSISTANT EDITOR Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8352 Mobile: +44 (0)7592 679612 e-mail: email@example.com
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COVER Production Futures design by Dan Seaton
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Issue 256 – December 2020
CHIEF EXECUTIVE Justin Gawne Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7768 850767 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org GRAPHIC DESIGN & PRODUCTION Dan Seaton: email@example.com Mel Capper: firstname.lastname@example.org
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TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL is a controlled circulation magazine, published 12 times a year by Mondiale Media Limited under licence. ISSN 1461-3786 Copyright © 2020 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 2020 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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PRODUCTION FUTURES 08
Production Futures Online 2020 A round-up of this year’s event, which saw over 1,200 attendees gather for a week of online networking and learning.
22 STNDBY Tom Campbell and James Murden launch a clothing brand designed specifically for crew.
26 3T Jacob catches up with 10 talented Black women, discovering what it takes to break into the live events sector.
36 WACKIT Claypaky and CAST Group, alongside LD, Durham Marenghi present a virtual lighting design contest.
WWE ThunderDome Screenworks provides an LED solution for WWE fans to ensure they still get close to the action.
PRODUCTION PROFILE 40 Benee The up-and-coming singer sets out on the first arena tour to take place in New Zealand following the COVID-19 crisis.
James Bay The singer-songwriter performs a unique livestreamed set at London playhouse Shakespeare’s Globe.
INTERVIEW 54 Avolites The company discusses how its PRISM PLAYER is changing video workflow for end users.
LED on Camera Brompton Technology’s Chris Deighton states the need for the right LED setup for virtual audiences.
First Option Martin Barraclough outlines the company’s latest sector-specific COVID-19 training amid the return to live.
62 PUSH LIVE The livestreaming pioneers discuss why distribution of content is key if you want to build an online audiance.
PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE 66
Stagehand’s latest fundraising efforts and opportunities, all in an effort to aid those worst hit by COVID-19.
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Inspiring the next generation of production crew, TPi’s Production Futures presents a full week of online content on a bespoke platform – providing free networking and learning opportunities during these challenging times for the events industry. TPi’s Stew Hume and Jacob Waite report... Earlier this summer, during one of TPi’s virtual team meetings, the topic of Production Futures came up. Like many, we naively assumed that when the UK was plunged into lockdown in March that we’d be out of this mess by autumn, or at the very latest, winter time. However, as the months dragged on it seemed the likelihood of us hosting Production Futures in-person was looking increasingly unlikely. That being said, and during one of the most trying times within the live events industry, it seemed imperative that our annual event still went ahead to inspire those hoping to break into the live events sector. Taking a leaf out of the industry’s return to live rulebook, we dived headfirst into the world of virtual events. Our platform of choice, Swapcard, allowed us to create an online forum which saw some of the biggest names in the industry join TPi to share their stories, and more importantly, impart their pearls of wisdom to over 1,200 digital attendees. Taking the show into the digital realm also allowed us to expand our audience, globally, as we welcomed students from around the world. In total, Production Futures Online welcomed almost 90 speaks across the whole week covering a range of topics, all with the overall goal of
pulling back the curtain of the live events industry. The livestream was handled by FIX8Group, who also provided one of its state-of-the-art studios for the live interviews, while simultaneously ensuring that the event stayed on the air for the five-days straight. As well as streamed content, several supporters of Production Futures hosted their own digital booths where they were able to interact with attendees and provide resources for people to peruse at their leisure. The supporters featured a range of leading names from 4Wall UK, Adamson Systems Engineering, Backstage Academy, ChamSys, d&b audiotechnik, DiGiCo, FIX8Group, Institute of Sound Communications and Visual Engineers, John Henrys, LIPA, LMG and CoiL, NEXO, Notch, Pearce Hire, Pixl Evolution, Production Park Studios, PSA, Robe, NRG (Next Robe Generation), Sennheiser, Shure, The ALD, UCFB, UK Music and Vectorworks. In the next few pages we take a look back at the five days of content, all of which is still available to view online. Due to popular demand and the success of the foray, TPi will present another Production Futures event in the first half of 2021. To register and watch this year’s content on-demand please visit: www.productionfutures.co.uk
Singer-songwriter, Frank Turner; Lighting Designer, Ali Pike; Tour Music Live’s Trevor Williams, Bastille Monitor Engineer, Ben Kingman and FOH Engineer, Paul Cooper.
DAY 1 Multiple TPi Awards winner in the Production Manager of the Year category, Trevor Williams – who has worked with the likes of Stormzy, Dave, and Grace Jones – kicked off this year’s Production Futures joining TPi Editor, Stew Hume to discuss the current socio-political climate and sharing a call to action for diversity in the sector. He, like many leading names in the sector, got his first ‘big break’ unaware of the wider career opportunities available. “It began as a hobby for me, looking after a church choir, which included 12 people and a fivepiece band.” This led to an out-of-the-blue call from a friend, who asked him to production manage a show featuring Tinie Tempah and Wretch 32 and, almost eight years later, he now heads a tour and production firm representing some of the most exciting British artists on the touring circuit. As well as leading Tour Music Live, Williams remains passionate about bringing young people into the live events industry. He outlined what he looks for in emerging talent. “I always ask them the same questions; ‘Why do you want to get into live events, and what are you passionate about?’” He went on to explain that those answers always separate the fans from the people that truly want to work in this industry. “Being a fan and wanting to work in this world are two very different things.” Another point he continually asserted throughout his talk was the need, even now, to do your research on the industry. “Research as much as you can and learn who the main players are in the field,” he said. “If they have made that sort of effort, they are the people who stand out of the crowd.” Stage Miracles Office & Operations Manager, Alex Slater followed Williams. A mainstay of the UK music industry since 1977, Stage Miracles has provided local crew for some of the largest concerts the world has ever seen. Local crew are considered the lifeblood of any tour, so it seemed pertinent to bring in Slater to give the Production Futures audience an
insight into this side of the industry. “Having a good attitude and a sense of humour are two of the main things I look for while bringing people in,” mused Slater, while explaining how Stage Miracles looks for up-and-coming talent. “Those two traits can help an awful lot. Turning up on time is one of the biggest things that is nonnegotiable. You can be the best tech in the world, but if you’re 10 minutes late, nobody will care,” he explained, matter-of-factly. He also outlined the importance of “getting stuck in” – especially during the early years of a career in the industry, as the very nature of the touring world means that the same people work with each other time and time again. “You often find that some of the techs remember you, which is why many of our guys end up going on to work for some of the big production companies such as PRG. Crew bosses tend to recognise people and they will end up getting requested.” Crew, as Slater stated, is certainly a good place to start if you’re looking for your first step into the industry. Next up, Shure gave an insight into its latest SLX-D Digital Wireless System. The SLX platform that was launched in 2014 was reinvented this year, with a new line of products for the mid-tier price point. From lecture halls to houses of worship to performance venues, SLX-D delivers transparent, 24-bit digital audio and rock-solid RF performance, with easy setup and recharge ability options in a suite of versatile wireless system configurations. Changing gears, TPi’s Jacob Waite caught up with the TPi Breakthrough Talent Awards’ class of 2019 – Laser Technician, Harry Boyde (ER Productions); Sound Engineer, Dylan Barber; Sound Engineer, Oli Crump; and Lighting Technician, Owen McIlreavy. The group shared what they’re up to 12 months on from their awards win – sharing their words of advice for peers looking to break into the industry during this difficult time. Applications for this year’s awards are open, details and the application 09
Stage Miracles Office & Operations Manager, Alex Slater; TPi Breakthrough Talent Award 2019 winners, Dylan Barber, Owen McIlreavy, Oli Crump and Harry Boyde.
Keeping on the audio theme, d&b audiotechnik provided an interview with FOH Engineer, Robb Allan, who has worked with the likes of Radiohead, Massive Attack and Coldplay, among many others. He explored the possibilities of d&b Soundscape within the arena environment and explained how reinventing his mixing style opened audiences to a whole new listening experience. In closing, TPi chatted with singer-songwriter Frank Turner and several his loyal crew – Production Manager, Dougie Murphy; Lighting Designer, Ali Pike; and FOH Engineer, Graham Kay – who shared their collective thoughts on the current crisis in the live events industry and theorised on how live events may return in the coming months. Among a long conversation about life on the road, Turner explained how throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been involved in almost every possible rendition of a live event – from livestreamed to socially distant. “I’m addicted to playing shows,” he said. “During this whole thing, I was just looking into what was possible during this time.” Turner even brought along the rest of his crew, who aided in a paid-for livestream that was covered in TPi’s October issue. “It’s been a steep learning curve, but it’s meant I’ve been able to do some work,” professed Kay, who since lockdown, has thrown himself into the streaming world. “I’ve gone back and forth about streaming and if it will be the future,” mused Turner. “There are going to people in the medium term who will not be coming to gigs any time soon – be it because of health conditions or caring for others – and it’s important not to exclude those people.” Pike interjected with her thoughts on the possibilities of the medium. “I think what we showed during our own livestreamed show was that an awful
form can be found on the Production Futures website. From the upcoming talent to established crewmembers, TPi caught up with two of the main players of Bastille’s audio team – and both TPi Award winners to boot – Monitor Engineer, Ben Kingman and FOH Engineer, Paul Cooper. Sharing news of the band’s audio setup during their last campaign, Kingman and Cooper fielded questions about touring with a top-level arena act. Cooper has been with Bastille since 2012 – prior to the band’s first album and subsequent rise to fame – while Kingman joined a year later in the lead up to the first major UK tour. “The band’s audio setup has changed drastically over the years,” stated Cooper. “When I started with them, we were trying to simply fit into a pubs and small clubs. Dan – our frontman – has always been ambitious, so, the second we had more opportunities to grow the channel count and instruments on stage, he went for it.” Over the years, the duo has expanded their 16-channel setup exponentially – the band’s latest show in Hamburg featured a band with 70 channels and an 80-piece orchestra alone. Imparting advice for the next generation of sound engineers, Kingman emphasised the importance of shadowing. “If you’re there, on site and keen, that really sticks out to people.” Cooper concurred: “Don’t say ‘no’ to anything that is reasonable. Take every opportunity that comes towards you. Although COVID-19 has put everything on hold, when it’s back, just say ‘yes’ to everything.” Cooper also suggested reading around the subject during this quieter time for live events. “You might not be able to get in front of a PA right now but go and look into the other side such as tour managing. The broader you can be when you start, the more opportunities will come your way.” 10
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Head of Production for Pyramid and Other Stages at Glastonbury, Emma Reynolds-Taylor; Lighting Designer, Tom Campbell; TPi Awards Backline Technician of the Year, Bob Munro; Production Manager, Jake Vernum.
lot is achievable by just thinking outside the box,” she stated. “One thing I love about the tour community, is that everyone who works within it is a problem solver,” Turner concluded. “With that in mind, one reason to be optimistic about the future, is that this industry is full of people who ask the question ‘what can we do?’.” DAY 2 Lighting Designer, Durham Marenghi – who has created show designs for theatre, opera, dance, trade, concert, heritage, architectural and television productions worldwide – opened the second day of proceedings by sharing the secrets to successful large-scale aesthetics. Referencing his work during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, Marenghi went into extreme detail on how awe-inspiring global events such as this come to fruition. Over to the most important place on tour, Rockpool Tour Catering’s Simon Mitchell discussed life on the road with Metallica and the food that fuels the metal juggernaut on the road. Next up, Production Manager, Mattie Evans, spoke to the Production Futures audience about Pendulum’s latest livestream performance, which came live from the middle of the sea on top of the famed Spitbank Fort. The band and their loyal crew pushed the limits of what a performance in lockdown can look like. “Alongside our show designer, Andy Hurst, we managed to pull together this design for this crazy show,” stated Evans, who then delved into the logistical feat of getting a show, complete with lasers and pyro, onto this historic building. “As a Production Manager, one of my main skills is logistics. However, during this show, as well as the usual supplier chats, I was also liaising with the port authority and the navy, due to the ship movements and the amount of pyro we were using.”
Following a brief intermission, Vectorworks’ Tom White walked guests through the company’s pre-visualisation software. In the 30-minute presentation, White explained how you could prepare a concert or event within Vectorworks and shared some insights into the company’s previsualisation software, Vision. It’s worth noting that students get access to Vision and Vectorworks for free so, if you are in full-time education, go to the company’s website to request the software. TPi Awards Backline Technician of the Year, Bob Munro reminisced about trading life in his Scottish hometown to tour the world with the likes of Blossoms and Miles Kane – detailing the roles and responsibilities of a top-level backline tech. “There really is no course for a backline tech,” stated Munro. “The only way you learn is by going out there and getting into it. There is no easy way in; you just have to keep pushing in a similar way a band would when they are starting in their career.” As for right now, Munro explained that the best thing that you can do is “learn your instrument inside out”. He continued: “If you learn how each component works, it will prepare you for the future.” Having created stunning lighting shows for Yungblud, 30 Seconds to Mars and Bullet For My Valentine, award-winning Lighting Designer, Tom Campbell shared an insight into what it’s like to tour with some of music’s most exciting rock acts – sharing sage words of wisdom for those hoping to do the same. “The one thing I always stress to someone making their start in the industry is to not plagiarise,” he said. “There is a hell of a lot of that going on in lighting, but if you can be a designer and do something original, that will be how you carve your own career.” Switching back to the audio world, TPi welcomed Business Development and Strategy Manager of Solotech UK, Paul Timmins to dissect the role of an audio supplier. Looking at the number of specialisms 12
within the field, Timmins divulged his expert advice on how someone starting their career might find a place within the sector. “I’ve done a lot of recruiting over the years and attitude and personality are the two key things I always look for when bringing in someone new,” he explained. He added that various roles in a modern-day audio crew meant that those coming into the industry should really consider where their passions lie. According to Timmins, the ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ crewmember no longer exists. “It’s important that people getting into the industry have an idea of the direction they want to go.” Having worked with the likes of George Ezra, Fatboy Slim and David Gray for the past few touring campaigns, Production Manager, Jake Vernum explained his pathway to the PM position and the skills and mindset you required to take on the job. “With the Production Manager role, you have to start from somewhere,” he explained, regaling TPi with his personal career path from lighting tech to PM. “You’re not going to leave university and start production managing a stadium show; academy gigs and small-level festivals are a great place to cut your teeth.” He also offered some tips to any aspiring production managers during these uncertain times. “Networking goes without saying right now and, although those you contact may not be able to offer you anything, it’s a great time to get your name out there and ensure your digital footprint is all up to date,” he added. “Other than that, software is becoming so important in the PM role, with products such as CAD and Vectorworks.” Headlining day two was none other than Head of Production for both the Pyramid and Other Stages at Glastonbury, Emma Reynolds-Taylor. During her talk, Reynolds-Taylor explained what it takes to oversee such a mammoth task each year and the leadership qualities required to make the two iconic stages a success. Having worked for several years in the skateboarding industry, a chance meeting with a festival organiser provided her with a pathway into the
industry, which gradually snowballed into a career in live events. Tasked with overseeing two of most famous festival stages in the world, Reynolds-Taylor pointed out the realities of the role. “It’s not as glamorous as people think; it’s really long days and you are certainly not just hanging out with bands and celebrities. You see some amazing things, but that is not the reason to get into this job. It’s all about the hard work rather than the glory.” She also stated that even in these uncertain times, being at the forefront of people’s minds is very important. “It’s the fine balance of being in people’s minds for the right reason, rather than bothering them,” she elaborated. DAY 3 Midway through the week TPi sat down with some of the team behind the Virgin Money Unity Arena – one of the few outdoor events that managed to go ahead this year in the UK. Engine No.4’s Dave Weeks; Kingdom Services Project Manager, Matt Simpson; and R&M Productions’ Peter Shorten recalled the measures put in place to ensure audience safety of performing artists and production crew amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the key takeaways from the project. Next up, Production Futures handed the mic over to some of the participants of the inaugural 3T project. This summer, the Nao, Mura Masa, Native Management and Sony UK launched an initiative which provides Black women with the knowledge and skills to break into the live music and production industry. Hoping to counter the lack of diversity within the live events space, the collective – spearheaded by the performing artists – opened applications and invited 10 Black women to take part in 12 weekends of practical and theoretical live events tuition at ICMP, creating a final, pass-out ‘Big Weekend’ show at Millennium Studios. In this Production Futures Online panel, chaired by sound engineer
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Virgin Money Unity Arena tech team; Lighting Designer / Fireplay CEO, Nick Whitehouse; More Eyes’ Matt Sharp and Pete Thornton; Universal Pixels Co-Founder, Phil Mercer.
