XL Video in Fast Lane with REM

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XL Video is supplying MiTrix and SoftLED video surfaces, cameras, control and crew for video director Blue Leach on the current REM “Accelerate” tour.

XL Video UK's project manager Des Fallon says “It's great to be working with production managed Bill Rahmy and his team, and, as always, Blue's show is dynamic, different and imaginatively daring”.

Leach is well known as one of the most creative video designer/directors in the business with a real penchant for experimental and inventive ideas. Nothing is ever predictable - and this show is no exception!

REM's lead singer Michael Stipe was integrally involved in the initial ideas for the show aesthetic, and he wanted video as a centrepiece. Leach also collaborated very closely with lighting designer Susanne Sasic on the visual evolution of the show, a creative process he really enjoyed.

They came up with the ‘set' which consists of 5 upstage columns of Barco MiTrix, all 5 ft wide, measuring between 12 and 20 ft tall, and then two 30ft long by 8 ft deep horizontal strips of SoftLED behind this, offset from one another by a 2ft gap. The MiTrix blocks reference back to the album's city skyline artwork, and Stipe was very keen for the content and visuals to have an unrefined, raw texture and a bit of an Op Art feel which uses a lot of black and white.

Leach and Sasic's research for the project included examining and taking inspiration from several ‘Optical art' practitioners and the idea of ‘perceptual experience' related to how vision functions.

The screen content is split 80/20 percent between cameras and playback. The jittery, fast cut camera mix meshed with Sasic's intelligent and complimentary lighting design, Stipe's graceful almost mime-like movements, and the band's rocky sound and meaningful lyrics is a memorable collage of visual literacy.

Sasic and graphic designer Chris Bilheimer produced a lot of the show's playback video footage which is stored on a combination of 2 Doremi hard drives and a Catalyst. Other sources include some band promo videos which have been re-edited and mashed by Leach, plus other clips he made for the show.

Leach designed the camera set up and specified a control system based around a Ross 3 ME switcher, chosen for maximum flexibility, fast access to lots of buttons and the ability to produce the all-action, high contrast high energy show which is run completely live, ‘freestyle' each night.

Dotted around the stage are 3 Sony Robo-cams and 8 Sony Minicams, fitted with a variety of lenses and magic arms allowing some serious experimentation. They are joined by 4 of XL's Sony D50 operated cameras – two in the pit, one hand-held and one on track and dolly, and the third at FOH …. and a Pole Cam.

Leach also has a mini-cam pointing at his bank of monitors in the control area, for a bit of additional mayhem, plus a pure feed into the mixer from the Vectorscope waveform monitor used by engineer Seth Sharpless which gives a nice radar effect. For additional eye candy and some truly wacky Leachesque effects, he also has an LCD monitor laid flat with another minicam shooting directly down onto it which he uses as a lightbox table. This can be fed with any camera source and 3D objects of every imaginable type can then be added over the top of these.

All the cameras are fed into a second specially hot-rodded Catalyst media server which was initially spec'd and programmed by High Davies-Webb. This is operated by Clarke Anderson via 2 Medialon touch screens, giving instant accessibility to a myriad of effects.

The show is one of the most visually striking of the year. Following the Op Art theme, a lot of the camerawork and playback material is monochrome, or duo tone, suddenly bursting into fast fusions of “lollipops and sunshine” colour and chromatic energies.

XL's crew (in addition to those already mentioned) are Rob Wick (Head of Cameras), Danny Sheldon (Robo-cam operator), Sean Harper (MiTrix tech and hand-held operator) and Kyle Brinkman (SoftLED tech).

For the larger outdoor UK shows, XL is sending an additional team, crew chiefed by Carl Martin, to install two portrait format Lighthouse R16 side LED screens each measuring 4 x 12 modules.

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