XL Video, the UK’s leading live music video production specialist, is supplying LED screens, and IMAG projection system and camera / PPU for the continuing Il Divo “A Musical Affair” tour, now on its final leg through the UK and Europe.
The tour’s video elements are being co-ordinated on the road by Stuart Merser of Vis-à-Vis Video who designed the touring screen and visual concept, is directing the camera mix and also produced all the playback content together with James Cooksey from Basic Monkey and Ben Mason at Red Dog.
Merser’s working relationship with XL Video dates back 13 years to the start of his professional career, and comments, “They are still my first choice of touring video supplier – the service is consistently good and the crew are excellent”.
Production Manager Andy Proudfoot and XL also go back a long way, and XL’s project manager is Paul ‘Macca” McCauley who has worked on the Il Divo account for the last three tours.
The Musical Affair show originated as a special run at the Marquee Theatre in New York, and the set – peppered with the odd Il Divo favourite here and there – is action-packed with classics from all the best known Broadway blockbusters.
These very theatrical references informed the creative starting point for the touring video, together with the fact that a large section of the tour in Asia was utilizing local productions, so Merser wanted to ensure that the design was likely to be attainable without compromise worldwide.
The addition of a female vocalist for some numbers – Lea Salonga being the most regular – also added new dynamics to the show, together with Il Divo’s own input into the brief, which was that they wanted to be able to feel the atmosphere and emotion of each of the different songs through the visual elements of lighting and video.
To attain this goal, Merser worked very closely with Lighting Designer Dan Tiley on developing the show into a highly integrated experience that synergised the two disciplines. It’s very evident that lighting and video cues have a fluid and harmonious relationship producing lots of beautiful big pictures emphasising the epic, memorable nature of the songs.
The upstage screen product specified by Merser and Proudfoot is XL’s Pixled F-11 measuring 20 tiles wide by 10 high – a 2:1 aspect ratio – which floats just above the set and completes the scenic essence of the stage.
With an orchestra, conductor, Il Divo and the various soloists onstage, Merser wanted to use video and moving images thoughtfully to achieve two further things – a sense of theatrical intimacy – however large the venue might be, and a simple and uncomplicated narrative that added to the music and lyrics.
The latest Catalyst media servers feeding the F-11 are all owned by Merser and are timecode triggered, along with the autocue, with a DVI matrix in-line to route the sources to screen.
XL’s camera package comprises four Sony HXC-100 HD operated units, two fitted with long lenses and positioned at FOH, and two on track-and-dolly in the pit fitted onto Osprey air pedestals which adds another dimension of movement to the IMAG mix.
Many of the tracks are slow building and require a degree of finesse and subtlety with the mixing and some skilled work from the camera operators, who - Merser is the first to comment - are doing “A fantastic job”
He’s using a Panasonic MX45O mixer to cut the mix and comments, “It’s a neat and compact system that fits well into the truck”.
The IMAG is output to two 20 ft wide by 11.5 ft high side projection screens each fed by two Barco 22K machines, which he reckons are, “Really punchy and great quality”.
XL’s crew are Roger Nelson (Crew Chief, cameras and LED), Tim Bolland (Engineer), Saria Ofogba (Projection & cameras) and Phil Johnson (Projection & cameras).
“They are all talented technicians, very dedicated to the job and we make an excellent team,” says Merser concluding that, “It has also been great working with XL and a pleasure working with Macca again … he’s been on the road himself and fully understands and appreciates all the issues and challenges involved”.
Photos: Louise Stickland