The touring Lollapalooza music festival used traditional postproduction technology this year in an unorthodox way to offer concert-goers more than traditional prepackaged and IMAG video.

The show hired freelance video editor Paul Harb to edit live IMAG, prepackaged video clips, graphics, special effects, and text message from cell phones for broadcast on giant “LollaTron” LED screens (Lighthouse LVP503 screens — two on the main stage, and three more at front-of-house positions) at venues around the country. Harb used a traveling Avid Media Composer Adrenaline editing system, rolled out in a specially designed case backstage, to edit the clips during the tour. According to Harb, as live video came in (shot by roving cameramen using Canon XL1 MiniDV cameras), he turned around different clips to play on the giant screens in under half an hour, in most cases.

“It wasn't an instant live program, per se, but rather, we were editing and broadcasting interactive clips [cell phone users could ‘communicate’ with the screens using text messaging to respond to clues leading to prizes during the shows] in a very short window of opportunity,” says Harb. “Generally, I had about 30 minutes to load tapes, edit them, export them, and compress them, since we were broadcasting them as low-resolution AVI files on screen.”

Harb concedes that the use of tools normally designed for use in controlled studios in postproduction settings with long turnaround was challenging at times during the Lollapalooza tour around the country.

“This is a new application for these kind of tools,” he says. “The stage hands who had to unload this case at every venue would probably tell you it was not the most mobile system, not exactly designed for this kind of use. That was mainly because of the size of the case. But once the system was set up at each stop — we opened the case and plugged wires into it — the system worked perfectly. But obviously, most concert tours do not go out on the road with mobile postproduction equipment traveling with them, so at most venues, they don't need to find space for people like me and my equipment.

“At one stop in Texas, I was editing inside a truck on the loading dock when it was 110 degrees. There were also issues finding power and so on. But the use of the Avid itself, in this setting, worked great and we did some interesting things. This might herald the use of postproduction technology more routinely in live environments,” says Harb.

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