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Out of darkness into light – the articulation of Elbow

Out of darkness into light – the articulation of Elbow
Out of darkness into light – the articulation of Elbow

UK – When lighting designer Cate Carter first conjured with Elbow appearing at the Barclaycard Summer Time (BST) annual concert series in Hyde Park this year she was immediately presented with two dilemmas. “One was the sheer scale of the stage, that enormous wall of LED screen cannot be ignored,” she said. Supplied by Video Design, the wall has, since last year, been extended from centre stage across and right down the outside edges of the PA wings. Wrapping the entire performance platform, it measures200 feet across and 35 high, a total 650sq/m of 9mm.

“The other thing was about timing,” Carter continued, “we started supporting the new album ‘Little Fictions’, earlier this year in February/March. As it was a theatre tour we decided on no IMAG, relying instead on pure content projected onto a rear cyc. Our slot at Hyde Park made both those factors anachronistic; it would be daylight so the content would be too pale and nowhere near the scale required and you simply cannot avoid IMAG for an audience of 60,000.”

As with the problems, Carter found resolution in two forms: “I engaged Phil Woodhead as video director. We had great success with him on previous Elbow arena tours and, as it turned out, he had some magic tucked up his sleeve. The other was Richard Shipman.” Shipman is retained by Jim King at AEG as overall director of all things video for BST.

The Woodhead magic was VideoDust, a real-time video effects software developed by his own company Thundering Jacks. “I’ve used VideoDust myself for Biffy Clyro last year,” said Shipman. “It’s ideal for live music, consolidating a really usable collection of tools and effects. Great for live camera work, the leading-edge effects are really useful.”

For Carter and Woodhead the need was more in the preparation, as Woodhead explained. “I suggested Cate send me some of her content and I’d return with some examples of what could be done to address her concerns. This was some absolutely beautiful content but it was not just a simple matter of scaling it up for the huge screens in Hyde Park.”

Carter sent Woodhead seven examples, almost her entire show. Woodhead returned almost forty examples of what might be done. “That’s the joy of VideoDust,” he said, “It’s very flexible and very quick to regenerate content. Alex Leinster, the head of Video Design, then arranged for us to use a D3 suite; we spent half a day there with Richard Shipman who would be running the content at the Hyde Park show.”

Shipman explained the rationale for such a move. “The process for Elbow is a good example of how myself and Alex organise to make this work. We’ve always said from day one of the first ever BST, this is like no other stage you’ve ever played, the video is that vast. For every band that wants to use content the way to deal with this is to come and spend time in a D3 video suite. Putting everything into pre-viz is the best way to make sure it’s going to work.”

Carter liked what she saw: “I got to see it in visualizer at the studio and was very happy. Phil had given our content a harder, more modern edge, yet managed to retain the stylistic imprint of the theatre show. For IMAG Alex also provided us with a little mini-cam package for the individual musicians. That gave us a lot more angles to explore and made what IMAG we did use more interesting; something Richard exploited really well on the day. All told, a complex but slick operation. For a one off this was definitely worth it.”

photos: Maria Zhytnikova

Out of darkness into light – the articulation of ElbowOut of darkness into light – the articulation of Elbow

1st August 2017

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