turned 3T Co-Course Leader teacher, Freyja Lawson, the first cohort of 3T graduates shared their individual insights and experience of the initiative [read more about the initiative on p.26]. With video becoming increasingly prevalent in set design, the importance of content is undeniable. With this idea in mind, TPi invited Matt Sharp and Pete Thornton – known collectively as More Eyes – to discuss the demands of content creation and what those hoping to pursue a career in this field can do during this uncertain time to best prepare themselves for the future. Behind every world tour, there is a metaphorical minefield to be manoeuvred to ensure the bands, crew and set arrive at each destination safely and on time. In a Production Futures Online panel, Rock-It Cargo’s Chris Palmer, TAG Global Travel’s Trevor Johnson, Phoenix Bussing’s Andy Gray, and Fly By Nite’s Matt Jackson untangled the proverbial web of travel logistics, explaining how logistical foresight makes each world tour possible. It is likely that many looking for a career in live events wouldn’t have considered transport and logistics as the natural way into the industry, but all four representatives discussed their part within each tour that sees bands and crew get from A to B and the skills needed to work within this sector. The team from Sennheiser welcomed several the Mumford & Sons touring family to join Production Futures Online to answer questions on working in the live events industry. Special guests included FOH Engineer, Chris Pollard; Lighting Designer, Ed Warren; Guitar Technician, Alex Oakley; Guitar and Bass Technician, Ryan Wyatt; and Merchandise Manager, Pete Dunn. The panel was hosted by Sennheiser UK’s Andy Egerton and Kevin Gwyther-Brown. With such a broad range of specialities, Egerton went to each crew member to talk about their personal journey into the industry and what advice
they would give to newcomers. All the crew also discussed the trials and tribulations of the band’s 360° shows as part of the Delta Tour. mondo*dr Assistant Editor, Emma Davidson spoke to the Strategic Director of Music Venues Trust, Beverley Whitrick, about the #SaveOurVenues campaign, discovering how COVID-19 has affected venues in the UK and how businesses may return soon. “The biggest issue that has faced venues throughout the pandemic is that everything we do is now considered dangerous,” Whitrick stated plainly. “One of the hardest things to deal with is the government saying what we do is dangerous when we feel that what we do is very important and healthy in creating communities. That distance has been very challenging.” As Music Venues Trust deals mainly with grassroots, independent venues, Whitrick was keen to point out the issue that most of the spaces were rented properties and now simply can’t pay the rent on top of all the other overheads. She also raised that point that these grassroots venues are very important to fight for, as they are the breeding ground not just for up-and-coming artists, but also where crew technicians of the future often get their start. Over the past decade, video has played an integral role in set design for live shows and tours. As Co-Founder of TPi Awards Favourite Video Rental Company, Universal Pixels, Phil Mercer reflected on the company’s involvement in The Chemical Brothers, Spice Girls, and Massive Attack, among others, described the changing role of video in touring. “I like to think of video as a pile of Lego bricks – it can make a regular shape or something more random,” stated Mercer. “The main thing we try to push at Universal Pixels is to ensure everything can be reconfigured so there are multiple options for video. The interaction and collaborations with show designers is one of the best parts of my job.” Bringing the day to a close, Production Futures heard from Lighting 14
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Audiotonix’s James Gordon; DiGiCo’s Austin Freshwater; Adlib’s Ian Nelson; DiGiCo’s Mollie Autherson; Adlib’s Andy Dockerty.
Designer and Fireplay CEO, Nick Whitehouse. From curating aesthetics in academy-sized venues, to sold-out stadiums with Justin Timberlake, the LD is a familiar face in the industry. He joined TPi to discuss the impact of the late, great Bryan Leitch; how he made his way into the industry, and what exactly goes into designing a big-budget arena tour – detailing JT’s previous two touring campaigns, The 20/20 Experience and the Man of the Woods World Tour. During the Q&A section of the talk, Whitehouse spoke about some of the best advice he’d picked up from Leitch in the early days. “Less is more,” he stated simply. “One of Bryan’s biggest things was that it was sometimes what you didn’t do with light that was the most important.” He also discussed how social media had affected his work as a designer. “It was the biggest thing to happen to how we design lighting,” he stated. “I’m shown Instagram images all the time from other artists as a reference and I know artists look very closely at the pictures that are posted on social of their shows.”
at the back of the venue. Multi-award-winning Sound Designer/Engineer and industry veteran of live touring and theatre, Colin Pink overviewed the changing world of audio system design and the technical innovations taking place in the field. TPi Awards Lighting Operator of the Year, James Scott (Suluko) – who has recently collaborated with several arena acts, including Stormzy, AJ Tracey and Rita Ora, among others – imparted his pearls of wisdom about the role of a Lighting Operator on tour and share his advice for those looking to break into the sector during this difficult time. Moving to the world of audio, TPi embarked on a live chat with several representatives from various professions available in the world of pro audio. From those who mix live shows, to the talented technicians that build the sound desks, the panel of experts described where you might find your place in the supply chain. The panel welcomed Audiotonix CEO, James Gordon; DiGiCo General Manager, Austin Freshwater; DiGiCo Sales Engineer and Trainer, Tom Williams; DiGiCo Technical Sales Specialist, Mollie Autherson; along with Adlib’s Andy Dockerty and Ian Nelson. BPM SFX Technical Director, Liam Haswell offered careers advice and walked Production Futures attendees through the various pyrotechnic and special effects developments in the live events industry during his time in the sector – from the dark days before laser and pyro jets, to the incredible spectacles we see nowadays. He also shared ‘the one thing’ you should know before pursuing a career in this field. “People think what we do is quite simple, but special effects are getting much more technical,” he stated. “There is a lot of skill and patience that goes into this field and, above all, it’s dangerous, so there is a lot of training before you’re even allowed out on a show.” Next up, we heard from Notch’s Head of Training, Arminas Kazlauskas,
DAY 4 TPMEA Editor, Peter Iantorno opened day four by sitting down – virtually – with Audio Engineer and Project Manager, Ethan Curry and Production Manager, Samantha Stacey to discuss how a career in live events can open doors to travel to new places and explore new realms of creativity. Having both carved out successful careers in the UAE, Curry and Stacey explained what led them to make the move overseas, offered advice on the best way to make a career abroad, and shared stories from their years of experience working on events around the world. Not short of creativity, the responsibility of an audio designer is to ensure that each person at a live show receives the best possible sonic experience – from those on the barrier all the way to the ‘nosebleed’ seats 16
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Production Manager, Joel Stanley; FOH Engineer, Raphael Williams; Video Director, Steve Price.
who guided attendees on a journey into motion graphics to discover how technology is driving the new tools for the future of visual arts. Starting his career as a VJ, he talked through how a love for motion graphics eventually earned him in job at Notch. “It is a great time to be a visual storyteller,” Kazlauskas enthused, explaining how this side of the industry presents so many opportunities for aspiring creatives. “You have a vast pool of tools, a variety of options to get a global reach and endless possibilities to collaborate with like-minded people.” Co-Founder and Director of TPi Awards Favourite Lighting Rental Company, Lights Control Rigging, Mike Oates took the hot seat. Having provided lighting equipment for some of the biggest names on the circuit – including Ed Sheeran, Pendulum, and Rod Stewart to name a few – Oates revealed how the company is adapting amid the COVID-19 pandemic and shared words of wisdom for those hoping to break into the sector. As festival-goers’ expectations increase year on year, Shaun Pearce, Managing Director of TPi Awards Favourite Power Supply Company, Pearce Hire, talked about what it takes to provide power to large-scale outdoor events to ensure that the show always goes on. “This side of the industry has evolved a great deal from the old days of just rocking up with a few generators,” laughed Pearce. “If I tried to do that these days, we would not be successful. Nowadays, power supply is much more tailored to each event’s needs.” Closing the curtain on day four, TPi led a live panel discussing key innovations in past few months. The esteemed cohort of panellists included Rachel Nicholson (Backstage Academy), Paul Jones (UK Live Event Freelancers Forum) and Harrison Page (FIX8Group). From covering the merging of disciplines with the proliferation of livestreaming, to the development of virtual events, the three panellists mused on the changing nature of the events industry in 2020 and how young people might be able to carve out new opportunities, even in this uncertain time. DAY 5 Brilliant set the stage for the final day of Production Futures, Project Manager, Jordan Whittemore, discussed what it takes to be involved in creating some of live music’s most impressive spectacles for global acts such as Take That, Arctic Monkeys and Beyoncé, among others. The PM beamed in live from Yorkshire at 11am to answer questions from industry newcomers and young people looking to discover more about this side of the industry. From London’s grime scene to a headline set at Glastonbury’s famed Pyramid Stage, Stormzy
has quickly become the undisputed king of UK music. For the last day of Futures Online, TPi checked-in with the artist’s Production Manager, Joel Stanley; Tour Manager, Trevor Williams; and FOH Engineer, Raphael Williams to recall the artist’s meteoric rise. “The amazing thing about Stormzy and his manager, Toby, is they always believed in investing in ‘the brand’,” reflected Williams. “When we started to go higher up on festival bills and he had a headline tour on the road, we still wanted to put on a great show. We are not as worried about making profit as we are at building a great show.” A fact that clearly paid dividends as artist and crew went into 2019 with the Pyramid Stage calling. The three crew members also gave some advice for those looking to get into the industry. “The number one thing I say if anyone comes to me, I expect you to have some knowledge of something that we’ve done or the equipment we are using,” stated Raphael Williams. “There is so much information out there on consoles and PA. If you don’t invest in yourself, why would anyone invest in you?” Andy Lenthall from the PSA led a panel talking about the realities of earning a living in the live events sector. With a panel made up of those that engage freelancers, employ crew or have freelanced in the past, the chat revolved around how the panel developed and grew their careers and incomes, focussing on what they wish they’d done. Monitor Engineer / GLS Director, Jac Nott recalled her break into touring and saving her PDs to buy a pair of boots that she still owns 20 years later as a reminder of the power of saving that has stood her in good stead during quiet times. LD/PM Dave Keighley recalled the financial planning and record keeping required to get a mortgage. HR Director at Gallowglass, Chris Parry-Jones highlighted the point made in our introduction, that legislation makes employers (Gallowglass crew are PAYE casual employees) help employees save for the future, although many younger employees opt out of pension contributions as retirement seems too far away – something that none of the panel would recommend. Former freelance system tech, now DiGiCo Product Specialist, Dave Bigg recalled his first foray into freelancing, which coincided with a global economic crisis. Having to borrow on a credit card to make a mortgage payment was the catalyst to manage finances. Having worked with and called camera cuts from Queen, Tame Impala to Mumford www.productionfutures.co.uk & Sons, among others, award-winning Video Director, Steve Price joined Production Futures to impart his camera knowledge and explain how embracing the world of livestreaming could stand you in good stead for the future. UK Music’s Dr Oliver Morris chaired a panel
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with Leeds Beckett University Undergraduate, Emily Dawson; Monitor Engineer, Daniela Seggewiss; Kyoto’s Glen Rowe; and Stage Manager, James Hayward, who all gave their two cents on how to get your start in the live events sector – and the weird and wonderful ways that they have they managed it. To cap a successful week of training sessions, workshops, webinars, product demonstrations, panel discussions and interviews with live event experts and TPi Award winners – John Henrys, Pixl Evolution and the wider ETP Group teamed up to explain how, as organisations, they had quickly pivoted to offer solutions desperately being sought to keep businesses thriving through these challenging times. With the upcoming build of broadcast studios in several location in the US and London, they demonstrate why the changing nature of virtual events doesn’t have to be a scary prospect. TRAINING SESSIONS Production Futures also offered several virtual learning opportunities with, ChamSys, Vectorworks and Interfacio all hosting sessions during the five days. ChamSys offered a whole array of subjects during its session including: an introduction to ChamSys MagicQ console range and software; a session on learning the basics of patching a new show and creating cues; a 101 on how to busk a show with Lighting Designer, Anthony Hazelden; then finally, a session on how MagicQ controls, integrates and networks with both lighting and media systems. Speaking of the events industry more generally, Interfacio’s Founder, Richard Wear, led several sessions titled: Careers in Live Events and the Event Technology Business. In these sessions, Wear addressed many of the key questions often raised by those looking to work in the events sector such as, how to secure your dream job. Wear offered advice on building your experience as you prepare for full-time work, as well as a guide on what you must include to make your CV stand out and make an impression. The session covered techniques for applying for jobs, with some surprisingly simply pointers on how to get noticed and get the interview you really want, and then what to do, and what not to do, once you are in the room speaking with your prospective employer. Lastly, attendees could also sign up to an introductory Vectorworks session, where they could learn how to create realistic truss layouts, attach loads and lighting devices, and suspend trusses from house rigging points. Vectorworks Industry Specialist, Tom White also demonstrated how to rake and angle trusses to create an accurate representation of your truss system. TPi www.productionfutures.co.uk
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STNDBY TPi’s Stew Hume chats to the Co-Founders of STNDBY, Tom Campbell and James Murden, about their new venture, STNDBY – a clothing and technology brand designed for production crew.
