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TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL LIVE EVENT DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY • JUNE 2021 • ISSUE 262

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2021

Live music makes a triumphant return

SONO FUORI DI TESTA, MA DIVERSO DA LORO…

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CIRCUS: THE FIRST DANCE • SEFTON PARK • THE BRIT AWARDS • PRODUCTION FUTURES ONLINE 2021 TEDUA: DON’T PANIC • CROWDED HOUSE: TO THE ISLAND • IN PROFILE: COLLABORATIVE CREATIONS

JUNE 2021 #262


EDITOR’S LETTER

YOUR PARTNER FOR STAGE & STUDIO LIFTING EQUIPMENT

A TASTE OF WHAT’S TO COME… On-site interviews, show profiles and photographer requests… phrases I haven’t uttered in 15 months and now, as we edge tantalisingly close to what could be a return to normality, I’m saying them every single day. There is still an awful lot of work to do to get our industry back to normal – not to mention the dark cloud of uncertainty that still hangs over festival season – but as we send our latest edition of TPi to print, I can safely say that this is the most ‘normal’ issue we have produced in the past 15 months. From Jacob’s trip to Liverpool for some in-the-field reporting at CIRCUS: The First Dance [p34], to my coverage from Sefton Park’s outdoor show with performances from Zuzu and Blossoms [p42], as well as the almighty Eurovision Song Contest’s much-anticipated return [p22], our June issue brings you three profiles from shows with an in-person audience enjoying live music – the way it should be. Admittedly at reduced capacity, each of the shows were part of an ongoing series of test events that various countries have rolled out, all with the aim of ensuring that when punters return to the live arena, it is done safely. This is just the beginning, as both Jacob and I have a whole host of other shows on the calendar. Spoiler: one of them may involve moshing… Before we get to those, this month also sees our very special 20th anniversary celebration of the TPi Awards. As gutted as we are not to be able to welcome you all back in your droves to Battersea Park for an overdue drink, we have used this opportunity to assemble a stellar line-up of talks with some of the biggest names from the touring world. With each guest being voted for by our audience, these panels will be broadcast on 23 June on ISE’s digital platform. Turn to p8 to see the entire line-up. I will also be attending ISE’s live event in person at the TPi Awards’ spiritual home of Battersea Park on 23 and 24 June for some on-stage interviews. So, if you’re there, please don’t be a stranger. I’m very much looking forward to some conversations that don’t require me to follow a link and spend five minutes shouting, “can you hear me?” Until next time, Stew Hume Editor

EDITOR Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail: s.hume@mondiale.co.uk

ASSISTANT EDITOR Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7592 679612 e-mail: j.waite@mondiale.co.uk

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Peter Iantorno Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7763 233637 e-mail: p.iantorno@mondiale.co.uk

GRAPHIC DESIGN & PRODUCTION Dan Seaton: d.seaton@mondiale.co.uk Mel Capper: m.capper@mondiale.co.uk

DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER James Robertson Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7725 475819 e-mail: j.robertson@mondiale.co.uk COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Hannah Eakins Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7760 485230 e-mail: h.eakins@mondiale.co.uk ACCOUNT MANAGER Fran Begaj Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7852 336728 e-mail: f.begaj@mondiale.co.uk CHIEF EXECUTIVE Justin Gawne Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7768 850767 e-mail: j.gawne@mondiale.co.uk

ACCOUNTS Lynette Levi / Sarah Miller: ar@mondiale.co.uk MONDIALE GROUP CHAIRMAN Damian Walsh COVER Eurovision Song Contest 2021: Nathan Reinds PRINTED BY Buxton Press • www.buxpress.co.uk Issue 262 – June 2021 Annual subscriptions (including P&P): £42 (UK), £60 (Europe), £78/$125 (RoW). Subscription enquiries to: Subscriptions, Mondiale Media Limited, Strawberry Studios, Watson Square, Stockport, SK1 3AZ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)161 476 5580 Fax: +44 (0)161 476 0456 e-mail: subscriptions@mondiale.co.uk www.tpimagazine.com • www.tpiawards.com

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

CHAINMASTER GmbH


ITINERARY

TPi AWARDS 2021 08

The eagerly-awaited line-up announcement for our 20th anniversary, digital celebration.

EVENT FOCUS

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The BRIT Awards 2021 British music’s biggest night returns with a COVID-19 secure awards ceremony.

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Midwich Group’s Innovation House A brand-new experience centre which is a cut above a traditional showroom.

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Crowded House: To The Island d&b audiotechnik sounds the North Island leg of Crowded House’s tour of NZ.

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Tedua: Don’t Panic Ombra Design joins forces with Italian rapper, Tedua for an XR performance.

PRODUCTION PROFILE 22

Eurovision Song Contest 2021 The much-anticipated song contest returns with a technologically advanced show in front of a 3,500-strong crowd.

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CIRCUS: The First Dance 6,000 clubbers descend on Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse for the UK’s first post-pandemic dance event.

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Sefton Park Some 5,000 music fans make the trip to Liverpool’s Sefton Park to see Blossoms and Zuzu perform live.

IN PROFILE 46

Collaborative Creations’ Tom Wilkes prepares for mass gatherings to return.

PROVEN INDUSTRY-LEADING

IP65 MOVING HEADS

PRODUCTION FUTURES

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A look back at Production Futures Online 2021 and those who made it possible.

PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE 52

PSA’s Andy Lenthall hopes for a safe and lasting return for the live events sector.

INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS 56

42

The latest movers and shakers.

BACK CHAT 58

Elk | Aloha CMO, Björn Ehlers takes the hot seat to preview Aloha By Elk.

ELATION PROFESSIONAL EUROPE www.elationlighting.eu info@elationlighting.eu +31 45 546 85 66


TPi AWARDS 2021

STORMZY’S GLASTONBURY PERFORMANCE

TOURING DESIGN

The key crew behind behind our readers’ selection of the ‘Production of All Time’ look back on this iconic show.

From parcan to pixel mapping, how the canvas of the stage has changed over the past 20 years.

Featuring: Tour Director Trevor Williams Show Designer Misty Buckley Creative Directors Bronski and Amber Rimell Production Manager Joel Stanley Lighting Designer Tim Routledge FOH Engineer Raphael Williams

Featuring: Lighting Designer Ed Warren [Mumford & Sons, Idles and Interpol] Video Director Steve Price [Queen & Adam Lambert, Bastille, Mumford & Sons] Lighting Designer / Operator James Scott [Stormzy, Rita Ora, AJ Tracey]

LIVE SHOWS THROUGH A LENS

LIFE IN THE AIR

The increased importance of the camera in the live events space – from IMAG to iPhone.

The evolving regulations in the world of rigging and what still needs to change in the future.

Featuring: Video Director Blue Leach [Pearl Jam, Kylie]

Featuring: Rigger Pete ‘The Greek’ Kalipsidiotis [National Rigging Advisory Group]

SOUND WAVES The changing nature of the audio experience at live events. Featuring: FOH Engineer Big Mick Hughes [Metallica] Monitor Engineer Andy ‘Baggy’ Robinson [Elton John, George Michael, Bryan Ferry] Sound Designer Simon Honywill [Glastonbury’s Block9]

SPONSORED BY


TPi AWARDS 2021

To celebrate two decades of the famed live events awards evening, TPi has produced a series of talks with some of the biggest names in the industry. With all speakers voted for by our loyal readers, the panels will be going out live on ISE Online on 23 June. To register, go to: www.iseurope.org/ise-2021-london/

LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD:

STAGE TIME

The evolution of live production. Sponsored by Medialease

The changing landscape on the physical stage – from wedges to wireless IEMs.

Hosted by: Paul Robson [Medialease] James Gordon [Audiotonix] Lee Spencer [Pixl Evolution] Bonnie May [Global Infusion Group]

Featuring: Stage Manager Emma Reynolds-Taylor [the BRIT Awards, Mercury Prize, Glastonbury] Backline Technician Huw ‘Sid’ Pryce [David Gilmour and Paul McCartney]

BUILDING DREAMS

DAY SHEET

A discussion on the increased artist demand for Set Designers to produce the next big thing within the confines of the stage.

From scheduling and travel, to crew size and welfare, what is a world tour going to look like for the next decade?

Featuring: Set Designer Liz Berry [Robbie Williams and Director of Hologramica]

Featuring: Production Manager Ceri Wade [Arcadia] Tour Manager Emma Edgar [Wolf Alice, Placebo, Everything Everything]

RETURN TO BATTERSEA PARK TPi’s Stew Hume will also be on-site at the TPi Awards’ spiritual home of Battersea Park on 23 and 24 June for ISE’s in-person event, for two on-stage panels that look to what the future may hold for the live events sector. To find out more, visit www.iseurope.org


EVENT FOCUS

THE BRIT AWARDS 2021 The biggest night in the British music, the BRIT Awards 2021 celebrates the return of live entertainment with a spectacular show at London’s O2 arena attended by a socially-distanced crowd of 4,000 people – made up primarily of frontline workers – as part of the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).

As part of the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), The BRIT Awards 2021 celebrated the return of live entertainment with an in-person audience of 4,000 local residents, most of them frontline NHS workers, at London’s O2 arena on 11 May. With it came a brand-new colourful stage, designed by Es Devlin OBE, along with set specialist, Diagon, who worked in collaboration with the famed designer to create and build it. The design of this year’s presenter stage combined the use of maze architecture – which expressed the paths that many of those working within the creative industries have had to navigate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – with the use of colour by multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori MBE, which symbolised a message of hope and something to look forward to during these difficult times. Diagon worked with Devlin to bring her extraordinary vision to life, fabricating the structure at its London studio. The design ran through the

stage backdrop and platform, the carpet across the room and was also used on the music performance stage in video content and throughout the TV production visuals. This year’s BRITs was the latest in a series of collaborations between Diagon and Devlin, previous work includes her 2016 Mirror Maze and 2019’s Memory Palace at Pitzhanger Manor. “It was great to be back working with the BRITs and to once again collaborate with the brilliant Es Devlin,” commented Diagon’s Liam Ownsworth. “It was a huge privilege to bring Es Delvin’s vision to life for the biggest night in UK music. Heralding the return of live music events, it was a special moment for everyone working within the creative industry, who have been especially hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The multiple layers and geometric shapes of the set needed to be built and installed without any visible supports from multiple angles for the camera shots, so internal spigot supports were used along with a 10


THE BRIT AWARDS 2021

few subtle flying points. Tasked with capturing a series of looks on the night, Luna Remote Systems supplied three Junior Remote Dollies, three Towercams, a four-point Eagle eye wirecam system piloted by Luna Remote Systems Head Technician, Gino Moodley and Luna Remote Systems Owner/ Director, Dean Clish. During the Coldplay opener, where the band performed a unique set floating down London’s Thames on a stage platform, Luna Remote Systems were on-hand with a trio of wireless Junior Dolliers with stabilised remote heads and a Towercam. To ensure the safety of the performing artists and crew, The BRITs and O2 arena employed an accreditation system and comprehensive briefing information. Rapid COVID-19 testing was enforced on entry to the site with results delivered within 10 minutes and a schedule of retesting for staff on site throughout the build and show days. All contractors donned masks and the schedule was planned with more time than usual to allow for additional measures. Diagon Managing Director, Tom Sabin commented: “The events sector is full of incredibly resilient and creative people, problem solvers who work to deadlines and with changing parameters. It’s testament to everyone involved that a complex show on live TV could be done so successfully right now and gives confidence to the industry going forwards.”

and FOH Engineer, Josh Lloyd, who was charged with PA design and FOH artist mixes, while Chris Coxhead handled presenter audio. Lloyd opted for DiGiCo Quantum 7 consoles, while Coxhead used a pair of mirrored SD12s with multiple layers of redundancy. A DiGiCo SD11 was utilised for the comms talk back system. With no second stage required due to the limited capacity, Lloyd formulated an in the round system to suit the ‘horseshoe’ stage design. “We wanted to reduce the amount of spill and deliver a more direct sound for the people watching in the room,” Lloyd explained. “The fact that the floor space was relatively freed up meant that the performers were always placed behind the PA, and this made mixing somewhat easier.” The L-Acoustics rig, which was tuned by Zhytnikov, comprised seven main arrays of K2s with KS28s behind the curve, augmented by three arrays of KARAs and KS21s. Flown LA amp racks were incorporated into the design and the floor deployment saw boxes of K2, KARA and X8 speakers in situ. Lloyd explained: “Because we were positioned at the back of the venue, we mixed off the L-Acoustics X8 speakers rather than the main PA.” The point-source coaxial speakers really impressed Lloyd, who enthused: “size really doesn’t matter when it comes to L-Acoustics products, as the quality and tonality has the same sonic signature, regardless of the size of the box.” As in prior years, an Outline Newton processor was specified to deal with several mission-critical tasks at the core of the audio system. Fradley described the role of the kit. “The Newton was used to handle the matrix mixing from our FOH consoles into the PA and we were able to utilise its optical MADI, AES and analogue inputs to provide a main and redundant path from both the band console and presenter board,” he commented. “The 18 by 16 matrix also gave us additional inputs for playback, system tuning and alignment, with the unit simultaneously outputting back-up mixes for broadcast and additional effects used in the room.” Newton’s ability to patch to the MADI output stream made it possible

LIVE SOUND RETURNS WITH BRIT ROW “Safety was paramount”, began audio Crew Chief, Steve Donovan, working on behalf of audio supplier, Britannia Row Productions (BRP). “The BRITs were very different this year in terms of crew logistics and, in particular, the COVID-19 testing of every individual onsite. Crew were tested every 72 hours minimum throughout the course of the build and show. It was critical to ensure we didn’t have positive tests prior to show day.” The BRP show team included two System Technicians, Laurie Fradley and Adam Smith, System Engineer, Sergiy Zhytnikov and System Designer 11


