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TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL LIVE EVENT DESIGN & TECHNOLOGY • MARCH 2021 • ISSUE 259

TESSERACT

No longer designing for the human eye

I

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MARCH 2021 #259


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EDITOR’S LETTER

#ChooseToChallenge The March 2021 issue of TPi hits the digital magazine stands on International Women’s Day. We are honoured to include the innovative organisations and individuals pushing for gender diversity and better representation in the male-skewed world of live events [p34]. Those behind Moving The Needle, Women In Lighting, Women In Live Music, 3T (Tour Tech Training) and SoundGirls.org are examples of the incredible work being done by women in the industry and highlighting the measures being put in place to pave the way for the next generation. They share how we can all #ChooseToChallenge the status quo, which has hampered the progress of our industry for far too long. With that said, it would be hypocritical not to acknowledge the lack of diversity in our own editorial department. Like many this year, TPi will choose to challenge the shortcomings in our own ranks and ready ourselves for the return of our live events industry; an industry for everyone, bigger and better than before. It feels full steam ahead – on which note, how many people reading this let out a tentative sigh of relief when we were given the ‘roadmap’ of how we might find ourselves back in clubs, academies, arenas and festival grounds later this year? This time has tested even the most optimistic among us and, while it’s worth reminding ourselves that these dates presented by the PM are the best case scenario, it has been a joy to hear festival organisers say we will need to get our wellies out of storage in hopeful preparation. Discussing this and other industry points, representative of LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment), Stuart Galbraith discusses the work of the live events industry and its united Westminster voice [p10]. Also in this issue, we speak to another batch of innovators working within lockdown restrictions to bring us some truly out-of-the-box digital live events. Our cover story sees UK prog-metal outfit TesseracT’s creative team demonstrate cinematic flare in a digital show [p28]. Italian radio station, RTL 102.5 curate a weekly space to connect performing artists and their fanbase [p20]. Lighting Designer, Sam Jones helps breathe life back into Edinburgh’s famed Leith Theatre with local band, Half Formed Things [p16]. Finally, Cosmic Ears [p46] and Astera [p44] showcase the value of diversifying during this trying time – and we see some truly forward-thinking technological solutions from Be Square Media, which has produced a platform capable of channelling the visceral excitement of a live audience in the digital realm [p58]. Virtually or otherwise, until next time. Stew Hume Editor

EDITOR Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8385 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail: s.hume@mondiale.co.uk

ASSISTANT EDITOR Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8352 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

ACCOUNTS Lynette Levi / Sarah Miller: ar@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

COVER TesseracT: Portals Provided by the band’s Management

COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Hannah Eakins Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7760 485230 e-mail: h.eakins@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 GRAPHIC DESIGN & PRODUCTION Dan Seaton: d.seaton@mondiale.co.uk Mel Capper: m.capper@mondiale.co.uk

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PRINTED BY Buxton Press • www.buxpress.co.uk Issue 259 – March 2021 Annual subscriptions (including P&P): £42 (UK), £60 (Europe), £78/$125 (RoW).

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TOTAL PRODUCTION INTERNATIONAL is a controlled circulation magazine, published 12 times a year by Mondiale Media Limited under licence. ISSN 1461-3786 Copyright © 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.

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THE INDUSTRY’S FAVOURITE AWARDS CEREMONY RETURNS ON 24 MAY 2021.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of TPi’s annual get together and, with this in mind, we’ll be paying homage to the very best of the past 20 years of winners while also celebrating some of the key innovations that have taken place over the past year. Stay tuned for more information. Until then…

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ITINERARY

OBITUARY 08

Remembering Global Infusion Group Founder and CEO, Tony Laurenson.

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 34

A spotlight on the organisations and individuals leading the diversity charge.

INTERVIEW

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42 PixMob Montreal firm captivates Super Bowl LV audiences and rolls out Safeteams.

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PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE 53

PSA’s Andy Lenthall navigates the road to EU working status.

INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS 54

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BACK CHAT 58

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OBITUARY

REMEMBERING TONY LAURENSON: A LEGEND IN ALL OUR LUNCHTIMES… The incredibly sad news that Global Infusion Group Founder and CEO, Tony Laurenson, had passed away suddenly at home on 19 January sent shockwaves around the industry. His family and colleagues have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from all over the world such is the legacy that he leaves. By the early 1980s, Tony had already forged a career in catering, having spent time in the Merchant Navy. A conversation with friends revealed that no one was really catering for musicians when they went on tour and that many bands were spending a small fortune eating out each night. Tony saw an opportunity and Eat to the Beat was launched on 7 February 1984. Initially working from his parents’ garage with just a flight case, he headed out on tour with Joe Jackson and Iron Maiden in that first year. It didn’t take long for other top artists and bands to be enticed by delicious food, the friendly and professional approach and ultra-efficient logistics services. Very soon, Eat to the Beat was touring with Joe Cocker, The Cure, Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, Shakin’ Stevens among many other famous names of the ’90s. When Tony was told the catering for

crews and stars backstage was often better than the food being served to VIPs, corporate guests, or paying punters in front of house, he launched a corporate hospitality division. In 1991, Eat to the Beat blossomed into Global Infusion Group, which now includes GIG, the catering and hospitality division that Eat to the Beat is part of, along with sister company Bonnie May Food & Events and e2b, its brand logistics division. The industry awards came rolling in, and with continued support from suppliers, partners and clients, Global Infusion Group expanded across Europe and USA, and into the Middle East and Asia. Today the company’s client list includes The Rolling Stones, Red Bull (over 20 years), Coldplay (17 years), Glastonbury (over 30 years), Cirque du Soleil, multiple winter and summer global games, European Games, the National Television Awards and numerous prime time TV shows. Tony’s career highlights include so many of the most prestigious events held in the past four decades: delivering 37 kitchens at London 2012, the only caterer to fully operate a VCP from their own site; catering for numerous royal occasions – the Queen’s 90th Birthday, Golden and Diamond Jubilees, 08


OBITUARY

Queen Mother’s 100th Birthday and Diana, Princess of Wales memorial; Live Aid and Live 8; Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday concert, Papal visit in 2010 and Frank Sinatra’s final tour. One of Tony’s proudest achievements was consolidating the individual Global Infusion Group businesses under one roof at a brand new 84,000 sq ft facility in Aston Clinton last July. While development of the site was initially delayed due to the pandemic, work on a state-of-the-art Central Production Unit (CPU) / working kitchen and multi-tier racking system is now underway. The entire team is committed to driving forward with Tony’s ambitious plans for the business and fulfilling his dreams. Under Tony’s leadership, Global Infusion Group has won over 60 awards during its 37 years in business including the Queen’s Business Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2014 and 2017. Such was Eat to the Beat’s prolific success at our very own TPi Awards, we entered them into the Hall of Fame in 2016, having taken the crown of Favourite Catering Company more than 11 times in succession. Tony innately understood the importance of strong relationships and sharing industry best practice. When the PSA was formed in the early 1990s, he was among the forward-thinking founding members who knew that the industry had issues that would be better addressed by one voice. As a staunch supporter of the association, he would always champion the industry’s crew. The ‘Donations not Carnations’ fundraiser for Stagehand, the PSA’s Benevolent Fund, is a fitting tribute to honour his memory. At the time of going to press, over £20,000 has already been raised, such is Tony’s standing in our industry. When asked to share memories of Tony, great friend, industry peer and fellow sailor, Dave Crump, CEO of CT Europe and Middle East said: “I’m not sure when I first crossed paths with Tony although have no doubt, I got to enjoy the excellent fruits of Eat to the Beat’s labours long before I knew him personally. I first recall getting closer to Tony around the time of the inaugural PSA conference, which I believe was around 1998. “In the following years, we both became intently aware of the importance of networking and sharing best practice with like-minded peers in the industry. Alongside the PSA, we were active members in ‘The Event Team’ – a networking group formed by the late Alan Jacobi that continues to this day and has been a catalyst for so many great initiatives, especially around developing export markets in the Middle East and more recently Asia. “I have so many amazing memories of UKTI (now DIT) organised trade missions to various far-flung locations; Tony was always there, always doing his best not only for GIG, but for everyone else on the trip and always, of course, able to party to the very end. “Tony’s pride in everything he did – his business, his family, his menagerie of animals and everything British – was infectious and an inspiration to us all. In remembering Tony, I struggle to think of a single individual who was so universally respected and so universally popular in our industry. Through all this or perhaps because of all this, Tony became one of my closest personal friends. We shared a love of sailing along with so many of the good things in life. “Like so many in our industry I already and will continue to miss him terribly. He leaves an amazing legacy, a great team and I know that Bonnie and all at GIG will be feeding and entertaining our world for a very long time to come.” Jeff Burke, Director of ES Global, described Tony as one of our industry’s pioneers, saying: “Tony was innovative, creative and always looking after people, always with great humour and humility. Travelling the world, looking for new markets and educating local people in the ways of Global Infusion Group was something Tony thrived on in recent years and I was privileged to join him on that journey. I have so many happy memories. I’ll miss him.” Dick Tee, Managing Director, EnTEEtainment added: “I can’t remember when I first met Tony – he just seems to have been around forever! I know he was always on hand supporting the Eat to the Beat troops at so many events with me over some 25 to 30 years – Glastonbury Festival, Festival of the Sea, Medway Castle Concerts, Reading Festival, Marks and Spencer Celebrate Tour – the list goes on and on. He was an amazing and innovative businessman and achieved so much in his field, winning many accolades and awards including recognition by HM The Queen. So impressed was I with his work that ETTB even catered at private events for me, including my wife’s 30th birthday and years later our Silver Wedding Anniversary. “We both set up our businesses around the same time in the ’80s and he was a ‘kindred spirit’. On a personal level, I recall with great fondness garden parties at his home and an amazing clay pigeon shooting day trip on a barge up the Thames Estuary. His jovial and cheeky demeanour was so infectious, in fact, I think he must have been born with that ‘smile on his face’. It was impossible to feel down and depressed when in his company.

As I have said previously, the term ‘Legend’ is overused these days – but not in Tony’s case. A true Legend – a kind, generous and talented person whose premature passing has touched the hearts of so many.” Bonnie May, Tony’s wife and Global Operations Director of GIG, added: “Tony was my world! We worked side by side for almost 33 years and were a couple for the last 18 of those. Tony’s enthusiasm, loyalty, determination and infectious sense of fun were present in everything that he did – family, friends and business. “As a family, we found a quote that we loved, and we think pretty much sums him up perfectly: ‘Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park… Enjoy the ride!’ by Anthony Bourdain. In the days, months and years ahead we, and our extended Global Infusion Group family, are all totally committed to ‘ride on’ and make him very proud of us all.” TPi 09


EVENT FOCUS

CHECK-IN WITH LIVE Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live and member of LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment) discusses negotiations with the government, the latest roadmap announcement and the state of play in the events sector.

Although all cogs are vital in the music industry, there has never been a single organisation that represents the interests of promoters, venue owners, festival organisers, technical suppliers and crew members. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic having a catastrophic effect on live events, there was suddenly a need for a united voice to represent the industry in a form that the UK government can understand. It was this pressing need that brought about LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment) – a confederation of industry bodies, including: The Association of Independent Festivals, Association for Electronic Music, Association of Festival Organisers, British Association of Concert Halls, The Concert Promoters Association, The Entertainment Agents’ Association, Music Venue Trust, Music Managers Forum, National Arenas Association and Production Services Association. Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live, and founding member of LIVE, spoke to TPi about the organisation’s origin. He, along with other members of the industry, had been involved in the Live Music Group, a subdivision of UK Music. “As the effect of COVID-19 unfolded in March and April, there were a number of us – primarily Greg Parmley, Phil Bowdery, I and several others – who felt like we needed a stronger voice for the live events sector. We were not achieving the profile our sector needed.” After an amicable break from UK Music, the next move was to involve The Blakeney Group as LIVE’s parliamentary lobbyists and PR. LIVE saw early success with the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign which it coordinated with other industry associations such as UK Music, in a bid to raise money for the industry. The organisation is now looking to officially launch a second round of fundraising, which it hopes will aid those working in the industry as we move towards the summer. “Moving forward, the sector is going to need greater representation,” stated Galbraith. “We realised throughout 2020, that when speaking to the government, the need to have one single voice is vital. We have already heard from officials that the work of #LetTheMusicPlay had a huge impact on the discussion to increase the Treasury’s relief fund to £1.57 billion during the summer.” While the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 roadmap briefing on 22 February provided some clarity, many issues remain unresolved. Following the announcement, LIVE released a statement: “The roadmap puts a ‘not before date’ of 17 May for live events and states there will still be requirements for limited capacity and social distancing. It will not be until at least 21 June before we might be able to return to any form of normality. The economics of the live music industry means under these conditions it is simply not viable for the live music industry to reopen for many months.” Several representatives from LIVE commented on what this could mean for the live events sphere. “While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted, our £4.5bn industry is at the back of the queue to reopen,” stated Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE. “Any return to normality for live music could be months behind the rest of the economy. The Chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the Budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.”

Galbraith outlined some other major concerns, specifically keeping the VAT rate on tickets at 5% for the next three years – something LIVE has commented will “make the single biggest impact to the sector’s recovery”. In March, the Chancellor confirmed an extension of the 5% rate of VAT on ticket sales for a further six months, with an interim rate of 12.5% until April 2022. Although welcomed by LIVE, many suggested that this doesn’t go far enough, such as Dave Keighley, Chair of Production Services Association, who stated that the 5% rate “needs to be extended to assist our sector’s recovery”. Another area that LIVE has been focusing on is lobbying for an insurance underwriting scheme, which was not mentioned in the latest Budget. “That’s before we even get into the impact of Brexit, where the two issues we are focusing on including free movement work permits and trucking regulations,” stated Galbraith. Alongside the government-centred campaigns, Galbraith explained how LIVE could help to set a precedent for better working conditions within the live events sector. He spoke about how a greater focus on mental health and workers’ well-being were key factors that LIVE was looking into ways of improving across the industry. LIVE has also now set up three working groups. The first, LIVE Touring, is chaired by Craig Stanley from Marshall Arts to look at the impact of trucking and work permits following on from Brexit. LIVE Green, chaired by John Langford from AEG Europe, is addressing the ever-pressing and increasing concerns about how to tour and run events in the greenest ways possible. And LIVE Venues, chaired by Lucy Noble from Royal Albert Hall, is focussed on reopening venues of all sizes across the UK. “It’s unfortunate, but the reality is it took a global crisis to bring our industry together. Each section of the industry complements each other and each organisation is one part of a jigsaw that only works effectively if we are all involved. There are many issues that are facing our industry that are going to last for years, not months. But now we have a united voice to talk within Westminster. Not only that, before 2020, we didn’t even have the raw data of how many people were even in this industry or its annual turnover. Now we have all this information we can continue to move forward together.” TPi Photo: Kilimanjaro Live www.livemusic.biz 10


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EVENT FOCUS

THE VERTICAL THEATRE: THE FUTURE OF VENUE TOURING? Conceived with social distancing in mind, The Vertical Theatre Group’s latest innovation is targeted at a live entertainment industry reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. TPi’s Jacob Waite catches up with Stufish’s Ric Lipson and freelance Production Director, Jake Berry to discuss their collective vision.