Despite the variety of jobs within the production industry; from audio to lighting, and rigging to tour management, there are some annoyances that everyone on an event site shares. From tearing your T-shirt with a walkie-talkie clip, to never knowing where you put that damn Sharpie, these are common irritations that production crew will know only too well. It’s a specialised industry that has specific demands on those who work within it, but, up until now, there has never really been a central hub for crew to purchase clothing and equipment developed specifically for those working within the field – that was, until STNDBY was formed. “We’ve had the idea for STNDBY for two to three years,” reflected CoFounder, James Murden, who met fellow Co-Founder, Tom Campbell, while working on a theatre production over a decade ago. “It’s probably worth noting that we are also now brothers-in-law,” chuckled Murden, reminiscing
how during various family gatherings, both he and Campbell used to talk about the gap in the market for a company that produced clothing designed specifically for the entertainment sector. “Last Christmas, we thought that we might be the people to make this a reality, due to Tom’s extensive knowledge, experience and contacts within the touring and festival market and my own knowledge in TV and theatre.” With an unusual wealth of time on their hands, the duo set to work on the project. “With events getting cancelled and postponed, we thought there was no better time to start working on it,” stated Campbell. “We always say that we ‘never have the time’ but with more free time than we ever imagined, we both knuckled down to make STNDBY a reality.” Having been launched officially on 1 December, there are several products available, from T-shirts with built-in clips for everything from AAA 22
STNDBY Co-Founders, Tom Campbell and James Murden.
passes to walkie-talkie clips; a baseball cap with an in-built Sharpie holder over the right ear; a rugged power bank that can charge a phone up to five times or even bring a MacBook back to life; all the way to a high-end backpack with an integrated USB port for quick charging and a padded sleeve for your laptop. “We have a number of USPs,” Campbell smiled, after listing the number of products featured in the first collection as well as some others that are in the pipeline. “What has been incredible is the response from people in various departments, commenting on how they might be able to use some of the features of the clothes.” He referenced a recent live music shoot he was involved in. “Having the Sharpie holder on the hat was very useful during the day – we even had the makeup department saying how they would use it to put a brush in during a job.” Although many of the products are universal for all crew people, the STNDBY team have also listened to some of the key issues coming from specific departments. “Take our USB stick,” stated Campbell. “This can hold 64GB of data and has both USB/C and USB, making it really easy to transfer files from your Mac to a lighting desk. It’s even got a micro converter, so if an artist comes to an LD with content on their phone, they can still ensure it gets on the lighting desk.” In terms of marketing, Murden explained how they hoped to live in two separate sectors – B2B and B2C. “One of our hopes is to work with tours, for example, and provide custom STNDBY apparel, but we’ve also had conversations about providing clothes for potential VIP merch packages.” STNDBY has also ensured that it is prepared for the fast-paced nature of the entertainment industry by offering a quick service of any customised clothing. “We have a designer and an illustrator locally,
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who are set up to help any customers with any designs,” stated Murden. “Our turnaround times are very quick and even a large order of around 200 items can be delivered in two weeks.” Despite the fast turnaround time, the STNDBY team has not allowed speed to affect its determination to ensure all goods are sourced ethically. “We could have gone down a very cheap route, but we wanted to ensure from the beginning that we did everything correctly, so all the factories used are vetted and verified to ensure the best quality products and that those making them are looked after well.” The duo was also keen to stress that their products had been designed with ruggedness in mind. “We have all been given those cheap shirts that barely make it through a tour,” stated Murden. “STNDBY, on the other hand, is built to last.” On top of all these measures, STNDBY also wanted to ensure it was giving back to the industry it was supplying, committing that a percentage of proceeds goes to Backup – the technical entertainments charity. “We are already Platinum supporters of the charity, having already made a
donation,” stated Murden. “It just seemed that, more than ever, it was important to support those in the industry and people to know that when they buy any of our products, they are also giving back in a small way to crew who have fallen on hard times.” With the current state of the world, the chances of a physical launch party were always going to be slim, but both Campbell and Murden explained that “as soon as it was legal to do so” they aimed to put on an event so people could get a good look at the product line and everything they have on offer. Not only that, the duo also hopes to host several pop-up events backstage during festival season, offering crew a place to hang out, perhaps even get a haircut while checking out the STNDBY product line. Until then, the website is up and running with several promo videos and content ready to view. TPi Photos: STNDBY www.stndbyworld.com 24
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Founded by Nao and Mura Masa in partnership with Native Management and Sony Music UK, the inaugural 3T (Tour Tech Training) course sees 10 talented Black women discover what it takes to break into the live music and production sector. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…
Following the wave of momentum for widespread cultural and political change stemming from the Black Lives Matter movement and in proactive response to #BlackOutTuesday, 10 Black women were chosen from a talent pool of 550 applicants to take part in a 12-weekend-long live music training programme based at ICMP in central London. The 3T (Tour Tech Training) course was founded by multi-GRAMMY, Mercury and BRIT-nominated artist, Nao and GRAMMY award-winning singersongwriter, Mura Masa, and funded by the artists, Native Management, Sony Music UK, and several other private individuals. Black women are not only under-represented in the live music and production sector, they are almost entirely absent from the crew call sheet. The 3T course was designed to address the imbalance and provide visibility and confidence for Black women by teaching the broad set of technical skills and knowledge required to break into the live music and production sector, and assist across all departments during a final, pass-out ‘Big Weekend’ performance. Following an initial call to action on social media
and an intensive Zoom-led interview process, the team whittled down 550 prospective applicants to a final 10 students – Emily Odamtten, Genny Turay, Grace Esia, Helena Scotland, Iman Muhammad, Kariss Townsend, Mercy Sotire, Michelle Shaiyen, Perusi Kakaire and Yasmine St. Croix. “Native Management was looking to employ a more diverse touring crew,” explained Course Leader, AJ Sutherland, who was in Mura Masa’s touring team when they were hiring the artist’s first monitor engineer and fellow 3T Course Leader, Freyja Lawson.” When searching for monitor engineers, Sutherland and the management team discovered that the applicants were “overwhelmingly” white men. “Thankfully, we found a fantastic sound engineer in Freyja Lawson – which highlighted to the artist and Native Management the lack of diversity in the talent pool of the UK touring scene. Once that was on their radar, they were keen to take action to affect change,” Sutherland added. “This course was an opportunity for the touring industry to start making some real changes that go further than just a hashtag or words of support,” 26
Lawson recalled, describing the experience as a “much welcomed” education for herself as much as the students. “What we’ve learned from the BLM movement is that, to be a better ally, you can’t ask what is needed of you; you need to go out and discover and educate yourself.” Although the sector remains a predominantly white male space, Lawson believes that the industry is evolving. “A lot has changed over the past eight years I’ve been in the industry – there’s a drive now to incorporate more women and non-binary people, which is great as we were a little behind the times for a creative and technically minded industry.” Sutherland chimed in: “We all want to make the industry a better, more enjoyable and vibrant place to work.” The concept of the name, Tour Tech Training, was a nod to the open arms for dynamic and well-educated roles in the industry. “One thing our industry has not been great at as well as diversity, which we recognise and want to improve, is the process of introducing new talent.” As the COVID-19 crisis hit, the freelance PM began searching for opportunities in the TV/film industry and was struck by how advanced the sector is not only in encouraging diversity and inclusion but also putting the procedures and structures in place for introducing and encouraging new talent. “There are apprenticeships with paid trainees who learn from experienced crew members, which is a well-established and integral part of the sector.” He believes this is something that is almost entirely missing from live touring. “I’ve had people shadowing me on tour, however, I think it’s uncommon – which is understandable given the fast-paced nature of the environment and the longevity of the touring cycle,” he added. “We’ve been looking at ways to make that process more streamlined.” The 3T course aims to challenge the perception that there is a better and more viable way of breaking into the industry other than the fabled
‘pub gig’ circuit route, which he described as not a very sensible learning environment. “If you’re touring with a band at that level, chances are there’s only going to be one crew person doing everything, so there’s a glass ceiling of growth, immediately,” he continued. “This programme aims not to replace local crew or seasoned professionals, but instead assist and support across a range of departments on the tour.” Struck by the simplicity of the application process, TPi was keen to discover whether the open nature of the course was key to attracting individuals with a range of diverse backgrounds and capabilities. “We wanted to ensure that as many people as possible expressed interest in the initiative,” Sutherland explained, pointing out that the application process didn’t require any previous experience. “All we ask for is a positive attitude and the capability to work hard.” Successful applicants were based on their personality and transferable skills, keeping the talent pool as diverse as possible, from the experienced to the inexperienced. “We were there to teach a broad range of basics so, although it’s desirable, it didn’t necessarily matter that people didn’t have any professional experience. We wanted people keen to get involved, with the right personality to survive and thrive on tour and willingness to learn and develop their skills,” he said. “Neither of us are qualified teachers. I come from a teaching family and have done some GCSE physics tutoring and guest lecturing at BIMM Institute, so I have a bit of experience putting together a lesson and speaking in front of people in a classroom environment. However, and I’m sure Freyja will agree, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and teaching during the course, which has been really useful.” Additional guest tutors comprised industry figures such as Tori Lucion, Carl Griffin, Ben Jackson, Kwake Bass, Herman Kiafuca, Franki McDade, 27
Hadyn Williams, Duncan Harrop, Frank Williams, Matt Eden, Amy Kerr, Miles Weaver and Josh Thomas. With only 12 weekends of tuition at their disposal, Lawson and Sutherland were mindful about how to impart their advanced knowledge of touring, which they have accumulated over years in the field, into the tight schedule. “I’ve found that the best way to learn is by doing,” Lawson explained. “Everything we taught them was about being hands-on. Most subjects involved a practical and theory day, so they could learn and put into action. After all, there’s no chapter in a book that can tell you what to do when there’s no power in a venue.” The 3T course introduced a range of technical skills to unrepresented people in the industry. Each of the theoretical and practical sessions were underpinned by modules that covered the basics of touring, from cable making, to building LED walls, tuning RF kit, operating follow spots to DMX addressing, audio patching, reskinning drums, looming, loading and many more useful skills. “This makes them extremely valuable all-round tour techs on shows of any scale,” remarked Lawson. “There are multiple skilled technical elements to this course such as cable manufacturing, fixing and soldering. That attention to detail in those areas, from an engineer’s perspective, is
vital. There are certain institutes that offer training in the technical aspects of the industry. However, they don’t underpin them with lifelong skills, such as soldering a cable in a pinch – which is quite the art.” There was even attention to detail such as labelling kit. “It seems really mundane, however, for anybody who uses a cable/connection, being able to label stuff is really useful and helpful on site,” Lawson added. “It’s about being able to work smarter, not harder.” THE SUPPORTERS The 3T course was supported in various capacities by several music industry stakeholders – 46 individuals and 17 companies contributed their time and resources to give the students a comprehensive introduction to the live music industry. “For years, we’d spoken about adding more Black women to our touring party, but we literally couldn’t find one for any of the technical roles. Spurred on by what was happening around BLM, we decided to stop talking about it and do something. As it turned out, there was no lack of women wanting to work in these roles; quite the opposite!” Nao explained. The artist added that the issue was that Black women “just couldn’t see a way in”. He commented: “It has made me so happy to open that door a little and our great hope is that this group of amazing women then 28
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smash it down for the next generation.” Mura Masa furthered: “As a crew on my show, we had always privately discussed the lack of representation within the pool of people working in live music, so this course became an actionable way of us working to correct that.” He added: “There was an awful lot of posturing and performative support earlier this year around the initial BLM protests, so we as a group wanted to go further and investigate how we could support a message of anti-racism within our discipline. I came in for a Q&A session during the first week of the course and re-joined for the penultimate week, and seeing the progression and skill in this group of women made me thrilled to be a small part of it. This is the first step in a continuing and exciting journey for them, and hopefully a step in the direction of a wider change that the industry desperately needs to undergo. I’m so looking forward to seeing these women killing it on the road!” Course funding came from Native Management, Sony Music UK, Nao, Mura Masa, and several other private individuals. Damaris Rex Taylor, Director of Marketing at RCA UK and Sony Music UK’s Social Justice Fund, said: “We are always keen to support our artists and this idea really stood out. It’s been a pleasure to partner with Nao, Mura Masa and Native Management on 3T – meeting the women and listening to how helpful they’ve found the course inspires us to do as much as we can to make our industry inclusive and open to all.” ICMP, TPi Magazine, Colour Sound Experiment, Triplex Productions, Delta Live, Ableton, Ritz Rehearsal Studios, Millennium Studios, Shure, VDC,
Robe, Audio-Technica, D’Addario, Jägermeister, Tokio Myers and Gig Rigs provided a mixture of kit and services for the 3T course. “We were very fortunate to have a range of supporters from the industry helping us out,” Sutherland said. “They were all really keen to support and facilitate the vision of the course and the eventual ‘Big Weekend’ gig.” Having laid the foundations for potentially expanding and running future courses, Sutherland pointed out: “It’s going to be an industry-wide effort to enact change in the industry when it comes to diversity. All the supporters involved were more than willing to provide personnel, kit, and facilities for students.” Sutherland pointed out access to the inventories of supporters was invaluable. “This was incredible and meant that we could be as practical as possible,” he added. “In hindsight, I’m positive we couldn’t have done it without their support.” Ross Cornwall, Triplex Productions, commented: “When AJ asked us to help out, we were only too happy to get involved. It’s something we all need to work hard at to tip the balance of not only racial but also gender equality in our industry. It’s not going to happen on its own and we all need to make conscious choices to adjust the years of privilege and prejudice that is prevalent in our industry.” Alex Ryan, Colour Sound Experiment added: “It’s been a pleasure to be involved with this project. In such uncertain and unique times, it’s been a very welcome ray of sunshine as helping assist teaching and imparting knowledge into people is an extremely positive experience.” 30
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THE BIG WEEKEND “We always wanted to do something at the end of the course to bring the 12 weeks to a crescendo,” Sutherland informed TPi, speaking as the dust began to settle on the programme. “Once we had some of the suppliers and big names throwing their weight behind the course, we wanted to be more ambitious than simply running a gig in a college hall.” The team put together an ambitious plan – liaising with venues, rehearsal studios and technical suppliers to simulate a full-scale show. The result was a couple of trucks worth of lighting, video, audio and backline equipment making its way to Millennium Studios. Simulating a show day without an audience, with a traditional load-in, build, and load-out, the cohort of 3T students assumed the role of local crew for the day, with experienced technicians on site responsible for their respective departments. “Having the students as the local crew was vital,” Sutherland reported. “For us, it was evidence of them experiencing and using all the skills and knowledge we’ve taught them over the past 12 weekends and putting them to use in a real-life, dynamic, and fast-paced working environment.” Sutherland recalled an “authentic” experience of what a show day is like, including the time it takes, how tiring it can be, and how many people are involved in the process from concept to delivery – with a support band and headline artists performing a set. “It’s been valuable for the students to operate in a real-world environment, so when they walk onto a tour bus or load into a venue during their first job, they feel well prepared for all eventualities.”
