XL Video is supplying robotic cameras and Christie FOH projectors to Arcade Fire’s current European tour, with Richard Stembridge’s video design.
XL’s project managers Jo Beirne and Phil Mercer have been involved with supplying the band’s video needs throughout 2007, and the latest leg of their hugely successful Neon Bible tour is the largest yet in terms of production.
“Working with Richard is always interesting and brings visually stunning results as the show is constantly evolving and growing,” says Jo Beirne.
Stembridge was brought into the equation by lighting designer Paul Normandale, who was looking for a specific style and approach to facilitate what he anticipated would become a video driven show. Normandale is well known for his offbeat designs and imaginative daring. He wanted someone with a fresh and nonstandard approach to video to match the band’s richly textured music and intense performance.
The two Christie 20K machines supplied by XL Video are positioned at FOH and doubled up to produce one large image. They project onto a 20% filled heavy burgundy coloured curtain. The majority of content going onto this is high contrast black and white footage which produces a series of subtle and slightly mysterious effects.
Stembridge’s design specifically avoids large white expanses of video screen onstage, “I find them really unforgiving and somewhat dictatorial, and basically I wanted to get right away from that conventional ‘boxy’ video look”.
Normandale came up with the idea of small elements of video dotted around the stage, and then Stembridge decided that these should be round in shape.
At mid-stage is a 16-foot diameter circular white projection screen which is revealed and concealed by a burgundy drape at the appropriate moments, and this also receives front projection. This continues the circular screen theme as featured in 5 onstage “pods,” self-standing projection chambers specially developed as their summer festivals.
These look deliberately Heath-Robinson. Each contains a BenQ 3.5K projector and a circular front made from Rosco screen. They pop up in jaunty lollipop style across the stage and have caught many eyes, including Dave Pollock writing in The Independent, who describes their effect as, “Like a silent film shot through a pinhole camera.”
There are also two white banners revealed on the backcloth, which are projected onto for the duration they are visible, which is dependent on the order of the set list.
The six robotic cameras supplied by XL are Sony BRC300s, and they are fixed at strategic points across the stage from where they can track various band members. They are operated by Damion Gamlin and Steve Falconer sitting at the side of stage. In addition to these, Stembridge has 20 lipstick cameras scattered all over the place, plus four wireless cams attached to mics, megaphones, and other odd places, giving a total of 30 camera feeds for him to mash up and route to the pods, the screen, or the burgundy drape.
The organic camera mix which Stembridge operates live each night, is an edgy art-house style fusion of energy, movement and essence given off by the 10 musicians, and the eye-catching unorthodox visuals have added to the rave reviews being received for the show.
Stembridge routes everything, including both cameras and playback video content, via a 32-way Kramer Matrix and into three Catalyst digital media servers. He’s using serial control from the Catalysts to control a lot of the camera switching, all of which is triggered from his Hog PC lighting desk.
He says, “XL Video are looking after me very well as always,” a service which is continued by XL Video Inc. when in the US.
Date of issue : 14th November 2007.
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