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Video Design paints a picture for Mumford & Sons

Video Design paints a picture for Mumford & Sons
Video Design paints a picture for Mumford & Sons

UK – For four years Alex Leinster and his team of video technicians have installed and managed a 1,000 square metres of LED screen and camera package for AEG’s highly regarded Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park concert season. The equipment supplied by Video Design has been slightly expanded this year: “We’ve added a 1.1-metre-wide vertical wrap around strip to the stage left wing to improve the view from the VIP area,” explained Leinster. This well-reasoned attention to detail illuminates the bigger question, what do performers actually do with this generous expanse of video screen?

“The band are very energetic and rock their show, but they are not really a video band in the sense that on tour they don’t have a scrap of LED on stage.” Such was the conundrum outlined by Steve Price, video director for Mumford & Sons, one of the half dozen acts that headlined this event over the two weekends.

“Normally I’m working with cutting to a 16:9 format for IMAG screens each side of stage,” he continued. “Obviously with the way the stage is designed for Hyde Park, with LED floor to roof and wing to wing, you are performing within a sort of giant LED cove, so we had to design a show for the screens.” Leinster at Video Design had already established a procedure to ease this process, “we share our D3 Visualiser with all performers,” he said. Even so, Price needed more support.

“I spoke to Alex and Producer Richard Shipman at Video Design and they were really helpful. They said to me ‘once you know what you want we can map it and set it to time code as you need.” What was really good was they put me in touch with Nils Porrnan, a D3 programmer. He already knew the screen layout having worked on the Kylie show at Hyde Park last year. “Nils is based in London, I’m in Devon, so after a few calls I came up and spent a couple of days with him in his studio. He was very easy to work with. Actually there is no Pro-tools in a Mumford performance, it’s all completely live, so in fact there is no time code. As such we needed to be totally organic and work to what we had.”

‘Most of what we used was live footage shot with an arsenal of Robocams we brought in specifically to create subtle, live backgrounds, often in monochrome. When we needed pre-rendered content we used some slow motion video taken from live shows on tour as well as some drone footage of rocky landscapes and sunsets. Voyeuristic in some sense, for example something shot from a backstage camera, maybe a close-up on a flight case with little depth of field simply revealing a blurred band performing in the background; that’s quite meaningful. Played in black and white and in huge scale it was immediately a strong visual background. The band loved it, and the audience loved it. This was a completely new show for Mumford yet when Video Design came to us and said ‘we have the kit, you’ll have a show’, they were right. They made it that easy.”

In one of those amazing rock & roll instances of happy endings to unintended consequences, Price was presented with a further pressure on the day when, just a couple of hours before the show, the band added a new song to their set. “We needed something and looking around me I saw that there was a perfect blue English summer sky above, dotted with fluffy white clouds. I went up onto the stage and pointed a couple of the mini-cams at the sky on the premise that it would make a good backdrop. As performance approached a beautiful crescent moon appeared in the sky so we zoomed in on that and presented it in huge relief across the stage. It looked fantastic. Then during the song two planes flew overhead leaving clear vapour trails, so for a six-minute song segment we were doubly blessed with long lively content that painted a pastoral yet decidedly urban imprint on the stage.” Its obvious why Mumford like Price’s work so much, and as Leinster commented later. “With four years under our belt I have to say each year gets better and better. From a video perspective this year’s performances were the best we’ve seen.”

photos: Dave Hogan

5th August 2016

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