The guest panellists and performers included Nao, Mura Masa, Cosha, Fliss Jackson, Damaris Rex-Taylor, Whitney Boateng, Alexandra Ampofo, Sunny Jaspal, Trevor Williams, Harry Grove, Selena Dion, Kojo Samuel, Alex Ryan, Nick Mathius, Janelle Fraser, Alex Cerutti, Terence Hulkes, Sammi Goundry, Nick Cox, Toni Cardow, Charlotte Pearman, Sam Stubbings, Lizzy Farrall, Steve Muncaster and Ben Witherstone. Reflecting on her involvement in the course, Selena Dion of Eleven Mgmt, commented: “3T – what a brilliant idea! The skills and knowledge that the 3T team imparted to the students will be invaluable. It was a pleasure to be asked to speak to these 10 engaging, intelligent, brilliant, kickass young women.” Musical Director, Kojo Samuel commented: “I had an absolutely fantastic experience with all of the 3T crew. Being a part of something so important and so unique was an inspiration. It’s important that doors are continually being opened and widened to allow more people in. There are so many super-talented and more than qualified individuals who can make a positive contribution to the music industry. The 3T course is an excellent example of what can be achieved when information is shared, and people can be exposed to the numerous work possibilities and opportunities there are in the music industry. I look forward to working with and seeing the 3T crew around soon.” Additional staff for the ‘Big Weekend’ comprised Jon Ricketts, Lucy Mackinnon, Eiran Simpson, Scott Barnett, Ruth Sutherland and Tom Pullen. “The feedback and reception from the techs were absolutely brilliant!” Sutherland exclaimed. 32
As chairperson of a Production Futures Online panel with the 3T graduates, Lawson reported: “The team said that the students were genuinely better than any local crew that they’ve ever had – we were all hugely proud of them for taking on what we’ve bombarded them with because, let’s face it, it’s a hell of a lot to teach someone who doesn’t know about touring in 12 weeks.” Tour Music Live’s Janelle Fraser commented: “It was fantastic to see so many fellow young women being able to get hands-on experience and immerse themselves fully into this industry. I hope to see them all at upcoming events.” Tour Music Live MD, Trevor Williams furthered: “To be in the room with such talented women who shared their excitement of wanting to learn and enter the live music industry made it more of a privilege for me. I look forward to hiring them!” Asked his advice for industry newcomers and young people looking to break into the industry during this time, Sutherland, who had every vision of starting his career as a touring audio engineer before he got his first call to join the road as a backline tech, said: “Approach every task with an open mind and take every opportunity that lands on your doorstep.” Case in point, all 10 graduates discovered the 3T course on social media and what became apparent during Lawson’s virtual conversation with them at Production Futures Online, is that they all applied for the course after much encouragement from peers and friends, and none thought much about their prospects until they received an interview request. “Use this opportunity to the best of your ability,” Lawson underlined, speaking to TPi after the event. “There are so many incredible technicalminded people in this industry, so my advice would be to immerse yourself in the community, network with them, get in amongst it and make the most of it. After all, this is the time when people are excited to talk about their jobs because they miss it.” Overjoyed with the “incredible and mind-blowing” experience, Lawson concluded: “We are so proud of all these women – who were anxious and shy to begin with – watching them develop into capable professionals has been an incredibly humbling experience during a particularly tough year for the industry.” TPi Photos: Tom Pullen www.nativemgmt.co.uk/3t
TWO FANTASTIC SOUND STAGES NOW AVAILABLE
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“Most of us were too afraid to apply, but we applied and got on the course, so my advice is to be confident, trust the process and your ability, and get stuck in. In this industry, you can be your own biggest enemy if you don’t have the right mindset.”
“The 3T course opened my eyes to what goes into making a live event. Even though it can be exhausting at times, you create a touring family, and are rewarded with a final show, which makes all the long days worth it.”
“This course has taught me that there is an entry point into an industry that is normally so closed off. You can work your way up and the industry is receptive and open to that.”
“The 3T course was unique as we got to learn from people who are currently touring industry professionals. Having access to the wealth of people we did gave us the opportunity to ask questions and get honest, insightful and current answers.”
YASMINE ST. CROIX
“This course has boosted my confidence that there are roles open to me on tour and each of us can make an impact on the industry – which is crying out for more strong-minded women.”
“I’ve learned that teamwork is important. Maintaining a positive mindset, the willingness to collaborate and networking with the industry are key to success.”
“At the very least, we can leave this course and can go on tour as local crew. A curtain has been lifted; breaking into the industry is no longer a mystery.”
“Speaking to leading figures in the industry who gave us their spare time to share everything they know was invaluable. This course has shown that if you’re hardworking and creative, you’ll succeed in this industry. We’ve opened up one door to 50 others.”
“I really enjoyed the learning aspect of the course. It didn’t have a lecturer–student vibe – we got to engage and ask practical questions. There was a lot of transparency. I’ve learned that the industry is fluid with job roles and entry, as long as you’re willing and passionate.”
“I enjoyed the learning process and absorbing all the information thrown at us over over the past 12 weeks. Keeping us engaged every weekend is a testament to AJ, Freyja and all the guest lecturers.”
3T FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS: Sony Music, Native Management, Nao, Mura Masa and private individuals
3T KIT/SERVICES CONTRIBUTORS: ICMP, TPi Magazine, Colour Sound Experiment, Triplex Productions, Delta Live, Ableton, Ritz Rehearsal Studios, Millennium Studios, Shure, VDC, Robe, Audio-Technica, D’Addario, Jägermeister, Tokio Myers, Gig Rigs
WACKIT LIGHTING DESIGN CONTEST Lighting Designer, Durham Marenghi joins forces with CAST Group and Claypaky to create a virtual lighting competition – giving lighting professionals and scholars something to strive for during this uncertain time.
Last month, Claypaky and CAST Group of Companies announced the WACKIT virtual lighting design competition, a concept created by awardwinning Lighting Designer, Durham Marenghi and his partner, Jennie. “We were all sat in lockdown and coming towards November when we are usually working on Classical Spectacular in the Albert Hall,” reminisced Marenghi, discussing the origin of the competition. “At the same time, I was doing many design pitches for next year on WYSIWYG. With that in mind, we came up with the idea of giving those in the industry something to do during this hard time.” WACKIT comprises two side-by-side competitions for professional and student lighting designers in the UK and Ireland to create a virtual video
of their work from a model of the Prestigious Royal Albert Hall. CAST will support WACKIT with free WYSIWYG educational licences for the period of the competition for professional LDs and, in the case of students, a 12-month free design educational licence. For the competition, Marenghi contributed his own digital model of the Albert Hall with the Classical Spectacular rig, so that everyone entering the competition must use the same amount of equipment. “We’ve also picked four pieces of classical music that we know work, limiting it to four minutes, or they can choose a piece of contemporary music,” stated Marenghi. There are three amazing prizes to be won in both competitions for both the professional and student categories including first place winners being 36
WACKIT LIGHTING DESIGN CONTEST
awarded a full year licence to WYSIWYG, a £1,000 Amazon voucher and a trip to Claypaky’s headquarters in Italy, when it is safe to do so. Once designers in both categories enter, their work will be judged on social media by the wider community to define 10 finalists from each group. A jury of lighting experts featuring Paule Constable, David Bishop and Davy Sherwin, chaired by Marenghi, will judge these finalists in January 2021. Marenghi discussed the origins of the event and why it had come at just the right time for the industry: “As the clocks go back and we enter a darker time in our lives, we wanted to support our peers, both old and new, by offering something creative and worthwhile to do. We hope that the WACKIT competition will be embraced by an industry hard done to, bring a little light into these difficult times and showcase the lighting talent that abounds in the UK and Ireland.” Marenghi also discussed what he, as a judge, would be looking for in the designs. “The way I see a design is it has to have a real feeling of progression, building from start to finish in empathy with the music and creating powerful ‘looks’ that remain as snapshots in the memory of the audience long after they have left the building. That’s another reason why I chose classical music, which has less of a conventional structure to pop and rock.” To close, Marenghi was keen to thank the main supporters of the WACKIT. “A massive thank you to CAST and Claypaky for bringing this vision to life.” Entries to the competition are still open, and further information is available on the WACKIT website below. TPi Photos: Claypaky & Paul Sanders, courtesy of Raymond Gubbay Limited www.wackit-contest.com
SATELLITE MODULAR LASER SYSTEM
SATELLITE MODULAR LASER SYSTEM
Every once in a while, something comes along that tears up the rulebook and revolutionises an industry. This is one of those moments: the Satellite Modular Laser System from the Visionaries of the display industry – Digital Projection.
3,000 lumens 60 kg
16,000 lumens 113 kg
27,000 lumens 132 kg
> 40,000 lumens < 40 kg
The Visionaries’ Choice www.digitalprojection.com TPI Magazine March 2020.indd 1
WWE THUNDERDOME Screenworks provides an innovative LED solution, allowing fans to get up close to the action in the WWE ThunderDome.