At the turn of the year, The Vertical Theatre Group – a newly established collective of producers, creatives and technical specialists led by Stufish – revealed ambitious plans for a ‘future-proof’ live performance venue, aptly named The Vertical Theatre. Put forth as an ‘innovative and tourable’ solution, the freestanding venue is designed to guarantee the future of live entertainment, providing a much-needed boost to the sector and its workers. Founders, Stufish’s Ric Lipson and freelance Production Director, Jake Berry are optimistic enough about the venue, which allows for social distancing, to jump on a Zoom chat with TPi to discuss their collective vision. According to Lipson, one of the biggest challenges that venues face in the wake of the pandemic is the dated topography of the space. Historic, listed, concrete buildings, which play host to live entertainment, and were constructed pre-COVID-19, are ill-equipped to handle social distancing. One-way entrances, communal foyers, handrails, bars and queues are all

likely transmission zones for viruses. “As entertainment architects, we’re constantly examining ways to make buildings more functional,” he began. By using the technology of, say, a festival roof or a modern truss system, to hold up equipment, The Vertical Theatre plans to house 1,200 to 2,000 seats, socially distanced, in a modular and safe, open-air setting. “We came up with the idea that the top of The Vertical Theatre would be covered, and the sides open, to allow the flow of fresh air while also staying dry and maintaining the capacity to rig and suspend lighting, sound and video kit from the roof,” Lipson furthered. “Think of Shakespeare’s Globe or the Royal Opera House, mixed with the intimacy of the theatre and the rigging capacity of an arena, along with the physical space and surroundings of an outdoor amphitheatre.” In January, The Vertical Theatre Group previewed its vision for the space by revealing 3D drawings and an interactive video. “We modelled the design in a combination of AutoCAD and Rhinoceros 3D software. Some of the still 12


THE VERTICAL THEATRE: THE FUTURE OF VENUE TOURING?

images were developed through a Rhinoceros 3D plug-in called Enscape3D, while some of the animations were run through a Rhinoceros 3D and Unreal Engine plug-in called Twinmotion,” Lipson clarified. “Additional character animations were achieved in Autodesk 3Ds Max. Everything was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects.” Since revealing their plans, the collective has opened discussions with potential partners to realise the vision – one they believe will be ready to roll-out later this year with the ambition to have multiple semi-permanent venues around the world in due course. “The response from across the board has been amazing,” Berry commented. “It’s somewhat of a new venture for us, which makes it exciting. We’ve been examining ways to be creative amid the lockdown, but we also have to be flexible and acclimatise to the ever-changing goalposts related to COVID-19.” The new style of performance space could, in theory, be used by all levels of the live entertainment world – from theatre and festivals, to global artist tours as well as comedy, circus and televised events, ensuring that the world of live entertainment can thrive in a world reeling from the unprecedented impact of a global pandemic. “We wanted to solve an immediate problem,” Lipson explained. “We not only want to make the structure viable, but we have also designed the structure based on truss and scaffolding, with bespoke cladding to make it pretty and hide the handrails, and make the boxes feel more luxurious, albeit COVID-19 secure.” The audience sits in balconies which can accommodate groups between four to 12 people or designated ‘social bubbles’. Each audience member has an up-close view of the performance space and enjoys a unique VIP experience, bringing more people closer to the artist unlike in any other venue. “We’ve developed a bespoke version of the structure, with larger modular seating sections, which we’d lift from the ground up with motors, similar to the way a production crew would build a rock ’n’ roll show,” Lipson revealed. “It is designed to be tourable, however, some of the reception has been swayed to a more semi-permanent structure, for people to have in their city for a number of years.” The venue has the capability to include built-in global streaming capacity and features innovative F&B facilities. Conceived with social distancing and decentralisation of audiences in mind, the Vertical Theatre also creates a space that is fully adaptable for when COVID-19 restrictions are a thing of the past. “It’s the new modern circus tent with much more capability,” Lipson remarked. “There’s no venue that does everything that this venue can do.” Once attendees spiral up the building, with

2m-plus wide corridors, they are led by ushers into the building, which is open air and maintains two steps from each box, with COVID-19 secure handrail access, as well as sanitiser dispensers, PPE, and a plastic screen separating audience clusters, “if that is what is required by the time that it is constructed,” Lipson remarked. In addition to PPE, the building splits the audience into four areas, reducing congestion. “This creates an experience that is equal, albeit segregated, with the artists performing on the lower deck, suitably distanced from the audience. However, the human connection of artistry still remains,” Lipson said. “As the building is modular, further distancing is achievable, if required.” The Vertical Theatre Group’s founders are Stufish Entertainment Architects represented by Ric Lipson and Paul Preston; Live Events and Documentary Producer, Holly Gilliam; Theatre Producer, Katy Lipson; Production Director, Jake Berry; Director and Digital Theatre Founder, Robert Delamere. The collective’s main goal is to provide a commercially viable space for live entertainment now, in a world of social distancing. Well versed in sitting in a dark room for hours on end making the impossible, in fact, possible, the founders of the project have never actually met as a group in-person – collaborating entirely over Zoom. “While we can’t design shows for the masses, we can harness our collective experience to devise the future of touring and getting our colleagues and their equipment back out to work,” Lipson commented. “These flexible, temporary structures might be the next phase of thinking. The idea of touring buildings is a different way of thinking and planning for the future.” Berry chimed in: “There are lots of things on the horizon, however, a timeline is difficult to predict given the ever-shifting goalposts involved in live entertainment. We’re excited and we know that it can work. If it was up to us, we would create this space tomorrow, but that’s not going to happen until the creative and technical parameters align.” Lipson and Berry are quietly confident this new type of cross arts collaboration can help build a new and innovative vision for the future of live entertainment. “We are devoted to the vital importance of arts and culture. We believe they are an essential part of human experience, of what makes us who we are. We are very excited to be able to bring this innovative new venue offering to the live entertainment world at this pivotal moment for the future of the arts.’’ TPi Photos: The Vertical Theatre Group www.theverticaltheatre.com 13


EVENT FOCUS

D&B AUDIOTECHNIK: SOUNDSCAPE CREATES SOLUTIONS FOR THE FUTURE David Sheppard of Sound Intermedia and d&b audiotechnik’s Adam Hockley discuss how Soundscape can maintain audio impact with fewer on-stage performers.

Since March 2020, technology has been harnessed in many ways to create entertainment spaces that maintain the feel of a traditional live event, while following COVID-19 guidelines. Take Least Like the Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy, for example – a theatrical performance backed by the Irish National Opera. With the rising tide of COVID-19, the logistics of this touring performance, which features an entire ensemble cast and live orchestra, seemed suddenly unfeasible. So, if the show was to go ahead, the production would need to find an innovative way to recreate an orchestra that was no longer in the room… Enter, David Sheppard of Sound Intermedia. “As a touring artist working around the world, I reached a point where I struggled to justify touring with the ongoing climate crisis,” commented Sheppard. “I began looking at new ways of how we can bring the experience

of a performance to an audience without having to tour the ensemble with us.” This mindset meant Sheppard was the right person to find a COVID-19 compliant solution to this particular theatre project. Understanding that simply streaming playback of an orchestra using either an in-house PA or regular line array would not cut it, he explored the possibility of using a Soundscape solution to create a more immersive audience experience. Using d&b audiotechnik Soundscape, the sounds from the orchestra could be placed into different areas of theatre, powered by a DS100 Signal Engine. “We were lucky with this project in that the composer [Brian Irvine] is very forward thinking and was very excited about the level of control Soundscape could give the production.” The reinvented show went into rehearsals in a warehouse in Belfast that in a previous life had been used to host raves. The space was transformed 14


D&B AUDIOTECHNIK

d&b audiotechnik’s Adam Hockley; Sound Intermedia’s David Sheppard.

from a nightclub to an opera house with clever draping and construction to mirror the O’Reilly Theatre in Dublin, where the production was set to open. It was decided that while Sheppard would rehearse with the team in Belfast, when it came to moving the show back to Dublin, Kevin McGing would implement the sound design from there. “The handover of Soundscape was seamless; at that point we had all bought into it and understood its simple yet highly creative qualities,” explained Sheppard. “The ease of production, as well as the support from d&b ensured I was confident in handing over the reins once it left Belfast.” d&b’s Adam Hockley, Education & Application Support, who specialises in Soundscape, commented on theatre’s rising adoption of Soundscape. “There have certainly been a lot of productions from the theatre world that have been very interested in the possibilities that Soundscape could bring to their production,” he stated. “The ultimate goal of many audio engineers in theatre is to make the audio setup as transparent as possible, and what we have with Soundscape is a workflow that makes this possible.” Hockley explained how 2020 had also seen d&b improve software and offerings to customers. In fact, the company recently announced a series of software updates to enhance users’ ability to deliver extraordinary acoustic experiences with the comprehensive Soundscape toolkit. The updates include significant developments for the En-Scene and En-Space tools. “At d&b, we are planning ahead and ensuring the Soundscape platform is not only easy to deploy and accessible, but significantly advanced for when it’s possible to have events again,” said d&b audiotechnik Product Manager, Georg Stummer. “The recently released features not only

significantly increase the predictability and flexibility of Soundscape, but also the ease of implementation from small theatre productions to large, complex applications. We are constantly driven by customer feedback and these updates reflect the market’s leading requests, ensuring we can further embed Soundscape as the industry standard in immersive sound and deliver further capabilities to our customers’ creative endeavours.” Although this reinvention of the project was developed to create a solution to COVID-19 restrictions, Sheppard believes that this project could act as a blueprint for future live events. “Everyone in this industry loves to travel and share our cultures with others around the globe. However, there is a need to consider how necessary the sheer numbers of people that travel are, and how as an industry we could start looking at our carbon footprint,” he commented. He believes that, “if we have more options to creatively control what is happening on each stop of a tour remotely or use technology to enhance the audience experience through flexible playback or streaming, while ensuring artists still receive income, then perhaps it would need fewer people to travel with a show”. As for Least Like the Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy – the production is hoping to open in Dublin as soon as Ireland reduces the current COVID-19 restrictions. TPi Photos: Patrick Redmond & Gavin O’Sullivan www.dbsoundscape.com www.soundintermedia.tumblr.com 15


EVENT FOCUS

HALF FORMED THINGS: LIVE FROM LEITH THEATRE Reuniting with their production team for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, experimental pop four-piece, Half Formed Things undertake a unique live music video shoot in Edinburgh’s Leith Theatre. Lighting Designer, Sam Jones reflects on the experience…

Having recorded their debut album, To Live in the Flicker, just around the corner from Leith Theatre, the Edinburgh-based community and arts space seemed like a fitting backdrop for local experimental pop fourpiece, Half Formed Things to join forces with touring personnel for the first time since March last year to embark on a unique live music video shoot for the track, February. Helping drench the band in the ‘natural reverb’ of the venue was Lighting Designer, Sam Jones; Sound Engineer, Jane Datony; Videographer, Sandy Butler and Photographer, Lewis Milne. Having spent the best part of the COVID-19 pandemic designing music videos and livestreams in the Leith Theatre, Jones picked up the story. “The venue is magnificent,” he began. “I have worked in Leith Theatre a fair amount over the past few years and have been lucky enough to be a part of its ‘rebirth journey’ that is still ongoing. It has so much character and

putting on live shows in there has a special sort of atmosphere. I tried to translate that energy into the design.” Technical suppliers for the shoot included Edinburgh ShowTec, DM Audio and JMP Productions. “My working relationship with Half Formed Things is relatively new, having only collaborated on a few live shows before the pandemic struck,” Jones commented. “Since then, we have done a few livestreams and music videos. For me, complimenting the music with the design is always important; Half Formed Things’ music is so dynamic, it’s a job keeping up with them most of the time!” Despite being a relatively new member in the camp, Jones instantly acclimatised to the task at hand, referencing the “epic” and “dynamic” nature of the band’s music as the driving force of his lighting design. “I’ve discovered that sweeping looks, plenty of fanning beams and strobing 16


HALF FORMED THINGS: LIVE FROM LEITH THEATRE

bumps as well and very soft single spot moments compliment Half Formed Things’ music,” he said. The LD specified a range of Martin by Harman lighting fixtures for the shoot, including Quantum Washes, Viper Profiles, VDO Atomic Dot WRMs and MAC Auras. “I love working with Martin fixtures. The optics are fantastic and reliable,” he explained. “The Quantum Washes on the floor upstage were perfect with zoomed-in chunky beam looks that can equally be zoomed right out, creating a silhouette heavy wash blinding effect. The Quantum Wash beam twister effect worked really well on the breakdown sections of the song; I think that this relatively simple effect adds so much to the unit.” He coined the Viper Profiles as the “workhorse” fixture of the lighting rig. He continued: “Vipers have been the workhorse of the rock ’n’ roll industry for a while now. They are a great all-round unit, with fantastic colour. There were a lot of fast flyouts, zoom and animation effects in the show but the Vipers stood up great.” Jones described the Auras as one of his favourite lighting fixtures on the market. “The colours they produce are incredible despite being on the market for some time,” he said. “The Auras on the floor delivered sharp dramatic angles that worked with the music. There were a lot of shades of white in this song and they delivered well.” Having utilised VDO Atomic Dot WRM hybrid lighting and video fixtures on a series of projects due to their “versatility” and “useability”, Jones used the fixture with barn doors rigged onto a microphone stand to imitate a “Fresnal special effect” with eight-, four- and two-cell mole imitation linked together to create a “dot bank effect”. He said: “They are simply brilliant in each scenario. Their output was brilliant, delivering in replicating incandescent fixtures with a fantastic liner fade and colour.” Reflecting on the successful shoot, Jones commented: “I love working with bands that have a great visual presence. “Half Formed Things have some great energy on stage which, combined with the musical talent, creates quite a show.” Off the back of a difficult 12 months for the sector, working through the COVID-19 pandemic has been a turbulent process for Jones and the rest of the crew. “I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to have some work. Doing projects at this time is fraught with last-minute complications, even more than our industry is used to,” he reported. “Even for this project, one of the camera operators had to pull out 22 hours before the shoot to isolate. Thankfully, he was fine. However, I feel for the production companies that have kit sitting on the shelves that are gathering dust and some of which is still being paid off.” Having successfully wrapped up an in-house livestream project that is due to be aired over the course of three weekends in late March, Jones was looking forward to the so-called ‘roadmap to recovery’ for the sector. “There are few projects I worked on last year that are just about to be completed and released,” he noted. “There are also a few more livestreams and music videos in the works with various artists. However, I am missing live music a lot and can’t wait to start doing things with an audience again.” In a closing statement on Facebook, the band shared [sic]: “It’s hard to believe that it’s been an entire year since our last hometown gig. As you

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can probably tell, we’ve tried not to let COVID stop us from working on the Half Formed Things live show quite a bit in that time, and we’re so, so ready to put this on a stage in front of people… We dedicate this video to Marc Freeman, who worked harder than any of us to get it all to where it is now… We’d like to thank Edinburgh ShowTec, JMP Productions and DM Audio for providing equipment, and everyone at Leith Theatre for their enthusiasm and accommodation. Lastly, thanks to all of you for the love and patience. More stuff to come.” TPi Photos: Lewis Milne (@lewis_milne) @samjoneslx www.leiththeatretrust.org www.halfformedthings.com www.martin.com www.facebook.com/edinburghshowtec81 www.dmaudio.co.uk www.jmpproductions.co.uk

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EVENT FOCUS

DIGICO: NEW YEAR NEW HOPE In a bid to spread much-needed cheer and positivity following a difficult 12 months, DiGiCo provides three lucky competition winners with some incredible prizes. One lucky winner, Chris Heckmann of Monika’s Sound System Rentals, recalls the euphoria of scooping the brand-new DiGiCo Quantum225 mixing console.