THE BRIT AWARDS 2021

to provide each PA element with its own discrete back-up. “This eliminated the need to split the analogue signal and also allowed us the function of soft-patching the back-up from FOH should a change be required,” Fradley remarked. Performing live and mixed by Lloyd were Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Griff, Headie One, Arlo Parks, The Weeknd and Sir Elton John with Years & Years, while Rag’n’Bone Man’s duet with P!nk was mixed by Rob Sadler. Sadler summed up his experience: “There was an excitement in the room that you just don’t get from an empty venue or a studio. Hearing a live band through a PA system for the first time in months was such a great feeling. With most of the audience being situated high up in the seats, a lot of effort had been put into making sure that the audio coverage was maximised. Brit Row and the entire audio team definitely delivered.” Colin Pink assumed his recurring role as Live Sound Supervisor. In monitor world, an A-B system was agreed upon. “The O2 arena is never an easy room, even less so with just 4,000 people in it,” said Monitor Engineer, Nico Antonietti, who was riding faders on one of two DiGiCo Quantum 7 consoles alongside Dan Ungaretti. Antonietti explained how user-friendly the desks are: “Dan had built a show file for past editions of the event, so we adapted it, made changes according to the requests of each guest artist and saved the presets. Each artist had a snapshot in order to avoid loading different show files during changeovers.” This protocol helped to minimise any potential contamination. Each of the monitor consoles was connected to two SD Racks, one for band inputs

and one for RF mics and playback. In addition, two Waves systems (one per engine) were required. Each console generated 14 mixes for Sennheiser SR2050 in-ear monitors and 10 mixes for 28 d&b audiotechnik M4 wedges, used primarily by the dancers. As well as its deployment of bespoke capsules, Sennheiser provided technical support, despite the company having no on-site presence. “Manufacturer reps were only a phone call away and provided that layer of support from over the phone,” explained Lloyd. Sapna Patel led the slick RF operation, aided by Britannia Row Head of RF, Technician Sam Spice. “Every artist had a dedicated handheld microphone that wasn’t used by anyone else,” said Patel. “We attempt that most years for technical and logistical reasons, and in the past, it wouldn’t have been an issue if mics were re-used but this year, it was vital they weren’t. I was the only technician outside of the artist bubbles to have contact with the microphones, so I kept it minimal.” Headsets were fitted by the artist directly. Despite the unnerving effect COVID-19 has had on concerts, Britannia Row was keen to instil faith in the industry and incorporate live production students into the event’s audio team. Through its partnership with the BRIT School, two places were allocated by Brit Row Director, Lez Dwight. BRIT School student Caitlyn Balderstone stated: “The experience gave an opportunity to meet and work with industry professionals in their element. Brit Row has shown me how important teamwork is to get a project done quickly and efficiently.” Fellow student Edward Winnifrith added: “I’ve gained so much – it’s not 12


THE BRIT AWARDS 2021

only helped build my knowledge of equipment and processes but has built my confidence too. It’s allowed me to gain an insight into the live sound positions I aspire to hold in the future.” Reflecting on a monumental re-emergence, Donovan concluded: “It was emotional seeing how engaged and loud the BRITs audience was, even in relatively small numbers. Audiences are critical to this industry. While the adoption of live streaming throughout the pandemic has thrown a lifeline to bands, crew and fans alike, nothing will ever compare to the live, human experience.” Lloyd believes the BRITs 2021 marked a significant step forward: “It’s clear that artists thrive off live interaction, and the entire BRITs production team has shown that it is achievable to run a safe event while the pandemic is sadly ongoing.”

always great to have the students from The BRIT School on the show. We have a large amount of very experienced crew on this project. By providing a chance to work alongside them, we hope that they gain a large amount of experience and knowledge. It is nice to see them grow in knowledge and confidence throughout the week. Will, Kai and Josh were all great students willing to do anything to help. It’s a real win-win situation on both sides. Long may the relationship continue.” Kai, William and Josh joined a long list of past students to work with PRG on this project. With several BRIT School alumni now working full time with PRG, this year’s students had the opportunity to work alongside their predecessors, seeing first-hand where their careers could lead. BRIT School Director of Production Arts, Olivia Chew commended PRG for its support of entry level education in production, for working closely with the school to maintain clear and honest communication throughout the placements and for helping to provide confidence in their students at such an early stage in their careers. “Our ongoing partnership with PRG provides our entry level Production Arts students with unparalleled access to the best equipment and experience available. Allowing our students to gain hands-on experience on some of the biggest live events in the world gives them an edge amongst their peers, be that in higher education or the freelance job markets,” Chew commented. “We are so grateful to PRG for supporting Production Arts at The BRIT School and ensuring that our diverse student body has the best opportunities within the events and performance industry.” TPi Photos: John Marshall – JM Enternational and Diagon. www.brits.co.uk www.diagonltd.com www.britanniarow.com www.outline.it www.prg.com www.lunaremote.co.uk

PRG UK PARTNERS THE BRIT SCHOOL As the lighting supplier, PRG teamed up with The BRIT School to offer three students hands-on experience as part of an ongoing work placement partnership. The students were involved in the whole crew experience – from prepping equipment, loading in and the run of the live event to the load out. PRG supplied 1,000 lighting fixtures, including 110 new Robe Tetra 2 Battens, several small GLP FR1 Washlites and over 80 wireless Astera LED Titan Tubes. The expansive lighting rig also featured 120 PRG Icon Edges, 76 Best Boys HP Spots, 47 Icon Stages, 11 individual Best Boy GroundControl followspot systems with seven GroundControl Longthrows with Manual Handles on the fixtures; 60 Robe Spiikes; 40 GLP JDC1s, 18 Chroma-Q Colour Force 72s MkII and 90 Martin Viper Performances. All of this was controlled by two High End Systems Hog 4 and MA Lighting grandMA3 lighting consoles (running in 3 mode), with six MA Lighting processing units providing the processing for the 130 universes of DMX all distributed by the rock solid PRG S400 Super Nodes and Switches. PRG UK Vice President of Event Services, Richard Gorrod said: “It is

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EVENT FOCUS

MIDWICH GROUP’S INNOVATION HOUSE TPi visits a brand-new experience centre that’s a cut above a traditional showroom.

The concept of a showroom is nothing new for manufacturers and distributors alike. However, an experience centre, where a company allows its customers to see and interact with its products within a wider technology solution rather than as a single piece of kit, is a relatively new phenomenon. A cut above a standard showroom or even a trade show stand, the experience centre sets a new standard when it comes to showcasing the capabilities of products. The latest company to adopt this setup is Midwich Group. The Group’s new Innovation House offers customers the opportunity to see its wide range of products in various settings, from classrooms to meeting rooms and even a high-end, luxurious home cinema. Showing off products from five branches of the group – Midwich, PSCo, Holdan, Invision and Sound Technology – this multipurpose technology destination also boasts dedicated training rooms, R&D demonstration area, a service and repair centre, as well as warehousing facilities including specialist logistics and pre-delivery inspection. Prior to the official launch, PSCo recently welcomed TPi and several other industry press to the

Bracknell facility. Greeting us at the door were PSCo’s Director, Stuart Holmes, and new recruit, Head of Brand Experience, Alex Couzins. “This space is a real opportunity for people to come and see the products and test them out with side-by-side comparisons with other brands,” asserted Holmes when giving an overview of the space. Innovation House is the result of a journey the entire Midwich Group has been on since 2015. “The goal was to improve the customer experience,” stated Holmes. “It made sense to team up with others within the Midwich Group so customers didn’t have to take multiple trips to see all of the group’s offerings. This culminated in the Bracknell space, where customers are able to walk through various ‘sets’, all of which showcase a wide range of products hung side by side for a true comparison.” Now fully functional, Innovation House boasts the UK’s largest multibrand experience centre, showcasing more than 200 world-leading audiovisual (AV), Unified Communication & Collaboration (UC&C), broadcast, smart home, and rental solutions from 50 world-renowned manufacturers all under one roof. “It might not be the most popular idea with 14


INNOVATION HOUSE

manufacturers,” admitted Holmes. However, he explained that the goal was to ensure that the right product gets picked for the right application. This mindset even extended to the guides who work at the centre. “The team that we have here taking our customers on tours are all technicians and product specialists with years of in-the-field experience,” stated Holmes. “We don’t have account managers with sales targets taking people on tours, but instead an unbiased host who can walk customers through the range of solutions.” Holmes explained that this meant that everyone that paid a visit to Innovation House got the same tour, giving a level of consistency. “We want to make sure we’re consistent with the advice, guidance and support that we are giving visitors, rather than a sales pitch.” As well as the extensive demo area, customers are also able to take advantage of dedicated training, testing and demonstration facilities. After more than a year of remote working and social restrictions, the opening of this unique centre aims to safely reconnect the industry after what

has been a turbulent year for many. “We cannot wait to welcome people to Innovation House,” commented Midwich Group Head of Technology, Jenny Hicks. “As the largest experience centre in the UK, a whole suite of technology will be on display, bringing together professionals from across our industry in one custom-built location.” Midwich Managing Director, UK&I, Mark Lowe added: “Innovation House reflects our ambition to expand the depth and breadth of the services that we offer. We wanted to provide a destination where industry can reconnect and experience what great technology is on offer, all in one place. We feel like we have succeeded in delivering on our goal and we look forward to welcoming our partners to the site. We cannot wait to hear what the industry thinks.” TPi Photos: PSCo & TPi www.midwichgroupplc.com www.psco.co.uk 16


EVENT FOCUS

CROWDED HOUSE: TO THE ISLAND Eighties folk rock sensation, Crowded House relies on a d&b audiotechnik system to sound out the North Island leg of their tour of New Zealand.

More than one year after global tours were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Crowded House returned to stages across New Zealand. The five-piece band had planned to spend 2021 on a global tour, but due to the pandemic, they downsized to a New Zealand leg. As one of the first national tours by any act post COVID-19, it was of the utmost importance to the crew that the To The Island tour delivered the best in sound and voice quality. Audio supplier for the tour, Western Audio, recommended d&b audiotechnik and the band took KSL and GSL systems with ArrayProcessing for the North Island leg of the tour. For the crew on tour, it was imperative that the system be flexible and dynamic, with tour venues in New Zealand ranging from 2,000-capacity indoor spaces to 8,500-capacity arenas. The PA system comprised 14 GSL8s and two GSL12s per side on the main hangs. The side hangs featured 10 KSL8s and two KSL12s per side. Ground subs came in the shape of 12 SL Subs spaced across the front of the stage with four Y7Ps as front fills and four V7Ps as out fills. “In the arena, the relationship between mains and sides was so smooth that I often found I could rotate the side around more than usual – about 55° to 70° – and still have great coverage,” commented System Technician, Bjarne Hemmingsen. With COVID-19 under control in New Zealand and no limitations on mass gatherings or social distancing requirements, the band performed for

packed venues night after night. To ensure the same quality of sound was delivered to every member of the audience, the crew relied heavily on d&b audiotechnik’s line array optimisation software function, ArrayProcessing. “The show sits at an average of 94 to 97dba at FOH. ArrayProcessing optimised the tonal level across the coverage area and made a huge difference for the people in the back rows,” remarked Hemmingsen. With the tour having only one or two nights between shows, time management was at the forefront of the crew’s mind, but the SL- Series’ quick, safe rigging and the powerful d&b software planning suite made for efficient planning and even coverage. “The compression rigging on the SL Series is really efficient and easy. Large arrays can be rigged with only two people and transiting the flying frame on top of the array helps a lot with time and truck space,” concluded Hemmingsen. “I enjoyed using the system and the feedback from everyone was excellent, I look forward to using it again in the future.” According to Hemmingsen and the audio team, the tour was very well received with fans and the band alike, all eager to experience live sound in-person again. The SL-Series helped ensure that the sound delivered an extraordinary experience. TPi Photo: d&b audiotechnik www.dbaudio.com 18


EVENT FOCUS


TEDUA: DON’T PANIC

TEDUA: DON’T PANIC Ombra Design joins forces with Italian rapper, Tedua for an XR performance that takes the artist through various settings, from an otherworldly forest-scape to a post-apocalyptic urban inferno. TPi’s Stew Hume finds out more.

An XR performance that took inspiration from a famed piece of Italian literature, Tedua’s recent performance to promote his latest mixtape was certainly a visually ambitious project. Brought in to help bring the rapper’s vision to life was London-based creative agency, Ombra Design, founded by Lorenzo De Pascalis and managed by Giulia De Paoli, which has produced content for the likes of DJ Snake, Janet Jackson and Martin Garrix over the years. De Paoli walked TPi through the creative journey behind this latest XR performance. “We were approached by Tedua’s team 15 days before the release of the mixtape and video launch,” she began. Due to Ombra’s work with another big Italian artist a few years ago, Tedua’s team were keen to bring the creatives on-board. The video in question was to promote the artist’s new seven-track release. “They had some interesting references for us to work from, mainly inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia.” [A famous Italian narrative poem from the 1300s for those of you not up on your Italian classics.] “Both the lyrics and aesthetics took inspiration from Dante himself and from the classic drawings of Dorè.” Conscious of the tight time frame, the Ombra crew quickly realised how much of a challenge this project was going to be. “We love a good challenge,” chuckled De Paoli. With the tight turnaround of video delivery and the range of scenarios, the team decided that XR was the best way to approach the project, with all the looks being designed in just a week. Ombra’s in-house creative team designed environments within Unreal Engine with disguise servers powering the shoot. This project was the first time the Ombra team had utilised Unreal for a project of this scale. “Unreal is such an amazing software and iterating, changing, fixing is really fast compared to rendering content; this lets us run through the artist team feedback,” stated De Paoli. The entire workload was split between a team in London and Milan, with the shoot taking place in a studio created by Netick Group in Milan. In line with Italian regulations, everyone onsite for the shoot had to work with masks on, respect social distancing and use hand sanitiser. A full list of the attendees was also filed for COVID-19 communication purposes. “We limited the number of people in the studio space to accommodate the artist and the team and to get everyone the right space to hang out,”

stated De Paoli. “We also added a screen in the dressing rooms for friends, press, and the artist team to check what was going on in the studio.” Both De Pascalis and De Paoli were also in constant communication with the director and team in London, giving real-time updates to make sure the show went off without a hitch. The content in the studio was displayed on an INFiLED DB 2.6mm for the sides with a 5.9mm for the floor. “INFIiLED is a great product for XR,” enthused De Paoli. “It works well with cameras and for what we were trying to achieve with this video. There are many products out there of course and technology and screens continue to improve, so we are always curious to try out the latest tech.” Powering the content were a disguise VX4 and three RXs using disguise Cluster Rendering. An Analog Way Aquilon RS1 was also selected to handle 4K signals with a Sony FS7 on a camera jib capturing the performance. The world of XR is nothing new to the team at Ombra who since starting to work with Notch a few years ago, have been making serious inroads into this new entertainment medium. “Since then, we have tried to push and explore the boundaries of this space, from using BlackTrax to control visuals around artists to XR and AR for many interesting projects,” stated De Paoli. “We really enjoy working in XR because between the technical challenges and optimising the scenes, there is a lot of space for creativity, fast changes and opportunity to make amazing things happen.” The creative also commented on the great strides made within the field with the likes of Epic Games, disguise and other companies investing heavily on the R&D of this side of the industry. “We were extremely happy with the results and the energy created by the amazing team that was on this project,” concluded De Paoli. “The video was perceived in a very positive way from Tedua’s followers, and it stayed in the number one trending spot in Italy on YouTube for more than a week. Without XR, the project would not have been possible in that short amount of time. We are so glad we took the challenge. As a first Unreal project for us, this was an amazing experience. It will only get better from here.” TPi Photos: Ombra Design www.ombra.world 21


PRODUCTION PROFILE

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2021 Following a fallow year, Eurovision Song Contest returns with a technologically advanced showcase in front of a 3,500-strong crowd in Rotterdam Ahoy and broadcast live to millions of viewers across the globe.


EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2021

With its global fanbase having to wait an extra year, the 65th edition of Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) was back, much to the pleasure of those watching at home and the lucky 3,500 fans and delegates able to attend the event in-person. With around 183 million television and online viewers, produced by NPO, NOS and AVROTROS on behalf of EBU, organisers pulled out all the stops to present a landmark showcase of live music and technical ingenuity. Following an interactive backstage tech tour via Zoom, TPi put some questions to the core creatives, suppliers and technicians involved in perhaps the largest production the continent will see this year. Sightline Productions’ Erwin Rintjema headed up a brand-new technical and production team. “I was asked to join as Head of Production very early on, almost as soon as the Netherlands won the ESC in 2019. At Sightline Productions, we specialise in large live music and TV shows, so I guess I appeared on the radar naturally,” Rintjema said. “I was honoured. ESC is a bucket list show for me, so I gladly jumped on board. In the interest of the production, I decided to detach my commitment to ESC from my company, to ensure complete independent focus.” As the Head of Production, Rintjema was responsible for the entire ESC technical and logistical operation. From set, stage, lighting and broadcast facilities in the main arena, through to the venue layout, office spaces, delegation dressing rooms, press centre and even working with the show and contest team to create the best possible performances on stage. It was a monumental task, which required the collective expertise of a trusted team of creatives, technicians and suppliers to bring the vision to life. All contracts were won after a competitive European tender procedure. ESC’s suppliers of choice comprised: Ampco Flashlight for lighting, audio and rigging; Faber Audiovisuals for video; NEP and EMG joint for this project for broadcast and augmented reality; Opertec for special cameras and cranes; The Powershop; Stage Kinetik for automation; Unbranded; Interstage; Pyrofoor; Resal Laser; Riedel Communications; and Broadcast Rental for the remote green room, among others. The collection of suppliers held little back in terms of tech deployment. Ampco Flashlight alone provided around 4,200m of speaker cables, 2,653m of trussing, 1,782

automated lighting fixtures, 506 electric chain hoists, 298 speaker cabinets, 220 tonnes of static load, and more – making this year’s showcase one of the biggest live productions the world has witnessed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The core Ampco Flashlight team comprised Account Director, Dennis van der Haagen; Deputy Account Director, Marc van der Wel; Project Director, Marco de Koff, among others. “After an elaborate official European tender process, we were more than pleased to be awarded rigging, lights and audio,” said van der Haagen. “We combined the experience we gained from doing rigging and lights in Portugal in 2018 with our extensive audio track record on the cross roads of broadcast and live music events. This approach was also reflected in the crew we selected.” ESC was selected as a pilot for COVID-19 safe events in the Netherlands. As well as the 3,500 socially distanced audience, organisers welcomed delegates from each of 39 participating countries. Of course, the event incorporated comprehensive health and safety precautions to ensure the safety of the artists, audience and technical production crew involved. “We started working on various scenarios very early on and from a production point of view, quickly made the call to go for a production and venue layout in which all possible scenarios would work,” Rintjema explained. “That, combined with a very thorough health and safety protocol, allowed us to keep the virus out.” With 39 separate ‘clients’ – the 39 participating countries, each with their own creative team, designers, performers and budgets – Rintjema and his team had to be on top of their game. “The sheer scale of the show is enormous in every aspect, which meant we had to ensure we got the best team possible on the job,” he commented. “We focussed on providing our artists the best possible tools to create 39 unique performances on stage, and I think, in the end, that showed.” ‘THE BEST OPERATORS AVAILABLE’ Set Designer, Florian Wieder worked closely with the broadcast team, ESC designers and the production team to curate the set, which comprised multiple performance areas with a ‘flat horizon’, inspired by the canals and 24


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bridges that connect land and water in the Netherlands. “I devised a ‘waves’ style design on the stage in an abstract way which is inspired by Dutch design – highly functional, understated, and featuring linear lighting. It’s all about organisation, like the people of the Netherlands,” he explained. The design process involved converting Wieder’s initial sketches of the stage into photorealistic renders. Once the design was signed off, the renders were handed over to the art directors to convert into a scaled CAD-3D model and then later to floor and section plans as well as detailed drawings for all set parts and video screens. “We usually bring the audience close to the action. This year, we can’t do that, so we replaced the stage side audience with delegation tables to fill the gaps,” Wieder explained. “I like the simplicity of this design, which is only achievable through teamwork of producers, directors, and creatives – it’s a collective vision.” Art Director, Cuno von Hahn and Art Director / Project Manager, Per Arne Janssen managed the project, overseeing regular meetings with all the suppliers and production crew and developing design ideas for opening and interval acts. Unbranded Account and Project Manager, Antoine De Haas and Project Manager, Miranda Koopman were brought in to oversee decor. A team of 35 were closely involved in the construction and more than 20 trailers with equipment for decor. Unbranded CCO, Olivier Monod de Froideville, commented: “Unbranded was proud to be able to make an important contribution to this international mega-event and to bring Florian Wieder’s designs to life.” Henk-Jan van Beek of Light-H-art described how he picked his ESC crew: “I included a broad team of the best operators available – three with theatre backgrounds, two with EDM experience, and many from TV and broadcast. I was only able to achieve my vision with the right crew – specifically Associate LDs, Bas de Vries and Joost Wijgers for stage design, and Martin Beekhuizen, who managed the interests of 39 delegations.” This year, the visual team were able to harness the openness of the set and motion elements to shape the aesthetic and narrative of each song

or scene. Despite containing relatively low fixture numbers, the lighting rig featured more powerful lights that packed a punch – especially when partnered with motion elements, doors, banners, and drop arms. In a show that featured everything from AR elements to complex follow-spot automation, Van Beek was elated by the “distinctive” looks he was able to offer. “We were asked to design a modern look and feel with our own style, which included the integration of the green room,” he reported. With such an array of tech possibilities, it would have been easy to fall into option paralysis, but as the Head of Lighting explained, the goal was always about making the right choices in what to create as a combination of lighting and all other visual elements. “Flexibility and cooperation between all creatives – including AR, video content, set design – had to be seamless,” Van Beek recalled. “We always kept the interest of our general design in mind, supporting the delegations to make their act as good as possible.” ESC Head of Video Content, Falk Rosenthal of Gravity made the AR and LED wall content. “Eurovision is always a demanding production,” he began. “This is my seventh year, but the challenge doesn’t change – creating content for all the various performances is tough. We brought in AR in 2019, but Rotterdam was the next step in pushing things forward. I’m sure this show will influence the next generation of show productions.” The lighting team had control over the quantity of lighting output of the LED wall and floor. “We made sure we kept the same colour temperature balance between lighting and video, keeping the white and level balances of video, front light and follow spots matching,” reported van Beek. Conducting this orchestra of light was always going to require a sizeable control setup. Ampco Flashlight supplied 14 MA Lighting grandMA3 light consoles and 32 active grandMA3 processing units (PUs). Along with an arsenal of lighting fixtures at their disposal, the design team also had another fleet of virtual lights to further the collective creative vision. The virtual lights in augmented reality were controlled by several 26


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Art-Net universes. There was a connection with the disguise media servers to control the intensity of the LED screens and even use the lights around the LED screens as an ‘ambilight’ effect. Rotterdam Ahoy house lights were also connected to the system. Monitoring of the universes and fixtures was achieved by dmXLAN, Network Monitoring via PRTG. All fixtures were addressed via RDM and tested with the FixtureTester App. Follow spots were situated at various angles to avoid collision with fly cams or other objects. “We had a great liaison between the delegations and our lighting FOH crew,” Van Beek noted. There were 12 RoboSpot stations with 14 cameras, which controlled several BMFL WashBeams, BMFL Followspot LTs and Motion-Cams. These were controlled by MA Lighting grandMA3 light consoles through Art-Net and all connected in a redundant network for the 26 cameras and the DMX-RDM data. The second spot options came in the form of a Follow-Me system. Follow-Me 3D SIX with three console sets operated multiple lights as follow spots, allowing 64 calibrated fixtures to be operated in any combination at the same time – namely, 58 Ayrton Huracán-Xs and six Robe BMFL WashBeams. PosiStageNet communicated with these positions and Follow-Me kept all follow spots exactly on target accordingly. With three targets available, grandMA3 controlled which fixture(s) should be aimed at which target. Show lighting came in the shape of 481 Claypaky Xtylos; 161 Ayrton Huracán-Xs, 140 Mini-Panel FXs and 64 Karif-LTs; 396 Robe Spiiders, 220 LEDBeam 150s and 25 Tetra 2 Battens; 100 GLP impression FR-10 Bars and 40 JDC1s; as well as 10 Astera AX-2 Bars. For atmosphere, the team deployed four MDG ATMes, two M3es, four Look Viper NT Fog machines and 10 Martin by Harman AF-1 MK2 fans. Ayrton Húracan-Xs were used as main key light and Follow-Me follow spot key light (40 units, in drop arms, 24 side and backlight), and Robe BMFL as front key light and front follow spot light. “It was a fantastic experience,” said Van Beek. “My wonderful team did an amazing job. Their experience made this monumental task achievable. We made our own choices in what to create as a combination of lighting and all other visual elements. Flexibility was key to making this the best show possible.”

The core lighting crew comprised Head Lighting Designer, Henk-Jan van Beek; Associate Design/Delegations Liaison/Followspots, Martin Beekhuizen; Associate Designer, Bas de Vries; Gaffer Light, Bart van Stiphout; Operator Key Light/Followspots/Assistant LD, Joost Wijgers; Operator/Assistant LD, Micky Dordregter; and Showlight/Audience/Set and Prop Lighting Operators, Robbert Jan Vernooij, Andre Beekmans, Erik Jan Berendsen and Bas Geersema. The Ampco Flashlight team comprised PM, Ruud Werkhoven; Crew Chiefs, Tijs Winters and Martin Hoop; Lead Systems Tech, Roy Aarninkhof; and Lead Systems Tech for Remote Follow Spots, Dennis Berkhout. SFX was controlled by an MA Lighting grandMA3 light console, while pyro was controlled by a Pyrodigital FC-A field controller. By providing five separated Pyrodigital network drivers, the FC-A field controller provided redundancy and enhanced firing power. In show mode, every cue was preprogrammed and triggered by timecode. Pyrofoor created a complete digital 3D environment for both SFX and pyro, using Finale 3D for the pyro and Syncronorm Depence² for the special effects. For the first time in the history of ESC, all suppliers were able to visualise the effects in advance. “The use of the visualisation software is a powerful tool in the communication with production and delegations,” said Pyrofoor Project Controller, Lucas Gerritzen. “It gives us the ability to share the effects and timing in advance to all parties.” Pyrofoor Show Manager, Jessy Maas, added: “We want to be sure the show is predictable and safe every time. We use strict protocols, which are implemented in advance in our risk assessments. We use digital safety channels as well as physical emergency stops. We train the crew to watch and give clearance to the operators. No clearance, no go!” Resal Laser provided four LaserAnimation Phaenon X30000 30W RGB lasers with on-board DSP control systems and remote safety access, including two DSP controllers at both sides of the arena. The lasers were pre-programmed to timecode and in Capture, which was also used for pre-programming cameras, lights, video and motion. The Resal Laser team comprised PM, Michel Povee; Senior Programmer / Operator, Remco Borsje; and back-up crew members, Koen Janssen and Robert Dame. 27


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Audio FOH; Mounting Ayrton Mini Panels with mirrors on the back of the revolving doors; Lead Systems Tech for Remote Follow Spots, Dennis Berkhout operates a Follow-Me system; Audio Engineer, Tom Gelissen.