With COVID-19 restrictions making in-person audiences temporarily impossible, WWE set about creating an elaborate immersive experience that would capture the essence of its hugely popular live shows. The solution? The ThunderDome: a state-of-the-art facility setup inside Orlando’s Amway Center, featuring massive LED screens, pyrotechnics, lasers, cutting-edge graphics and drone cameras. Making its TV debut on 21 August, the WWE ThunderDome was an instant hit. “WWE has a long history of producing the greatest live spectacles in sports and entertainment, yet nothing compares to what we are creating with WWE ThunderDome,” commented WWE Executive Vice President of Television Production, Kevin Dunn. “This structure will enable us to deliver an immersive atmosphere and generate more excitement among the millions of fans watching our programming around the world.” Central to the concept was the ability to allow fans to experience the action up close and personal, bringing them into the arena via live video
on massive LED screens. “The intention was to give the WWE Universe via technology, the most immersive experience that we could think of,” stated Senior Vice President of Event Technical Operations at WWE, Duncan Leslie. Tasked with this challenge was video display solutions specialist, Screenworks. Part of the NEP Worldwide Network, Screenworks has been working with the WWE for some two decades and, according to the company’s Vice President, Kevin Hoyle, it’s a relationship that has been long and fruitful. “This isn’t the only new challenge that has been thrown our way during our long relationship with WWE,” he began. “Our task has always been, and will continue to be, to support them however we can during these difficult times.” This particular challenge saw Hoyle and his team facilitate more than 1,000 fans in ‘virtual seats’, using LED screens populating the sides of the ring, captured by WWE’s hard camera. From their seats, the fans could cheer and interact with the WWE superstars. “It gives that live interaction between 38
the fans and the WWE superstars that makes the shows so special,” Hoyle explained. “This virtual audience solution has changed everything – it’s not just one big Zoom call. The team has recognised frequent fans who dial in regularly, whole families get involved and it has really helped the WWE superstars keep the energy up. The possibilities for this really are endless, and it could be used in so many other settings.” The ThunderDome set includes 2,194 LED panels, with a stunning 16 million pixels. In addition to the LED screens used, over 30 projectors were added to achieve the result. ROE Visual Carbon series CB5 and Magic Cube MC7 were used to create both the set as well as the fan boards. With the immediacy of the COVID-19 lockdown meaning that the teams had to scramble to get the facility up and running quickly, it’s no surprise that the number one challenge as far as Hoyle was concerned was time. He revealed that, within just nine days from getting the original call, his team had fabricated, cleaned and installed everything in the Amway Center. “It was a big challenge, but there was a great camaraderie between all of the vendors and staff out there,” he reflected. “We all banded together. We sent out 24 guys from Screenworks to get it up and running. They just jumped in and everyone helped out.” While health and safety is always a major consideration, the current climate around COVID-19 meant that extra measures were necessary to ensure the safety of everyone on site. “ThunderDome is a completely sealed environment, which means that no one comes in without being COVID-19 tested,” Hoyle revealed. He added: “Once you are inside the ThunderDome, everyone is masked up, social distancing, the whole nine yards… Also, consistency of crew is
crucial to keeping the bubble and keeping everyone healthy.” The Vice President thanked some key members of the team, including Project Managers, Neil Broome, Andre Nolan and Jeff Hoyle; as well as techs, Jason Lowe, Shawn Wollard, Matt Mueller, Eric Nickloy, Derrick Terveer, Jason Keyes, Andy Wlazewski, and Bradley Barrier. He also praised Show Designer, Jason Robinson, and Production Manager, Jeremy Shand. “Jason is 100% responsible for everything designed on this show – he is an amazing talent. He creates a larger-than-life visual experience and then gets it into a camera frame. And Jeremy puts Jason’s ideas together, working with all of us vendors. They’re both magic.” With the COVID-19 pandemic leaving an indelible mark on all live events this year, Hoyle reflected on the hard work that he and his team have put in to ensure that the crisis hasn’t meant a complete shutdown of all forms of entertainment. “We are all craving entertainment right now for a little extra joy in our lives, and these types of virtual solutions can really help enhance productions, allowing audiences to connect beyond just watching,” he concluded. “At Screenworks and across NEP around the globe, we have really seen our staff digging in and innovating during this crisis. It has been really great to see all the new virtual solutions our teams have come up with, from virtual studios, to remote production, virtual audience, and virtual events. We have really been trying to use this as a time to innovate.” TPi Photos: WWE & ROE Visual www.screenworksnep.com www.roevisual.com www.wwe.com 39
BENEE From TikTok phenomenon to rising global superstar – Auckland singer-songwriter Benne embarks on New Zealand’s first headline tour since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. TPi’s Jacob Waite chats to the team presenting live music fans with an authentic experience after months of exile…
Following a difficult year of dormancy, live music returned to the masses in New Zealand in October. Marking a world first, indie-pop phenomenon and rising global superstar Benee livestreamed the closing night of her first headline tour with production to a global audience. The touring campaign covered eight shows – ranging from theatre to arena level – across four cities, wrapping up at the Spark Arena, Auckland, playing to a sold-out crowd of 13,000 overjoyed fans. Tasked with bringing the vision to life was Production and Lighting Designer, Ben Dalgleish of Human Person. “I am lucky to have started my career in New Zealand and have had the opportunity to come back to work on a few shows, Benee being one of them. Being a small island nation, New Zealand has had the fortunate opportunity to attempt to beat COVID-19 with reasonable success.” Commended for its remarkable stringency and timeliness in response to the COVID-19 crisis, at the time of writing, New Zealand sits at ‘level one’ of the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which permits concerts at full capacity with no masks or social distancing required. “As soon as the crisis hit, the region got it under control quickly and shows were soon happening. I was looking for a good reason to return to New Zealand after a lengthy spell in the United States, so when I was approached by the artist and management to submit some design options for an upcoming tour, I brought on board the Human Person team [a creative studio which Dalgleish, Ian Valentine and friends founded in 2019] to come up with some concepts.” While the measures in New Zealand are bordering normality, QR codes in each room of each venue on the tour helped the team with contact tracing, should the need arise. “We had to check in to each room of the venue like backstage, FOH, and dressing rooms, with our phones to make it easy to contract trace,” he explained. Despite the natural nature of the project, the gravity and importance of playing a key role in the first major tour to take place in New Zealand since
March was not lost on the crew. “We are unbelievably privileged to be doing this show at a time when so many of our friends and colleagues are not able to work,” Dalgleish said. “The production aimed to share the work around as much as possible, using several vendors for different shows; and on the Human Person side, bring in as many of our collaborators as possible.” At the heart of the project was a team of longstanding collaborators, including: Visual Content Director / Animator, Ian Valentine; Art Director, Frances Waite; Notch Designer, Ryan Sheppard; Content Creators, The Valdez; Editors, Matt Clode and Matthew Cummer; Lighting Programmer, Nick van Nostrand; Lighting Director, Eliot Jessep; Lighting Crew Chief, Gavin Phlipot; Production Manager / FOH Engineer, Daniel Warwick; and LN Production Manager, Tom Anderson. PA was picked up locally in venues, bringing in a floor package and lights in others, using video screens and overhead lighting from several vendors, including TomTom Productions in South Island, Spot-Light Systems in North Island and Big Picture in North Island. “We made the executive decision to share the work around given the fluctuating circumstances; New Zealand had a long six-month period with no shows, so we decided to use several vendors across the country in order to spread out the gear hire geographically.” ‘A UNIQUE VISUAL IDENTITY’ A focal point of the show design, the team devised a set design based on scenic trees that were rendered on Cinema 4D, 3D printed, and hand built en masse. “Benee is an artist with unique style and flair; the goal of the production design and building moments in the show were done to accent her personality and the way she performs her songs,” Dalgleish explained. “We wanted to present a playground for her to interact with her band and the audience.” With six months of show design ideas squirreled away, the team wanted to start strong with the inverse of a curtain raiser. “I had the vision of 42
L E D s o lu t io n s fo r
V ir t u a l s t u d io s
P ic tu re b y : F a b e r A u d io v is u a ls
A r e w e t o w i t n e s s t h e e n d o f t h e g r e e n -s c r e e n e r a ? L E D p a n e ls a re th e id e a l s o lu tio n to p o r tra y s e t a n d b a c kg ro u n d s c re a te d in v ir tu a l re a lit y. C re a tin g th e rig h t c a n v a s is n o t ju s t b u ild in g a n y L E D s c re e n . It â€™s w h e re th e L E D p a n e l, p ro c e s sin g a n d c a m e ra s e t tin g c o m e to g e th e r th a t s tu n n in g re su lt s a re a c h ie v e d . W ith it s h ig h -e n d m a n u fa c tu rin g a n d p re m iu m p a r t s th e R O E V isu a l L E D p ro d u c t s a re p e r fe c tly su ite d fo r v ir tu a l s ta g e s a n d p ro d u c tio n s . M o re in fo rm a tio n o n : w w w .r o e v is u a l.c o m
W W W .R O E V I S U A L .C O M
starting the show with a kabuki moment,” Dalgleish said, explaining the idea behind the introduction, which saw the artist perform the first half of the opening number in front of a white cyclorama backdrop, complete with lighting project and ‘shadow play’ – the band planted firmly behind the cyc. During a key moment in the opening number, Benee dips behind the curtain, which is lit by a single spot; the audience is faced with a silhouette of her natural dance choreography – a staple of her on-stage performance. Once the curtain drops, the arena, for the first time in months, is met with screams – “a simple but incredibly effective technique,” Dalgleish underlined. [It appears the old ones, really are the best]. The creative capabilities of real-time graphics tool, Notch were introduced during the third song of the set. This included but wasn’t limited to unique frames that moved throughout the song and were purposely designed to interact with content; filters and effects, which sat in and behind certain looks using alpha channels on the video content, each referencing a scrapbook of influences – “classic, ’90s, British electronic music, not too dissimilar to Groove Armada concerts,” Dalgliesh pinpointed. Dalgleish described the amount of Notch deployed across the eight shows as “unprecedented”. He attributed the uniqueness of the content to the time spent devoted to programming. Notch Designer, Ryan Sheppard, linked up with Dalgleish again following a series of high-profile Travis Scott projects, among others, and was coined an “integral” cog in the machine. Based in Toronto, Canada, Sheppard was unable to attend the show in person. However, with respective time zones separated by just three hours, the team collaborated for seven days on TeamViewer and FaceTime to build the show in a virtual capacity – something which Dalgleish dubbed ‘a feat of internet speeds’ – defying the typically unreliable bandwidth of New Zealand internet connection. “We really wanted to use Notch to avoid bringing in traditional IMAG screens,” Dalgleish explained. “We felt that controlling the overall look
of the canvas of the arena was important and if we had to bring in the classic, projector IMAG screens that were originally specified, it would have degraded the entire experience. So, we made a pitch to lean heavily on cameras in a way that matched the content to become a unique part of the show,” Dalgleish commented, adding that above all, the aim was to ensure that Benee was visible for fans at the back of the room in a way which was artistically pleasing. When it came to selecting the fixtures for the lighting rig, Dalgleish factored in the speed and musicality of each unit. “A lot of Benee’s back catalogue, especially the newer material, is very beat driven – she has songs which span drum and bass and hyper-pop genres, so I needed fixtures able to operate at the BPM of each track,” the LD explained, pinpointing Robe LED Beam 100 as a ‘workhorse’ fixture of the lighting rig. “It’s a simple fixture, but the speed it operates at and the beam it does for a small profile unit took a really front and centre role in this show.” The lighting also comprised an array of fixtures including but not limited to Robe MegaPointes, something he described as a “must-have” hybrid fixture for the floor package. Eager to spend more time with the lights in the rig, Dalgliesh was pleased with the results. “I always try to put the extra effort into the programming. A real effort was made to invest in building the show with full production rehearsals, which is something that isn’t normally done in New Zealand – most tours typically go out with a day of rehearsal beforehand at the venue if you’re lucky.” The team spent five, 24-hour sessions programming everything. As well as professionalism, national pride was also on the agenda. “As a New Zealand native, it’s always been my goal to improve the standards of technical production in the country. Everyone involved in this show has put their all into it for a deserving artist who, in a short time, has been able to find her own voice and create an album and a unique visual identity.” 44
‘HAPPY AND LUCKY TO BE DOING WHAT WE LOVE’ As Production Manager and FOH Engineer, it was Daniel Warwick’s job to review and assess all existing systems, then develop and design systems to ensure reliable arena-grade performances. He presided over everything from custom built pedalboards with inbuilt multi-pin and a switch talkback system, to new JH Audio in-ear monitors, redundant Radial SW8-USB playback system and Antares autotune via a UAD Live rack. Having made the decision to pack up life in Los Angeles and move to his native New Zealand amid the COVID-19 crisis, Warwick, like Dalgleish, was pleased to return to work. “It was quite surreal getting back to work and being around live music again. As we are one of the only countries in the world able to do this, it felt quite emotional.” In fact, leading up to the Benee tour, the team were waiting for news on whether the country would be out of lockdown in time for the shows. “When we finally got the green light, we were about three weeks out, so we had to put the pedal to the floor to get it all together. It felt like one of those home improvement reality shows where you are racing against the clock to get everything done,” Warwick reminisced. “Once the tour began, the crew immediately grew close, and there were beers in the hotel lobby after every show to decompress and reflect on how happy and lucky we are to be out doing what we love.” Having grown up loading trucks and hanging around the Western Audio workshop, working with the supply team was somewhat of a reunion for Warwick. “They have always delivered an incredibly high standard. The best equipment is a given, but it’s their workplace culture and care for their crew that elevates them. When this most recent Benee tour came up, there was no doubt that they would supply. I have been out of New Zealand for the past couple of years, so it was nice to come back and see my old friends.” All shows were sounded out by d&b audiotechnik PA systems. From the J series – both ArrayProcessed and not ArrayProcessed – to the final big shows, which rolled out the new GSL and KSL supplied by Western Audio. In
Auckland, the d&b audiotechnik PA system comprised 32 GSL loudspeakers on the main hang, 24 KSL on the side hangs, 16 SL Subs in a sub array and eight Y7Ps as front fill. “For a small country, we are really spoiled for good PA. I am constantly looking for ways to get the stage level down. The new SL series is so impressive, it’s almost witchcraft like with its rear rejection of noise,” Warwick enthused. “We also wanted to share some of the love and rental revenue around different companies. So, we toured our control package from Western Audio and took racks and stacks from local suppliers.” The touring control package comprised a DiGiCo SD5 console at FOH with a Waves Extreme Server / SuperRack and a UAD live rack. The latter was a new addition to Warwick’s workflow and handled the autotune component of the show. The rider also comprised an Empirical Labs distressor, a Rupert Neve 5045, a Bricasti M7, Waves MaxxBCL and a Smart Research C2 computer. In monitor world, a DiGiCo SD10 with a Waves Extreme Server / SuperRack was the console of choice, with Shure PSM 1000 IEMs and UR2 Handheld Transmitters among the setup. The microphone package featured Warwick’s personal collection of Royer R-10s on guitar amps, Neumann KM184s on underheads, Beyer Dynamic 201s on snare top and DPA Microphones d:facto chosen for Benee’s vocal. “Something that is slowly creeping into my input list are all the talk back channels, and this tour was no different,” Warwick explained. “I wanted to create a solution for Benee to be able to easily talk to monitors and the band without changing microphones.” To this end, Warwick specified a Radial Xo relay box and Radial JR1-M foot switch. “The Radial Xo is patched on the output of the main vocal wireless receiver. When the footswitch is engaged, the relay box switches the wireless receiver output to a talkback channel and mutes the main output. It worked a treat!” he exclaimed. Working with Benee, who showcases a wide variety of genres in her set, posed unique challenges for those behind the faders – keeping engineers 45
on their toes between songs and bracing to react to the dynamics of each song. “I was using the Waves MaxxBCL inserted over my L/R,” Warwick reported. “Being able to adjust my compressor/limiter and subharmonics to taste between songs really helped.” Having spent a great deal of energy designing the stage to reduce noise, Warwick selected four clear sound baffles drum shields for the drums. “I use a pair of Radial Engineering SGIs to send guitar signals to a pair of Fender twins out the back of stage to keep amp noise down,” he stated. “The only thing I can’t control is the screaming girls in the audience getting into the vocal mic!” Warwick was pleased to be among the “dream team” on this tour. “Despite it being a short run, the crew WhatsApp chat was filled with posttour depression tips and tricks. Based on all the new elements and crew introduced for this tour, I expected a couple of road bumps but, as it turns out, we couldn’t have had a smoother run.” He attributed the success of the run to the crew, band, and management. “We are just about to kick off summer touring here in New Zealand,” he said, looking to the future. “I can’t wait for our outdoor shows as well as visiting all New Zealand has to offer between shows.”