At the start of the year, DiGiCo unveiled a New Year New Hope campaign, which provides three lucky winners from the sector three impressive prizes – a DiGiGrid MGB MADI-to-SoundGrid Interface, a KLANG:kontroller and a DiGiCo Quantum225 mixing console. Prize winners included Jennifer Werner of LSP Light and Sound Professional, based in Ostrau, Germany, who scooped the DiGiGrid MGB MADI-to-SoundGrid Interface; Paul Janovskis, a freelance FOH Engineer in Melbourne, Australia, who took ownership of the first ever KLANG:kontroller off the production line; and Chris Heckmann of Monika’s Sound System Rentals from Dayton, Ohio, who was awarded the contest’s grand prize – a brand-new DiGiCo Quantum225 mixing console. “Believe it or not, I wasn’t

watching the livestream because I was out on a call fixing a panic bar on a commercial electric door – something I have been doing on and off during the COVID-19 lockdown,” chuckled Heckmann. What followed was a series of texts and an ‘out of the blue’ conference call from the Group One team – DiGiCo’s US distributor. When it dawned on Heckmann that he’d won a brand-new Quantum225 mixing console, he recalled: “I was overwhelmed.” Monika’s Sound System Rentals shares a storied history in the live events sector with Owner, Monika Shroyer, providing audio for bands back in 1979. “In regular times, most of our shows are outdoors – from festivals for a few hundred people, mid-size concerts, to five stages for whole 18


DIGICO: NEW YEAR NEW HOPE

Opposite: Chris Heckmann of Monika’s Sound System Rentals and winner of a brand new DiGiCo Quantum225.

weekend events such as Dayton Celtic Fest,” stated Heckmann. “There’s that attaches quickly and easily to the left-hand panel of the console. a 600-capacity venue in Dayton, Ohio called Brightside Music and Event This can accommodate an additional channel or overview screen, a Venue, which we had the pleasure of installing a PA and lighting rig for. The KLANG:controller, or be further expanded to fit either a laptop or a script – something particularly useful for theatre applications. venue was gaining momentum as the COVID-19 crisis struck.” The desk includes 72 input channels with 36 busses, plus Master Buss Heckmann went on to detail how the pandemic has affected him and and a 12 by 12 Matrix. There are four MADI ports and dual DMI ports for his colleagues. “It has been a ‘sucker punch’ that never seems to end,” he added connectivity, eight by eight analogue and four AES channels for local recalled. “We are lucky that we are a smaller company, and our ownership I/O, built-in UB MADI, optional optics and Waves is in capable hands. We had little to no debt when SoundGrid, plus dual PSU. the lockdown began, however, we lost 90% of our “The nodal processing is what I think will really business in 2020,” he conceded. “We have been blow my mind,” commented Heckmann. “This doing some virtual work at The Brightside and are desk is a perfect match for us. We would love to able to pick up a couple of install jobs, which has have an SD5, SD7, Q7, Q338 or SD10, but it makes helped a lot.” no sense financially for us in relation to the size of However, news that a brand-new Quantum225 our company. The Quantum 225 provides us with was coming his way was a great way to start the a taste of all those boards at an affordable cost. year. Sensitive to the hiatus in the large-scale, Obviously, this one is free, but if we had not won live touring market, DiGiCo has designed the “This desk is a perfect match this, we would definitely look at this console as our Quantum225 to be agile and flexible, allowing next purchase.” the system to adapt to the demands of the for us. Obviously, this one is Heckmann hopes the new console might changing world. Specified with the new DQ-Rack free, but if we had not won become a permanent fixture at The Brightside with integrated Dante, end users have a system Venue, along with the company’s SD9. “I think we ideal for AV installation and the demands of an this, we would definitely look will explore what the rental market holds for this AoIP networking environment. Alternatively, at this console as our next new desk,” he mused. “They are perfect for larger the MQ-Rack and MADI connectivity for touring tour support acts.” infrastructure allows the Quantum225 to integrate purchase.” TPi with existing infrastructure. Chris Heckmann, Photos: DiGiCo What is unique to Quantum225 is a customwww.digico.biz designed, multipurpose mounting bracket Monika’s Sound System Rentals 19


SUITE 102.5 PRIME TIME LIVE: KEEPING MUSIC [A]LIVE IN ITALY Italian radio station, RTL 102.5 curates a bespoke studio environment for the region’s most acclaimed and emerging talent to perform live and connect with fans amid the COVID-19 crisis. TPi’s Jacob Waite reports…

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SUITE 102.5 PRIME TIME LIVE

Italian radio station RTL 102.5 has curated live entertainment for the best part of 46 years. However, at a time when performing artists, technical production staff and the region in general has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, finding reasons to provide a strong sense of community, solidarity and support has been crucial to Italian morale. Since October 2020, every Monday at 9pm – the ‘prime time’ slot of Italian radio schedules – RTL 102.5 has transformed its greatest hits radio station into a ‘live nightclub’. Broadcast over the airwaves, online, on television and a through a bespoke mobile app, Suite 102.5 Prime Time Live provides a space for the region’s acclaimed and emerging artists to perform live from RTL 102.5’s studio in Milan and connect with their fanbase via Zoom meet and greets – not to mention work for technical production crew. With COVID-19 spreading across the globe last March and Northern Italy’s Veneto region one of the worst hit areas, last summer’s RTL 102.5 Power Hits Estate 2020 [see TPi #255] provided respite for the region. At the heart of the project was a team of longstanding collaborators, including: Executive Producer, Fabio Marcantelli; Filming Director, Luigi Antonini; and Producer’s Assistant, Fiona MacKay. The trio, along with RTL 102.5 President, Lorenzo Suraci; Technical Production Supervisor, Stefano Pretoni; and Sound Engineer, Jonathan Cascio, sat down with TPi – virtually – to discuss their latest project. “It took roughly two days to put Suite 102.5 Prime Time Live together from idea to reality,” Suraci began. “We have such well-prepared staff at RTL

102.5, so it was a simple transition to take what we have learned from RTL 102.5 Power Hits Estate 2020 to develop this new concept.” With dedicated medical personnel onsite, the technical production staff and performing artists take COVID-19 swab tests prior to entry. Once on site, they are privy to PPE in abundance as well as a well-constructed live stage setup. The only thing missing, of course, is an in-person audience. “Thousands of people tune in on the radio, television or online to watch Suite 102.5 Prime Time Live,” Suraci said. “Those who tune into the show wouldn’t notice the significant steps we’ve taken to ensure that the set is COVID-19 secure,” which is exactly, he said, what the team strives for. “We have transformed our radio studio into what you would ordinarily consider a live nightclub,” Marcantelli began. “At the moment, it is impossible to present any live entertainment experience in front of an in-person audience in Italy, so, Lorenzo has developed a format to host an interactive performance to a digital crowd over Zoom, the television and the radio.” The show has already played host to a range of Italian music stars, performing live in an intimate setting, including: Zucchero, Biagio Antonacci, Elisa, J-Ax, Guè Pequeno, Tiromancino, Pinguini Tattici Nucleari, Fedez, the negramaro, Elodie, Gazzelle, Mahmood, Manuel Agnelli and Rodrigo D’Erasmo, among others. “Each artist or band chooses from 10 rearranged tracks to perform, either acoustically or semi-acoustically, exclusively for RTL 102.5,” Marcantelli commented. “From the performing artist’s perspective, they 22


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SUITE 102.5 PRIME TIME LIVE

RTL 102.5 President, Lorenzo Suraci; Executive Producer, Fabio Marcantelli; Technical Production Supervisor, Stefano Pretoni; TV Director, Luigi Antonini; Sound Engineer, Jonathan Cascio.

jump at the chance to regain this club-sized performance, which may have assembled by RTL 102.5’s technical crew – Low Frequency Technicians, been overlooked in the past.” Nicola Spilotros and Michael Triverio; Video Operator, Christian Alberton; As frequent demonstrators of indomitable human creativity and Sound Operator, Beppe Di Dio Pa; and Audio/Video Operator, Fabio technical proficiency during the most difficult times for the region, the Suite Romano – led by Technical Production Supervisor, Stefano Pretoni. 102.5 Prime Time Live line-up often features local and emerging talent, as “We integrate the existing equipment in the radio station with an well as big name stars in Italy. “Ideally, we would like to introduce foreign external OB van,” Pretoni explained. “Every Monday, we dismantle our artists to the platform, but given the current travel restrictions in light of preexisting radio setup in the studio, erect a new stage and change our the pandemic, that is currently on hold. However, camera positions and lights for the live show. A it is a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on the separate studio handles the virtual meet and greet talented musicians and artists in Italy,” Marcantelli with the fans and the artists via Zoom, which is said, adding that line-ups are “fully booked up additional equipment supplied by JVC.” until June”. The studio equipment includes eight In the Milan studio, narrating the evening as a Panasonic AW-HE130 cameras, three JVC voiceover is RTL 102.5 Live Broadcast Presenter, GY-HC500 cameras, two Panasonic AW-RP50 “Everybody involved is happy Gigio D’Ambrosio, who acts as a link between controllers, two Tecnopoint ceiling dollies and a the guest and the fans via Zoom. Typically, four to be afforded the opportunity Tecnopoint floor folly, Tecnopoint tuning control fans interact with the artist during the initial software, a Grass Valley Kayenne video switcher, to work again, from the performance. At the end of each set, the artist two Vip X Evertz multiviewers, five ChangHong enters a ‘social room’, where Italian influencers, Chiq laser projectors, three JVC Monitor18 Arri backliners, rental companies, Paola Di Benedetto and Laura Ghislandi comperè L5-C Fresnel light projectors, five DTS Scenaled 80 camera operators and sound the after-show meet and greet section for fans Fresnel light projectors, a Digilite Pulse MX lighting connected via Zoom. “This is as close as the console and two broadcast graphics servers. technicians to the artists at audience can get to a backstage pass at the The outsourced equipment for the external such a difficult time for live moment,” MacKay remarked. “Suite 102.5 is free of and additional OB van, provided by PerFanTV, charge and accessible to all, maintaining the spirit contains three Sony HXC-100 cameras, a For.A entertainment.” not only of a live performance but also backstage.” HVS-390 video switcher, a pair of BLT video Jonathan Cascio, The weekly radio set is dismantled with a new servers, five Sony XDCAM HD/SD switchable live stage erected and technical infrastructure recording and playback units, two Evertz VIP Sound Engineer 24


SUITE 102.5 PRIME TIME LIVE

12 multiviewers, a Drake Pico intercom system. Sound Engineer, Jonathan Cascio oversees stage and OB van sound, featuring the deployment of two Axia Fusion Audio mixing consoles, four Shure ULXD wireless microphones with SM58 capsules and four Sennheiser 300 G3 IEMs. The additional OB van provides Cascio and the team the opportunity to use an indoor mixing console, a Yamaha QL1 mixing console for stage sound, and an external Yamaha QL5 mixing console along with a RIO 32 Yamaha stage box. “The sound design is reminiscent of what we considered as ‘club sound’,” he commented, explaining that even during the radio broadcast, muffled club noise you would expect to hear in the corridor of a dancehall is piped into the audio feed to add atmosphere. “Everybody involved is happy to be afforded the opportunity to work again, from the backliners, rental companies, camera operators and sound technicians to the artists at such a difficult time for live entertainment.” TV Director, Luigi Antonini and Lighting and Photography Director, Luigi Nino oversee the visual aspect of Suite 102.5 Prime Time Live, bringing a virtual audience as close to the action as possible. “It has been a unique experience to pilot this style of broadcast in the region. As far as I am aware, this is the first time that this type of weekly event has ever been broadcast in Italy,” Antonini

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SUITE 102.5 PRIME TIME LIVE

reflected. “There have only ever been semi-spontaneous sets by artists at Italian radio studios, however, we are the first to do it with this kind of continuity and production value.” Antonini explained that the integration of the studio’s surroundings are just as important as the technical kit when it comes to creating a bespoke narrative for each episode. “The way I tell the story of the episode is thematic and for each episode, the theme is reinvented. Camera angles are considered in a different way, given the interaction between the automated cameras, manual camera operators and the performing artists,” he explained. “We have tried not to try to replicate a standard live TV performance look; it’s much more of an interactive experience for the audience. Making our surroundings look like a live club as well as the addition of remote cameras on track brings the audience right into the action, as if they are stood a few metres away from the artists.” Before the Monday airing, performing artists receive the same style of promotional campaign as a standard live event – such as radio adverts, TV commercials, and social media coverage. Harking back to life prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, posters adorn popular commuter train stations in Italy, as if, in Antonini’s words, it were a “proper gig”. “Nowadays, artists are approaching us to be on the show,” Marcantelli noted. “This pursuit is very important for Italian morale. At the end of every performance, the artists are really grateful for the opportunity to perform

and interact with their fans, at a moment where the opportunities to do so are minimal.” The rest of the Suite 102.5 Prime Time Live team comprises: Artist Lineup, Lina Pintore; Social Media Supervisor, Massimo Galanto; Content Creators, Giulia Taiana, Massimo Lo Nigro and Alessandro Mele; Label and Fan Club Coordinator, Jody Fouqué; Artist Zoom Connection Technicians, Cristian Trotta and Stefano Fontanini; Research and Development Supervisor, Eugenio La Teana; Press Officer, Valentina Facchinetti; Graphics Department team of Fausto Comincioli, Marco Volpi, Alessandro Baccoli and Sara Genovese; Production, Ivan Novellino and Giacomo Meligrana; and Make-Up Stylists, Paolo Demaria and Patrizia Anno. “It’s vital to provide live entertainment experiences at such a dark time for the region,” Marcantelli concluded. “Suite 102.5 Prime Time Live is going so well that we are in the process of investing in a warehouse to tie into a proper live set later in the year.” Suite 102.5 Prime Time Live episodes can be listened to on RTL 102.5, RADIOVISION on channel 36 of the DTT and Sky channel 736. Or via the digital link listed below. TPi Photos: RTL 102.5 www.play.rtl.it/archivio/1/suite-1025-prime-time-live www.perfaretv.it 26