‘SOUND QUALITY AND SPECTRUM EFFICIENCY’ Sounding out the show, Jeroen ten Brinke assumed the role of Audio Designer. “I was given free rein on the design,” he began. “I had seen the setup in Lisbon where Daniel Bekerman was sound designer and the first thing I did was call him. We created our design and then listened to him to make sure we were doing the right thing.” A main and backup loop comprised two DiGiCo Quantum 7 consoles, two SD racks, and a DiGiCo SD9 console. Driven by a redundant system via Lake LM44, Outline Newton and switches, and an L-Acoustics PA system. “I wanted to have the consoles as close together as possible, with short cables that were easy to troubleshoot,” Ten Brinke explained. “The monitor desk was behind glass, so the monitor engineer didn’t have any problems with the spill from the PA. The consoles were situated approximately 1.5m apart, so the team could interact. This made things easier, more fun and meant we could keep spirits up for the month we were on site.” Another reason for the position of the consoles was the required speed of changeovers. “You’re always in the way at the side of the stage, or in the camera view. We were on the top of the first rake and all together – no long cable runs, only to the PA and a few analogue inputs for backup mics,” Ten Brinke said. “The rest was all local.” A redundant loop was set up for monitors and FOH systems, based on DiGiCo and fibre networks with inputs from Shure wireless systems, along with playbacks by three Mac Minis, a trio of RME MadifacexT and a Directout Madi switcher, both through a DiGiCo Orangebox. Also present on the rig were two Yamaha CL1s, two Rio 1608-2s and two Yamaha Rio 3224-2s. Timecode ran through the desk, so the Quantum 7’s double power supply and engine made the engineers happy. “If the timecode stops, everything stops, as all departments are running through our timecode,” Ten Brinke stated. “That’s the most important function on monitors. These machines are so safe and reliable. I’ve done a lot of big shows with them, so I trust them. The most important thing is safety. It just can’t stop working.” Also at the audio team’s disposal was a dedicated soundcheck room

with the same setup as in the arena, with IEMs on different frequencies, transmitter packs and handhelds. Looking skyward, the main stage L-Acoustics PA system comprised 76 K1s, 36 KARAs, four SB18s, six X12s and 18 KS28s, amplified by 84 LA12Xs. Monitoring was handled by 10 L-Acoustics KARAs, eight Synco CW152 wedges and four CW121s. The under balcony featured 10 L-Acoustics 5XTs, driven by two Outline Newton processors and 10 Lake LM44s. The greenroom included 56 Synco TRC81s, 40 L-Acoustics K2s and 16 KARAs. The main venue wireless system specifications included 20 Shure Axient Digital Quad receivers, 24 Shure ADx2FDs, 14 Shure ADx2s, 24 Shure ADx1 beltpacks, 100 DPA 4088s, 36 DPA D-facto heads, and 120 DPA Korfs. “With Shure’s Axient Digital, we found the perfect system to monitor and coordinate the complex audio setup that Eurovision required, in which sound quality and spectrum efficiency are key,” said Ampco Flashlight Wireless Coordination Technician, Aart Heus. “Shure’s Wireless Workbench was the most qualified software for it. The hardware not only provides control and stability, but it is also trustable and reliable.” IEMs came in the shape of 11 Shure PSM1000 transmitters, 70 P10R IEM receivers and 240 SE425s. Strict COVID-19 protocols were followed, including no direct contact between monitor engineers and talent, with one IEM and one mic capsule specified per performer and handheld mics cleaned every three minutes. Ampco Flashlight Project Manager, Remco Verhoek and his team had to make a proof of concept before putting custom racks together. “I made sure that all the gear specified within the pitch was supplied, making it work as a whole, putting the team together and looking after the functioning of the equipment and of the people,” he recalled. While Ten Brinke specified the audio equipment, given the complexity of the system, stakes were high. “With all the experience we have with DiGiCo, it was a good setup and straightforward for us,” Verhoek said. “The infrastructure performed as we hoped without a single issue. There was a backup setup, but we didn’t have to make use of it.” 28


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The core audio team comprised Audio Designer, Jeroen ten Brinke; Ampco Flashlight Project Manager, Remco Verhoek; Monitor Engineers, Ron Peeters and Peter Velthuijzen; FOH Engineers, Tom Gelissen and Ronald Koster; Playback Engineers, Willem de Bruin and Robert Jansen; Lead IEM and RF Tech, Aart Heus and RF Engineer, Johalee Glastra; and PA System Technician, Jurriën Hildebrand.

trusses with dedicated hoists. Sixteen chain hoists were then tasked with flying LED screens. A further five trusses were dedicated to augmented reality, hosting 100 reference points in the grid for the camera team to bring AR to life. For automation, 40 drop-arms were used as a telescopic headlight holder that could be moved vertically from the ceiling. Involved in eight previous iterations of ESC, Head of Video, Hans Cromheecke was the glue between the technical departments operating screens and content. “Eurovision has always been a job where the limits of AV are reached and broken with new technologies,” he commented. “It is a wild circus with over 180 million people watching all over the world!” Faber Audiovisuals supplied all LED, media servers, video equipment and crew. Project Managers, Ben Augenbrou and Steve Ackein oversaw the deployment of 887 sq m LED video screens – specifically 6m of ROE Visual Strip 9.3mm for the Maltese band; 110 sq m of Vanish 8 for the runaway screen; 3.6 sq m of CB5 for AfroJack’s DJ booth; 127.1 sq m of BM4 for Stage A and 27.1 sq m for Stage B; 508 sq m of BQ4 4.6mm for the backdrop and 48 sq m for A Stage truss covers; 7.5 sq m of DM2.6; and 59 sq m of Unilumin Utile for audience screens, as well as disguise media servers. “Everybody was impressed by the very high level that was brought by all parties under direction of the people from Sightline Productions,” Augenbrou said. “This event has raised the bar in terms of organisation and technical solutions.” For projection, Faber Audiovisuals supplied two Barco 30K UDX-4K32s, three Panasonic 10K PT-RCQ10s and a 20K PT-RZ21K. The team also provided TV displays across site, including a Philips BDL9870EU AutoCue, as well as almost 100 LG, Sony and Samsung LCD TVs. The media server and control setup featured a pair of Barco E2 Tri-Combo switchers, an EC-50 event controller, eight disguise gx 2c and four vx4 media servers with integrated Notch. The visual content was networked by a Synology Nass Cloud server and three Netgear mainframe switches. It was clear for the team involved that ESC 2021 was not going to be any other incarnation of the event to date. “We all knew that we had to make this work in a very difficult and unprecedented situation,” Ackein added. “The sheer scale of the event in terms of the amount of equipment, crew

VISION OF THE FUTURE While bombastic performances often steal the headlines at ESC, away from the on-stage choreography, there is an equally impressive orchestration being held in the rafters – electric motors, hydraulics and pneumatics are designed to seamlessly move kit around in a symphonic fashion. As curators of this year’s proverbial ballet of automated technology, supplied by Stage Kinetic, where production rigger Michiel Peters and house rigging company Frontline Rigging oversaw 285 tonnes of dynamic load, at 220 ton static, with the deployment and supervision of Lodestar chain hoists and BroadWeigh load cells. Audio alone featured 50 hoists, while lighting boasted 208 hoists situated throughout the venue from above the stage to up high in the bleachers in addition to several trusses containing moving objects, monitored by load cells. The Opertec camera crew were provided 22 hoists with three rigging structures for the rail camera, fly camera and fixed flown camera positions. Decor and the set build saw the deployment of 13 hoists – 12 for the load-in on and off stage and for the build, with one separate hoist used to lift the bridge between the A-Stage and the B-Stage, allowing larger pieces of tech to be moved from left to right if required. The pyro department was provided with 11 trusses for effects. Stage Kinetics also created a support grid for automation and video, which featured a combination of 30, 2,000kg and 28, 1,000kg electric chain hoists and 37 manual lever hoists. For lighting, video and audio, the team created decks so each department could easily build their power and data racks on the ground before flying the kit, keeping the catwalks clear of equipment while being accessible. Part of lighting cabling was run through dedicated cabling

BECAUSE EUROPE IS OUR HOME WE SUPPORT EVERY ARTIST

NOT IN POINTS, JUST RAW KILOWATTS

AS A PROMISE WHEREVER THE WINNER COMES FROM, WE’LL GO THERE TOO

WWW.THEPOWERSHOP.EU 29


EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2021

and duration of the event possessed a challenge that was well handled during the preparation phase.” A ‘turnable’ LED wall was divided into four sections – featuring two side wings and two rotating walls in the middle. The rotating walls were 9m wide and 12m high. The four elements closed without gaps using a magnetic locking system. Together, four motors were able to turn the wall by 180° in around 16 seconds to make the back of the LED wall visible, which was equipped with a matrix of 70 moving-head lights. In front of and behind each rotating LED wall, around 60 sq m of stage floor was also rotated. The side LED wings sat with their brackets on a steel chassis, each of the 18 steel trolleys could accommodate four rows of LED modules. The high level of operational reliability demanded by the EBU required the team to provide a fully redundant system. “We are proud of the solutions we provided, the way we put them into practice and delivered flawlessly,” Augenbrou continued. “This has been a unique chance for us to show to the world what we are capable of. We have gained a lot of extra experience and knowledge, which we will be able to use in the future.” After a year of work away from the sector, Michiel Peters was pleased to assume the role of ESC Head of Rigging. “We decided to hang most of the motion hoists without main grids and lost a couple of tonnes,” he began. The load-in schedule was challenging, Frontline Rigging and Ampco Flashlight had to pull 514 chain hoists and 60 motion hoists, inverted 124kg body-up, in 30 hours. Despite the tough task, it was a privilege and an honour to work for the ESC 2021, especially amid this pandemic. It was a big project, challenging at times, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.” The Stage Kinetic crew comprised CEO/PM, Jens Buller; Site Manager, Sascha Schaper; Operators, Fabian Röttger, Andreas Homeyer, Ralf Tiemann and Manuel Dehn; and Construction Department, Kai Adelt and Thorsten Lobert. Ampco Flashlight supplied all of the rigging infrastructure, overseen by Head Riggers Roald Gluvers and Joey Dunnewijk and Lighting/ Rigging PM, Ruud Werkhoven. The rest of the Ampco Flashlight rigging team comprised Crew Chiefs, Dirk Sommer and Christiaan Schutte.

tender, both media parties were commissioned by the NOS to take care of the registration, including all technical facilities, crew and equipment, of the three live shows at Rotterdam Ahoy. NEP supplied the AR-platform, while Gravity supplied the AR and LED screen content. “We are enormously proud that two Dutch companies got the opportunity to capture this huge music event,” commented NEP Managing Director, Ralf van Vegten. “The ESC is an event that connects people and something the public really looks forward to. That’s why the expectations and quality standards are higher than ever before.” United CEO, René Delwel added: “It’s nice to see how the two companies are working together as one team for this enormous event. We consider the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest to be unique and of great national importance. Our people are very aware of that and work hard to deliver the best solutions and results.” To ensure sound quality and reliability, NEP equipped its UHD1 and UHD2 twin OB trucks with 64-fader Lawo mc²56 consoles, Nova routing cores and Lawo’s VSM broadcast control system for control of the broadcast chain. Two OB trucks were set up in a main/backup configuration for protection switching. Two further 48-fader mc²56s, along with monitoring equipment and outboard gear from Lawo Rental, were stationed in a separate Music Room where Music Producer, Tijmen Zinkhaan mixed the delegation and interval acts. While all broadcast audio connections were streamed via RAVENNA/ AES67, the audio signals for the PA at the Ahoy venue were provided by Dante cards inside the Nova routing cores. “There was never any doubt that Lawo consoles were perfect for this prestigious assignment,” stated ESC Head of Sound, Thijs Peters. “They sound great, their routing capabilities are infinite, our setup integrates seamlessly and can be conveniently and intuitively controlled via Lawo’s VSM broadcast control system.” COMMUNICATION WAS KEY With so many moving elements to contend with, communication was key. Riedel was responsible for the delivery of communications, signal distribution, fibre backbone, accreditation front end, commentary and access control solutions including associated professional services. “Since we have the pleasure of being a long-term partner of EBU for our

‘THE BEST SOLUTIONS AND RESULTS’ NEP and United joined forces for the multi-camera production, under supervision of ESC’s Head of Broadcast Gijs Vos. As a result of a European 30


EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2021

ESC services, the process of each year’s edition is mainly about liaising with the new host broadcaster in order to align the contractual scope with their actual concept, way of working and delivery as well as related requirements,” Riedel’s Thurid Wagenknecht explained. This year marked several ESC debuts for Riedel products such as Artist-1024, MediorNet MuoN and FusioN as well as dedicated COVID-19 feature for this year’s accreditation and access control. Riedel also integrated in the testing environment within the on-venue accreditation process, this year’s specialised access control feature was designed to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The RFID-based solution included automatic deactivation of accreditations after 48 hours, with re-activation upon submission of a negative COVID-19 test result. “ESC 2021 definitely set new benchmarks in delivering an extraordinary show under ‘pandemic circumstances’. Every project comes with its own set of unique challenges,” Wagenknecht added. “Being in the business for over 30 years makes us consider COVID-19 as just another challenge. While we take all these challenges seriously, we meet them as we always have: with the highest level of flexibility, adaptability and professionalism.”