management, the Director and I to highlight authentic moments of the performance for the livestream,” Dalgleish recalled. Dalgleish was busy programming until doors to make the content as engaging as possible for viewers self-isolating. Among the several plates spinning, the team also had to contend with recording a set for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert as well as three additional New Year’s Eve televised performances, with separate lighting edits, making for a busy final day of the tour. However, modern day lighting designers are no strangers to lighting for broadcast nowadays thanks in part to the invention of the little computers in most of our pockets – mobile phones. “We’re always pulling out our phones and taking photos during rehearsal to see how it looks like on camera and how it translates to social media,” Dalgleish informed TPi. “Livestreaming is an extension of that in a lot of ways.” While the first song of every arena set is lit up by 10,000 mobile phone lights, social media is where artists and management look to for immediate validation – how their shows are captured and look in a rough Instagram photo is as important as an official photograph. “It’s key to know that it’s a big part of the job,” Dalgleish acknowledged. “It’s important as a designer to tune into the artist’s vision. People are consuming content which can be passed by quickly if it’s not authentic. What Benee does is incredibly authentic to her, and Human Person’s goal was to remain authentic to her as a performer and an artist.” Summing up his experience, Dalgleish concluded: “This was Benee’s first headline tour with production and we were lucky to set the benchmark for her show moving forward, presenting her with a production which matched her personality. This was an important step for New Zealand’s quest to return to live music to fans.” TPi Photos: Matt Clode @humanprsn www.beneemusic.com www.danohaus.com www.westernaudio.co.nz
‘AN IMPORTANT STEP FOR LIVE MUSIC IN NEW ZEALAND’ Marking a series of firsts, the final show of the tour at a sold-out Spark Arena featured a paid-for livestream, providing work for additional crew – a video director and camera team – amid the global pandemic. Production value was also increased with a large curved LED wall brought in to add an extra visual dimension. The live broadcast was a full split with OB truck out the back of the venue. Ratu Gordon from Western Audio assumed the role of truck mixer. “I was able to send a multitrack in advance so on the day he already had it sounding great on the first pass,” Warwick stated. “It’s the best feeling knowing you have an engineer you trust mixing the broadcast. Especially when management comes and tells you how great it’s sounding!” Striving to make the livestream as ‘Benee-fied’ as possible, the offering was hosted on a unique platform for fans. “A lot of effort was made by 46
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2020-11-02 9:29 AM
JAMES BAY: LIVE AT SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE Reuniting with a new-look band and production team, James Bay undertakes a unique livestream performance framed by London playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…
James Bay, his band and loyal touring team joined forces for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic’s unwelcomed arrival to present a unique livestream experience at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on 21 October. The ambitious livestream, which saw the artist play in a range of spaces across the venue as well as an encore at the Jacobean Theatre, was produced by Driift, and provided an outlet for live music fans and production crew. Tour and Production Manager, Jamal Chalabi of Backlash Productions headed several site meetings at Shakespeare’s Globe ahead of the broadcast. He picked up the story: “Most of us hadn’t been involved in a gig for six months, so we were enthused to return to work. Not only that, but to be able to go into Shakespeare’s Globe was such an honour for us.” Tasked with selecting technical suppliers, managing the budget, and handling any logistical challenges proposed by the multi-staged production, Chalabi relished the prospect of overseeing an abnormal rock ’n’ roll show in equally abnormal times. “The touring community enjoys a challenge,” he said, acknowledging the unique nature of the venue. “The staff at Shakespeare’s Globe were phenomenal, very open and extremely helpful in supporting our vision. Their on-site people were fantastic – they really rolled out the red carpet.” Chalabi’s chosen band of trusted suppliers comprised Capital Sound – a Solotech company – for audio, handled by Project Manager, Paul Timmins; Siyan for lighting, handled by Project Manager, Ben Inskip; John Henry’s for staging and backline, handled by Project Manager, Jason Putter; Sound Moves for freight, handled by Project Manager, Harry Calthorpe and Stage Miracles for local crew, handled by Project Manager, Alex Slater. Chalabi recalled a “straightforward” load-in, build, and load-out of the venue. Despite being concerned initially about the latter while operating in a residential area, the team were buttoned up by 11pm – having loaded in
the “bones of the structure” (lights, audio and the staging) a day earlier. The camera track and backline were subsequently added on show day. As a member of the Tour Production Group (TPG), Chalabi is well versed in the ever-changing rules and regulations of a COVID-19 secure gig – working with a group of industry insiders to develop the Working Procedures Guidance. “Everyone was sent a brief and advised not to use public transport unless it was absolutely necessary,” he explained. “The band and production each had rehearsals ahead of time at John Henry’s – who ran an efficient track and trace protocol. In addition to the usual PPE, set vocalists were situated 2m apart from each other during show and rehearsals.” The producers, Untold, also provided a designated COVID-19 safety officer on site to remind people not to get complacent with mask-wearing and social distancing. “Shakespeare’s Globe was incredibly supportive on site, with single ways in and out of the venue,” he remarked. Chalabi believes that livestreaming provides an interesting way of keeping the industry active and reminding the wider world what can be done by an otherwise invisible industry. “It’s a vital tool for artists’ release campaigns right now. Our community has dropped off a cliff since March, so these shows are vital to remind people what we do as an industry and how exciting and needed it is,” he added. “They should not forget us because we need their support.” ‘GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS’ As Director and Executive Producer, Paul Dugdale was responsible for the creative ideas and capturing the livestream. With award-winning and critically acclaimed feature documentaries, concert films and global live event credits including Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones, Adele, and, more recently, Shawn Mendes, the Shakespeare’s Globe livestream marked Dugdale’s first time collaborating with James Bay and his team. “I had quite 49
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early conversations with promoter Driift, discussing key aspects of what might help make livestream concerts successful and potential creative approaches, and later, this project emerged from conversations with production company, Untold Studios and Executive Producer, Phil Lee who I had collaborated with from his days at XL Recordings – filming a variety of live performances for Adele.” As a director, Dugdale explained that his process always begins with the artist and the music, creating and crafting ideas that serve the artistry. “The process of creating this project really felt very natural; James and I had similar ideas of how the show might be presented,” he reported. “From the moment we met at the Globe, we were finishing each other’s sentences while discussing potential ideas. In terms of creative collaboration, you can’t really ask for more than that.” By the end of the year, Dugdale would have wrapped up four global livestreams, so who better to ask about the collaborative nature of the projects? “Livestreams are different from simply filming a gig because all of the audience is at home, so the director, artist and crew are truly creating something together. Artists and their crews would normally, and understandably, have a loyalty to the audience in the room. With a global livestream, the artist and crew are unified for the audience at home.” Driift CEO, Ric Salmon agreed: “These types of shows are a deeply collaborative process,” he commented. “The speed in which these shows turn around is much quicker – you’re going on sale on average three weeks before the show goes live, whereas a normal tour or live show goes on sale often six or 12 months in advance,” he added. “I can’t wait for audiences to return to venues. However, shooting a show with no audience is often liberating. There’s a certain degree of joy you can get from the creative freedom of shooting a show however and wherever you want.” With no audience on site, Dugdale was able to take far greater liberties in the way he presented the experience, recalling a “far greater creative scope” on proceedings. “I love shooting audiences, and without them, a
concert is nothing, so everything we do for a livestream attempts to bridge the gap between the artist playing in the room and getting the audience to feel something while they watch at home, without the electric atmosphere of a bustling crowd, lights in their eyes and the smell of beer in the air.” From the beginning, Dugdale was eager to build a sense of evolution in the set, reimagining the gig without the conventions or boundaries of a single performance space. “This also meant we could be more dynamic in terms of instrumentation and the layout of the stage,” he remarked. The three founding pillars of Dugdale’s headline creative ideas were firstly, to have a three-act structure to the show – a nod to the theatrical environment of Shakespeare’s Globe. “This informed the three different musical sets, starting acoustic, then James playing completely solo on a ‘wurly’ for the first time, then coming back to the main stage for a fully plugged-in finale,” Dugdale noted. Secondly, to set the band up in the round so that it was more natural for the artist to communicate and vibe with his band with no audience. “This made the whole thing more 3D to film,” he said. “A traditional proscenium arch show stage plot is redundant for a livestream since there is no physical audience to present to, so this was a key part of the capture.” This meant building out a stage extension to place the artist at the centre of the circular space, which enhanced the ‘jeopardy’ of shooting an outdoor show in October. “Seeing musicians communicating as they play beats any big close-up shot of guitar strings or inanimate piano keys,” he explained. “Anything that conveys or promotes an emotional response to playing music is valuable currency to a director, and it all helps translate the feeling of the show in the room to someone watching in their living room.” During the opening ‘acoustic’ part of the set, the artist was framed by the traditional stage backdrop – but while he began playing, the crew switched the entire orientation of the stage setup, meaning Dugdale could end the livestream with the singer’s back to the three-storey audience balconies. 50
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“This enabled the show to grow in scale and allowed Liam’s lighting design to really flex,” he said. “Turning the entire stage setup 180° in the duration of two songs is no mean feat, but James’ crew smashed it!” The camera kit boasted Luna Remote Systems Junior 5 Telescopic. The dolly was fully encoded for AR and VR use with a 360° track circling the band. “We were so pleased to be asked to work on this show, in this amazing historical location and after such a long time without gigs, it was brilliant to be back doing a music shoot,” Camera Supervisor and joint owner of Luna Remote Systems, Dean Clish, said. “The Junior 5 is perfect for this kind of thing because it’s a remotely operated dolly and social distancing is so important at the moment, it meant we could get the amazing shots from a distance. With this sort of intimate production, the Junior 5 is unobtrusive and discreet.” Despite the nature of the task, Dugdale approached the livestream as he would filming any other project. “You dive into the music, you do your homework, you work efficiently, and you focus on collaborating with the artist and their team,” he underlined, explaining that the “real challenges” in broadcasting to a global livestreamed audience lay with the film’s Producer, Amy James. “Amy was absolutely vital in getting this on screen and was a total hero in terms of managing the logistics of a project as complicated as this,” he reported. “She was truly the architect in immersing the film team into the artist’s world without a hitch, which, as I’m sure a lot of band crew reading this will testify, is sometimes not a simple thing!” Summing up the collaborative experience, he said: “This was a total team effort, especially with a show structure as complicated as this one. I really loved being part of this project. Creatively, it was enormously satisfying, but it was also life affirming collaborating with other people again and being able to create something together that does the artist and music justice and is greater than the sum of its parts.”
‘PEOPLE NEED TO BE ENTERTAINED’ As one of the longest-serving members of the James Bay touring camp, Lighting Designer, Liam Tully has witnessed the evolution of the artist from small London shows to four sold-out nights at Brixton Academy. “I have never missed a live show James has done,” Tully stated proudly, estimating the figure of shows to exceed the 1,000 mark. “I’d like to think that my career has grown in tandem with James Bay as we’ve both experienced a lot of ‘firsts’ together – such as touring the United States.” To bring his vision for the show to life, Tully drew the show in Vectorworks and renders were created by Syncronorm previsualisation tool, Depence2. With the creative decided on, he set to work lighting the space. “We washed the whole building with light – this show was really stripped back,” he said, explaining that the first half of the set featured key light, which didn’t require much legwork from his MA Lighting grandMA3 light console operating in grandMA2 mode. “During the last five songs, we did a big rock ’n’ roll set, so, despite his movement from different spaces in the venue, from a programming point of view, it wasn’t a big challenge.” Fundamental to the director’s vision and the colour palette of the venue was enhancing the closing rock ’n’ roll set, while respecting the music and the venue. “James was the focal point of the design; we didn’t want to have tonnes of strobes and moving lights, to allow for key light,” Tully explained, adding that he started the show file fresh for this project. “I spent a day at home getting it right, with two hours of programming on site.” With no traditional mother grid structure in place – the team instead opting to use the natural architecture of Shakespeare’s Globe – the choice and footprint of the lighting fixtures placed on the floor, in seats and around various spaces of the venue were key. Among the workhorse fixtures were 30 Vari-Lite SL Nitro 510C fixtures and Siyan’s exclusive range of 80 Martin by Harman Atomic Dot fixtures. “I was looking for small fixtures such as the Atomic Dots, and Siyan was the only company in the country with them en mass,” Tully explained, 51
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utilising the fixtures to pixelmap Shakespeare’s Globe. The floor package also comprised 28 IP-rated SGM Q7 wash fixtures in case the venue with no roof fell victim to the outside elements, along with eight Robe MegaPointe spot fixtures. “When you’re shooting in 360°, because the camera man is close to the artist, you struggle with shadows,” explained Tully. With this in mind, he specified six Robert Juliet Dalis 862 LED asymmetric footlights for band key light on the floor to avoid shadows. “They’re a theatrical strip-style light, designed with the output of a tungsten light, which we placed 2ft away from each band member to prevent any shadow play during the stream,” he explained. In closing, the LD identified the transition from the piano section to the raucous rock ’n’ roll set as one of his favourite moments of the show. “Above all, it was lovely to see people again,” he realled. “People need to be entertained. Live music fans yearn to see their favourite artists perform and shows like this are a great tool for artists to promote their latest releases.” Tully believed that by embarking on the Shakespeare’s Globe livestream, both the artist and production crew could earn money during a particularly difficult time for the live events sector. “In normal times, we would never have the chance to do a rock ’n’ roll set in Shakespeare’s Globe,” he stated. “I’m never going to have the opportunity to place lights in the seats of Shakespeare’s Globe again, so despite the obvious downfalls, the COVID-19 pandemic has afforded us the luxury of space and time to be more creative.”
load-in went smoothly. [Monitor Engineer] Donny found a space for the mons desk that wasn’t difficult to load in to and kept us out of everyone’s way.” As a Monitor Engineer, Mark ‘Donny’ Donovan’s job was to collate the signals to the recording (PC-based DAW) via DiGiGrid MGB, as well as to the in-ear monitors. “I went over to Capital Sound at Park Royal to prepare the gear with Audio Tech, Ollie Fallon – we had four days of rehearsal at John Henry’s before the show.” Sadler took MADI feeds into a pair of DiGiGrid MGBs and MacBooks running reaper. “The broadcast mix was done between my home studio and Mill Studios in Alnwick, Northumberland,” Sadler explained. “I don’t think I would have been able to achieve the results I got without using the Sonarworks calibration software on my monitors – that was a lifesaver.” As audio suppliers on James Bay’s past few tours, Sadler and Donovan shared an affinity with the company – in particular, Capital Sound Project Manager, Paul Timmins. “Donny has worked with Capital Sound for a while, so he knows their kit inside out, which is always a bonus,” Sadler recalled. The Capital Sound audio package comprised a DiGiCo SD10 mixing console, an SD rack and a SD mini rack. An SD11i was used during the encore set in the Jacobean Theatre, which saw James perform the entirety of his debut EP. “Our normal show is around 40 inputs, whereas this show was around 70 inputs split over four different performance areas,” Sadler explained. “Donny had the idea of adding a mini rack, so we weren’t repatching between each performance area,” he added. Walking TPi through their “usual setup”, Donny explained that an extra SD mini rack was added to handle the channels of the extra acoustic element of the show. “The band were on IEMs as well as James, who also has a couple of d&b audiotechnik M2s as a pair downstage centre. As James was performing in various areas of the building, Donny added a couple
‘AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE’ James Bay’s FOH Engineer since 2015, Robert Sadler assumed the unfamiliar role of audio recording and the broadcast audio mix. “Normally I don’t have that much to do with broadcast audio, so it was really great that Jamal asked me to be involved,” Sadler began. “This was my first time at Shakespeare’s Globe. We had a great local crew from Stage Miracles, so 52
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of extra monitor feeds to those locations. We had Shure PSM1000 for the in-ears and one wireless Shure Axient with Audio-Technica Ae5400 mic capsule for James.” The excursion was a much-welcomed change of pace for the engineer following a tough year. “It was great to hear the songs performed in such a historic space. This year has given me the chance to do a bit more studiobased mixing, which I’m starting to enjoy,” he said. Although one thing that will stick with him after this gig is… “Never underestimate how loud the sound of a drone camera will be in all those microphones capturing an acoustic performance, and how much time it takes to get rid of it. Mind you, the aerial shots look great!” Sadler recalled the “emotional” experience of watching the stream back. “It was an emotional experience, all those talented people that often get forgotten about coming together and putting on that gig in that historic space.” Donny looked back on a “great experience” on his return to some semblance of normality with the team. “The lovely thing about this show was that the director wanted it to be like a ‘normal gig’ as opposed to a fancy promo video. James’ performance and the fact he played in a range of spaces in the venue added the energy and dynamism required to make it feel like a proper gig.”
