311 Day is more than just a concert for the fans of the band 311. Celebrated on March 11 every other year, 311 Day has become a holiday that brings fans together to enjoy pre- and post-show parties and events, with a concert at the center of the celebration.
In 2010, at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the five-hour, live performance for the sold-out crowd of 12,000 fans was also offered as a pay-per-view web event, reaching viewers in more than 60 countries including the United States, France, Japan, and Australia.
Band managers Adam and Peter Raspler bill 311 Day as “the ultimate 311 concert experience.” This year, the vision was to create a video setup that would allow the audience, at every angle, to feel closer to the band and onstage experience. “The goal is to blow people’s minds, so we bring in a lot of extra production for this one special night,” said Adam Raspler, who turned to Orlando, FL-based LMG Touring to create a setup of massive LED walls to fill lighting designer Joe Paradise’s rig of three 360° concentric truss rings of 20', 30', and 40' diameter—there was also a fourth, outermost 70'-diameter truss ring just for effects—that raised and lowered throughout the show and displayed HD content.
In addition to supporting the live production with a high-definition video package for the main show, Craig Mitchell, touring sales for LMG Touring, reached out to the band’s management about doing webcasting for the event, opening the door to a potential new revenue source. “As we started to talk about streaming the show, I thought this particular event would be ideal for a pay-per-view,” says Mitchell. “It’s a unique event and a great opportunity to showcase our combined technologies.”
LEDs Take The Stage
To create the 360° main video setup, LMG Touring used more than 550 FLED FL-io11 tiles (high-resolution 11mm LED tiles) to configure the three columns of circular screens. The company also provided an HD flypack system with high-definition cameras, switching, graphics, playback, and record to feed the HD video and imagery to the LED screens.
Weight was definitely a factor in the design. The second largest circular ring—holding the 40'-diameter, 6'-high screen—weighed less than 2,500lbs. “When you bring the weight down that much, it opens up options for design and rigging, especially since the rings weren’t stationary throughout the show,” says Mitchell. This was the first show using the FLED 11mm tiles in a circular setup.
The design also called for the circular LED screens to be mounted directly to the side of the truss, as opposed to hanging from it, which represented a challenge to the team. To address this, LMG fabricated custom brackets for the tiles to allow them to mount directly to the truss, giving just enough room for a lighting clamp. “This configuration worked perfectly, and they could still hang the lighting fixtures from the bottom of the truss,” says Mitchell.
Light ’Em Up
On the lighting side, LD/lighting director Paradise says his goals were typical of many tours—“to interpret and enhance the performance with the use of visual stimulation. This show was sold 360°, so one of my goals was to make sure that every person in the audience had the same experience,” he says, adding that, while the cueing process was elaborate, he “treated the video as another lighting instrument. The circular trusses and video were the first step in the design, and I added the lighting around that concept.”
Paradise’s rig, supplied by Premier Global Productions, included a full complement of moving lights and effects hung on the three inner concentric truss circles: Coemar Infinity XL Wash units and Infinity ACL S units; Martin Professional MAC 2000 Profiles and Wash units; Atomic strobes with color scrollers; as well as Hazebase Hazers. Martin Jem ZR33s hung from the outermost 70' truss. In addition, Martin MAC III Profiles were used in followspot mode, while more MAC 2000s hung on two 90' straight audience trusses and other Infinity ACL S units sat in floor positions.
The lighting designer’s workhorses, he says, were the MAC 2000 wash units and the MAC IIIs. “The zoom and the output are great to have available,” he says. “For effect lighting, the Coemar Infinity ACLs were the stars of the show.” He adds that the full day’s performances—the sheer size of which was a challenge to program—included 70 songs, along with an extensive drum solo, a bass solo, and performance artists during short intermissions. The show ran on a Martin Maxxyz console, about which Paradise says, “I’ve been using the console since it was available and still love it.”