20-22 APRIL 2021 | WWW.MONDOSTADIA-AGORA.COM


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TESSERACT: PORTALS Bringing a new dimension to the livestream format, the UK prog-metal band brings a cinematic flair to their latest online performance with cutting-edge in-camera laser effects. TPi’s Stew Hume reports…

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TESSERACT: PORTALS

Over their 18-year career, TesseracT have become a prolific force on the technical metal-prog scene, famed for their technical prowess and faultless live performances. With live shows off the table, the band opted to turn their attention to the world of livestreaming. However, in true TesseracT style, this performance went further than sticking a camera at the far end of a studio and streaming to the world. Bringing in a collective of long-term collaborators including Director of Photography, Richard Oakes, the band created a live performance at Liteup’s studios that offered a veritable visual feast more akin to a short cinematic film than a typical live show. A month after the show was beamed out to fans across the globe, TPi gathered a number of the key creatives responsible for making this show possible – including the band’s Bassist and Production Manager, Amos Williams. “We’ve always had ideas that are somewhat larger than our wallets,” he began, admitting the lofty ambitions of what they were trying to achieve with Portals. The trailer for the show promised a performance that was an amalgamation of a feature film and a highly polished music video, mixed with a live performance from the band. “Thankfully, we have a very creative management team that allowed us to throw what we would normally spend on a six-week tour into this project,” admitted Williams. The bassist stated that before they began to conceptualise the show, they researched what other artists had been doing and, without wishing to be disrespectful, they thought many of them were “rather disappointing”. He continued: “I think many people see these performances as limiting as they are being viewed on a square screen. That being said, why do films look so great even in this format? With this in mind, we thought for our

streamed performance, we needed to move the focus away from the stage and look at the performance through the camera lens in order to take things further.” Like most musicians, Williams was keen to make the case that there is “nothing better than a live show”, adding: “You can’t replicate that through a streamed event, but turning these shows into a cinematic experience is how this medium could be pushed forward.” At that point, Richard Oakes of Dark Fable Media took up the conversation. Oakes had already worked with TesseracT on their Juno video alongside his work within the film world on projects including Dirge, Exit Plan and The Doorman. “Amos and I agreed from the beginning that you can’t replicate the feeling of a live show with a streamed performance so, from the outset, you have to treat it as a different medium.” TesseracT Tour Manager, Adam Williams of Riverjuke, provided an overview of how other artists on the company’s roaster had found working within the new digital confines. “We’ve seen a real mix with each artist. On one hand, you have a band like TesseracT who planned from the outset of 2020 to have a lighter year of touring; whereas there are others that the pandemic hit right at the beginning of their album cycle,” he said. “One thing we can learn with hindsight is that many of the projects in the initial month were rather reactive and rushed, as nobody thought that the halting of live shows would last more than three months.” He believes that the artists working on streaming platforms have been able to produce more ambitious projects, pointing to the Architects Royal Albert Hall performance as an example of this [TPi #257 cover story]. “TesseracT’s stream was one of the first livestream projects which had this level of discussion and it was a pleasure to work on. For those willing to 30


TESSERACT: PORTALS

think outside the box, I think there will be a lot of opportunities to intergrate this type of performance with touring when it returns.” ‘WE ARE NO LONGER DESIGNING FOR THE HUMAN EYE’ Production and Lighting Designer, Tom Campbell of MIRRAD and Laser Programmer and Technician, Daniel Briggs of AC-Lasers, were key to the look of the performance. Campbell had prior experience with the band having run their lighting during the 2017 ArcTanGent Festival – although the fact that the slot took place with the sun beating down on the main stage meant many of his lighting efforts were somewhat in vain. “I was very keen to jump onto this project to work on some of the ideas we explored back then,” he enthused. Beginning the chat with Amos Williams and the rest of the band around July last year, one of the initial briefs was that they “wanted to create a world rather than a traditional lighting show”. Campbell explained the concept further: “The show came to fruition with the upstage ‘portal’ made up of a thin video wall that became the central focus.” The LD was keen to keep the set quite minimal, with 32 Robe Esprites making up the backbone of his rig. The LD deployed 88 Martin by Harman VDO Sceptron 10s, GLP impression X4 Bar 20s, JDC1s and FR10s. The show was controlled via an Avolites Arena with a Quartz as a backup. As well as providing a space for the performance, Liteup supplied lighting equipment for the shoot. “Our team at MIRRAD have used Liteup’s studio throughout the summer for other performances and I use them as my main supplier for a large number of my tours,” explained Campbell. “As a designer, it’s a rare scenario to have your pick from a supplier’s inventory, with everything readily available on site,” he

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TESSERACT: PORTALS

noted. Liteup’s Marc Callaghan added: “It is always a pleasure working with Tom Campbell of MIRRAD. Portals is another fine example of thinking out of the box to create original and amazing show designs.” The design of the show was relatively dark, with Campbell focussing heavily on negative space – a fact that pleased Oakes when it came to filming. “Tom’s lighting design really melded well with my shooting style,” stated Oakes. “I much prefer to shoot in a dark room and build little bits of light rather that have to scoop our shadows from a super bright room.” The innovative use of lasers was an element that the visual team were keen to outline in more detail. “One of the main things that really grabbed my attention with this show was when Tom explained to me that they were looking to design specifically for the camera, which couldn’t be replicated in the real world,” remarked Briggs. “We are no longer designing for the human eye,” added Campbell. The collective created some outstanding laser effects that were only visible through a camera lens. “This effect works on the same principle that enables you to see a rotating wheel or helicopter rotor appear to slow or stop on film,” explained Briggs. “Working with this rolling shutter principle, we were able to capture laser looks that were not possible to recreate in real life such as segments of static or reversing beams, so it appeared at times that laser beams appear from thin air.” Although the looks were not possible to see with the naked eye, they revealed themselves through the camera feed in real time. “It took me a long time to get my head around the concept,” stated Oakes who, alongside Campbell and Briggs, worked into the early hours of the morning

dialling in these looks. Safety of the camera crew and their equipment was of paramount importance and Briggs explained the measures he’d put in place to ensure everything went smoothly. “Typically, you would zone into a safe area in the roof for a live performance, but on this shoot, we ended up with over 20 different projection zones placed around the band. Both the band and crew were given very specific instructions on safe working areas.” The lasers package featured four AC-MFLs and six Tarm11s, controlled by Pangolin Beyond software. “I got a number of calls after this show asking how we achieved some of these looks,” Briggs stated proudly. “Many were asking if we’d added CGI to the footage, but the beauty of this show is that all the looks were done in real time and all in camera.” Helping capture all the shots was a four-man crew using Blackmagic Design cameras. “They are always my camera of choice,” enthused Oakes. For the shoot, he turned to Design Ursa Mini Pro G2, which enabled him to capture the cinematic looks he and the band were after. “These types of shots are usually imposable to capture on a traditional live shoot as you are often dealing with standard broadcast cameras, so having the G2 was certainly a benefit.” Cameraworks provided all the camera equipment for the project. ‘I HAD NO IDEA THAT IEMS COULD SOUND THIS GOOD’ Isaac Powell was brought in to handle the streaming mix alongside the band’s IEM mixes. Debuting at the band’s Bloodstock Festival performance in 2019, Powell had worked with TesseracT intermittently over the years, 32


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overseeing their audio needs. “I didn’t really know what I was getting into back in 2019,” he chuckled. “I must admit, coming in fresh to the band was made easier by how dialled in their IEM setup already was, with the band owning a great deal of their own equipment. When I first heard their mixes, I had no idea that IEMs could sound this good.” Once Powell got the call to work on this performance, he and the band set about recreating their touring package. As TesseracT owned a large majority of the backline system, the main piece of gear the FOH Engineer had to get his hands on was a mixing console. The team at Patchwork provided Powell with a DiGiCo SD11, along with a DiGigrid MGB to record straight into Logic onto two laptops – a main and a backup. Chris Parker of Patchwork commented on the company’s involvement with the project: “We were very excited to be brought into the project by our friends at Riverjuke, and it was clear from the get-go that the members of TesseracT are incredibly knowledgeable in audio systems. “Over the past year, we’ve been diversifying towards video shoots and livestreams where our touring control packages are perfectly suited to taking multitrack recordings as well as monitor and broadcast mixes,” he commented. “We are looking forward to future projects with the team to develop a consistent touring package, for a sleek and powerful setup to reflect the music TesseracT create.” Powell, who is primarily a live audio engineer, described the switch to becoming a recoding engineer for this project. “Although I’ve never officially been anything but a live sound engineer, while working in the live environment, I don’t think there has ever been a show I haven’t recorded – even in the early days working my way up in Cardiff recording cover bands. So, it wasn’t too much a leap recording this show.” He went on to explain that he always had faith that the production was going to sound great. “The sources coming off stage were just good and all the band have really dialled in their tones over the years on the Kemper amps.” All the tracks were then mastered by the band’s very own Acle

Kahney, before being added to the final livestream. ‘THESE ARE THINGS YOU JUST CAN’T DO IN A LIVE SHOW’ What was refreshing about the conversation with the wider TesseracT: Portals crew was how each department embraced the streaming medium. Williams explained: “The fact that we were able to include cut scenes with actors and create these visual worlds – these are things you just can’t do in a live show.” The common consensus was that streaming opens the door to higher production values for performances and could also provide up-and-coming bands exposure. “I’ve had a band do a livestream where the production value was higher than they would have for their usual support slot and, as a result, they got better offers for festival season next year,” added Campbell, who agreed with Williams that embracing streaming provides opportunities for bands to push the creative envelope. “For those bands wishing to think outside the box, there are going to be so many opportunities in the future to integrate this type of streamed event with regular live shows,” concluded Williams. “Everyone on this call will agree, this does not replace a live show and I think people will flock back to gigs when it’s safe to do so. That said, I’ve also every faith that people are going to continue to explore this streamed medium and find a way to integrate this into standard album cycles.” TPi Photos: TesseracT Management www.tesseractband.co.uk www.darkfablemedia.co.uk www.mirrad.com www.ac-lasers.co.uk www.liteup.co.uk www.patchworklondon.co.uk www.cameraworks.co.uk 33


INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021 With International Women’s Day 2021 theme being #ChooseToChallenge, TPi’s Stew Hume and Jacob Waite shine a light on the tireless work of organisations and individuals challenging the lack of diversity in the live events sector.

WOMEN IN LIGHTING To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, Women In Lighting hosted a Global Gathering open to everyone in the lighting community featuring a selection of sessions with Inspiration, Project, Action and Social themes. Lighting Designer and Fine Artist, Anne Militello of Vortex – who has toured with the likes of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed, not to mention working on numerous installations that continue to grace several buildings in New York City, including the New York Historical Society and the new 42nd Street Studio Building – spoke at the event. Now Head of the Masters of Fine Arts Lighting Design Program at California Institute of the Arts, TPi sat down with Militello to discuss WIL. How did you get involved in live events? I volunteered at the local theatres and concert venues as a teenager. I was entranced by the magic of the stage and decided to pursue the life of a theatre artist. I also made friends with young musicians and offered to do their lights in various clubs. From then on, it was a series of backstage jobs, road crew work, and lighting design for clubs and theatres. I worked hard and met great people who gave me great breaks into the business. Anne Militello of Vortex

How has COVID-19 affected you and how has WIL supported the community? All the shows I had scheduled were cancelled. I am teaching lighting design at California Institute of the Arts, and although we are online, there are things we can do with visualisation software. It’s also been a good time to read, research and study. There is such a wide world of interesting people working with light and interesting points of view. As for Women in Lighting, I can only speak personally as a member, but the organisation has been doing online interviews with many international female designers and has been a great source for connection and inspiration.

older, more antiquated views which have discouraged women and people of colour to enter the live entertainment design and technical field will fall away as older people retire and younger people enter. The live industries have suffered such devastating financial losses, that when shows return, the industry may well be search out vibrant young people who will accept lesser pay in favor of the industry veterans, who producers may no longer be able to afford. These emerging artists are eager to enter the field and will generally be more technologically savvy. There are more women in this crowd than ever before.