Song Contest was in the detailed planning and preparation of every element, while managing a plethora of production stakeholders including performers, producers, designers, suppliers and crew. While TPi experienced this year’s celebration of live music and technical proficiency on TV, what transcended through the screen was the creative foundation for the choices made in preparation of and during the show in Rotterdam. Early on, organisers coined the slogan ‘open up’ or rather, ‘open up to each other’, when marketing ESC. Having been given the green light to welcome acts and delegations from 39 countries in Europe, as well as a socially-distanced audience of 3,500 people, the ESC doors were well and truly open, albeit in the ‘new normal’ sense, of open. Following the devastating effects of COVID-19 – not only on last year’s proceedings but on the entire sector – we can find solace in the modest closing sentiments of ESC Head of Production, Erwin Rintjema. “What a ride it has been!” he exclaimed. “I feel so fortunate to be able to be part of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. It is a great honour and a career highlight at any time, but to be able to put on this spectacle in 2021 is amazing. He added: “It has been a rollercoaster and a lot of hard work, with a lot of uncertainty and frustration at times. However, the reward has been better than I could have ever imagined. I believe that we have put on a great show, in a year where live entertainment is few and far between. I see this project as a sign of the hope and resilience of the sector and a showcase of the Dutch live events industry. Although we have only just passed the finish line, I already miss being a part of ESC, so I guess that says it all!” TPi Photos: Nathan Reinds and Ralph Larmann www.eurovision.tv www.stage-kinetik.de www.ampco-flashlight.com www.sightline.nl www.euromediagroup.com www.ayrton.eu www.light-h-art.nl www.thepowershop.eu www.faber-av.com www.wiederdesign.com www.nepgroup.com www.riedel.net www.adigroup.net www.claypaky.it www.follow-me.nu www.robe.cz www.shure.com www.digico.biz

‘WHAT A RIDE IT HAS BEEN’ The Powershop was selected as the technical supplier for show power. The entire show ran on power supplied by the company’s modern and efficient generators. The power had to be supplied with the highest possible availability with everything redundant in the power design and a generator compound, affectionately referred to as the ‘generator farm’ by the crew, was set up outside Rotterdam Ahoy. The farm boasted six twin 400kVA 20ft generator containers with a total capacity 3.8 MW, an 8,000 amp switch container, 20, 400 Amp power distros, over 100 power distros (125, 63,32 amp), 3,500m of 120mm2 powerlock cable sets with a total cable length of 17.5km and 5,000m of power cable. The entire setup was monitored with Powershop’s Calculus monitoring platform and GridVis software. As with any complex production, the success of the Eurovision

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CIRCUS: THE FIRST DANCE As part of the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), 6,000 clubbers descend on Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse to take part in the first dance event since the onset of the pandemic. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…


PRODUCTION PROFILE


CIRCUS: THE FIRST DANCE

On Saturday 1 May, I dusted off the cobwebs from my dictaphone to make the short trip across the River Mersey to Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse to meet some of the production team behind the first nightclub event to take place in the UK in over a year. Providing over 400 people work after months of sector-specific employment exile, The First Dance saw 6,000 clubbers descend upon the CIRCUS warehouse across two nights, with no social distancing or face coverings, following proof of a negative PCR test. As part of the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), the two-day event – featuring DJ sets from Sven Väth, The Blessed Madonna, Jayda G, Yousef, Lauren Lo Sung, Lewis Boardman, Fatboy Slim, Yousef, Hot Since 82, Enzo Siragusa, Heidi, Jaguar and James Organ – was organised to provide key scientific data into how events for a range of audiences could be permitted to safely reopen as part of the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown. Following the confirmation of test events, The Events Company UK was contracted by promoters, CIRCUS as well as Liverpool Council, Culture Liverpool and The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to take care of proceedings on the Bramley-Moore Dock site – from licencing, to event and site management and technical production. “We’ve had three and a half weeks to pull all the pieces together,” The Events Company UK Director, Sam Newson recalled, citing the unique nature of the event. “There are a lot of moving elements. Nobody has done an event like this in these circumstances before.” Without a blueprint to follow, Newson and his crack team – Event Manager, Richard Newson; Site Manager, Mick Pearce; Technical Manager, Mark Gill; Project Coordinator, Ria Sioux Byers; Events Assistants, Chloe Munt and Caitlin Johnson and Stage Manager, Jason Quinn – used their operational experience to make the event a reality. “I like to operate my business like a family,” Newson said, explaining his choice of personnel. “My father works for the company, my mother is on site, and all the crew around us are like family, so it’s been nice to have the family back together.” Newson’s suppliers of choice comprised Acorn Event Structures, Adlib for audio, KB Event for trucking, DPL Production Lighting, AC Lasers, Event

Productions for video, Studiocare for backline, BPM SFX, DNG for local crew, Evolution Staging, Cube Modular, Pyramid Power, The Needs Group for onsite internet, and Symphotech for health and safety and noise monitoring. “We brought in everyone who has worked with and supported us in the past, so we can support them now,” Newson said, explaining his long standing relationships with the suppliers involved. “Everyone has been champing at the bit and wanting to get involved, which is great to see.” KB Event Managing Director, Stuart McPherson commented: “KB was delighted to provide the production trucking for The First Dance. To us, this event heralds the very welcome first steps towards getting back to what we do and love.” Event Productions Group provided 28 sq m of 4mm LED video panels with control handled by Video Operator, Rob Benson via Resolume Arena 7 media servers. “We were proud to be part of such an historic weekend,” Event Productions Group Owner, Michael Pearce said. “The feedback has been amazing and we can’t wait for the next one!” During show days, Project Coordinator, Ria Sioux Byers ran the office and handled the management of radios and finance. On no-show days, she looked after crew welfare and the requirements of staff on site. “I was ecstatic to get the call to be involved in this gig,” Byers said. “I saw a few teary eyes from both sides of the fence after the first day; however, partying is a perfect way to blow off the cobwebs of lockdown.” Byers hopes the ERP test events will demonstrate the viability of the live events sector. “We are viable, and the reality is that it takes a lot of people to put on an event like this. I hope that this event gives us the push required to get back to work,” she added. “If we could get back to some degree of ‘normality’ it would be a huge boost to the mental health of people who work in the live events sector.” ‘A BENCHMARK FOR LIVE EVENTS MOVING FORWARD’ In order for the pilot to work, scientists are examining if and how crowds mixing and dancing indoors increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19. As part of the research element of the programme, those attending were 36


CIRCUS: THE FIRST DANCE

urged to take a PCR test on the day of the event and five days afterwards to ensure any transmission of the virus was properly monitored – a nonmandatory but important part of the data requested by the scientists. “We are fortunate to have a very good working relationship with Symphotech, who we enlisted for health and safety and noise management,” Newson said. “Between us, we worked through the legislation to see what we could do in addition to daily calls with Public Health England, The DCMS, partners in Liverpool Council and promoters involved in the project, to figure out how to do it.” By purchasing a ticket, the clubbers agreed to play their part in the scientific experiment. However, for the staff, it is a much different story. “The staff haven’t signed up to be part of an experiment, so we have a duty of care to every single member of staff on site,” Newson stated. To protect staff, each crewmember submitted a lateral flow test (LFT) electronically 24 hours before arrival on site, while backstage, adequate social distancing, PPE and hand sanitiser is mandatory. Perspex screens were also added to the bar areas and staff were spread out, operating in bubbles, with back-up crew on call in case a bubble was to collapse. From a production point of view, different crew members loaded in to those who worked the show and those who loaded the kit out. “In some ways, it’s great because we’re employing more staff than ever, but from a cost point of view, it eats away at the budget,” Newson said, pointing out 17 individual cabins across the site serving various purposes – from box office and accreditation to dressing rooms and a designated press tent – as an added expense brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The information we receive changes daily, so we’re adapting constantly,” Newson reported. “We’ve offered over 500 members of staff work on this two-day event. Our bar staff rotate each day to ensure the safety of the crew and performers. The same goes for the local crew. I have more staff on this show than usual but we want to create a safe environment and give as much work as possible.” As Senior Safety Advisors, Symphotech’s Eddy Grant and Will Hodgson worked closely with the stakeholders, the local authorities, and CIRCUS to

produce the event, which marked the firm’s first show with an audience in months. “We use an electronic sign-off system for our events, so once I got my head around using it after so long away, to sign off the Acorn structure as complete and ready to use was an absolute buzz,” Grant enthused. “We’re delighted to be back and thanking everyone for working so hard during the fallow period of live events without audiences.” One thing that pleased Grant was the speed of the safety process in Liverpool with the additional Public Health England overlay. “We signed off our paperwork a week early and Public Health England referred to our efforts as ‘the benchmark for live events’ moving forwards. We achieved this by building on the lessons we’ve learned during our involvement in filming and broadcast projects over the past year; now it’s about taking those relationships beyond the Zoom calls and implementing them in a real-world environment.” Grant believes the flexibility of the events industry allows Symphotech to curate a safe environment for live music fans and build a system which accommodates scientific exploration. “We’re working with The Association of Festival Organisers to take what we’ve learned here and produce some webinars to get the industry to anticipate the processes and procedures, such as LFT testing at home, before attending work,” he shared. “Our takeaway message for future productions is to prepare and plan to open, which involves engaging with the relevant regulatory bodies.” Hodgson shared some sage advice for live event organisers: “COVID-19 is a trip hazard. Look into the 4D planning of events, because the last thing we want to do is go backwards. It’s about making events work by working with local authorities and real people, as opposed to tech, bricks and mortar. If it wasn’t for the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), we probably wouldn’t be here, and it means we’re able to come out of this stronger, leaner and having learned a lot.” Grant added: “Our job as safety advisors is to manage expectations, whereas those that have the creative design and ability to curate experiences are fantastic. Seeing the DJs buzzing is not something we’d usually take in, but to see the joy of being back and knowing that our 37


CIRCUS: THE FIRST DANCE

System Technician, James Coghlan with Audio Tech, Sam Cooknell; Laser Operator, Daniel Briggs; SFX Technician, Jack Webber.

industry has worked with the scientists to make this possible and collate the information to bring the industry back with a focus on employer duty is extremely rewarding.” Simon Barrington handled the drawing of site plans at Bramley-Moore Dock. “I did a survey a while ago, but Sam led on this project. He’s taken on so much and led from the front, supported by Eddy and the rest of the team, and delivered exceptional results,” Barrington enthused. “Although the scientific bit of it is out of our remit, we’ve added extra infrastructure to guarantee the safety of the crew and performing artists backstage.” Barrington recalled the ‘surreal’ experience of arriving on site. “It’s so nice to be back with an audience and working with old friends. We’ve not seen an audience in months, so it’s emotional for people on both sides of the curtain. The one thing we have enforced is how good we are at adapting and changing workflows over the past year, but events like this will go a long way in bringing the sector back to its full capacity.”

merging lighting and video to create a cohesive look. Sometimes the artist has specific needs and, of course, we can accommodate those into any design.” Sam Whitby, Sandra Glowacka and Luke Welch were tasked with putting the kit in the air and making Hutchison’s early sketches a reality. “We each got the call earlier this year. It was quite exciting, so we jumped at the chance to get involved,” Whitby said, enthusiastically. “We’re all regulars in the venue, so it was nice to have the team back together on site and working towards a common goal.” ‘Itching to get back’, the team said even the minutiae of on-site work was exciting. “Sometimes it can be hard work, but now it feels so joyous. Everybody is happy and smiling; it’s a good environment and crew to be around,” Whitby said, walking TPi through his day-to-day on site. “The novelty hasn’t worn off. We want more now, and the fact we’re taking it out tomorrow and we aren’t sure where our next gig will be is bittersweet.” Glowacka joined the conversation: “The time away has made us evaluate and appreciate what we do for a living and our day-to-day really is special, unique and we generally love it. We have missed two festival seasons with COVID-19, and that’s how a lot of the industry and suppliers earn, so to be back on site and involved in a ‘proper’ gig has been fantastic.” Despite their lengthy on-site exile, the technicians said there was never a day where they questioned whether to return to the industry or not. “The best bit is seeing all your friends and colleagues who you typically bump into over the course of a year during a tour or on a festival site – which we haven’t been able to for the best part of a year,” Welch said. Lighting Programmer Operator, Tim Fawkes was drafted in to run the lighting on site. “It was a real privilege to be able to work on this one not just because it’s the first real live event that’s happened in a year, but because the future of an industry depends on these events,” Fawkes said. “It felt like we were representing everybody who has been out of work in our industry in the past year and showing to the country the importance of these events in bringing smiles back to people’s faces.”

‘THE NOVELTY HASN’T WORN OFF’ “The past 14 months have been very difficult, not only for me but for all the amazing technicians and artists that I’ve worked with over the years,” Lighting Designer, Warren Hutchison said. “I have been working with Sam Newson and CIRCUS for a few years now as their lighting designer and operator, so I was happy to be involved in The First Dance.” The lighting rig comprised 22 Claypaky Mythos 2s, 18 K15s, and six Scenius Spots; 24 Robe Pointes and 24 Beam 100s; 24 Ayrton Magic Blades; eight SGM P5s and eight P10s, with a Martin JEM ZR smoke machine providing atmosphere. Hutchison pre-programmed a show file which he uses to live busk shows on his ‘go to’ MA Lighting grandMA2 lighting console. “I typically request a grandMA2 so I can ensure my workflow stays the same and my on-site programming time is kept to a minimum,” Hutchison said. “I was lucky enough to be able to come up with my own brief. I worked closely with Sam and the supplier to ensure a different look for each show, 38


CIRCUS: THE FIRST DANCE

The Events Company UK’s Sam Newson; Simon Barrington; Project Coordinator, Ria Sioux Byers Symphotech’s Will Hodgson, Nicola O’Boyle and Eddy Grant; Lighting Technicians, Sandra Glowacka, Sam Whitby and Luke Welch.

