XL Video UK is supplying Westlife’s 2006 Face To Face arena tour, which supports their number one album of the same name. XL has supplied Westlife’s video requirements since their first Coast To Coast tour in 2001, and video has always been an integral element of their live work. The long-touring band, have brought new energy to their stage show with artistic directors Alan MacDonald and Will Baker (renowned for their work with Kylie Minogue).
This year, with the musician’s positions located offstage either side; video once again takes center stage along with Westlife (Nicky Byrne, Shane Filan, Kian Egan, and Mark Feehily). Some truly spectacular screen interactives include “Uptown Girl” when Westlife–choreographed by Priscilla Samuels–dance in unison with four 1930s-style uptown girls on the LED screens behind them.
XL’s Phil Mercer comments, “Video reinforcement has become as essential component of every Westlife show, and this is one of their most impressive shows yet for conception, design and the essential wow!”
Baker and Macdonald designed the triple layered video system. The duo designed a combination of high- and low-resolution surfaces, with a vast 20-module wall of Barco MiPix upstage. This is divided into six sections, the center four fly in and out to create different shapes. When in the “down” position the flying sections join up with the two static offstage sections to traverse the entire width of the stage.
In front of this is the second video component–four hangs of XL’s new high-resolution Lighthouse R16 LED screen, each element measuring three modules wide by four high in portrait format. These also move individually. Tour rigger Mark Wade is responsible for all the flying and screen automation.
The third video element again consists of the incredibly versatile MiPix modules, this time fitted to two separate sections of stair backs stretching the full width of the stage. There are also two 14’x10’ fast-fold side screens fed by Barco ELM projectors.
The screens are fed with a combination of playback and live camera feeds. The onstage screens mostly feature a fast moving collage of colorful, witty and emotive material specially commissioned by Baker and MacDonald for the show, and produced by Blink TV.
This is all stored on two 4-channel GV-Techtronics Profile hard drive machines: one feeding the high res surfaces and one the low. They were programmed up by Richard Turner during rehearsals and are run via Dataton receiving timecode triggers from one of the samplers
A mind boggling amount of visual information ranges from Warhol-esque pastiches to animated silhouettes to abstract environmental images like clouds and sea–all of it seamlessly synched with the band’s dance routines, putting a completely new and contemporary spin on some classic Westlife songs.
Billy Robinson directs four long-throw cameras to create the live video mix. Two of XL’s Sony D50s with 55mm lenses are positioned at FOH and two more with 70 mm lenses are in the balcony. The live feeds only spread onto the onstage screens for three numbers. The rest of the time IMAG stays on the side screens, while playback sources take center stage.
Robinson mixes from one of XL’s OB trucks parked at the back of the venue, using a Sony DVS 72:50 mixer/switcher together with a Sony DME 300 digital effects machine. This slightly unorthodox approach was decided on to reduce the crew’s setup time, and it’s proving very handy having the PPU pre-assembled and ready to go. It also frees up valuable backstage room for the band’s quick-change facilities.
XL supplied six crew members, including chief engineer Jeroen “Myway” Marain, high-resolution screen tech Matt Gourd, MiPix tech Brecht Moreels, plus Roger Nelson and Luke and Thomas Levitt.