What steps would you like to see when live events return to improve diversity of touring crew and working conditions? I am involved with a few informal design groups to talk about the future of the industry – both in theatre and concert stages. This time out has been a chance to reflect on how we have been working for so many years. In the entertainment business, the lack of diversity has been notably bad. This pandemic may spur an involuntary ‘changing of the guard,’ whereas the

What’s next for you? I am designing restaurants and hotels to open next year – and hoping the theatres I had been working with will make it through. www.womeninlighting.com

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MOVING THE NEEDLE

to mentor women to reach their full potential and gain senior management roles. Its vision is to see women of all backgrounds, ethnicities and personality types join the many niches and roles available; for women to know that their talent and hard work will be reflected in the promotions, pay and respect they deserve, regardless of gender; a 0% gender pay gap; women in 50% of the industry’s senior management roles; women staying in the industry beyond the age of 45. MTN’s leadership programme will consists of mentoring and training via workshops, panels and debates, with a focus on building vital career skills, such as how to network and negotiate. The group will also help to drive out ‘imposter syndrome’ and build resilience. Vick Bain, Consultant and Curator of The F-List, is on MTN’s advisory board. “There is not one black, female CEO or Chair of a UK music trade body. Everyone in the industry should be helping in our mission,” she said. “We want to feel proud that our dynamic industry is fair and diverse, and we’re prepared to make some noise to make this happen. We need people and organisations to join in our mission. The time is now!” Key Production Group CEO, Karen Emanuel is a board member and founder of MTN. “In the late 1980s, someone told me that to join this industry, I’d have to start as a secretary. Well, I never learned to type, and I’ve done pretty well without that skill by knowing my numbers. I’m still not seeing enough women come in and rise to the top in the ‘nuts and bolts’ side of this business. It drives me crazy. We need to bring young women into the ‘behind the scenes’ areas and ‘nuts and bolts’ roles such as mine, which are still predominantly male,” she noted. “At a recent conference I attended about distribution and manufacture of music, I calculated how many attendees were female – it was a miserly 5%.” She continued: “Women may leave because they don’t get good enough support after returning from maternity leave, or because having children means they are unable to network as much as their male counterparts, or because (certainly pre COVID-19) they aren’t given the flexibility they need. Or maybe they just assume they’ll never get to the top, because they hardly see any women there. When I started Key Production, people would arrive in my office and ask me if they could see the boss. I was the boss!” www.MTNnow.com

Production Group CEO and Founder of Moving The Needle, Karen Emanuel

Launched on International Women’s Day 2021, Moving the Needle (MTN) is made up of a group of influential women who have reached the top in the UK music industry. MTN strives to be an educational support group. Its members’ goal is to #ChooseToChallenge the status quo where women come into the UK music industry in droves, yet only hold a third of senior management roles. That is despite the fact that the UK is famed for pushing the boundaries of creative innovation as the world’s second biggest exporter of music – an industry worth £5.2bn a year. MTN’s mission is to boost the number of young women entering the industry through education; support women in the UK music industry and

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stranded until the morning. Black Flag it was! One of their roadies came over and talked to me and I explained I wanted to learn what he did. We hung out after the show and he taught me one of the things he, as a sound engineer, had to do: wrap a mic cable. The next day, I found myself in Palo Alto with Black Flag and by the time we returned to Los Angeles, I knew that I wanted a career in sound.

SOUNDGIRLS.ORG

How has SoundGirls.org evolved in recent years? Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato and I started the organisation in 2013 after we were on a panel at AES billed as The Women of Live Sound. Afterwards, we were thinking after 20-plus years in the industry, there has to be more than five of us. So, we figured if we built a website, we could find more… and we did. Today, the organisation has over 8,000 members worldwide. It keeps growing, and through the years, we have been able to bring mentoring, workshops and training to people. We feature women in audio each month and now have over 110 in-depth interviews with both the ground-breakers and the next generation. We have created and built The EQL Directory – a database of women working in all aspects of audio – to make it as easy as possible to hire women. We have also been working to make sure women are not erased in the history books with two projects; The SoundGirls Living History Project, which can be view on YouTube, and editing SoundGirls in Wikipedia. How has SoundGirls.org kept the community going during these trying times? At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we started fundraisers to provide $100 gift cards to members in need and out of work. It was a successful campaign raising over $20,000 to provide aid, but the need was greater than expected and the fund was exhausted quickly. We have worked hard to bring information on COVID-19 to our members throughout. With in-person meetings no longer available, we have pivoted to Zoom webinars to explore topics like impostor syndrome, sexual harassment, managing money, and career development, which have been archived on our YouTube channel. We have also launched the SoundGirls Podcast, which airs each week and has been developed into a training ground, with the current hosts and producers training new hosts and producers to take over the reins for a year. It has been an exciting process, which we have all gained knowledge and experience from. What steps would you like to see when live events return to improved diversity of touring crew and working conditions? I am hopeful that we will see some real change in the hiring process to bring more women and underrepresented groups into the workplace. There are some great organisations working towards this such as Diversify The Stage, who we have partnered with, along with Roadies of Color United. The best way to do this is for people hiring to reach out to these organisations for names and resumés and interview these people. Every person in a position to hire should be a diverse crew. There are so many talented people who just never get the chance. People can reach out to SoundGirls, Diversify the Stage, and Roadies of Color for this. As for working conditions on the road, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed as well as sustainability/greening in touring. I am not aware of organisations working for safer and fair workplaces. However, there are organisations working towards greener touring. The band I work for, Pearl Jam, has done a lot of work on this, as well as Jack Johnson. I know there are more and I would love to see an organisation put together detailed guides for all levels of touring.

SoundGirls’ Co-Founder, Karrie Keyes

With a vision to inspire and empower young women and girls to enter the world of professional audio and music production, SoundGirls.org provides support, career development, and tools to help those working in the field advance in their career. Co-Founder, Karrie Keyes discusses the group’s origin, the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for change in the events sector. How did you get involved with live events? During my teen years, I mainly hung out with two groups of guys as I found I related to them easier than girls. The commonality between the two different groups was music. One day, we visited a friend’s rehearsal space, and I saw a soundboard for the first time and wondered if I could run it. Our friend, Ben, was older and in a band that got paying gigs; he laughed at me and told me girls couldn’t run the soundboard. I wondered what other skills were needed to run it or if the only qualification needed was being a dude. I then started to wonder what other jobs there might be in the music industry and had only a vague sense of what roadies did or what it took to put on a live show. As it is with so many things in life, my path would instantly change over a simple decision. The decision was – what punk rock show to go to: Fear or Black Flag? My friends were going to Fear and I could get a ride, while Black Flag would mean a public bus that stopped running at 10 pm, leaving me

What’s on the horizon for SoundGirls.org? We will be celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring a ‘groundbreaker’ each day. We are working to curate a Spotify playlist for their initiative on International Women’s Day of women and non-gender conforming producers and engineers, which may become a regular feature. We will continue with our ‘Ask the Experts Webinars’ and we hope to be back on the road with more diverse crews soon. www.soundgirls.org

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

this really difficult time. Last summer, WILM hosted free weekly webinars on Zoom, with members from across Europe covering a wide range of topics, from lighting design to tour management. It was a great opportunity for our members to learn new skills and connect with each other. We also took the opportunity to connect with other organisations and take part in radio shows, panel discussions and webinars– including #WeMakeEvents campaign demonstrations. Recently, we were invited to host a network session at (R)ISE spotlight, which is a monthly series of free-to-attend digital events, based around key ISE technology areas for people who produce, host, and supply live events. Together with the crew radio Ancroo.live, we have established a monthly one-hour show. We are quite proud of these radio shows made by crew for crew and are enjoying the engagement from members and supporters in order to put these shows up. Against all the odds, we also managed to host a virtual rendition of our Christmas Party/WILM Awards in 2020, which was a fun and morale boosting event. We decided that even though many of us haven’t worked this year, we should still celebrate our achievements. It was a huge success.

WOMEN IN LIVE MUSIC

What steps would you like to see when live events return to improved diversity of touring crew and working conditions? Malle: We would like to see that the industry focuses on diversity and doesn’t forget that there are some really talented women out there. We will, of course, continue our effort in increasing diversity in the industry through WILM’s community. However, WILM wants the live event industry in general to pay more attention to the crew part. It has been more than clear during the lockdown that we have been completely forgotten, and that it is something we need to work on. We are poorly organised, and there is hardly any data on us. We haven’t really made it easy for the different governments or the rest of the industry to find sustainable solutions for those working behind the stage. However, WILM is working on forming a European council for the Live Event Industry, which includes the UK, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

WILM Founders Malle Kaas and Hannah Brodrick.

For the past three years, Women In Live Music has showcased the talent of females in the industry. Founders and Sound Engineers, Malle Kaas and Hannah Brodrick discuss how 2020 has been for the organisation… How did you both get involved in live events? Malle: I went to my first rock show at the age of eight, and I was sold on the spot. I picked up an interest in physics and electronics from my father and brothers. We would play a lot of music on the stereo, from ABBA to Sex Pistols. None of us were musicians, but that didn’t matter. I wanted to work behind the scenes and be surrounded by amplifiers and cables. My first gig was as a Stage Tech with Faith No More. FOH Engineer, Bruce Knight took me under his wing, and showed me how to become a sound engineer.

Hannah: In some ways, I am grateful for lockdown because it made me realise how overworked and stressed I was and hadn’t even realised. I think a lot of other people working in the industry feel the same way. I am really hopeful that this time has given people a chance to reflect on perhaps creating a better work-life balance for crew and that we are paying more attention to the mental well-being of our colleagues.

Hannah: I came from a musical family, but I hated performing. When I was a teenager, I spent all my money on going to gigs and buying records and knew I had to be a part of music somehow, but I didn’t know what options there were outside of performing. I had no concept of live sound engineering, so I assumed I wanted to be a record producer. I went to university and got a degree in Music Technology & Sound Design but still didn’t feel at home in the recording studio, so after a couple of years of working unpaid internships for music PR firms and speaker manufacturers, I managed to get some work experience at a theatre – which led me to freelancing for local venues and small production companies, setting up sound, staging and lights for small events.

What’s next for WILM? Malle: One topic we gave a lot of focus to in 2020 and will do in the years to come was that of Motherhood combined with a career in live music. We conducted a report last year, based on over 200 women in the industry, and the outcome was rather devastating. It showed us that we need to focus on this subject as more women are becoming a steady part of the industry. It is vital that we start to think about how to create an inclusive atmosphere and the right conditions for soon-to-be-mums as well as touring mums out there on the gigs. It’s such a shame if you feel you have to hide your pregnancy or have to be afraid of never being able to go back to the industry if you decide to have children. We definitely need to debate more on this subject, but we also need to take action to provide some more welcoming and appropriate facilities for this specific group of colleagues. And here we are, of course, talking about both the colleagues on stage as well as those behind stage.

How has WILM evolved in recent years? Malle: We launched the project to the public in January 2018, and after three years, we can conclude WILM has been a success from day one. We have been well received from the very start all around Europe by new members, both men and women. We have almost 4,000 members in our Facebook group, which has a beautiful vibe – with daily tips, anecdotes, job offers, suggestions of useful webinars, and much more. We have more than 250 qualified and dedicated women showcased on our Crewlist on WILM’s website, which allows artists and booking agencies to easily find a female crewmember for their next gig.

Hannah: We are also keen to host WILM meet-ups all over Europe so our members can have a long-overdue catch-up as soon as we are able to do so. But in the meantime, we will continue the WILM radio shows, and we are about to set up a YouTube account for all of our webinars, and in general working on improving our website and social media channels to keep everybody included and connected. www.womeninlivemusic.eu

How has WILM kept the community going during these trying times? Hannah: I’m amazed at how well our community pulled together during

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

and Keeley Myers, among others. “They are doing amazing things with touring and event folks at a really high level, running monthly informative, dynamic sessions with a view to how we work collaboratively to create and curate these inclusive safe spaces within the live events industry,” she added. “Lotje Horvers has also been an amazing resource and is doing so much for female empowerment in the industry right now.” Kakaire, who is hoping to be able to work at some festivals or shows over the summer following the 3T pass out, commented: “We’ve all been encouraged to keep networking and honing our skills for when the industry comes back again.” Grace Esia – currently working on writing and producing projects in her spare time, while making inroads in the sector – believes that 3T has helped keep her “eye on the ball” and not feel discouraged by setbacks when breaking into the fiercely competitive and often closed-off sector. “COVID-19 has taken a toll on the plans that I had in my career but, thanks to this programme, I was able to feel inspired and keep pursuing this career. It also shone light on something that is not talked about a lot in live sound, which is the underrepresentation of Black female sound techs. This programme gave me the confidence and the push to go out there and change that.” Lawson said being a part of 3T was the “biggest and most positive” highlight of a challenging 12 months as a freelance sound engineer. “Being able to offer knowledge and support to our amazing students and see them go from unsure applicants to confident graduates was beyond brilliant,” she commented. “Sharing knowledge and experience, especially in this industry, can often be daunting and leave you feeling vulnerable, but doing this in a female environment was powerful, positive and so very welcome for both myself and our students. The level of support that these incredible women showed for eachother as individuals and to myself as a Course Leader will stay with me and I can only hope I did as much for them as they have for me.” Key to the success of the 3T training programme is the holistic approach to support. “We are always on the look-out for opportunities, organisations or educational material we can pass along as well as being on hand to talk through any queries,” Lawson said. “I’m always super happy when anyone comes forward with a question about a potential job or a gig they’re involved in!” From 3T’s perspective, there are steps yet to be widely adopted by the live events industry to improve the diversity of touring crew and preexisting working conditions. Townsend said it became apparent that the space was only being created predominantly for one type of person. “2020 has unveiled the fact that there are many other potential talented, professional and passionate people of many ethnicities and genders that can certainly do and take on roles within the touring crew, which is amazing, and has been a long time coming,” she explained, adding that the main steps that need to be adopted involve “keeping the consistency of actively seeking and allowing opportunities for a diverse working environment”. Scotland thinks more courses like the 3T training programme are a step in the right direction. “I know all of us who were part of the course are

3T (TOUR TECH TRAINING) The 3T (Tour Tech Training) course was designed by Nao and Mura Masa, Native Management, Sony Music UK, and several individuals to address the imbalance and provide visibility and confidence for Black women by teaching the broad set of technical skills and knowledge required to break into the live music and production sector. Following an intensive interview process, organisers whittled down 550 applicants to 10 students – Emily Odamtten, Genny Turay, Grace Esia, Helena Scotland, Iman Muhammad, Kariss Townsend, Mercy Sotire, Michelle Shaiyen, Perusi Kakaire and Yasmine St. Croix for a final, pass-out ‘Big Weekend’ performance last October [see TPi #256]. While the past 12 months have been an incredibly difficult time for the sector, what has become apparent when speaking to the cohort of 3T graduates and Co-Course Leader, Freyja Lawson, is a sense of community and togetherness, which the team has developed in lockdown to keep spirits up. “With most people within the sector unfortunately being at home, it has allowed for many conversations to be had, and more time allocated for webinars and networking via Zoom calls. From these, many industry people have been made aware of us,” Kariss Townsend informed TPi. “We also have our own Instagram page called @3tcrew, where you can keep up to date with everything that we have been doing on an individual basis.” Helena Scotland – who is currently collaborating with an LA-based artist and hoping to bring her live show to life on Ableton – believes that the 3T course has helped significantly to challenge pre-existing industry stigmas and perceptions, referring to the training programme as a “special” moment. “I would like to think that the birth of the 3T course gave hope to the industry that a much-needed change to diversify the touring industry will occur once live shows return. I think everyone who came to help us during the ‘Big Weekend’ performance was reminded why they enjoy the sector so much, which will keep them going ready for when shows come back in full force.” Genny Turay – who is currently operating as an A&R Intern – remains impressed with the “resilience” of the industry. She pinpointed the 3T WhatsApp group as a “shining beacon of light” for sharing resources, memes and work opportunities. “One of the crew, Mercy Sotire [aka Mercy’s Cartel] is an artist who had a music video that involved some of the 3T crew members taking part in the shoot and performance, which just felt like a ‘full circle’ moment for us,” Turay explained. “Perusi has also been working with Nao and Little Mix on some projects. Everyone is still feeling a lot of momentum from the course last summer and putting themselves out there.” Turay was recently invited into The Tour Production Group along with fellow graduates Perusi Kakaire and Yasmine St.Croix – a collective of industry insiders and key decision makers spearheaded by Joanne Croxford 40


passionate about paying it forward, teaching others after us and making room to bring others in. As much as the whole 3T crew can do this, we need others in the industry to be doing the same thing – going into youth organisations to do talks, going into schools, doing talks online.” She believes the major issue within the touring industry for people of colour and especially Black women is accessibility. “There’s a lack of people that look like us already there, which end up being two major deterrents. Breaking down barriers to entry and making it known that everyone is welcome is something 3T has done to improve the diversity of the touring crew,” Scotland added. “The touring industry isn’t perfect, but everyone needs to talk about it and their experiences instead of glossing over it. The more honest we are, the more the issues will be public and then change can come, while letting everyone know the realities of what they’re getting into.” Turay would like to see the industry become more accessible to newcomers by providing more tangible pathways into it. “In 2021 and beyond, your gender, sexuality, race or disability shouldn’t stop you from getting on a tour bus and being an amazing crew member. I think things like inclusive signage at gigs, and in-house inclusivity briefings with staff are all simple things that could make a big difference for encouraging diversity on the road.” Kakaire equally believes that more opportunity for new faces would be a welcome change. “It’s a difficult sector to break in to, so level-entry positions for people that are new to live or the ability to get in front of tour and production managers for workshops or mock production rehearsals could be beneficial in order to recruit a more diverse crew.” In Esia’s eyes, the solution is simple: hire more BAME female techs.