Summing up his experience, Hutchison said: “It was a great feeling to design a show for people to enjoy in person. There is nothing better than seeing a design go from paper to reality, so in one way it was ‘back to business’ but also a massive sense of pride knowing that after 14 months, stuff is opening again.”

and installation of the system, along with Andy Thompson, who helped load in and out the kit. “The load-ins were tougher than I remember, but I’m sure that’s echoed by everyone else. After a while, it’s like riding a bike.” Most of the laser effects were controlled by Briggs, however, Fawkes also had the effects patched into his MA Lighting grandMA2. “Artists have been receptive to the effects, so it’s been nice to have creative freedom,” Briggs said. “Laser effects, specifically, always garner a good crowd reaction.” ‘Brilliant’ was the first word Briggs used to sum up the experience. “There was also a millisecond of awesome shock,” he furthered. “We used to take audiences for granted but we’ve missed that for a year, so for it to come back in full force was a brilliant moment.” Briggs believes that the pilot is critical to showcasing what each department does well on an event

‘IT’S LIKE RIDING A BIKE’ AC Lasers installed a rig with three different types of fixtures, namely 32 single blue beams, 12 ACMFLs – a low-powered projector effect with a diffraction element to safely scan the audience with softer effects – and TARM 11 medium-range projectors. “It’s quite a range of kit,” reported AC Lasers’ Daniel Briggs – one half of a two-man crew tasked with operation

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CIRCUS: THE FIRST DANCE

at short notice. “There’s been an unsaid recognition on this show of how important the collaboration of each department is at affecting the course and delivery of a show, and I hope this event is an example of that.” Joining Briggs at FOH was BPM SFX Technician, Jack Webber. “There is nothing like pressing that big red button,” he said. “My entire day leads up to that one moment. The trigger of the confetti yesterday was the culmination of the party and it was well received with a big cheer from the audience, which is something we’ve missed.” Over the course of two days, Webber oversaw the operation of four confetti stadium shot cannons, one hit of confetti on night one and three on the final day. Describing his return to work as “slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers”, Webber said being back on site, with an audience in tow, felt “natural”, despite the months spent in lockdown. “Sam and The Events Company UK have done a brilliant job in organising it so the crew feel safe on site,” he concluded. “Being involved in a gig this monumental is a special feeling. Hopefully this can be used as a case study which not only allows gigs with audiences to resume but shows that home testing of crew and audiences can work.”

pulling the multicores through the trenches, which isn’t something I’d usually relish, but I’ll get my wellies on and get involved if it means we’re all getting back to work.” ‘A BLUEPRINT FOR THE FUTURE’ The ERP trial events did not cause any detectable spread of the virus, according to Liverpool Public Health Director, Matt Ashton. However, the one thing that is clear is that operating at 50%, with 3,000 clubbers in a 6,000-capacity venue, results in a 40% rise in costs. “These shows do not stack up financially. However, we have not done it for financial gain; we’ve done it to do whatever we can to get the industry back up and running,” Newson reported. “While from a financial point of view there are aspects of this show that don’t work right now, we’ve been able to give freelancers as much work as possible.” Newson shared the news that TEC UK was awarded a grant by the CRF earlier this year. “We were very fortunate to be awarded a generous Arts Council grant, and even before we got this gig, we wanted to give the money to the freelancers and staff that haven’t worked for the best part of a year-and-a-half,” Newson explained. “We’ve put our freelancers back on retainer for our general operations. The CRF Fund has provided us with a buffer and the ability to bring in extra people to work and collaborate.” Recalling the tearful moments after the first show, Newson believes that this experience will live with him forever. “We are an industry that doesn’t understand the word ‘no’. In the events industry, you will find the most creative, hardworking, and special people you’ll ever meet. To see COVID-19 destroy our industry without an option to fight back and reopen like other sectors has been horrendous. With what we have done here – the policies we’ve put in place, dealing closely with the powers that be – I hope that we not only achieve history as the first, but we can help develop a blueprint to bring back live events in a safe and efficient manner.” TPi Photos: Jody Hartley, Sam Neill, Graham Brown & TPi www.circusclub.co.uk www.tec-uk.co.uk www.eventpg.co.uk www.symphotech.co.uk www.dplx.co.uk www.adlib.co.uk www.kbevent.com www.ac-lasers.co.uk www.bpm-sfx.com

‘DUSTING OFF THE EARDRUMS’ “It was surreal to see people enter the venue without distancing themselves or wearing masks. After half an hour or so, the novelty wears off and it’s almost as if you’re transported to a time before COVID-19,” System Technician, James Coghlan said. “When Jack’s pyro shot went off at the end of Yousef’s set, it was like a jolt to let us know that things are gradually getting back to normal.” The sound system was professionally configured and time aligned for the best even sound coverage throughout the venue. The main PA hangs featured 24 L-Acoustics K2s. The main subs were 20 KS28s ground stacked in a broadside array. While six KARAs were chosen as front lip fills with eight KARAs chosen as delay hangs. Monitors featured six KARAs (three per side L/R) and four SB18s (one per side L/R), while mics came in the shape of two Shure SM58s. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to turn up a big PA system really loud and dust off my eardrums; it’s not quite the same as my studio monitors at home!” Coghlan laughed. “Listening to a PA system is not just a hearing but also a sensory experience.” FOH and monitor sound was controlled by a DiGiCo SD9 mixing console and driven by Lake Processors LM44s, while amplification and processing was achieved by L-Acoustics LA12X. “It’s a pleasure to be involved in an event with an audience,” Coghlan said, reflecting on the momentous occasion. “I’m now counting down the days to being knee deep in mud, 40


SEFTON PARK: REMOVING THE MASKS FOR AN AFTERNOON OF MUSIC As some 5,000 music fans descend on Liverpool’s Sefton Park, TPi speaks to the crew behind this UK government-endorsed pilot event.

In the same weekend that saw our own Jacob Waite head over to the CIRCUS club event in Liverpool (p34), across town, a hard-working team hoisted a big-top tent in preparation for a mini-festival event, which saw the likes of Blossoms, The Lathums and Zuzu take to the stage, much to the joy of the 5,000-strong crowd who gathered, shoulder-to-shoulder, to experience a true live experience without social distancing or face masks. Overseen by Festival Republic, this test event, like the others taking place in the UK, had each attendee take a lateral flow COVID-19 test at a local centre prior to being granted entry, as well as another test after the show. Although this event certainly did not mean that the industry was back to full working order, it offered a glimmer of hope to those on the side lines waiting for full-capacity shows to return. Since the event, The Liverpool Echo reported: “Liverpool public health bosses and scientists have found

the city’s pilot events did not cause any detectable spread of COVID-19 across the region.” Once the dust had settled, TPi caught up with some of the team responsible for making this event possible. First stop was Production and Stage Manager, Spike Beecham from the Music Consortium. Having been approached by Festival Republic on 14 April, Beecham was asked to take on the dual role for the festival. “As a trained COVID Compliance officer, I was able to ensure that protocols that had been put in place were adhered to from a technical production perspective,” began Beecham as, unlike the crowd enjoying the show, the technical crew were still following the COVID-19 measures. “All personnel working on site had to have a negative lateral flow test before arrival, and repeat this testing protocol every 72 hours,” he reported. “My main aim for the weekend was to ensure that social distancing 42


PRODUCTION PROFILE

measures were adhered to while creating a safe working environment on stage, all of which mitigated the chance of transmission.” Beecham went on to give an example of the loading docks being 2.4m wide. “This would mean that in passing the crew would break the 2m rule. Therefore, as well as all crew wearing masks, I also implemented a one-way system so everyone had to enter from stage right and egress from stage left.” He also laid out arrows across the stage and, after half an hour spent shouting the process was ingrained in all the crew. “We also supplied the load-in and out crews with bottles of antiseptic spray, which they applied to handles, butterfly catches and corners before handling them.” With all these extra measures, the team opted to stagger the load-in across five days – “a good 36 hours longer than usual,” according to the PM.

LET THERE BE LIGHT Colour Sound Experiment’s Haydn Cruickshank gave his thoughts on being involved in one of the UK’s first festival style shows held in the past 14 months. “If over the years we’d started to take the awesome spectacle of a festival for granted, then it was cured the minute the gates to this show opened,” he enthused. “It was genuinely emotional to stand in the crowd and remember why we do what we do.” Opting for a very traditional festival setup, the lighting rig comprised Robe MegaPointes, Claypaky Scenius Unicos and B-EYE K25s, GLP JDC1s and CHAUVET Professional R1 FXBs. For LED screens, Colour Sound Experiment supplied a ROE Visual Black Pearl 3.9mm. For control, the company supplied an MA Lighting grandMA3 light. Cruickshank remarked that none of the planning for this show felt like a challenge. “It felt like being back at home,” he stated, warmly. “Even the testing and working protocols for the crew were fine and have just become second nature for the past year.” Alongside the collection of gear, Colour Sound Experiment supplied nine techs, who handled the lighting, LED screens, cameras and ground supports.

GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER The show was advanced by Festival Republic’s Nick Davies with artist advance completed by Andy Redhead at SJM. Filling the supplier roster were Serious Stages, Colour Sound Experiment, Adlib, STS and UK Rigging. Beecham’s team from The Music Consortium were also brought in to supply local and technical support crew for the build and de-rig. Speaking personally about being back on a working festival site, Beecham commented: “It felt really good to be back doing my thing on site. It was great to see all the team and suppliers operating as if nothing had changed – other than the face coverings and social distancing. I haven’t seen so many happy smiling faces in a field for such a long time.” The aim was to have no major interaction with the crowd. Once the crowd entered the arena, all crew had to revert to wearing FFP 2 grade masks. Those members of the crew that had to attend FOH had to wear these masks until the public exited the tent.

BRING THE NOISE Sharing FOH with the Colour Sound team and providing sound support for the event was Adlib. Overseeing the audio deployment was Adlib’s Dave Jones, who walked TPi through the build up for the event. “Other than actually remembering what we had to do?” Jones joked when asked about the main challenges in the build up to the show. “The biggest obstacle was dealing with the COVID-19 protocols to keep everyone safe. Festival Republic came up with their procedures that everyone quite rightly had to adhere to.” Jones was impressed with how these extra health and safety measures 43


SEFTON PARK

Production and Stage Manager, Spike Beecham of Music Consortium.

were deployed. “I got a call way in advance of even going on site to go through everything, which I thought was a nice touch,” he said. In total, Adlib supplied four audio technicians and one driver for the load-in and out, as well as the control package and CODA AiRay PA system that sounded out the event. Having worked with Blossoms since their first album launch back in 2016, Adlib were able to provide the band’s regular audio setup, including a Midas Heritage-D at FOH with a DiGiCo SD10 for monitors. The band supplied their own mics, along with a Shure PSM 1000 IEM system. “We added the CODA AiRAY speaker system to cover the tent, much to the pleasure of Chris Pearce from Blossoms, who is a big fan of the system,” stated Jones. Moving down the line-up, The Lathums were rather selfsufficient, providing their own console and IEM system. Then for Zuzu, Adlib provided a FOH console so they didn’t have to share with Blossoms. “Nothing was shared – especially microphones, with all the bands having their own,” said Jones. “We were all also fully equipped with alcohol wipes, face masks, hand gel and visors.” Looking back at the event, Jones enthused how “from the moment the technicians were in the warehouse prepping, through to tipping the trucks after the show, it was great!” He elaborated: “The crew were on a high as it had been over a year since something like this had happened to them. Dealing with COVID-19 and the impact it has had on many people’s lives had a mental impact that is not to be underestimated. Getting back to doing the things you enjoy can only be a benefit. Adlib is proud to be involved in the Sefton Park and other test events as they all have a goal in mind to help get the industry back on its feet,” he concluded. “Like CIRCUS, this gig showed that events of this scale

can happen safely in a COVID-19 world and not impact the spread of the virus, and the data backs this up. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing our warehouse and others up and down the county prepping festival systems with the help of freelance technicians and starting the production chain rotating again.” Adlib Managing Director, Andy Dockerty gave his thoughts on the event. “There is a misconception that the world returns to normal on 21 June. People may have their ‘liberties back’ but they will not have all their choices back. Mass gathering and large indoor gatherings are still under review with a statement due the week of 14 June. The initial road map stated that indoor gatherings maybe 50% cap or 4,000 – whichever is smaller. Although some smaller venues may open, as far as I am concerned, until arenas are open in full, we have the majority of the sector not working and in need of support. The perception that we are all back is not good in the fight to gain that additional support.” FROM BEHIND THE CURTAIN It only seemed right to also speak to the Blossoms crew to get their opinions on what it was like to dust off the old flight cases and get back into the live environment again. Rounding up the experience of the SK2 Crew during the past year was Tour Manager, Dan Woolfie. “The past 14 months have been up and down to say the least,” he stated. “Glimmers of hope and then the rug being pulled out from beneath our feet again. The stress that the government has put on our industry has been unforgivable; a few of our crew fell through the cracks in terms of financial support. It’s been tough. I just hope we can all bounce back quickly once we’re allowed to work full time again.” 44


SEFTON PARK

He continued to give an insight into what the band and crew had been doing during this time to try and keep busy, including throwing themselves into renovating the band’s new lock up and HQ. “After the initial lockdown, some of the band and crew were able to busy ourselves with painting and putting up shelves. Not only that, but the forced lockdown gave us a chance to give all our gear a deep service after five years of touring.” The band has even had a chance to start working on a new album, although Woolfie pointed out that they still had to finish that last album’s touring cycle. Speaking of the test event and what it was like to be back on a festival, he had a very quick answer, “there’s nothing quite like a sub hit to the chest!” He continued: “The livestreams have been a good idea as a whole, but it’s those extra senses you get with a live show – the atmosphere and build up and the sheer volume and quality of the audio. Even the sticky beer-soaked floors and the smell of the port-a-loos!” With the excitement of being back in their rightful place, Woolfie explained how the goal from the production side for this show was to keep equipment to a minimum. “We took in full backline and our normal audio package at FOH and monitors, but kept things minimal with the rest of the production. With it being a one-off and a three-band bill, there was already going to be a festival lighting rig with a couple of extras that we were able to use as a ‘headliner’ feature, so it didn’t make much sense for us to rebuild our touring floor package and have to de-rig it again after one show.” Summing up his final thoughts on the event, Woolfie dubbed it a “10/10 experience” . He added: “Everyone was on top of their game. It’s looking really promising for the future of our industry. Get us back on the bus!”

Donington Park – home of Download Festival. Rounding up his thoughts on the Sefton Park Show, Beecham concluded: “The event was a huge success. With no positive tests, we’ve proved if we put a robust set of protocols in place, we can safely go back to work and continue to provide some of the most talented artists in the world a platform to showcase their talent and provide audiences with memories that they cherish their whole lives – just like we did in the past.” TPi Photos: The Music Consortium and Colour Sound Experiment www.festivalrepublic.com www.themusicconsortium.com www.adlib.co.uk www.coloursound.com www.ststouring.co.uk www.ukrigging.net www.stages.co.uk

LET THE MUSIC PLAY With promising data emerging from the test events, it seems that the industry is on the right path to making a return sooner rather than later. Since welcoming the 5,000-strong crowd to Sefton Park, Festival Republic has announced further plans to host another festival-style test event, aptly named Download Pilot. Taking place from 18-20 June as part of the UK government’s scientific Events Research Programme, 10,000 rock and metalheads will be welcomed to a three-day camping-only festival at

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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.

1996

3,000 lumens 60 kg

2003

16,000 lumens 113 kg

2016

27,000 lumens 132 kg

2020

> 40,000 lumens < 40 kg

The Visionaries’ Choice www.digitalprojection.com TPI Magazine March 2020.indd 1

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04/03/2020 11:18


IN PROFILE

COLLABORATIVE CREATIONS With signs pointing to a return to some sense of normality in the live events sector, TPi checks in with Collaborative Creations’ Tom Wilkes to discuss what advice he is giving to his clients as we all prepare for mass gatherings to return.