One Show, Two Perspectives
A separate video production was created for the webcast audience. While using video was important to make the live audience feel close to the stage and performers, doing the same for the remote audience was a key component of the production, as well.
“In order to accomplish both goals, we hired two separate directors to cut the show for their respective audience,” says Morrison. “Our HD video package used the Snell & Wilcox Kahuna switcher along with a Kahuna sidecar. This enabled us to have a switcher for the live audience I-Mag independent of the switcher for the webcast audience.”
The band also requested that no camera operators be on stage during the performance, so shooting video would not disrupt the natural flow of the show. In order to provide the close-up coverage that fans expect at a live concert, the video rig was designed to include a number of robotic and fixed cameras around the stage. “The great thing about this project was that we didn’t have to change the production of the show very much to give someone watching at home that visceral feeling of being right there,” says Mitchell. “The concept for the webcast was to film as though you were there as part of the audience.”
The setup yielded 3TB of video data from the cameras, not including audio. “We also did a Pro Tools record of the whole show with multi-tracked audio,” says Mitchell. “We provided an Avid Venue system for the broadcast mix, and the band brought in one of their studio engineers to do the mix.”
Thomson LDK 6000, Panasonic AG-HPX300, and Sony BRC H700 pan/tilt cameras were used for both video productions, with individual camera feeds recorded using AJA Ki Pro digital recorders. “The band was given the hard drive of all the video production files for internal use or to release a DVD,” Mitchell adds. “It gives them a lot of options.”
The Global Experience
The management team started planning the live pay-per-view webcast in January, uncharted territory for all parties and the premiere live concert webcast for 311. “We set pricing that we thought would be reasonable for the fans, and then we worked together with LMG on the look and function of the ordering and viewer web pages, and all other aspects of the webcast,” says Adam Raspler.
A satellite IP system delivered the webcast directly to the content distribution network (CDN). “Sometimes clients steer away from live webcasting due to the unpredictability of venue-provided Internet service,” says Morrison. “Our satellite system offers peace of mind in that regard.”
A dual stream was provided: 800K and 400K. If viewers at home were watching at the 800K connection, and it started stuttering, they had the option to use the 400K connection. The video was also available on demand three hours after the show for 30 days. “Once you see the webcast, you see the potential,” adds Mitchell. “The audio is not compressed, so it’s better than what you hear on TV, and the quality of the video stream is amazing. It’s like being there.”
The webcast was promoted through the 311 website and 311’s various social networking platforms, and a social networking component was added to the webcast to enable fans to interact with each other as if they were in the same venue. More than 4,500 comments were posted on the live chat throughout the show. The event also received plugs on MTV.com and Last Call with Carson Daly.
“We knew that people from around the world would be able to access the webcast, so we promoted it as such,” says Adam Raspler. “We wanted to bring 311 Day into people’s living rooms around the globe and engage those audiences, and we did.”
In the new paradigm of the music industry, artists are looking for ways to generate additional income. “There’s another whole world beside the audience in the room,” says Les Goldberg, CEO of LMG. “We are uniquely positioned to be able to push content, whether over a cell phone or the web, and create new ways of capturing revenue.”
The next step regarding webcasting is to take the successful model of the 311 Day event and apply it to the touring world. Pay-per-view webcasting is a developing market. “Tapping into the home audience market will not only make tours more revenue-worthy over time, but it’s a great option for the fans,” adds Goldberg. “There are fans who want to follow the band every night.”
Since artists are already investing in the camera work, audio, video, and lighting for live events, so many already have most of the pieces in place to offer a quality web experience. “Adding the technology to broadcast to a wider fan base simply takes an already amazing show to the next level,” says Goldberg. “In the end, the artist and fans both benefit.”
Robyn Baker has been the marketing manager with LMG, Inc., a national provider of video, audio, and lighting support, since 2005. She has been handling PR, marketing communications, and promotions for over 15 years, and graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Science in marketing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.