“Acknowledging the issue and talking about it is really important, but now it’s time for action.” For Lawson, simply being involved in this initiative has not only been a “humbling and powerful” experience, but also an “necessary and eyeopening” pursuit. “It’s made me realise just how far we as an industry have to go in order to become a truly diverse and inclusive space and what kind of work we should be doing to get there,” Lawson stated. “I’m incredibly lucky in that the people I work with are actively trying to make a difference when it comes to diversity and I truly hope that the rest of the industry takes notice.” According to Lawson, the live events industry lacks several crucial components when it comes to being an inclusive industry – visibility, accessibility and accountability. “We wanted to focus on these aspects and how we could challenge them in order to make the necessary changes to create space for anyone and everyone who may want to be a part of the industry. Everyone is welcome and we must do more to ensure that is the case,” she reported. “Sometimes these changes can be difficult, scary or even uncomfortable but it’s only by taking the time to educate ourselves as individuals that we can begin to make these changes.” Lawson is currently awaiting the return to live events while engaging with the community as part of the #WeMakeEvents campaign. “We had a lot of interest from different companies about the future of 3T, so I’m hopeful more people will take note of what we created and how they can contribute to further initiatives.” Find more information on the 3T (Tour Tech Training) course, graduates and their CVs at: www.nativemgmt.co.uk/3t

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INTERVIEW

PIXMOB CAPTIVATES SUPER BOWL LV AUDIENCE Montreal-based firm captivates the Super Bowl LV audience and adapts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic with a brand-new Safeteams initiative. TPi’s Jacob Waite sits down with PixMob President, Jean-Olivier Dalphond to reflect on the feat.

PixMob provided an unforgettable spectacle for Super Bowl LV, despite a challenging year for North America’s biggest annual sporting event. Taking place on 7 February at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, Super Bowl LV played host to an estimated 25,000 socially distanced fans – a third of the stadium’s capacity – as well as thousands of cardboard cutouts and a career-spanning performance by The Weeknd during the Halftime Show. Employing around 30,000 LED wristbands for live audience members and cardboard cutouts, 500 ultra-powerful LED “flares” for the performers on the field and 75 LED face masks, PixMob demonstrated its ability to turn audiences into part of the show while creating an “entrancing” canvas of light for viewers at home. Gaps in the empty seats were filled with lights and cardboard cutouts. In the daylight, the cardboard cutouts represented 2D audience members, while at night, with PixMob pixels, during the show the entire stadium came alive with light. “We’re very happy and honoured to be doing the Super Bowl Halftime Show for a second year in a row, especially during these exceptional pandemic conditions,” PixMob President, Jean-Olivier Dalphond

commented. “We approached it as both a challenge and an opportunity, and we are very pleased to have been able to offer such an uplifting experience for everyone watching this extraordinary event during these unprecedented times.” Having played a key part in the 2014 and 2020 event, Dalphond underlined the unique nature of Super Bowl LV. “The biggest difference this year was the COVID-19 protocols, which were implemented by organisers and which the team adhered to on site,” he explained, walking TPi through the frequent testing, PPE and social distancing requirements. “The NFL applied the most comprehensive COVID-19 secure health and safety restrictions possible to ensure the safety of the crew, performing artists and sports teams. Above all, our crew felt safe on site.” PixMob Executive Producer, Sophie Blondeau; Technical Directors, Jacques Vanier and Christophe Lessard-Drolet; Pixel Manager, Samantha Lynn and Programmer, Rafael Linares – who supported remotely from Sweden, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions – worked closely with Eric Marchwinski of Early Bird Visuals on programming and integration. “Equipment was installed into the upper tiers of the rig. If you factor in the 42


PIXMOB

The PixMob team at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa for Super Bowl LV.

humidity and 30° weather, the team came out as the real heroes of this project,” Dalphond remarked. With artists performing in close proximity, veteran Super Bowl Production Designer, Bruce Rodgers enlisted the support of PixMob to create “LED eyes” on top of 75 facemasks. “We had the entire space of the field to play with, so we created a unique source of light in the hand flares, in collaboration with the creative teams, to provide a unique experience for the audience in the stadium and those watching at home,” Dalphond said. PixMob kit was triggered and operated by an MA Lighting grandMA2 console, through standard DMX protocol, using infrared PAR light, referred to by Dalphond and the team as “wash transmitters”, which send a signal to select objects. “We were able to provide a PixMob infrared moving head to the Super Bowl, for the first time,” Dalphond enthused. “We sent out infrared data that the wristbands receive and interpret to create waves via infrared control. This allows us to independently control different elements, such as the eyes, hand flares, and audience wristbands from the console. It’s a rather elegant rigging setup, with six moving heads covering the span of the entire stadium.”

wearables that record interaction between 2m, enabling social distancing and tracking the spread COVID-19,” Dalphond explained. “We have a hub that connects to mobile data, which can be transferred within range of a mobile network, for contact tracing.” Although there are possibilities for the live events sector and the touring world to adopt Safeteams, by the time tours are permitted, contact tracing will, hopefully, be a thing of the past. However, Safeteams could also double as a real-time location service for kit. “You would be able to find the equipment on tour in an instant, being able to localise them in space,” Dalphond noted. Adoption of Safeteams has already been extremely high, with over 50 US, Canadian and Quebec-based companies now working with the technology, including: CanSave, Metal Power Product, Courchesne-Larose, Moderco and All Weather Windows, with more to be announced soon. “Although Safeteams has been adopted strongly by the industrial sectors – such as meat preparing plants and bottling industries – interestingly, our fastest-growing market is TV and broadcast, where COVID-19 solutions must be deployed rapidly for shooting, which is what we’re good at.”

SAFETEAMS Renowned for its collaboration on tours with Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes and the Spice Girls in recent years, as well as being a key player in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, NHL and NBA playoff games, PixMob has shifted and adapted to the so-called COVID-19 era with the creation of Safeteams – a bold new initiative tackling the pandemic in the events, commercial and industrial sectors. “We’ve had to diversify dramatically. In one week, all of our business stopped last year,” Dalphond said. “However, because we are a company that creates its product from A-Z, we have been able to pivot our R&D capabilities towards searching for and piloting solutions in the fight against COVID-19.” Utilising PixMob’s proprietary wearable technologies, Safeteams assists organisations wishing to reopen or maintain safe operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Safeteams provides social distancing and contact tracing solutions that create safe work environments through the use of connected devices designed to help stop the spread of the virus within workplaces. “With an extreme market response, we’ve created Safeteams’

‘COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCES MAKE US FEEL HUMAN’ Reflecting on the success of Super Bowl LV, despite the pandemic-related hurdles, Dalphond and the crew were “grateful” to be back to some semblance of normality. “There is a sense of accomplishment from us to still operate and collaborate with the creative minds behind the Super Bowl,” he said. “Despite being away from our typical day to day for so long, the project was seamless, which is testament to the crew’s expertise.” According to Dalphond, as well as developing solutions for COVID-19, creating immersive experiences is key going forward. “Before the pandemic, the live events industry would consider spectacles as rituals. Rituals allow you to mark the time, relationships and transitions in life. We are now devoid of collective rituals, so the idea of watching Super Bowl LV, in person or on the television, brings a sense of normality and aspiration in such dark times. After all, collective experiences like this make us feel human.” TPi Photos: PixMob www.pixmob.com www.safeteams.co 43


IN PROFILE

44


ASTERA

Opposite: Astera Sales and Marketing Director, Sebastian Bückle

IN PROFILE: ASTERA Astera Sales and Marketing Director, Sebastian Bückle explains how the company has adapted during this trying time for the live events sector. TPi’s Stew Hume reports...

With lighting designers across the world turning their attention to livestreaming, the barrier between live and broadcast seems narrower than ever. Throughout the past 12 months, one recurring fixture brand has featured on these productions time and again – Astera. With numerous examples of lighting designers selecting the manufacturer’s offerings as part of the visual backbone for stream performances, including Dermot Kennedy’s LD Owen Pritchard-Smith citing Astera LED Titan Tubes as his “absolute go-to” for the singer’s performance at London’s Natural History Museum, TPi was keen to chat to Astera about how the company has fared during these trying times. “The live events sector is where Astera began, but over the past two years, we’ve seen significant interest from the film world,” began Astera Sales and Marketing Director, Sebastian Bückle, discussing the variety of applications of the brand’s fixtures. “We have always designed our fixtures to have a wide range of potential uses. The idea being that a customer would be able to rent the fixtures for a number of purposes and get a great return on investment.” Astera is a dynamic international operation based on two continents. Product design, R&D and marketing are directed from Germany, while the manufacturing operation is based in China, where the company has had its own factory and dedicated workforce for over a decade. Like most companies in 2020, Astera took an initial hit in sales from March to June, with the events industry grinding to an abrupt halt. “With the film industry making a quicker return, we began to slowly get orders again at a sustainable level,” stated Bückle. This enforced downtime provided Astera with a chance to evaluate how the firm could maintain contact with its customer base, given its main communication tool – trade shows – was suddenly off the table. “In a normal year, Astera does around 30 exhibitions; they are our core way to connect with our customers and they take up the majority of our marketing budget,” Bückle revealed. The Sales and Marketing Director explained how one particular staff member, who typically spends most of their time out on the road for in-person demos, seminars and trade shows, had to change tack and became the face of their series of online training and demonstrations. “Our online virtual content has been evolving rapidly throughout the past 12 months,” Bückle commented. What started as a simple “webcam

setup” has now evolved into a studio for Astera’s customers to receive highquality content about new equipment and training. “We now offer tutorials in a really professional setting,” stated Bückle. “We’ve also realised that we now have the ability to create our own content when it comes to product videos – a job we always used to freelance out. This is far more efficient as we know precisely what we want to highlight in each video.” Throughout this process of taking content in-house, Bückle explained how many of Astera’s permanent staff in the German HQ have adapted to challenges and, as a result, may even change their roles within the company going forward. As well as producing content, Astera has created several virtual webinars, gathering “top customers” for an opportunity to suggest new feature sets, products or describe how they have utilised various features in the field. “Although they don’t beat meeting customers face-to-face, these webinars offer opportunities to gain vital intel for Astera’s R&D teams,” stated Bückle. Bückle was also keen to comment on the blurring of boundaries in the world of live and broadcast. “Like most, we used to separate clients in the filming and events world, but right now, everything seems to be blurred – especially with the increased number of streamed events,” he stated. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some people with new opportunities to explore different markets and it will be interesting to see if people will stay in those markets, return, or straddle the two when things return to some semblance of normality.” Bückle remains uncertain of what lies ahead for Astera in 2021, however, the company is still scheduled to appear at several tradeshows, with the hope that some of the events will go ahead. “I think there is a chance that a number of the more local shows will go ahead, but I’m still unsure about some of the larger international ones,” he said. “Even if they do happen, there is always the fear that not enough people will make the trip to visit.” In the meantime, Astera will continue to create content and develop a brand-new website. TPi Photo: Astera www.astera-led.com 45


IN PROFILE

COSMIC EARS: UNIVERSAL RANGE Founder of Cosmic Ears, Philip Gartell explains how the industry’s enforced hiatus has provided time to develop the Universal Range – generic in-ear monitors boasting the firm’s unique audio signature. TPi’s Stew Hume reports…

“It might seem obvious with the benefit of hindsight, but I remember even back in April last year, I had a feeling that COVID-19 was going to put an end to events for the whole of 2020,” opened Gartell, as we began our chat about how Cosmic Ears had faired in this unprecedented year for live events. Speaking from the company’s Cheadle Hulme HQ, over his shoulder TPi can spot a ‘wall of fame’, with cut-outs and memorabilia from the artists that use Cosmic’s products, including Arctic Monkeys, Stormzy, Freya Ridings, The Streets and Royal Blood. With all these artists that adorn the company wall having to ground any future tour for the foreseeable, the IEM manufacturer also had to change its plans for 2020. However, like so many in the sector, Gartell saw an ideal opportunity to work on some new products: the Universal Range – a

generic IEMs that offer the same audio signature as Comic Ears’ custom mould counterparts. “The Universal Range is something we’ve been working on for a few years,” explained Gartell. “We’ve never had the time to bring them to market because we have always been too busy creating our custom IEMs. With over two years of research and development under our belts, we have implemented new designs taking in premium aesthetics and enhanced functionality, while incorporating our highly renowned and trusted Cosmic Ears sound signature.” Throughout 2020, four different Universal products were made available – the U1, U2, U6 and U8 – with the figure referring to the number of drivers per ear capsule. As we move into 2021, Cosmic will also be 46


COSMIC EARS

Cosmic Ears Founder, Philip Gartell.