“We moved into our new building two weeks before the first lockdown,” began Wilkes, speaking to TPi over the phone as we went though the usual ‘how has the past 14-months been for you’ conversation. As regulations slowly begin to ease in the UK, Wilkes, Co-Founder and Director of Collaborative Creations, believes that now is the prime time to ease back into working life and start rebuilding the connections that have laid dormant for such a long time. Having worked in the industry for a number of years for the likes of White Light and CHAUVET, during his time on the road, Wilkes noticed a demand among his clients for an in-house business development manager, but very few had the funds or the time to bring someone in. “This was the spark that would lead to Collaborative Creations,” he explained. “We do the jobs that you know are important but not urgent. Feeling like a full-time employee but at a fraction of the cost.” Officially forming in 2019, Collaborative Creations offers event industry-specific PR and content,

business development, sales, training, and digital marketing services. “We are not salespeople,” he assured while laying out the company’s USP. A world away from cold calling, Wilkes explained how Collaborative Creations’ goal was to develop the company’s network by bringing more people into its circle. “In essence, Collaborative Creations is all about listening to clients and then offering practical solutions and, arguably more importantly, knowing when you might not have a solution,” he stated. “It’s important to know that we won’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.” After a year, Wilkes and the team proudly took the keys of their new facility a short walk from Waterloo in the heart of South Bank. The initial idea was to create a space that could be used for hot-desking for clients as well as a meeting or training space. “We moved in two weeks before the lockdown and we had to send everyone home,” stated Wilkes, although, ever the optimist, he explained that this had provided the team with the opportunity to fix up the space 46


COLLABORATIVE CREATIONS

Opposite: Collaborative Creations Co-Founder and Director, Tom Wilkes.

so it was ready for when the industry returns. “We’re trying to focus our model around this building and create a relaxed atmosphere as well as a location to check out some of our clients’ latest products from the likes of Follow-Me and AED Audio.” Other clients that feature equipment in the Collaborative Creations space include LED Blade, Core Lighting and Briteq. Despite the troubling time, Wilkes and the team have continued to connect with people and businesses throughout this forced hiatus. “We have continued to introduce people and act as the go-between to aid in some rather creative collaboration,” he revealed. The team has expanded during this time, with the company bringing on more people on both the Social and PR side of the business. With the events industry poised to return, Wilkes gave some of the advice he had already been giving to his clients to ensure they are in the best possible position. “From a marketing point of view, we have been reminding people that this is the prime time to be visible. Your clients need

to remember you are still there. After such a long time away, some may not recall everyone they used to work with and sadly there are some clients that may have disappeared during this time. Now is the time to put your head above the parapet.” Wilkes also expressed the need to ease back into the fast-paced industry. “This is the time to grab a coffee or lunch with a client and catch up. To go straight into four-week rehearsals after over a year of inactivity is going to be stressful and it’s important to ease yourself back in.” To close, Wilkes expressed his excitement in continuing to expand the Collaborative Creations team as well as bringing in more clients. He expressed that the door of Collaborative Creations is always open to the industry, even if it’s just for a brew and a catch up. TPi Photos: Collaborative Creations www.collaborativecreations.co.uk

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47


PRODUCTION FUTURES

TPi’s Production Futures presents two days of online content, conversation, and discovery – providing free networking and learning opportunities to the next generation of production crew...

Following TPi’s first foray into digital events, it seemed only natural to curate another online event to help inspire those taking their first steps into the live events sector. Hosted on Swapcard, Production Futures Online 2021 featured two days of free panels, workshops, and interactive Q&As with almost 50 virtual speakers, not to mention live sets from up-and-coming talent Rue and The Native from The Nub Sessions, courtesy of Sennheiser. This year’s supporters featured a range of sector-specific outfits in 80six, Absen, Adamson Systems Engineering, Avolites, d&b audiotechnik, disguise, LMG, NEXO, Pearce Hire, Pixl Evolution, Production Park, Sennheiser, STNDYBY, The Zoo XYZ, TPi, Vectorworks and XPLOR. Educational partners included Access Creative College, Backstage Academy, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), Resonance, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, Solent University, The COiL Learning Center, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. This year, a key focus was on diversity and inclusion, so we were honoured to partner with wonderful associations and partners in 3T (Tour Tech Training), BECTU, Institute of Sound, Communications and Visual Engineers (ISCVE), NEKO trust, UK Music, Women in Lighting and Women in Live Music, among others. As well as livestream content, several supporters hosted virtual booths where visitors were able to interact with attendees, get their hands on giveaways, including: Sennheiser IE 100 Pro IEMs and MKE 400 Mobile Kit, a £100 Amazon gift voucher from Vectorworks and more prizes from the likes of Adamson Systems Engineering, Avolites, d&b audiotechnik, disguise, 80six, NEXO, Production Park and STNDBYworld, who were also on hand to provide resources for people looking to peruse at their leisure. Here, we look back at the two days of content, which is still available to view online. To watch this year’s content ondemand, visit: www.productionfutures.co.uk DAY ONE Production Park’s The Mill Studio Manager, Ant Forbes and Stage Manager, Sam Wilkinson kicked off proceedings by sharing their experience as Production Manager and Stage Manager of the British Music Embassy stage at SXSW Online, along with Backstage Academy students, Toby Leadbitter and Ryan Bellwood. The four described what it takes to build a COVID-19 secure

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PRODUCTION FUTURES ONLINE 2021

A few of this year’s speakers including: Avolites’ Gordon Clarke; Audio Engineer, Elaine Duffy; Lighting Designer and Fireplay CEO, Nick Whitehouse; The Zoo XYZ’s Nadu Placca; Music Support’s Andy Franks.

platform for 35 breakthrough acts to showcase their talent with UK-only production and equipment at Production Park Studios in London and Wakefield. Afterwards, Vectorworks presented a unique training session with Product Specialist, Tom White, where visitors were treated to an insight into Vectorworks’ 3D design software. TPi then hosted a panel with music industry and live events professionals exploring some of the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion in the sector, featuring Arts Council England Relationship Manager (Music), Adem Holness; Live Nation UK Diversity ERG Leader, Alexandra Ampofo; Soundgirls.org Founder, Karrie Keyes; Global Touring Office Founder, Keely Myers and Women In Live Music CEO, Malle Kaas – chaired by Monitor Engineer, Production Futures Online regular and 3T Co-Founder, Freyja Lawson. Over the past 45 years, Avolites has designed and manufactured in the UK, professional lighting and now fully integrated video technology for everyone, from students to LD legends. The firm believes that its technology should be open to be used by everyone, at every level – which is why Avolites chose Production Futures to launch its new Online Learning Platform, with an interactive tour of what the platform has to offer. The team also delivered a pre-pandemic show reel and video interviews with LDs, Lucas Edwards, Nathan Wan and Andy Webb on some of the firm’s recent Titan and Ai software innovations. As many will attest, running an event isn’t as easy as it sounds. The Zoo XYZ’s Nadu Placca presented 10 Steps to a Successful Event – a master class on how to deliver a successful event, covering a broad range of topics from managing and planning events to budgeting, venue scouting and marketing. Shortly afterwards, Placca took the hot seat to field live questions from viewers. Despite her live schedule coming to an abrupt end in March 2020, singer-songwriter and BRIT Awards Breakthrough Artist, Arlo Parks has had a phenomenal year, garnering critical praise as well as seeing an increase in venue size for her 2021/2022 touring schedule [see TPi #261]. At Production

Futures Online 2021, key members of Arlo Parks’ production team – Adam Williams, Chris Parker, Sarah Asmail and James Fernandez – discussed life on the road with the breakthrough star, detailed the creative process and shared plans for the future. Moving things to the digital ether and in keeping with the ‘new normal’ landscape of live events, Unreal Engine’s Mark Flanagan and disguise’s Tom Rockhill discussed how developments in virtual events may change live performances as we know them. In the last session of the day, Audio Engineer, Elaine Duffy discussed the differences between live and broadcast sectors. Having worked on BBC Proms, Britain’s Got Talent, Glastonbury Festivals, The X Factor, The Olivier Awards, and several other high-profile showcases, Duffy provided friendly and useful behind-the-scenes insight, tricks of the trade and important lessons learned along the way. Production Futures Online 2021 also introduced the In Discussion sessions where attendees could speak in real-time on Swapcard’s interactive video chat rooms. Along with Vectorworks and Avolites taking advantage of this space, Day One saw Interfacio’s Richard Wear offer careers advice, CV tips and important information for industry newcomers. Meanwhile, Bectu provided Live Events Network updates, campaigns and resources, while Rose Bruford College provided academic insight from an educational standpoint and a chance to meet with some of the team. Chartered Engineer, James Eade and Pearce Hire General Manager, Jim Brown hopped online to discuss the various ins and outs of temporary power installation for events, outdoor festivals and gigs. One lucky attendee also won a place on a three-day City & Guilds Assured Programme in the Application of BS 7909 to Temporary Power System, which typically costs £606. Finally, UK Music’s Oliver Morris sat down screen-to-screen with former Muse Tour Director, Founder of NEKO trust and Production Futures stalwart Glen Rowe, who discussed his time in the industry and shared pearls of wisdom with the next generation of roadies in an informal conversation with attendees in real-time. 49


PRODUCTION FUTURES ONLINE 2021

DAY TWO LED specialist Absen, kicked off Day Two by highlighting the technical considerations required with filming in a modern-day LED studio during a conversation aptly titled Immersive LED Experiences: Virtual Studios. Chaired by Absen European Brand Manager, Jessica Golding, the session discussed the impact and rise of virtual studios on the sector over the past year, with a panel of the industry’s virtual studio experts in Absen Product Director, Christian Czimny, Catalyst Event Production Services and Creative Works. The panel highlighted what ‘virtual’ means in the industry, where virtual studios can be used, and what the benefits are of using LED over traditional green screens. d&b audiotechnik then provided an in-depth look at socially distanced sound. d&b’s Ralf Zuleeg welcomed BH audio to discuss how d&b Soundscape helped to deliver audio for a socially distanced orchestra and audience via a livestream service at this year’s Ravenna Festival in Italy. With ever growing development within the virtual space, TPi Editor, Stew Hume chatted to Mike Smith and Ian ‘Woody’ Woodall about one of the latest innovations within this space – inKLICK. This new platform, created by industry professionals, seeks to bring virtual audiences closer to artists. With the platform being used on Tom Grennan’s latest virtual performance [see TPi #261], the co-creators took to the Production Futures Online platform to discuss how modern innovation allows virtual audiences to interact with performing artists and what job opportunities this may create for the live events sector. With most of us missing the sound of crashing cymbals and the minutiae of sound check, Sennheiser broadcasted live from Airfield Studios, home of The Nub Sessions. Featuring live performances from Rue and The Native, the session provided an insight to all things live music streaming – from microphone techniques, monitor mixing and RF techniques, to live broadcast mixing and playback monitoring – with input from performing artists and audio engineers. Afterwards, viewers were able to witness those crowned this year’s TPi Breakthrough Talent winners. The class of 2021 includes Olga Kenig, Morgan Evans, Gabrielle Wilson and Cedric Duré. Each winner secured their seat at

next year’s TPi Awards and received a generous shipment of STNDBYworld merchandise. Sound system performances in sports arenas and stadiums have significantly improved over the past 20 years. François Deffarges from NEXO Engineering Support Team led a webinar session at Production Futures Online 2021, which covered requirements as well as design challenges. In these uncertain times, there is a real need to reassure the nextgeneration of talent that the live events industry is still alive and kicking – it just looks very different right now. There is a genuine concern that highly skilled professionals will leave the industry and TPi wants to support their future as well as new talent starting their career in live event production. Therapy on Tour’s Tiffany Hudson and Music Support’s Andy Franks tackled the topic of mental health on the road and some of the methods and services available for those about to embark on a career in live events. A familiar face to readers, Jake Vernum called in from Japan – where he recently assumed the role of Venue Lead at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics – to kick-start the day’s first In Discussion session. Having worn many hats, from Production Manager for George Ezra and Fatboy Slim to project management in temporary event power, Vernum led the scintillating session, giving those on the call a great deal of advice on how best to proceed in the world of live events. Also taking up residence for an In Discussion session were Solent University and Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, along with Vectorworks, who jumped on to give part two of their Production Futures training course. Finally, calling in from the US was Lighting Designer and Fireplay CEO, Nick Whitehouse, who jumped into the hot seat to answer any burning questions attendees had about the world of show and lighting design. Having worked on some of the biggest tours in the US, he certainly had plenty of wisdom to share from the world of live touring, from starting out to designing the visuals for Justin Timberlake’s past two touring campaigns. TPi Photos: TyneSight Photographic Services & Sennheiser www.productionfutures.co.uk 50


PRODUCTION FUTURES ONLINE 2021

Supporters

CEDRIC DURÉ

OLGA KENIG

GABRIELLE WILSON

MORGAN EVANS

Educational Partners

Associations


PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE

REVIVE LIVE The live events sector must keep pushing in the hope of a swift, safe, and lasting return for everyone, writes PSA’s Andy Lenthall.

The only connection I had with October Drift’s Losing My Touch was that the accompanying video was filmed in Clevedon, near Scarlett’s Vintage Tea Rooms where I usually stop for coffee and cake when cycling out that way. That was it until a couple of Wednesdays ago when it was the first song I’d seen played live since March 2020, at a well organised, socially distanced show at 229 London. Grown people cried that night; it happens after a rough, old year. I also saw the return of the Event Production Show, held at the Farnborough International Exhibition Centre – a brave and bullish move, perfectly executed by the team at Mash Media, which was well attended and featured some great, engaging content. These two events have instilled a little confidence into this jaded correspondent. Of course, the events that we’re all looking at for hope are the pilots that took place in Liverpool. A couple of months ago, we shared what we understood to be the purpose of those events, with testing at the heart of the prevention of infection. Little surprise really when initial results reveal that putting people without COVID-19 together doesn’t spread COVID-19.