Joined by Backline Tech, Sara Ferrero and Drum Tech, Owain Lloyd, Art enthused: “It was surreal to be back on site, working with people again,” he reflected, explaining that going into the project, he was anxious following a long spell away from the rat race. “Thankfully, the rehearsals prepared us perfectly. Being back in a room with friends and hearing how James had slightly reworked the material was brilliant,” he added. Describing the building’s acoustics as “fantastic”, Art’s main challenge was ensuring the various moving parts of the production were timed to perfection. “It was a non-stop day, and I was kept on my toes, but we rose to the challenge,” he said. “I’d describe the experience as a touring show with several warm up acts – there was a lot of movement and a lot of gear to process. James’ brother, Alex Bay, joined the band on guitar and percussion, so that added a little extra production value.” Overjoyed to be working and providing an experience for live music fans in lockdown, Art said: “Live music is escapism from the mundanity of daily existence and it’s something people can immerse themselves in. The digital world is great for the here and now, but the live experience with an audience is simply irreplaceable,” he concluded, looking to the not-toodistant future. “I’m feeling optimistic.” TPi Photos: James Boardman www.jamesbay.com www.shakespearesglobe.com www.backlashproductions.com www.dugdale.tv www.lunaremote.co.uk www.driift.live www.capital-sound.co.uk www.siyan.co.uk www.johnhenrys.com www.soundmoves.com www.stagemiracles.co.uk
‘LIVE MUSIC IS AN OUTLET FOR PEOPLE’ Stage Manager / Guitar Technician, Arthur ‘Art’ Smith was working in Tesco when he got a call to rejoin the camp for the Shakespeare’s Globe set. Having toured with James Bay since graduating from BIMM Institute in 2014 – touring as his guitarist / keyboardist’s backline tech – Art shares a storied history with the artist. “I’ve known James for almost half of my life,” he revealed. “We were schoolmates, and grew up playing music together.” In 2018, Art became the singer-songwriter’s Guitar Tech, before assuming the additional role of Stage Manager.
CHANGING VIDEO WORKFLOW Following the release of PRISM PLAYER, TPi speaks to the Avolites’ Ciaran Abrams and end users – Ed Shaw, Sean Cagney and Kyle Means – about how the company’s latest innovation could change pre existing video workflow.
The progression of video within the events market has been quite astounding. Even in these troubling times, video is one discipline that has continued to progress and innovate thanks to the proliferation of LED sets, virtual events and, of course, streaming. However, the ubiquity of video has created an issue when it comes to the relationship between content creators, video operators and end clients – the sheer size of data makes it incredibly difficult to preview content. To address this issue, Avolites has announced the PRISM PLAYER. This latest release is the first tool in the PRISM range and is designed with an intuitive and clear user interface, giving newer video designers and operators a stepping stone into the discipline. “With PRISM, we wanted to create a set of complementary tools that can help designers integrate video into their projects and improve the user experience for our current Ai users,” stated Avolites Managing Director, Paul Wong. “Now that we have Synergy, we want to get as many users as we can to start looking at video and seeing how they can incorporate it into their designs.” PRISM PLAYER is a powerful tool for previewing and encoding media clips without connecting to a server or Ai application. Video clips in most common formats can be encoded easily into the AiM codec – Avolites’ bespoke codec designed for high-performance shows. PRISM PLAYER also supports the HAP codec, so clips from other servers can be previewed and transcoded and used in Ai. Clips can also be encoded in batches to save time. Content rendered in AiM can also be previewed without uploading to a server. The software also includes a playlist function to preview different pieces of content together for a show or project. These playlists can be saved and worked on later. Avolites’ Lead Software Developer, Ciaran Abrams, explained the need for PRISM PLAYER in the market. “It’s been difficult for people to render out their videos to see what they look like for a long time,” he began. “The only option for many was QuickTime, but the process of using this application is really quite slow and you can’t load more than one clip at a time. Frankly, it’s a clunky way of working.”
Due to this shortcoming in the workflow, Avolites wanted to provide its users another option that would enable people to manage their media, to preview and program to give a better dialogue between creator and end users. Through the process of creating the product, Abrams and the rest of the team were in constant contact with several their loyal users, including Ed Shaw, Sean Cagney, and Kyle Means – all experts within the world of video. Over a Zoom call, the three explained what this new tool represented in the ever-changing workflow of a video professional. Ed Shaw, MD of NEICO – a video production company that specialises in creating motion graphics for nightclubs, festivals and artists – spoke first about what PRISM PLAYER could mean for the world of video. “PRISM PLAYER is extremely useful for us as we are used to dealing with a large quantity of high-quality clips – around 200 for a new nightclub launch, for example. Having a piece of software that can open all the files at one time, play them sequentially and be checked before delivery, trimming in and out points and checking aspect ratios, is all made extremely easy. And being able to do that without having to open the original file is a new time saver.” Kyle Means of Visional Productions concurred with Shaw. “In the real world, especially with a corporate show, you can often get pieces of content rather last minute, and while you’re working with a big team, not everyone has a media server on the desk, so having a lightweight option with everyone on the team being able to view content so everyone is on the same page is awesome.” Joining the call while on site at a virtual conference, Sean Cagney from Amazing Industries had already added PRISM PLAYER into his workflow. “It’s our emergency player setup on a laptop, so if anyone rocks up with some last-minute content, we are ready to go,” he shared. Shaw had also got some hands-on experience with the PLAYER, while working with deadmau5. “It has been invaluable during this recent collaboration. We’ve been having master content coming through, which I’ve been able to quickly preview on our end as well as going through some of his older content. It’s been an invaluable bit of software.” While chatting to the three end users, one recurring theme was people’s perceptions 54
CHANGING VIDEO WORKFLOW
Avolites’ Ciaran Abrams; Amazing Industries Sean Cagney; Visional Productions, Kyle Means; MD of NEICO, Ed Shaw.
of video. “The increase in streaming has dumbed down some people’s perception of video – even customers,” stated Means. “Some have this idea that you should be able to run a streamed video, with graphic overlays and add in other external people calling in, to simply be played on a large LED screen. The stress that kind of content puts on a system is incredible. That said, having a long render workflow to get things on screen is no longer really accepted, so we have to find ways of speeding up the process.” “Not only that, but every show we work on these days seems to be custom,” added Cagney. He went on to explain that even with his years of stock video content he has collected, each project often means having to create more assets. Again, he stressed the value of PRISM PLAYER’s ability to give video content creators the option to allow customers to view content quickly, as well as quickly encoding any incoming content to then be played via a media server.
DIN POWERFUL OUTDOOR
It’s clear to see that the fast-paced development, not to mention the demand for video solutions in all sectors of live events, has meant Avolites has had to keep its finger on the pulse of progression. “Avolites has always had this end game approach of video and lighting integrations,” stated Abrams. “We’ve created an ecosystem around both our lighting desks and media servers, and in our development, we are always trying to think at least two years ahead. That said, there are some developments we have had to adapt to such as camera tracking and realtime rendering with Notch – it is a constantly changing word.” Avolites’ PRISM PLAYER is available to download for free on a Windows device and further information can be accessed by visiting the link below. TPi Photos: Avolites www.avolites.com/prism
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BROMPTON TECHNOLOGY: LED ON CAMERA Brompton Technology Chief Technical Officer, Chris Deighton, details the specifics of purpose-built LED arrangements for digital live events and explains how a high-quality setup can provide virtual audiences those all-important ‘goosebump’ moments.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived at the start of the year, it wiped out live events almost overnight. In the intervening months one thing has remained clear – we still crave those “goosebump” moments experienced during a live show just as much now as we ever did before. The world of virtual production is helping to fill the void and give us something just as thrilling. While virtual production methods were already harnessed by a few companies in the live arena – with some using interactive ‘smart stages’ – from March 2020 onwards, they’ve become essential. Those already in the virtual studio space shifted up a gear, while others looked at their business models and realised that they, too, could migrate into this new arena. Notting Hill Carnival, American Idol, the Emmy Awards, and Monsters of Rock Cruise (MORC) are among the hundreds of shows that have used VP this year to host real and often live performances in virtual surroundings. With technologies such as High Dynamic Range (HDR) cementing virtual
production as a viable tool for immersive storytelling, viewers can now enter a virtual world limited only by their imagination. So, what if a team experienced in live events wants to offer a new virtual space? It’s not a simple case of taking existing kit and rearranging it to make a virtual studio. The world of live events can look to the film industry where, in recent years, virtual production and technological developments have broadened the spectrum of what is visually possible with LED video environments. LED screens with high-quality LED processing are being used as replacements for traditional green screens, enabling content creators to capture both live action and CGI in-camera together, greatly streamlining post-production. As with all on-set technologies, the choice of equipment has a huge bearing on usability and the quality of the result. The live events industry is very familiar with using LED screens as a backdrop for a live show, but now the LED screens must provide a plausible environment with high 56
performance and a sense of depth when captured on camera, so that the audience at home believes and feels drawn into a 3D space. For virtual production, the choice of LED panels and processor is typically considered far in advance of a shoot, and there are several important decisions to be made. For instance, pixel pitch needs to be carefully considered; it needs to be fine enough to minimise the chances of seeing moiré patterns, based on the planned shots and lenses, but not so fine that it drives up the price unnecessarily. LED professionals would all agree that selecting the correct processing power is equally important as choosing the right LED panels, since the latter are tightly integrated with a particular processing system, with electronics built into each panel paired with a central LED processor that controls the whole screen and feeds it a video signal. This means it is important to select the correct processing system from the start, as it cannot be changed later if issues arise. As well as being responsible for the entire video pipeline within the screen, the processing system includes the user interface for configuring the overall appearance of the LED screen, ensuring it appears completely seamless, scales the content properly and shows precisely correct colours with no colour casts. Typically, virtual production environments run LED panels at lower brightness levels than might be used for a live event. Running a panel designed to output thousands of nits at a tiny fraction of that level can result in banding and colour-casts, so it’s important to specify an LED processor that can compensate. Very few processing systems can achieve the performance required to deliver artefact-free images on camera, especially at low brightness, as most of these systems were designed for much less demanding applications like low-cost digital signage. A camera test at an early stage is highly recommended to build confidence for both the creative and technical teams that the combination
of LED panels and LED processing can deliver the desired performance. Testing should check for issues like rolling black bars, flickering, banding or poor colour quality. The moiré effect is also a common problem when LED screens are too close to the camera or in too sharp focus, requiring careful lens and depth of field choices. Camera tests must be done using the same camera type as will later be used on set and trying out the same types of shots that will be needed. Similarly, the correct processing system must be used during these tests. All cameras and LED screens have their own characteristics, and it is important to confirm that the proposed pairing of equipment works well together. SET UP FOR SUCCESS A system will always be let down by the weakest link in the chain, so when pairing cameras and lenses, it is important to pair good LED panels with a premium LED processing system. Selecting the correct processing system can give you a great deal of flexibility later on-set. This is crucial to enable delivery of the necessary image quality in what is often a rapidly changing environment. Premium LED processing systems offer a full range of features such as the ability to freely drive the screen at any desired framerate, from 24fps up to high frame rates such as 144fps. Matching this to the camera framerate helps avoid motion artefacts, especially when shooting at high framerate or over-cranking the camera for slow motion shots. It is often also necessary to lock the screen refresh to the precise camera timing, and this can be achieved via genlock, with phase offset controls essential to avoid black bars appearing on modern rolling-shutter cameras. Cameras see colour differently to the human eye and can pick up on colour casts or other distracting artefacts that destroy the intended
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illusion, so it is vital to have a full range of nuanced colour correction controls within the processing system. This ensures any unwelcome surprises, that only become apparent once on-set, can be addressed immediately so that colours are portrayed accurately on-camera. Making these adjustments directly within the display system ensures the best possible image quality can be maintained, as the display system operates internally at higher bit depth than the incoming video signal. To date, almost all LED screens have only been SDR-capable, but now some are also able to display HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. HDR is particularly interesting for virtual production use. Compared to SDR, it offers much larger contrast ratios and colour gamuts that more closely mimic what we see in the real world, and what cameras are capable of capturing. This ultimately provides a much more lifelike final image when the LED screen is being shot on camera, translating to an improvement in image quality and realism, and offering more flexibility in grading than if using a ‘flatter-looking’ SDR screen. Coupled with a processing system that can achieve accurate colours even for wide colour gamuts such as Rec.2020, HDR video content – whether pre-rendered or generated in real-time – can specify precise absolute brightness and colour values for every pixel, giving much better control over the display, and much more predictable results once the screen is integrated with other on-set elements, additional lighting, and even LED panels of different types or from different vendors. Achieving genuine HDR performance on LED screens has proven surprisingly elusive until recently because traditional LED panel calibration methods limit the brightness and colour gamut of the LEDs to match the capabilities of that batch of LEDs. Recently, new ‘dynamic’ calibration techniques have been developed to overcome this limitation and deliver the necessary performance gains to achieve genuine HDR output. As well as being the only way to deliver genuine HDR performance, dynamic calibration technology enables the LED screen to be reconfigured instantly to achieve different colour or brightness targets. This maintains
colour accuracy and uniformity, while unlocking the level of flexibility needed in a professional environment to ensure a perfect image can be captured first time, every time. THE NEW REALITY OF LIVE EVENTS In the absence of traditional live concerts, livestreaming is becoming a vital component of keeping the event industry going, with state-of-the-art virtual production technology offering an engaging and immersive way of delivering content and live performances to an audience. The era of digital storytelling is here, and while there is no doubt that the live event industry is a demanding environment for top-quality visual backgrounds, the unforgiving scrutiny of a studio environment is even more demanding on the capabilities of the LED screens used, demanding lifelike, HDR-quality content for the best performance on camera. With this collision of the physical and digital realms, event companies are now expected to be able to deliver stunning visuals for any discipline, with the flexibility to adapt to many different setups. Whether an event is taking place with a live audience in a physical environment with a giant LED screen as a backdrop or livestreamed from a virtual studio with a number of LED screens on all sides, those designing the show want to ensure that their audience is delighted and engaged the whole way through. We might not currently be able to have the thrill of being in a crowd, but we can still thrill with dynamic, creative new worlds captured on camera. By carefully coupling the right LED screen with the right LED processing, companies are now able to bring concerts, plays and more to life, with technologies like Brompton HDR able to future-proof both physically and digitally delivered events, bringing those ‘goosebump’ moments to audiences, irrespective of the medium. TPi Photos: Brompton Technology www.bromptontech.com 58
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FIRST OPTION With the entertainment industry preparing for the return of live events, TPi’s Stew Hume chats to First Option’s Martin Barraclough about how the company hopes to aid in this revival – not just in terms of COVID-19 safety measures, but also pushing a healthier duty of care for the live events sector.