offering the U3, U4 and U10, along with the U2H – a dual hybrid driver model. Each version of the new Universal Range boasts a high-quality aluminium shell with sound nozzles made from stainless steel. Cosmic also opted for a common two-pin connector so as to be compatible with a wide number of market cables. “Our Universal Range is still very much geared at the music industry and offers the same sound signature as the customs,” stated Gartell, who went on to explain that this will be of particular interest to artists who already use a Cosmic Ears product. “If a band are all on custom CE6Ps, for example, we can now provide them with a selection of U6s for those inevitable times when someone leaves their customs in a hotel room or one gets damaged in the build up to a show,” he said. “Although custom IEMs have become fairly commonplace in the live touring world, there are still some performers who don’t want to make to the jump to moulds, so the generics could be an option for them.” As well as this new range – and despite what you might expect from a product labelled as ‘generic’ – Cosmic has opted to provide customers the

ability to customise the colour selection of various parts of the shell casing, all of which can be designed on the company’s brand-new website. “Our old site was really out of date and the lockdown presented an opportunity to get on with another job that had been put off for some time,” stated Gartell. “The new designer interface we included on the new site allows customers to really visualise what their new IEMs will look like.” The Universal Range is around 25% cheaper than Cosmic’s custom IEM counterparts and, naturally, do not require an audiologist or an appointment at the company’s lab for custom impressions. With Cosmic already receiving a great deal of interest through its global dealer network, the company is beginning to receive orders of the Universal Range, and with the official launch underway, Gartell is hoping to spread the word of the future product releases throughout Europe, as the date for the return of live events draws ever closer. TPi Photos: Cosmic Ears www.cosmicears.com

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PRODUCTION FUTURES

AUDIOVERSITY Considered the industry’s largest free training resource, NEXO and Yamaha Professional Audio join forces to provide access to pro audio education and training activities, accredited by the AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) programme. TPi’s Jacob Waite finds out what AUDIOVERSITY offers the next generation of live events professionals…

distributors and dealers to sound engineers, technicians and consultants, among others. As a former sound engineer, Deffarges, along with Poitrenaud, who still operates as a sound engineer, utilised their collective in-the-field expertise and experience operating in universities across France to create a pragmatic training programme. “AUDIOVERSITY is built on our strong experience as teachers. I believe that you cannot teach if you don’t have experience operating in the field as well as the academic structure of education – it is a symbiotic relationship,” Deffarges theorised. “Plenty of the skills we impart to the attendees are applicable to operating on site.” ‘INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF PROFESSIONALS’ When COVID-19 enforced the ban on mass gatherings in mid-March last year, NEXO reacted swiftly by rolling out a series of webinars, held on Zoom over the course of two weeks, which were subsequently broadcast across the firm’s social channels. “We had 50 sessions in total with 5,000 attendees, which were rebroadcast in the US and Asia on Facebook live,” Deffarges remarked. “Initially, it was a difficult transition for us to shift our processes from on-site education to the online realm. However, it was a worthy pursuit in the long term.” Like many manufacturers, NEXO ramped up its online training during the height of the pandemic. Poitrenaud cited the ease and preparation of “elite-level” education institutes and universities, which immediately acclimatised to online teaching, as a benchmark for AUDIOVERSITY which, at that stage, was in its digital infancy. “It is a different experience to connect with attendees through a screen as opposed to the human connection,” he commented. “We counteract this by interacting with them, ensuring their camera is on and engaging in Q&As. It is an increased workload for us as tutors, however, the rewards are tenfold.” By June last year, the team came to the sudden realisation that the sector was experiencing information overload. Having masterminded the shift to digital, Poitrenaud now faced the initiative’s greatest challenge. “People were fed up with manufacturer webinars. We saw the attendance drop significantly, because the webinar market for the industry was so saturated at that time,” he conceded, explaining that the team’s next challenge was to step up the format and run intimate and casual online sessions at the turn of the year, accredited by the AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) programme, and run by Yamaha. “It’s a new challenge to network and educate the sector in limited numbers,” Deffarges stated. “I believe that audio and video interaction cannot replace physical interaction, however, this is the closest thing to networking and inspiring the next generation of professionals at this difficult time.” AUDIOVERSITY’s online training sessions allow professionals, installers and students to learn about general acoustic principles and access specific pro audio system training, covering everything from system design

Uniting under the banner of AUDIOVERSITY, NEXO and Yamaha Professional Audio have been proactive in developing and maintaining their education and training offerings amid the COVID-19 crisis. Considered the industry’s largest free training resource, unlike most manufacturer-led incentives, AUDIOVERSITY is accredited by the AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) programme, providing attendees the skills and knowledge of universal professional audio products and systems that engineers and technicians are likely to find on the job – something which the organisers describe as ‘agnostic training’. AUDIOVERSITY Head of Training, Nicholas Poitrenaud has been involved in curating NEXO’s education programme since 2015. He and NEXO Director of Engineering Support Division, François Deffarges, sat down with TPi over Microsoft Teams to share their philosophy of disseminating information and know-how to the next generation of live events professionals. “François and I, along with the NEXO Engineering Support Team, organise AUDIOVERSITY’s training and educational content, sharing the workload to make the training as effective as possible for attendees across the globe,” commented Poitrenaud, who last appeared in TPi in November 2020, as he dusted off his roadie uniform to embark on a unique broadcast project which saw Lebanese jazz trumpeter and pianist Ibrahim Maalouf deliver an innovative live performance, with NEXO sound systems providing an immersive soundfield. NEXO’s Engineering Support Department was created six years ago to support the network of the audio community in the broader sense – from

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PRODUCTION FUTURES

NEXO’s global online training squad of Carole Marsaud, Stephane Brocard, Nicholas Poitrenaud. Middle row: Leo Manhimho, Joe White, François Deffarges, Bertrand Billon, Preston Gray. Bottom row: Andy Simmons, Jean Jacques Vias, Roberto Tschopp, Celso Papadopulos.

and deployment through to system installation. “Attendees range from experienced professionals to those making their first steps in the industry; they are wholly dependent on locale and their requirements. We’re even thinking of increasing it to meet demand.”

and Yamaha share the transmission of data for those striving for a career in the industry,” Deffarges commented. “We have unified our training under the same brand, with former ETC (Education Training Certification) programmes, which allows us to cover a broad range of topics within the audio spectrum.” AUDIOVERSITY is open to all, with the only sign-up requirement being a description of attendees’ background. “This is vitally important in countries where the access to free education is not always granted,” Deffarges remarked. “The uptake and our pre-existing relationships with several elite educational institutions across the globe allow us to not only loan our kit, but provide our expertise – sharing the dos and don’ts of touring with the next generation of professionals.” The returns for NEXO are clear: increasing the visibility of the brand and connecting with end users. “This is the closest thing we can offer to realworld experience right now. While the COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating effect on the industry, it is also providing us with time to become a better skilled and more prepared workforce,” Deffarges concluded. “While these sessions do not compensate for in-person meetings, they help us connect, inspire and educate the live events workforce. We realise this is going to be a benefit post-pandemic, so we’ll adopt the things we’ve learned over the past year to communicate and educate digitally as well as in-person, when it is safe to do so.” AUDIOVERSITY online sessions are available to view on the website links below, with sessions scheduled up until June as part of a six-month rolling programme. TPi Photos: NEXO www.nexo-sa.com/education/online-sessions www.yamaha.com/2/audioversity www.avixa.org

‘AGNOSTIC TRAINING’ Modules include An Introduction to NS-1, Fundamentals of Acoustics, Directive Subs and Design, System Measurement and Tuning, System Control and Monitoring, as well as several classes on application-specific topics that attendees can learn or brush up at no cost without being brand-specific. Courses are approved by AVIXA as an RU provider, so Renewal Units are earned for successfully completing the seminars. “The AVIXA CTS diploma accreditation is not only establishing itself in the United States but as a reference worldwide, it is steadily becoming the only universal diploma in the AV industry,” Deffarges noted. “The general philosophy of NEXO training is what I call ‘agnostic training’ and what AVIXA describes as a nonmanufacturer training, which allows attendees to get double the number of points while learning a range of skills applicable to a number of audio systems – not just NEXO.” According to Deffarges, the AVIXA accreditation has made the AUDIOVERSITY process a much more professional and sophisticated affair. “Sessions are scheduled in advance, there’s a six-month rolling agenda, with three to four sessions per month, featuring mandatory online assessments,” he added. “While the AVIXA experience requires more legwork on our behalf, it is a hugely rewarding venture.” Educational establishments using the programme include LIR Academy, CNSMDP, INA, IAD and Belmont University, among others. “Yamaha, as a global company, is highly involved in education through an enormous network of music schools and institutes. Historically, the company has provided training at a very high level. It is our responsibility that NEXO

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IN THE FIELD

IN THE FIELD: LUNA REMOTE SYSTEMS Having been the camera system of choice on a number of global tours, Luna Remote Systems has recently found a new niche in the world of livestreaming. TPi speaks to Luna Remote Systems Co-Owner, David Nixon and Camera Operator, Brendan McCool about the company’s offerings and why we are likely to see them on more riders in the future.

Since 2014, the team at Luna Remote Systems has cemented its place as one of the leading remote camera system suppliers in multiple markets, including broadcast, film and live events. For the latter, the company’s products have been a regular sight on a number of large-scale live tours in the past few years – from Shawn Mendes to Drake. Despite lockdown being in full effect, the Luna team has not neglected the live music market, having been the camera system of choice for a handful of bigbudget livestreams, including James Bay’s show at Shakespeare’s Globe and Niall Horan’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall. “We started from the ground up with a single system operating out of a garage in Barnet,” stated Co-Owner, David Nixon, who alongside Dean Clish, founded Luna Remote Systems with high aspirations, hoping to become the largest supplier of high-end specialist remote camera support systems in the UK. “Breaking into touring came naturally to us,” continued Nixon. “Many of our systems were already used on multi-camera TV music shoots. Despite this and after some research, we felt it was important to cater for the specific differences and working practices to make our equipment more

tour friendly. We worked hard on repackaging the kit, stripping weight and reducing the number of boxes. All of which help to significantly reduce load-in times for crew.” To get a first-hand account of how the equipment handled a long world tour, TPi grabbed some time with Shawn Mendes: The Tour Camera Technician and Operator, Brendan McCool. For the duration of the 10-month tour, which comprised 100 shows across five continents, McCool and the team manned an arsenal of two Junior5C Remote Dollies and two Series5C Axis Hotheads. “I have worked with Luna since they first got started,” recalled McCool, outlining a long working friendship with Co-Owner, Dean Clish. “For Shawn Mendes: The Tour, we had the two Dollies on the main stage – one at the front and the other in the rear,” he explained. “We then had one of the hotheads on stage for a locked-off shot, with the other on the b-stage.” The entire setup meant that two operators were able to control the four machines via a purpose-built operating station. The systems were configured into an IP network and run over a single SMPTE fibre per system. 50


LUNA REMOTE SYSTEMS

Luna Remote Systems Co-Owner, David Nixon.

Prior to the production hitting the road, the team at Luna Remote made sure they knew exactly what the client was looking for from the touring kit with a number of meetings with Tour Director, Wannes Vandendriessche. “Luna Remote’s Junior 5 Dolly gave us the ability to dynamically capture what we needed to be able to translate the artists energy to the crowd. The small footprint of the system made it easy to travel around the world and the quick rig time meant we didn’t have to worry about being ready for the show on a tight schedule,” explained Vandendriessche. “When it comes to a touring environment, having everything run over SMPTE was a godsend!” exclaimed McCool. “The fact that this was a multi-camera setup, but all run on one fibre meant it could be deployed very quickly. In the touring world, you are not able to lay loads of cable each day, so this solution was very neat. Also, any one of the control desks could control any of the systems, which gave us a great deal of flexibility.” McCool enthused about the shots that were captured utilising the Luna system for the IMAG screens, stating how “it was broadcast-quality each night” – a view that was clearly shared as many of the shots from the Luna system were also spliced into a recording of the show for Netflix. For the Toronto show Director, Paul Dugdale utilised the Luna kit, supplemented with Sony F55s. For the screens coverage on the other shows, the kit was fitted with Sony 1500s. “I know they had a lot of cameras on that shoot, but as Shawn had become so accustomed to the Luna Dollies we had on the tour, he was well practiced at playing to the camera, which created some great looks for the final Netflix cut.” Talking generally, McCool discussed how the level of touring camera production prior to lockdown had seen a seismic shift

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LUNA REMOTE SYSTEMS

Camera Operator, Brendan McCool on the road with Shawn Mendes.

and, with the number of shows likely to be limited for forthcoming tours, thrive,” he added. “All of our systems are compatible with both cinema a solid camera package will be more important than ever. “After Shawn’s and TV setups and allow the operators to have finesse and nuance in their tour, we were getting a lot of interest from other projects, which were halted moves, creating some truly breath-taking shots.” due to the pandemic. However, what we produced As Nixon rightly pointed out, remote cameras with Luna’s solutions clearly grabbed people’s offer a great solution to reducing the number attention.” of crew on set as well as offering angles With touring still on a hiatus, McCool has turned unachievable with conventional cameras. his hand to the world of sport, working on a number Nixon is now looking forward to a busy few of basketball projects where Luna Remote Systems months. “We’re delighted to announce that we’ve have been deployed, with the Junior 5C Remote brought Jo Adams into the team as Commercial Dolly tacking up and down the court. Director. Along with her, we have created a With touring making up 20% of Luna Remote’s roadmap for the continued growth of Luna over revenue, the pandemic inevitably had a hit on the coming years. That involves expanding all “After Shawn’s tour, we were the business. However, according to Nixon, the aspects of the business, including upscaling our getting a lot of interest from company has “bounced back strong” using the time existing inventory of equipment as well as offering to improve and develop some new solutions, which new exciting solutions in the near future.” other projects, which were will soon be available for its customers. Collectively, Luna Remote is focusing its halted due to the pandemic. “The increase in COVID-19 safe livestreams has attention on the sports broadcast and light meant that we have been in demand in the latter entertainment that has continued to be steady. However, what we produced half in 2020, which we anticipate to continue at least “We have one eye on the touring and events with Luna’s solutions clearly until touring starts to pick up,” he explained. sector,” added Nixon, which he predicts, “will “Streaming as a whole has given us all the recover with a vengeance”. grabbed people’s attention.” opportunity to work in some amazing locations that TPi Brendan McCool, would have been overlooked in normal times. We Photos: Luna Remote Systems think that it is a great niche for us, where we really www.lunaremote.co.uk Camera Technician & Operator 52


PSA: THE BIGGER PICTURE

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT PSA’s Andy Lenthall navigates the sector-specific speed bumps of the road to EU working status.

