Pro-Light-News Video technology & projection

LED screen of 280 m2 at Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert with Led Zeppelin

There is much talk about the blurring of boundaries between production disciplines these days, but with the only set element of this landmark production being a 280m2 LED screen supplied by audiovisual services company Creative Technology, what was achieved for the Tribute Concert to Ahmet Ertegun on 10th December at London’s O2 Arena was a big step closer to a fully integrated approach.
This screen-based design was conceived as a team with a collaborative think tank formed of a number of people, headed up by Harvey Goldsmith Productions Jim Baggott, the team included Set Designer Peter Bingemann, London-based design agency Thinkfarm, with its projection/animation design team, comprising owner Mark Norton, Nenad Bogovevic and David Daniels, video coordinator Mike Walker from Live & Direct and Led Zeppelin representative Steve Iredale. This design was integrated with the lighting design from Dave Hill, using equipment from PRG, with video direction from Dick Carruthers at Cheese Film & Video. Together with Creative Technology (CT), who provided the screen and necessary processing equipment, the team’s collaborative effort produced something that took this artistic element of a live show to a new level.
The original idea was to use a projection system for the video, but it soon became apparent that LED was a much better solution. With a vast 280m2 (28 x 10m) of screen, and a limited load in time at the O2, a system that was quickly and easily rigged was a necessity so the decision was made to use an Element Labs Stealth screen. This had the added advantage of being partially transparent, allowing Hill to rig lighting behind it, thus giving him an added dimension to utilise within his design.
As well as the Stealth screen, CT supplied two standard 6x6 panel Barco OLite612 LED screens, positioned stage left and right, which were used during the support bands’ sets as well as for the video story of Ahmet Ertegun and his Foundation. This was edited together by Cheese Film & Video and shown before the concert as an introduction to the evening. At the beginning of Led Zeppelin’s set, the two side screens disappeared and a set of curtains opened to reveal the full impact of the Stealth screen.
Technical rehearsals for the event had begun at Elstree Studios two weeks prior to the show date, moving on to Shepperton Studios for the final week of rehearsals. “The original idea was to do everything at Elstree,” says CT Production Manager, Alex Leinster. “But because the date of the show had to be moved when Jimmy Page broke his finger, Elstree wasn’t available for the entire period.
“In some ways it worked to our advantage by giving us another chance to run through a load in and out. Timings at the O2 were very tight and, although it comes in a collapsed fan shape and cantilevers out of the flight cases making it really quick to rig, with only two hours allowed to get the Stealth screen floating off the deck it was no bad thing to be able to have a bit more practice.”
“We arrived at the O2 at 8am on the 9th December,” adds CT’s Business Development Manager, Adrian Offord. “Complete set up for all the screens we were using, including cabling and fault finding, had to be done by 4.30pm for a band walk through at 5pm. This was one of the main reasons the Stealth screen was used, as its set up time is considerably less than with other systems.”
Content was a combination of Thinkfarm’s animated footage, integrated with Dick Carruther’s live camera feeds. “We inhabit a world at Thinkfarm that is not always rock‘n’roll and entertainment,” says Mark Norton. “But I’ve worked in and out of the music and entertainment world for a long time and was brought in to integrate the video element into the set and lighting design, working very closely with Dave [Hill] and Dick [Carruthers] to achieve that.”
huge video screen embedded seamlessly into the production
Links:Go to the lighting setup or go to pro-music-news to read more about the sound production.
The use of the screen was controlled so that the show didn’t just become about what was on it and programming for this was no simple task. But, in the hands of Richard Turner, who was using a Spyder Video Processor from Vista Systems, it became as much a creative as a number crunching process. The multi-layered Spyder system utilised 16 channels to address various areas of the screen individually, the mixes being taken from Carruthers’ desk and turned into two separate blocks of information that the screen processors could understand.
As the show developed and more programming was completed, the team worked out various different methods for doing things. “There would be one, two or even three layers of playback material,” explains Carruthers. “In a song like Kashmir, Richard would be taking that directly from the two six channel hi def LSM processors, other times I would be mixing this in with live shots upstream.”
The entire system was kept in uncompressed HD, using two six-channel EVS devices, as well as mixing on a Snell & Wilcox Kahuna HD/SD production switcher that ran in parallel to the Calypso situated in the OB truck. As the job grew and it became obvious that there was going to be a large amount of HD cameras, it made sense to get an HD OB unit in, so Carruthers also requested a specific Video Production Manager, Mary Jefferson, and to have Jim Parsons as Producer.
The end result was a combination of abstract images and soft edged video, creating a mood and pace appropriate for each song: strong and vibrant in some places; more ethereal in others. “The pace, the colourisation and use of imagery speak volumes,” says Carruthers. “You could have a huge image during Stairway to Heaven, but have only a certain amount of impact because it was a slow, gentle mix. Whereas something like Black Dog had a much smaller image size, but because of the way it was ‘mashed up’ and negative, with black silhouettes and quite fast cut, it really hit you in the face.”
The overall feeling from the team was that it had achieved a transcendence of the old school lights/screen competitive thinking. “I think we got the overall balance right,” says Carruthers. “The screen was never intrusive, it always felt like a backdrop and had a good combination of animation and live content and a variation of shapes and mixes.”
The effort that was put into this amazing show was easily equal to that which would be put into a major worldwide stadium sized tour. In fact more so and, with no margin for error or the chance to improve things for the following show, the result was spectacular.
“This is the biggest screen that has been put into the O2,” concludes Offord. “From CT’s point of view, it was great to be back there after we had been there with Elton John’s 200m2 screen just a month prior. This was a wonderful event and it was an honour to be involved in such a high profile project.”
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