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Video Design and UB40

Video Design and UB40

UK – Creative vision can often be frustrated by the limitations of technology, yet ever so quietly, UB40 with some help from Grant Hickey, Oli Metcalfe, Video Design and the latest Notch effects software are revealing to their UK audiences that at least one technological barrier has been crossed. “Astro and Ali said to Grant, their production designer, that they wanted to ‘step it up a bit’ as far as this year’s tour was concerned; they wanted something that set it apart from other recent outings.”

As Metcalfe said: “This was a case of right place, right time. It was an opportunity to try out some ideas I’ve been having about generative video and being creative in real-time.”

Metcalfe is video director for the tour, called in by Hickey on that ‘step-up’ initiative from Ali and Astro. “Grant and I have worked together many times before; he has often been my wingman on a number of other productions and I’ve recently seen his work with Kodaline, that was visually very nice.”

Video Design supplies the full video system and crew for UB40, IMAG either side of stage and large LED back wall screen on stage, providing Metcalfe with a Ross Carbonite. Content and Notch resides on a Disguise (formerly D3) server which is final output to all screens. “And, I have a four-camera HD package. When you’re going to try something truly experimental, having the quality of support and stability Video Design provide is essential.”

Metcalfe’s vision was founded on the Notch software. “There’s a lot of excitement around these days about augmented reality; I’ve noticed how Notch has developed recently, in that it now encapsulates generative effects as well as simple compositing workflows which I use on this show in order to place content in 3D space within the large screen surface behind the band.

“This idea of generative effects in real-time is something I’ve wanted to embrace for a while, the UB40 tour offered exactly the opportunity I needed to engage with the technology. The way the Disguise software integrates with Notch is fascinating. Dump it on the server, lock it down, or open it up and work on it in the time-line to alter things. What I’m talking about are super-quick changes to something that even a year ago you would have had to re-work with time against you. A lot of this is down to the speed of the graphical computational hardware as well as some very clever minds giving us these amazing tools to experiment with.”

Metcalfe takes the four camera feeds, cut to two MEs on the Ross, one ME for the side screens, one for the stage screen, feeds them into the Disguise and while its running content, applies Notch effects at will to the camera feeds to final output. “You can take any parameter and make it coincide with the content. It goes very deep and this is just the beginning. We’ve had the conceptual ideas: now here’s the delivery. Perform in the moment, it’s a great way to work.”

The tour opened in Belfast early March: “We had just one day of tech before the tour began,” said Metcalfe. “Credit to Video Design, the whole system was up and running by lunchtime. By the evening Grant and I were already in the red, red wine of comfort as far as the system operation was concerned and already ahead in terms of what we wanted to do with it. That’s the way to start a tour.”

26th April 2019

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