This road to post-Brexit sunlit uplands seems to be a bumpy one; we’re all travelling on the same road; we just seem to be in different vehicles with different levels of comfort. A journey that springs to mind was a school climbing club trip to Wales. It rained, naturally, heavily, relentlessly on the final day so the decision was made to nip over to Anglesey to have a look at some majestic sea cliffs that we all hoped to conquer at some point in the future. The trip home was taken either in the relative comfort of a minibus or, as your correspondent experienced, the back of the physics teacher’s Series 1 Land Rover – three unwashed, sodden teenagers, side-facing metal bench seat with a seriously ineffective foam pad, freedom of movement impossible due to the baggage loosely strapped on the opposite bench, no idea of where we were on the road, condensation creating a micro climate akin to a rainforest. It was unpleasant, slow, tedious, worrying at times but we got there, despite the minority of those on board trying hard to convince us that we never would. The problem with any kind of event production is that we don’t really know when we’ll set off on our new routes to working in the EU; all we have is what we read, whether correct or not. It seems that attitudes fall into two camps: those that are studying detail to see what we can do, and those that are determined to focus on what, in their opinion, we can’t do. The latter seem to be winning the battle in some quarters, running a real risk of creating non-existent problems that put people off using UK crews and vendors or deter bands, say, from touring. A widely shared story from New Order stating that they’d cancelled a European tour due to added expense and administration was a bit of a surprise to some that would usually be notified of plans to tour. Of course, the majority of people connected with touring productions voted to remain in the EU, foreseeing trouble with the ending of free movement. Once the referendum result was declared, some maintained their stance whilst others cited the democratic will of those that voted and chose to accept the result. Now we’re in the grips of the agreement brokered by our various negotiators, there are some that seemingly remain determined to see our sector fail to prove a point, utilising some of the populist platforms that got us into this situation in the first place. Of course, much more is being achieved in the background, with initial focuses on work permit requirements, both inbound and outbound, by our partners in LIVE yielding a guide to those countries (16 at the last count) that give permit-free access to performers and crew. The guide also lists those countries that may need some degree of form filling to gain an exemption plus the four (yes, only four) member states that have a chargeable system in place. The one major market with such a regime is Spain. Of the others, one has responded that their process was not really designed for cultural activity and shouldn’t be a problem. What many are citing in theory could well prove to be a lot simpler in practice. Much criticism has been levelled at the UK Government, perhaps rightfully so, but perhaps also there is blame to be placed on both sides for not having effective representation from cultural departments or directorates in the negotiations, seemingly choosing instead to have them play bit parts in the acts that affected our sector’s ability to move performances. Certainly in terms of freedom of movement for people, there was will on both sides. This has simply led to the ‘they said, we said’ blame game. At a recent All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Music

meeting, Musicians Union General Secretary, Horace Trubridge noted that it is important to establish whether there is a will to negotiate, that there is nothing to be gained from looking backwards at who said what and that we should be informed if Government is willing to go and talk. The stock response from Digital and Culture Minister, Caroline Dinenage is ‘my door is always open’. During the same APPG meeting, one MP suggested that she should walk through it and go knock on theirs. While some sit and blog and ministers toe the party line, the live music sector is pushing on with work. It has been suggested that bi-lateral deals are the way forward, but with a minister letting the heat out through an always-open door, there is a flurry of activity between UK businesses and those in the more problematic member states to see what pressure can be exerted from within. If a promoter in Spain sees an opportunity to sell tickets being blocked by rules that don’t exist in other member states, they are probably better placed to request easements than a UK Government ministry that was left in the cold during negotiations and is currently sitting in a draughty office, door ajar. It has been mentioned that production suppliers have already begun asking UK crew about their ‘EU working status’. The response should, of course, be that they can travel to any EU country for a maximum of 90 days in 180, with the majority requiring no work permit for the activity they carry out. What we really do need to consider and perhaps research is just how many UK crew have spent more than the newly allotted time in the EU in the past, and how many of the ‘problem states’ they have worked in. It has to be said that any financial or admin burden created by needing access for more that 90 days may well be offset by the money earned in that period. None of this should be necessary but someone voted for it. If freedom of movement for people looks better on paper than it does on some Facebook groups, access for trucks really is as bad as it seems, albeit before any of the new arrangements are tested in practice. With major suppliers already operating or launching operations in the EU, there is a stop gap solution that has already been proposed. This would involve giving unilateral unlimited access to ‘cultural haulage’ operators that are co-located in the EU and UK, the newly EU-registered trucks being afforded EU and UK access. In addition, companies that have been forced to relocate should be supported to do so, with grants towards the costs of retraining drivers and operational staff to meet EU requirements. This proposal is with Government. It also paints a picture of the entire supply ecosystem being forced to move to the EU if there is no-long term solution to market access for vehicles. The one Government solution that shows promise is the development and funding of a ‘Cultural Export Office’. Whether this is simply a portal for information or a pot of cash to help enable touring for grassroots artists remains to be seen but, as it was a proposal from the Culture Secretary, it’s an idea that could gain traction. One thing is certain; it’s the industry rather than our Government that has so far taken the wheel for this particular trip, dealing with realities, practicalities and future practices rather than pawing over the recent past. Judging on past performance alone, it’s perhaps best in our hands, working on what’s possible, navigating speed bumps and avoiding those that are determined to throw a Stinger across the road to prove a point. TPi www.psa.org.uk


INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

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INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

3LR Lighting Film and Studio Liaison, Christina Nowak; AV Stumpfl Executive Directors, Stefanie Niederwimme and Harry Gladow; Chyron’s Olivier Cohen and Rosa Pereiro; Elation Professional Business Development Manager, Graham Hill; Focusrite Group VP for Education, Americas, Dr. Lee Whitmore; Leisuretec partners Void Acoustics.

3LR Lighting has appointed Christina Nowak as Film and Studio Liaison. “Christina will act in a consultancy role for 3LR, developing relationships and raising awareness amongst the film production community of the brands and products we represent. She combines an acute understanding of technologies and their applications with the communications skills essential for developing new business opportunities,” 3LR Managing Director, Matthew Lloyd commented. “Christina’s track record of success is impressive and demonstrates that she has a ready grasp of the culture of this unique sector. We’re delighted to have added someone with her extensive skill set and reputation to the team.” AV Stumpfl has recently appointed two executive directors as part of restructuring measures aimed at maximising the acclaimed company’s management efficiency. In her new role as Executive Director, Stefanie Niederwimmer will be responsible for projection screens, with her colleague Christine Doppelmair taking over her former position as Head of Sales – Screens. Harry Gladow, formerly a global business development manager, will become the new Executive Director for the company’s media server department. AV Stumpfl CEO, Fabian Stumpfl explained the reasons for introducing the two new positions: “Our company experienced substantial growth during the last few years, which led to quite a few changes, like the establishment of our own offices in the USA in 2018. This kind of development also has to be reflected in the management structure, in order to enable further and sustainable growth.”

Chyron has named Olivier Cohen as Senior Vice President of EMEA Sales and appointed Rosa Pereiro to serve as Senior Sales Director for Southern Europe. “Rosa’s experience helping digital media organisations to problemsolve, transform, and grow makes her a perfect fit for our European sales operations,” said Cohen. “We are confident she will play an integral part in helping Chyron to bring versatile, forward-looking solutions to broadcasters and venues.” Pereiro commented: “Chyron is going beyond the conventional graphics workflow to support customers in implementing the software tech stack, architectures, and product integrations that enable next-generation production workflows. Exciting new solutions are in the pipeline at Chyron, and I look forward to matching new production capabilities and workflow models to our customers’ technical and creative aspirations.” Lighting professional Graham Hill is set to serve as Business Development Manager at Elation Professional. “My experience with Elation products and support has always been second to none, from the smallest to the largest clients,” he stated. “Over those years, supporting the most creative and demanding of clients meant that Elation was often asked to create specific products to suit the needs of an industry sector. They did not disappoint and some of those products are still in the range today.” Elation Europe Sales and Marketing Manager, Marc Librecht commented: “We have known and worked with Graham for quite a long time and are delighted that he is finally a full-fledged member of the Elation family. He has always felt a part of the Elation team and we are happy to 54


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INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS

Martin Professional EMEA Lighting Designer Relationship Managers, Michael Straun and Nick Hansen; Neutrik UK Product Marketing Manager, David Morbey; Solotech acquires Morris Light & Sound.

have such an experienced professional on board who truly believes in our products and the people behind them.” Dr. Lee Whitmore, a music and audio industry veteran, and music education thought-leader, has joined Focusrite Group as VP for Education, Americas. His remit is to further develop the Focusrite Group’s cross-brand solutions for Focusrite, Focusrite Pro, Novation, ADAM Audio, Ampify Music, and Martin Audio together in education. Leisuretec has been named as Void Acoustics’ largest distribution partner in the UK. “We are very excited to bring Void into our diverse portfolio of professional audio brands. Not only do their speakers sound incredible, but they also behold an attractive aesthetic that will offer our customers a unique and stylish alternative when planning their projects.” commented Leisuretec Managing Director, Mike Henden. “We are delighted to welcome Leisuretec Distribution to our already expansive network of Void dealers in the UK,” added Void Acoustics Sales Manager, Mike Newman. “Leisuretec are going to be a great addition to the family and with their knowledge and expertise, we are confident they are going to be able to bring the Void brand to a wider audience.” The news comes as Void Acoustics joins forces with a brand new company, Aura Visual System based in Bangkok, Thailand. Aura Visual System is headed up by Pankom Klaykum, he commented: “We share a similar drive for the provision of excellent audio to our customers, and my team and I are excited to be aligning with Void Acoustics as their exclusive distributor for Thailand.” Void Acoustics APAC Sales Manager, Sean Iskhanda added: “While we have done some business in Thailand in the past, there is a huge amount of potential for Void with the country being an important tourist destination and with Bangkok being a major entertainment hub in South-East Asia.” Michael Cannon has acquired the assets and operations of Main Light Industries (MLI). The firm will remain headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware and will retain all current MLI employees, continuing with the current business model of dry hire rental. “Aidas and his team have built a great company over the past 40-plus years,” said Cannon. “Main Light has always been considered one of the preeminent lighting rental providers to the industry and among its strengths are its valued long-term employees like Randy Mullican, Giovanni Ciranni, and Rick McKinney who each have been with the company for more than 20 years.” MLI Founder, Aidas Gimbutas steps away from the company to focus on projects outside of the industry. “Deciding to ‘sell’ your business is never easy,” noted Gimbutas. “Michael is investing in what is obviously a tough time for the industry. He is continuing full time employment for our dedicated and loyal staff; he respects our customer service approach, and he is here to not only continue but will strengthen Main Light’s ability to provide our services well into the future.” Martin Professional has appointed Michael Straun and Nick Hansen as EMEA Lighting Designer Relationship Managers. “We are excited to welcome Michael Straun and Nick Hansen onto the Martin team, especially in the current business climate,” said Head of Lighting, Martin EMEA, Ben Payne. “As working lighting professionals, they each bring valuable first-hand industry experience to the role. Having used Martin and competitors’ products in the field, their insight and perspective will be indispensable for forming relationships with end users and contributing to product development.” Straun is a two-time Knight of Illumination Award-winning lighting designer and director from the UK who has toured the world for the past 15 years while working with artists such as The 1975, Shania Twain, Björk, The xx and Jamie xx. Hansen has worked professionally on shows, events and productions all over the globe, including long-term stints in Las Vegas, audition tours for Britain’s Got Talent and major one-off events like the 2019 Special Olympics and 2020 UAE Commemoration Day celebrations in Abu Dhabi. With a focus on lighting programming, he is keen on increasing awareness and adoption of the Martin P3 platform among the lighting community. Neutrik UK has appointed David Morbey to the newly created position of Product Marketing Manager, creating a full marketing role at management level for the first time within the company. Managing Director, Mark Perrins stated: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to appoint David to this key strategic role within Neutrik UK and I am personally delighted to be working with him once again.” Perrins previously worked with Morbey during his tenure as General Manager at D&M Professional. “I am truly excited to be joining a talented

team at Neutrik UK,” said Morbey. “Neutrik has a long history as a market leader and innovator in the field of connectivity, and I am looking forward to helping shape brand strategy and sales growth in new and non-traditional market sectors for the company’s expanding range of connectivity solutions.” Solotech has acquired Nashville-based Morris Light & Sound. “The Morris Light & Sound and InteRise brands will be strong additions to the Solotech family, perfectly complementing our corporate goals and expanding our capabilities as well as our footprint in the United States. With this acquisition, the increased reach of Solotech as a leader in audio visual and entertainment technology will reinforce our positioning as an industry innovator” said Solotech President and CEO, Martin Tremblay. Morris Enterprises COO, Zack Morris stated: “We are excited to have the Morris brands acquired by Solotech, a highly respected company in the industry. Our company cultures and values such as collaboration and performance complement each other, and we’re confident our clients will continue to receive an elevated experience.” TPi www.tpimagazine.com/category/industry-jobs 55


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BACK CHAT

JOHN CASTRILLON CEO of C3 Productions and Be Square Media takes the hot seat to discuss Be Square – an interactive streaming platform connecting performing artists with audiences in real-time.

What live events companies have been integral to the creation of the platform? I run C3 Productions, an event production company based in Brighton, which, like most of the industry, has suffered considerable losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After conceiving the concept, we created a PDF, which was shared within the events community in our city. Although the concept seemed far-fetched at first and involved an endless amount of work, a good colleague of mine, Jon Wood Director at Ooosh Tours – a backline, vehicle and rehearsal space hire company – took to the idea. He casually shared the idea with a developer friend of his, Tom Barnsbury. Then all of a sudden, the project took off, leading us to create our company, Be Square Media.

What has the feedback been like from performing artists and the sector at large? During early testing, we partnered with the Battersea Arts Centre in London, running a weekend of shows – ranging from stand-up and improv comedy to live music. In addition, we streamed an album launch for Speelburg. What was really interesting from this show was that we had viewers from 10 separate time zones, from LA to Greece. This showed us the true capabilities of the platform and where we were heading was pretty groundbreaking. The common anecdote that I get from every show is, ‘that strangely felt like a real show!’

What does Be Square bring to the live events market? Be Square is an interactive livestreaming platform which joins performers with their audience remotely, creating an immersive and inspiring event. It is a platform that lets friends interact in real time with each other in groups of up to six, while also watching and interacting with performers in real-time.

When was Be Square created and how has it developed throughout the pandemic? Be Square was conceived in April 2020 amid the uncertainty of the live events industry. A month into lockdown, I discovered that most of our clients were streaming their live shows but there seemed to be something missing, which was, of course, human interaction. It is something that we take for granted though and with more than 20 years’ experience in events – ranging from festivals and concerts, to comedy, dance, theatre, corporate awards and others – I’ve figured out that the one common denominator on successful events of any kind is human interaction.

Where do you see the future of the platform? We see the platform becoming an addition to the way we watch and interact with live shows. The platform is not intended to replace live performance but to push the streaming and virtual performance landscape to a new level. It will open doors to people with disabilities, travel restrictions and provide ease to those who cannot make it to a show. 58


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TPi March 2021 - #259