It’s hard to find a silver lining where COVID-19 is concerned, however, if the live events industry has gained anything from the pandemic, it’s been the chance to pause and consider health and safety regulations and duty of care for the hard-working crew behind tours, festivals and large-scale events. It is why we have seen collectives such as the Touring Production Group (TPG) form to help provide guidance alongside the Production Services Association (PSA), with the aim of preparing people for events in a COVID-19 world. There have also been organisations outside of our industry providing services to those wishing to upskill and gain the necessary knowledge to be able to put on a live event competently and safely. First Option, although perhaps not as known in the touring sector, is regarded as one of the world’s largest safety consultants to the media and entertainment industry. Having specialised in TV and film, the company has provided support for a number of huge productions, from top dramas like Killing Eve to awardwinning blockbusters such as Bohemian Rhapsody. First Option has also had extensive experience in live events, including premieres, sporting events and festivals – particularly the broadcast
element of festivals as apposed to live production. However, in this ever-changing world where the lines of broadcast and live are becoming increasingly blurred, the safety experts has expanded into the live events field. One way in which the company has done this is by employing a number of people from the live events sector to bolster their overall knowledge. A familiar name within the live event circuit, Martin Barraclough has worked as a Safety Manager for DNG Production & Event Crew for a number of years. Having been heavily involved with the TPG throughout the pandemic, he moved over to work with First Option in July. “First Option was looking for a consultant based in Manchester,” he began, talking to TPi via Zoom as he took a break from a high end TV drama he is overseeing in Spain – his first abroad project this year. “I’ve been involved in the live events industry in one form or another for the past 20 years and, while I’ve specialised into this H&S role, it’s great to bring my knowledge of live events into an organisation such as First Option.” Talking generally of the ever-closing gap between the broadcast and live sectors, he summarised how the two worlds could very much learn 60
from one another. “We have always had those hybrid events – like the BRIT Awards – which are equal parts live and broadcast, but COVID-19 has certainly forced the two worlds to collide – the last MTV EMA’s being a prime example. There is an awful lot that the touring world could learn from TV and broadcast. For example, those organisers’ attitude to duty of care.” He carried on to explain that these type of organisations simply had more time and resources to develop codes of practice, but that First Option is now in a great position to take this knowledge and bring it into the live events sector. Already assisting the events sector during the second lockdown and pre-vaccine period, First Option’s new Event COVID-19 Supervisor and Compliance Officer Advanced Level Training has been adapted from its highly successful TV and broadcast course to equip any crew able to work intermittently. The new sector-specific course incorporates procedures outlined in TPG’s COVID-19 Working Procedures Guidance – a pioneering set of guidelines that Barraclough was instrumental in producing. The First Option guidance – which is affectionately referred to as The Yellow Book – has been produced by First Option’s in-house team of experts, including microbiologists, medical doctors, and chartered safety consultants. Alongside Vittorio Vanloo, fellow First Option colleague, Barraclough has been responsible for creating the content, along with the corresponding virtual courses that they now provide. “Together, we’ve produced intermediate and advanced-level training courses, which we’ve run a number of times during the past few months.” The advanced training course comprises a five-hour Zoom call with an instructor, after which the participants receive The Yellow Book. “The courses that we have run so far have also had a strong Q&A element, so people are able to get out what they need for their particular profession,” Barraclough commented. He also explained that as well as a multiple-choice test at the end of the presentation, participants in the advanced course are asked to create a COVID-19 risk assessment for a fictitious scenario. “This is not necessary because they will be asked to do this in their regular jobs, but more to give them a wider understanding of what these processes entail,” he explained, adding that the biggest success stories had come when event organisers had a 100% buy-in from the entire workforce. The Event COVID-19 Supervisor and Compliance Officer Advanced Level Training has already received positive feedback from its first round of attendees. Touring Production Manager, Paddy Hocken [Biffy Clyro, Queen], was among the first to complete it. “I got a lot out of this training, and believe the whole class did, too,” he commented. “It’s also great that it links back to the TPG’s detailed guidance. I would strongly recommend this course to anybody working in live events or concert touring in a senior role. Martin is exceptionally well placed to deliver this course.” Barraclough also explained how a number of those working on the recent MTV EMAs had also completed the training course. With the training now in place, Barraclough speculated on the next few months for the live events industry. “With the prevalence of both streamed and virtual eSports, elite sport and business conferencing events underway, teamed with further uncertainty ahead, the training is already well-subscribed and I believe it’s something every live production can benefit from and be reassured by. Production personnel can add the
Opposite: First Option’s Martin Barraclough.
implementation of these realistic COVID-19 procedures to their world-class production values.” With all that said, and perhaps as you might imagine for an expert in health and safety, Barraclough was also quick to err on the side of caution about the return to any sense of normality. “Vaccines are set to roll out and, with infection rates falling in some areas, there is now scope to think about events, but, especially in the UK, we are still in the riskiest part of this second wave. Our goal has always been to produce guidance that adheres to the public health messaging and we never look to reinterpret or reinvent government guidance. We want to ensure that all people remain on the right side of the law.” Giving his final thoughts for 2020, he concluded: “This year, the safety culture of companies has been laid bare. Our hope at First Option is that more organisers and stakeholders will see that safety guidance now feeds into everything they do. This goes beyond COVID-19 measures, but an overall duty of care for those working within the industry; the days of people being mentally broken at the end of tours needs to come to an end. First Option is ready to stand with the sector and help push those standards for people who want to also raise them.” TPi Photos: First Option www.firstoption.group
PUSH LIVE One of the forerunners in the flourishing world of livestreaming, PUSH LIVE’s Executive Director, Production and Operations, Jonnie Coffin, and Global Head of Marketing, Steve Munachen, walk TPi through their cloud-based operating system and outline how distribution of content is the key to any virtual experience. TPi’s Stew Hume reports…
“Streaming is the opposite to Field of Dreams – it’s not just a simple case of ‘if you build it, they will come’,” explained PUSH LIVE’s Global Head of Marketing, Steve Munachen, while he and fellow PUSH LIVE colleague, Jonnie Coffin, chatted to TPi via Zoom. “In short, to build an audience, content needs to be streamed to channels and destinations where audiences already congregate.” Although this year has marked a significant rise in the number of artists, promoters and productions having to adapt to this developing form of a ‘live’ event, PUSH LIVE had been making inroads into this format for several years, and the company is now poised to present a solution for the future of live music going forward. “We have been developing the PUSH LIVE software for a number of years, offering a streaming solution for live events,” remarked Coffin. However, clever coding and technical infrastructure is what sets PUSH LIVE apart from others on the market. “We are able to take a single video feed, and then in the cloud, customise it, break it apart and send it out to
any number of destinations that we choose.” Effectively, this means that a performer could play a show in a venue, which would then be streamed simultaneously on any number of other channels online, all of which is done without a platform having to hand over their social login details. “We have a sharing URL, which we setup for all our projects,” stated Coffin. “This means the channel owners can go the PUSH LIVE interface and connect with our API to then stream on YouTube, Twitch or any other platform they choose.” The other benefit is that all additions to the feeds – sponsor logos or extra VT elements – can be made in real time in the cloud, meaning that each individual feed is customisable instantaneously, even though all streams are coming from the same source or event. This means platforms can customise the content to feel unique to their audience. Personalisation of content is one the key foundations of PUSH LIVE projects. “Audiences these days have a repertoire of channels they visit each day,” stated Munachen. “From subscriptions to certain YouTube 62
Opposite: PUSH LIVE’s Executive Director, Production and Operations, Jonnie Coffin.
creators to specific Facebook pages they follow; it’s really hard to get a group of people to add a new page to their list and change their habits.” He explained that this was the issue that most livestreams have, in that they only exist on one official channel. “With PUSH LIVE sending out multiple streams to various trusted channels and content mediators, we are getting the content straight to the people who can then engage in the content in a native environment.” PUSH LIVE has already had proof of concept over the years, having been very much part of the streaming fabric for Boiler Room – the online DJ platform, which has seen artists perform shows to a live audience across the world. Recently, just before the world went into lockdown, PUSH LIVE provided the streaming infrastructure of EDC Mexico. With its formula of mass distribution to several different channels, the company helped the festival increase its online audience from three million over three years to 13 million in 2020. Over the three days of EDC show, PUSH LIVE distributed content to 87 different locations although, as both Coffin and Munachen stated, “we could have done a lot more”. Coffin continued: “We find it often takes customers at least one event to understand the technology, but then by the next event, they come back to us and really embrace it more.” He also explained how it is a great way for artists to take their content from their festival performances and give it directly to their fanbase with their own personalised touch. During the festival, PUSH LIVE included a video package for each stage as well as handled the streams. “Although we are a tech company, most of us come from a production background, specifically music production, so we were able to offer these video services as well,” stated Coffin. “With us handling both the cameras and the streaming, we were able to do away with miles of cabling and broadcast trucks.” “It’s all about turning the traditional model on its head,” added Munachen, referring to breaking the traditional broadcast model with several OB Trucks having to beam out content. “The majority of the work takes place in the planning stage, where you need to think in detail about where all the streams are going and the message that needs to be unique for each audience. Whereas in the old way, all the distribution happens at the back-end.” This breaking the norm
is why PUSH LIVE has so quickly turned its attention to music which, as an industry, according to Coffin, is far more receptive to this turning towards streaming. In recent weeks, the company has announced the employment of Larry Gale, former Head of Live Production at Boiler Room, who will be leading the production network at PUSH LIVE, helping up-skill people with the interface. “Touring is the only way for bands to make a living, but maybe live streaming could help them also be the next big thing for the music industry,” stated Munachen. He went on to give a hypothetical scenario that a big A-list artist right now might sell sponsorship for a livestream but, with the PUSH model, the stream to each global territory could have its own sponsorship and, even though it might be cheaper, it would end up being more lucrative for the artist. The duo also stated how leaning into the streaming model could result in artists breaking through quicker. If a band playing a show to 20 people in a venue could be streamed to various territories or to established music platforms, that crowd of 20 could transform into 20,000 and data from the stream could be used to determine potential locations for the next tour. It’s clear that PUSH LIVE sees streaming as integral to the music industry moving forward, but TPi was keen to decipher the company’s opinion about the recent news that Facebook would no longer allow music to be streamed on its platform. Did this affect the firm’s vision of the future? “It’s true that we have seen Facebook go one way when it comes to streaming,” admitted Coffin. “That said, we have seen Twitch go in the complete opposite direction. They are on the cutting edge of streaming and taking their lead from the gaming industry. In my opinion, if you want to be on the cutting edge of technology, you should look to the gaming industry and their attitude to live content and streaming to see where other industry is going.” With an incredibly busy year almost behind them, both Coffin and Munachen, along with the rest of the PUSH LIVE team, are now looking at increasing the awareness of the brand, especially in the live music sphere. TPi Photos: PUSH LIVE & EDC www.push.live www.mexico.electricdaisycarnival.com 63
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#ILOVELIVE Stagehand and Crowdfunder UK launch #ILoveLive, a prize draw campaign organised to raise funds for the production staff and stage crew impacted by the loss of work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign is spearheaded by artist manager and promoter, David Stopps with Andy Lenthall and Mike Lowe at Stagehand. “When I heard about the 10th suicide among stage crew in late August, I knew I had to do something,” Stopps said. “Stage crew are not only suffering great financial hardship, but most are also experiencing ill mental health. Money raised from these prize draws will actually save lives and help to safeguard their future.” Prize draws are now open and will close on 17 December at 6pm (GMT). www.crowdfunder.co.uk/i-love-live
LOUIS TOMLINSON: LIVE FROM LONDON Singer-songwriter Louis Tomlinson has announced a special oneoff livestreamed show on 12 December with digital ticket profits and merchandise sales from the show split between FareShare, Crew Nation, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice and Stagehand. The artist is also donating money to his own touring crew, many of which have been out of work since March. Louis Tomlinson commented: “I want to give my touring crew work, and raise some vital money for them, as without my crew, the show literally couldn’t go on.” www.louistomlinson.veeps.com
PRINTS FOR MUSIC Over 100 prints of world-renowned music artists taken by acclaimed photographers, including frequent TPi photographers, are now on sale on the Prints For Music website. Each A3 print is priced at £95, plus shipping, with proceeds going to Stagehand. Prints For Music for Stagehand was organised by photographer, Ed Robinson. The sale ends on 21 December. www.printsformusic.com
STAGEHAND COVID-19 CREW RELIEF FUND Applications are open for the second round of the Stagehand Crew Relief Fund, closing on 21 December. Organisers anticipate oversubscription and will work hard to contact applicants in early January. “We intend to continue fundraising to enable further rounds, once all successful claims in round two have been settled,” Stagehand’s Andy Lenthall commented. “We owe a great deal to those that are supporting
our fundraising efforts.” The application and details on how to apply for round two of the Stagehand Crew Relief Fund can be found on the charity’s website. TPi Photos: Stagehand www.stagehand.org.uk 66
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