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SFL helps rousing VE Day concert at Royal Albert Hall lift the nation's spirits
UK – It has been 75 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe. In commemoration, London’s Royal Albert Hall (RAH) hosted We’ll Meet Again for VE Day 75 with Katherine Jenkins to honour those who gave their lives so that subsequent generations could come to know peace and freedom. Leading event production supplier, SFL, was honoured to provide the audio and video production for the live performance. The event was organised by TBI Media and Snappin’ Turtle Productions, both long-standing clients of SFL.
With the world overcast by the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, the SSAFA armed forces charity and The Mayor of London joined together with one of London’s most iconic venues, brought the nation together by offering an authentic musical experience.
For the first time since the blitz, the RAH stood empty for an event, but its true life force – the audience – were able to enjoy the performance of Welsh mezzo soprano artist Katherine Jenkins and other musicians in the comfort of their own homes. Another ‘first’ was the way the stage was presented, with the empty auditorium as its backdrop.
“Showing the completely empty auditorium, void of its 5,000-plus audience, sent a really powerful and emotive message to the online audience,” says Craig Lawrence, video and projects director at SFL. “Safety and social distancing were our utmost priority in the planning process.
SFL deployed a complete video and audio solution, which included a full camera solution for a superb six-camera shoot, using a camera jib and multiple Osprey peds to capture smooth, constant movement. One of SFL’s flypack portable production units was utilised to produce the high quality, multi-camera recording.
“Once again, as safety took absolute precedence for us, all the control positions had to be socially distanced. No operator was closer than two metres,” continues Lawrence.
In terms of the audio sources, SFL team provided a mixture of DPA and Shure Axient Digital Wireless radio microphones, with the Jenkin’s Shure mic being specially customised with encrusting crystals. All microphones were placed around the stage for instruments and piano. Shure PSM1000 IEMs and d&b M4 monitor wedges, were used on stage.
“Positioned on stage, we provided the monitor mix for Katherine and the musicians. In the substage area we had a console where we did a live guide mix and multitrack record. We used a Yamaha QL1 console due to its compact form factor and high channel count. The fact that all data could be tracked through Dante onto Wave Tracks Live made the recording very easy. A key criteria to make social distancing possible was by selecting small form factor equipment.”
Additionally, SFL used the RAH’s installed d&b audiotechnik PA system to help add energy to the auditorium. Stereo pairs of Shure ambient mics were placed towards the rear of the auditorium, to give the online audience an as authentic experience as possible.
“The cameras were ISO recorded as well as our director creating a live cut, which means that we were able to pass the footage from each camera to the editor on site for some small touch ups to the main mix,” adds Lawrence. “It was all very well planned and executed.”
Once the live recording was completed, SFL sent the multitrack files, stems and main mix to Anthony Show at Spiritland Productions to master the audio, who had a tight turnaround for editing and approval from artists before the concert was uploaded to YouTube the following day.
Sharing his thoughts on the planning and execution of the event with the safety and well-being of the team being paramount, Lawrence highlights some of the challenges the team had to overcome.
“We are really fortunate that some of the team share flats and houses together,” he explains. “This meant we could treat these people as a single household unit, enabling them to travel in vans together and do the tasks where it was not possible to keep two metres apart.”
The freelancers that SFL engaged were all based as locally as possible to the venue, reducing travel distances and times. Hygiene conditions were met by having sanitiser wipes and hand gel placed at all control points in the auditorium. All team members had to go through temperature checks before the start of each shift. Back up team members were on standby in case anybody had shown coronavirus symptoms.
“Incorporating the new Covid Secure guidance into our warehouse operation meant that it took us longer to prep and de prep,” he continues. “Again, where possible we used household units to go in together. We ensured a strict clean down procedure for the warehouse space, with all touch points cleaned instantaneously so they were germ-free for the next shift to come in.
“Having to work with masks and additional PPE was tricky as they made it harder for the team to communicate, as well as the added pressure of making sure you are socially distanced. The shoot involved a standard 12-hour event shift and even though the team are fit and healthy, we were all exhausted by the end of it.”
Overcoming these challenges was soon forgotten, as the historic, behind-closed-doors concert was broadcast. So far it has been watched by over 400,000 people, bringing a message of hope and togetherness to the nation.
“As so many people are separated from their loved ones during this time of crisis, having events like this is very important to uplift the nation’s spirits,” says Lawrence. “At SFL, we exist to create environments for people to communicate. It was an absolute privilege to play our part in delivering this remarkable event.”
!This was an extremely challenging project to deliver in a very short timescale, requiring excellence across the entire team in both planning and execution,” concludes Andrew Wyke, TBI’s director of events. “SFL were fundamental in realising our creative vision for this event, helping us to deliver a stunning broadcast event. More than that, their collaborative spirit and positive attitude throughout this made working together an absolute joy.”
3rd June 2020
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