Two further key findings were the positive tests for a mere handful of individuals who wouldn’t have taken a test had they not attended; it could be argued that the event prevented infections as it encouraged testing. Follow-up testing (an average of 50% of attendees across all events took a follow up PCR test) revealed an ‘R’ rate below that of the region at the time of the event. In the light of the data provided, it seems that live events are as safe as, if not safer than going to a supermarket. Some would even say that gigs save lives. With these events designed to show ‘how’ we get back to live events rather than ‘if’, we wonder if you’re reading this while waiting for good news on 14 June or just after news has been delivered. At the time of writing, pre-sale for the Download test camping event will be over and general sale opened. Why another test event? This time the focus will be on multi-day events, at which there will always be the chance that someone may present with COVID-19 symptoms. This event is to test and refine protocols for that eventuality, hopefully leading to standard practice to be shared amongst all festival organisers. All this positive news, assisted by a helpful team from DCMS and SAGE, is set against a backdrop 52


PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE

of increasing infections in some areas that doesn’t yet seem to be leading to corresponding increases in hospitalisations and deaths. Between government, journalist and scientist messages, doubt has been cast over the possibility of full reopening, the likes of which we are starting to see in the US. It is still too early to see the vaccine rollout breaking the link between infections and hospitalisations. That said, Germany has a speedy vaccination programme that they claim has broken the third wave there. Claims that those hospitalised in UK hotspots were unvaccinated may be true, or a push to convince doubters to get a jab. One thing we can say with certainty is that, as we haven’t reached step four in the reopening schedule, the rise in infections can’t be blamed on step four – the problem lies somewhere in the previous steps. Prior to the Events Research Programme (ERP) test events, it could have been argued that large gatherings may cause increased infections. Now we have data that shows that an organised gathering, especially outdoors, doesn’t increase spread when coupled with testing. Perhaps we could be seeing step four being driven by the data with a partial reopening that allows outdoor events and some indoor events. Ventilation is another element tested in the ERP Liverpool test events; someone somewhere knows how much air has to move through a space to remove enough pathogens. This is data that remains unseen by all but those deep inside the UK government. Speaking of which, while writing at the beginning of June, our most recent meeting with officials described the mood at Number 10 as ‘bullish’ when it came to full reopening on 21 June. We don’t just need permission to go ahead on 21 June, we need an

audience too. LIVE recently released the full results of its #ReviveLive Music survey of 25,000 live music fans. The survey reveals the obvious, that over 75% of fans are ready to go right now – ticket sales have suggested this already, 73% of those surveyed already have tickets, but deeper analysis reveals that 53% would come to gigs with no extra hygiene considerations. Masks and socially distanced, seated shows were the most likely to deter fans from attending, especially in younger age groups. At the time of the #ReviveLive Music survey, 42% of ticket buyers will be attending a show by July, others are being more cautious and waiting until nearer the time. In addition, the overall appetite for live music events remains strong; half of all people surveyed will go back to their old consumption habits. While 3% of fans will go a lot less often than before the pandemic, a third of attendees say they will attend more (21%) and ‘much more’ (12%) frequently than they did before COVID-19. LIVE will keep pushing hard with evidence to demonstrate the impacts of not opening on 21 June, especially in the light of such encouraging feedback from test events. No other sector has been tested to such extremes before being given permission to operate and we know for certain that any current issues can’t be blamed on organised gatherings. We keep pushing and we hope for a swift, safe, lasting return for everyone. Let’s hope that we haven’t lost our touch. TPi Photo: Sam Neill www.psa.org.uk

53


INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

Sponsored by www.interfacio.com • +44 208 986 5002

INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

Anna Valley Managing Director, Peter Jones; ChamSys partners Aura Visual System in Thailand and Myanmar; DTS joins forces with Acoustic & Lighting System; G-Sound’s Zsolt Balogh, Boldizsár Gricz and Audmax’s Krisztian Varga with G-Sound’s József Gricz, Barnabás Gricz, Miklós Klauz and Tamás Lizák.

Anna Valley has acquired event technical support provider, Production Plus. “This purchase will not only expand Anna Valley’s technical inventory and strengthen our capabilities as an audio-visual provider to event venues,” said Anna Valley Managing Director, Peter Jones. “It also means that we’ve been able to take on 17 highly-skilled staff members who would otherwise have faced redundancy through no fault of their own. We’re thrilled to welcome the Production Plus team into the Anna Valley Group.” ChamSys has named Aura Visual System as an exclusive distributor in Thailand and Myanmar. “We are very excited about this agreement,” said ChamSys International Sales and Business Development Manager, Aziz Adilkhodjaev. “Aura Visual System shares the same philosophy that has guided ChamSys since our founding. Like ChamSys, AVS is totally dedicated to customer education and after-the-sale service.” Aura Visual System CEO, Pankom ‘Aof’ Klaykum, commented: “We are extremely excited to be working with ChamSys. The company’s level of quality and support is second to none. The MagicQ range of consoles is a great match for customers in our market, because it offers fantastic flexibility at an attractive price.”

Acoustic & Lighting System Vietnam (A&L) has joined forces with DTS to establish the lighting brand in Vietnam. A&L Vietnam Country Manager, Ben Lee said: “When approached by DTS to represent this already well-established brand in the Vietnam market, and after learning more about the way forward and future vision of the brand, we found that our goals aligned. We are looking forward to the opportunity to work together to serve the Vietnam market.” DTS International Sales Manager, Carmen Savarese added: “Acoustic & Lighting System Vietnam carry out their job in the best possible way, training professionals and offering a first-class level of expertise for each client. It is my absolute pleasure to work with these guys: their dedication is constantly looking towards the development of significant relationships of trust with customers, suppliers and partners. So, I am sure that this cooperation will be fruitful and successful.” Follow-Me has appointed Advanced Communication Equipment (ACE) as a distributor in China. “As an established name, marketing quality manufacturers and their products throughout China, we believe ACE is perfectly placed to promote the Follow-Me brand,” explained Follow-Me Co-Founders, Gary Yates and Erik Berends. “Due to their experience and professionalism we see ACE as 54


www.interfacio.com • +44 208 986 5002

INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

Neutrik UK Sales Manager, Karl Cowing; Powersoft joins forces with Prase in Italy.

the ideal partner to support our growing client base in China.” ACE Vice-President, Bingo Tso added: “We are constantly looking for products that represent the future of entertainment lighting and see Follow-Me as a great addition to our portfolio to offer our live concert, event and installation clients.” G-Sound has boosted its pro audio arsenal with the addition of L-Acoustics K Series to its inventory. The system was supplied by Audmax, an L-Acoustics Certified Provider Distributor for Hungary, whose CEO,

Krisztian Varga, recalled G-Sound’s decision process for choosing K2. “We knew that adding L-Acoustics to our inventory would make a significant difference to our business and the adverse situation in 2020 was only a short-term hurdle,” said G-Sound’s Barnabás Gricz. “As the industry slowly returns to better times, it’s even more important for us to be ready to offer the best sound experience to our clients and partners. We are hopeful that the summer season will offer us moments to show what our new K2 system can do.”

T H E S M A RT WAY T O C O N N E C T

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www.interfacio.com • +44 208 986 5002

INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

Visualization signs an exclusive UK distribution deal with VUE2.

Neutrik UK has appointed Karl Cowing as its new Sales Manager. Cowing said: “I am excited to be joining the company and look forward to working closely with our customers to understand the true value of our products to them, in helping to drive innovation of future developments, in shaping growth in core markets and design into emerging growth markets.” Neutrik UK Managing Director Mark Perrins stated: “Bringing Karl on board, with his exceptional breadth of experience in advanced engineering connectivity applications and solutions, will help position us to exploit these opportunities and provide our wider customer base with exciting new product innovations and solutions for all manner of application requirements.” Prase has teamed up with Powersoft to provide integrated installation solutions for system integrators, AV designers and consultants. “The Prase brothers have known the Lastrucci family from the very beginning,” said Prase Sales Director, Alberto Prase. “It’s a great pleasure for us that the time has arrived for a business collaboration.” Prase Managing Director, Ennio Prase added: “It’s clear to us that this pandemic has made almost every sector realise the crucial role technology

plays in day-to-day life, counting on an updated and reliable AV solution can make a big difference in every business.” Powersoft Sales Distribution Manager, Fabrizio Romano Bolzoni commented: “The time has finally arrived to materialise that into a solid partnership for the development and success within the Italian professional installation market. With Prase’s best in class reputation throughout the installation sector and in the live world, we are delighted to be entering a partnership with them.” PUSH LIVE has hired Simon Hosken as Chief Financial and Operating Officer. “The pandemic has merely highlighted the power of livestreaming, but we have only touched the surface. PUSH LIVE is on the cusp of something amazing and I am thrilled to be joining at such a crucial time and to be part of the company’s development,” said Hosken. PUSH LIVE’s Phil Tucker added: “PUSH LIVE is rapidly transitioning into its next stages of development and growth, and we are constantly improving and enhancing the platform to take the organisation to the next level. We are delighted to have a leading figure from the music and gaming 56


www.interfacio.com • +44 208 986 5002

INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

PUSH LIVE Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Simon Hosken.

industry join at this transformative time and for the company and our customers to benefit from his unparalleled experience.” Solotech has acquired Canadian esports entertainment company, Waveform Entertainment. Solotech President and CEO, Martin Tremblay commented: “Customer demand for cutting-edge digital services continues to grow and the gaming industry is blooming more than ever. This acquisition enables us to roll out numerous live events, esports and virtual production broadcasts, including augmented and virtual reality.” Waveform Entertainment President, Tamir Kastiel added: “We pride ourselves on our strong reputation and proven experience in esports and broadcasting on both local and international stages. We will continue to grow into a company with a solid global impact and presence within the next few years by leveraging Solotech’s presence and resources in the USA and UK. We are embarking on a highly rewarding experience with Solotech.” Visualization is set to distribute the VUE2 product line for the first time in the UK. On the signing of the agreement, Visualization Managing Director, Nick Pidgeon, commented: “The VUE2 product line fills a gap vacated by a number of manufacturers. With a range of resolution and brightness at extremely competitive price points – and backed up with a reassuring seven-year warranty – we believe the VUE2 product range will be very well received in the UK.” VUE2 Product Manager, Mohammed Sajjad added: “The UK market – via Visualization – offers us a tremendous opportunity to grow the VUE2 brand. We are very excited by what Visualization can offer in both distribution and the support of the product line.” XLR has been named as the exclusive distributor of APEX products for the Benelux region. XLR General Manager, Louis Lukusa commented: “APEX is an excellent fit with the portfolio of leading brands that we represent. The new CloudPower range has sparked particular interest among our clients and we already see a number of opportunities to specify it for high-profile projects.” APEX Managing Director, Paul Van Hees said: “We look forward to a great working relationship with the XLR team, and we’re delighted that our customers will enjoy the very best pre-sales and after-sales support.” TPi www.tpimagazine.com/category/industry-jobs

57


BACK CHAT

BJÖRN EHLERS Elk | Aloha CMO, Björn Ehlers explains how the company’s latest innovation – Aloha By Elk – helps connect a new generation of musicians ahead of its commercial release in October.

What was the inspiration behind Aloha By Elk? We started our company a few years ago by building a smart guitar with onboard processing powers. Our idea has always been to use cutting-edge technology to create digital tools for and provide musicians with the same work from home or remote possibilities as most other trades, which has never been possible due to latency issues. We first began working on Aloha By Elk as a way for musicians to play and rehearse without being in the same room prior to the pandemic, however, now it has transformed from a technical exploration into an absolute necessity. We’ve essentially brought musicians into the digital revolution, which because of latency, they were left behind. the rigmarole of booking a space to play, which feeds into the green aspect of the product. It also allows music schools to teach students and curate hybrid classes with in-person and online students. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted musicians’ inability to acclimatise to the digital and WFH revolution, so it’s now about challenging perceptions and age-old conventions.

How exactly does Aloha By Elk work? When sending audio over the internet, there are basically three things which cause latency. The first is converting your audio into code and preparing it for the network. The second is the network itself and sending information over the internet. The third part is taking that code and converting it back to audio on the receiving end. Aloha By Elk removes steps one and three, leaving you with network latency. We have developed an audio interface which you connect via ethernet cable via fibre or 5G to operate wirelessly. Our web app is operated from any device and is a remote control for the hardware, as well as onboard video for basic communication.

What has the feedback been like from performing artists and end users? Although it is cutting-edge technology, as soon as you set it up and begin playing, you forget that it is there, and you get lost in playing, which we believe is the best evidence of the product working. The intuitive nature of Aloha By Elk is preferred by most musicians who have used it, as you are able to tailor your individual mix. Fundamentally, we want the software to be as plug ’n’ play as possible, even simpler than video conferencing software to connect and begin playing. After all, every minute dedicated to setting up is a minute lost playing music.

What are the benefits of the hardware and software? The reason we run this on dedicated hardware is to provide as much of a controlled environment as possible for the system as possible. For example, laptops are a multipurpose device so there are a multitude of things going on in the background which makes it impossible to prioritise latency as much as we can do on a dedicated hardware unit. Our prototype runs on raspberry pi, so it’s actually a mini computer with its sole focus and priority on latency. The app you run on your phone or tablet acts only as a remote control for the hardware interface and is directly not involved with the audio.

Where do you see the future of the product post-pandemic? As a band, you might want to use Aloha By Elk to rehearse before meeting in person. It’s about giving an option for creativity and getting projects off the ground without having to travel and providing opportunities other trades have. End users can also use Aloha By Elk to find a community of musicians to collaborate with. There is also room for bands to bring in fans to demo material or provide a virtual ‘VIP’ experience. We are currently working on implementing a livestream feature, which will allow end users to broadcast their sessions to a platform of their choice. Music is so important for boosting mental health, especially amid a global pandemic.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic shaped the R&D process? We started out prior to COVID-19, providing the same opportunities for musicians to collaborate without the need for travel, especially for working musicians who work across the world – having to pack up your kit and travel can eat into the time spent playing music. Aloha By Elk also inspires creativity; it is now much easier to get projects off the ground without having to go through 58


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TPi June 2021 - #262  

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