Monday, February 21, 2011

Tour... more Art On Ice pics...

During 'You Cam' at the aftershow party... lots of drunk skaters and guests.

Scarlett Wilde

This bloke was a genius skater...

More incredible skating..

The band arriving in a smoke filled van..

Bass man Nick Beggs arriving in a fridge...

So we're now down from the alps and in sunny Cologne for the first of the full production shows. We did a warm up gig in Zurich on saturday which went really well. The new tunes sounded great. The PA wasn't all that great and the room had dreadful acoustics, but i'm sure the punters never noticed...they went mad after each song and pushed the dB level upto 105dB at front of house. (when the legal limit is 100dB in Swtizerland)

Right now, we're setting up the PA system in Cologne and i'm not far off starting the system tests...  hopefully i'll get some pics tonight and i can post some more tomorrow.

By the way... i got short films in to Cannes...i got the email confirming it last night. Very happy.


Friday, February 18, 2011

St Moritz Art On Ice gig...

Tonight we're doing the ice show gig... we rehearsed it today and i got some pics while mixing...

Spinning round bloke...

I hope she showered first...


Ta da!

Nick Beggs is in the fridge...seriously.

Steve Power on the journey through the alps.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

BVE at Earl's Court...?

Today sees the start of the Broadcast Video Exhibition at Earl's Court in London. I went last year with AndrĂ© and it was quite useful to see some new stuff like the all the LED lighting we ended up using a lot and the new DSLR rigs etc. But, this year, i'm giving it a miss. There's a couple of reasons..  firstly, we've shot the trailer for 'Their Law' an we bought all the equipment we needed last year... so we're not in the market for anything new at the moment.. And secondly, because i'm way too busy getting prepped for the tour which i start at 4am on thursday.

We're planning to shoot the full version of 'Their Law' later this year, and we'll definitely be looking to buy into a new system for that... but to be honest, i need to concentrate on the re-writes, the financing and the location scouting for the next few months... the gear lust can begin at the end of the summer.

So, have fun down there everyone... it would have been nice to catch up and have a few beers, but i'll have to give it a miss. :-(

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back to the day job... Sound Engineer on Tour.

This week i'm off... to Europe for a month of gigs with Kim Wilde and her band. I've been working for Kim for about 10 years and i love it. Everyone in the band and crew is brilliant at what they do and we all get on great. I'm often told off for having too much fun when i'm working... and it's easy to see why. We just move from city to city.. doing amazing shows and drinking quite a lot.

There's a lot that goes into a tour like this, but my 'end' of it all is fairly simple thanks to the PA company we're using who are supplying all my equipment. For the technically minded among you, i'm using a L'Acoustic dv-DOSC Line Array with a Yamaha PM5D-RH at front of house. I'm also using an Avalon VT-737 mic amp and my Macbook Pro running Mainstage for all my effects via a new Motu Ultralite Mk3. There...that wasn't too bad huh?

Quite a bad photo of the PM5D channel panel

So what does my job entail when it comes down to it? Well, in a tour situation, i usually get up around 11am and stagger off the tour bus looking for coffee.  Once i've woken up, i then head into the venue to make use of the showers and get myself ready for the day. My first job is to check how the PA crew are getting on with rigging the system. They'll be pretty self-sufficient and won't really need me to get involved very often, although i will have to make the odd judgement call over where to hang the PA or where i want my desk putting. Around 1pm, the PA should be almost ready for me to start testing it. I'll usually play a bunch of tunes that i know really well from my iTunes just to see how the PA sounds in that particular venue. I haven't compiled a new test playlist yet, but last years consisted of:

The Prodigy - Omen
Leftfield - Dusted
Dr Dre' Ft Tupac - California Love
AIR - All I Need
SpearHead/Michael Franti - Oh My God
Massive Attack - Tear Drop

Once i've heard snippets from all those tunes over the PA, i know what if anything needs tweaking to get it sounding right.

Once this is done, i'll set up my effects on my Mac and help with the mic'ing up of the band stuff...or just go for another coffee.

At some point, usually around 3pm, Daz and Basti, the 2 backline guys (Daz is also the stage manager) will help me check through the mix by playing the various instruments. Assuming the mix recalled ok from the previous night, it should only need tweaking.

At about 4pm, the band will be up on stage, ready to start playing through the tracks for a proper soundcheck. This is when i'll do most of my tweaking and wandering around the venue making sure we don't have any dead spots. Once the soundcheck is all done, i hit save (again) and leave the desk until the show. At this point we usually have some food and a couple of drinks to loosen the mood a bit, ready for the show.

The show is the best bit... i don't get nervous at all... but i do get a big adrenaline rush everytime. I'm different to most engineers in that i get right into it... i'm usually jumping up and down or rocking my head away over the desk.. i love it.. and it helps me keep time for tapping in my beat-matched delays. I concentrate a lot when i'm working and rarely talk to anyone apart from Kim's manager Nick who often pops over to FOH for a look from my point of view and a chat.  It's not that i'm not chatty, but i listen to all the words...all the time.. it's how i know where i am in the song and where my next FX cue is coming up. Some of these songs i have been mixing for 10 years, so it' easy to relax a bit more, but i still don't like to take my eyes off the stage.

The tour bus we had last time... it was big.

So, once the gig is done i pack my Mac up which usually takes about 5 mins and then i head backstage to see Kim and the band. I always make a point of having a chat with Kim to make sure she was happy with everything.. there's an on-going joke where she always asks 'How did it sound tonight?' and i always reply 'Fantastic!' or 'The best yet!'....  obviously, after all this time, she is suspicious that if it's so good every night, did it used to be shit when i started? Or do i really keep getting better? Or am i just protecting my job? I know the answer...

Then it's just a case of supervising the loading of the truck..(a bit) and drinking as much free beer as possible before getting on the bus to head to the next city...  the bus doesn't curtail the partying fact it's a real party-bus... we're often to be found doing the conga around the bus at 5am....  it must be said, it's not a bad job.

I'll try to post some pics and update on my progress as we travel about...

S x

Monday, February 7, 2011

Camera decisions for the next feature...

It's been a busy few weeks. On top of editing the trailer for 'Their Law', i've also been editing the Howard Jones DVD/Blu-Ray. The 'Their Law' footage we shot with our Canon 550D's and the Howard concert was shot with a wide array of cameras.... one of which was the Canon XF305.

While editing the Canon 550D footage i've been both impressed and slightly depressed. Sometimes, when the lighting is right, the footage looks stunning. But, when things are a bit darker and the lighting isn't so perfect... noise creeps into the footage.  Now, i'm not dissing the whole DSLR thing... i've shot some great stuff on my 550D... but, they are not the holy grail... there are issues.

When i was editing the Howard Jones concert, i was stunned when i saw the XF305 footage. Compared to all the the other footage it was so much more faithful to what i remember seeing at the venue... the colours were amazing, but most of all, skin tones and hair details was so far removed from what i am used to seeing from video that it's caused me to rethink my camera decisions for the film. Colour grading the XF footage is great. You can pull it all over the place and it holds up. Compared to the EX3 footage from the same shoot, it's night and day.

I knew already that DSLR wasn't the route to go for the main 'A' camera. I don't want to worry about moire, rolling shutter and awkward workarounds. I love the DSLRs, but i'm happier using them for 'B' camera duties. I was giving serious thought to the Panasonic AF101... it's the obvious choice really, but the whole XF305 thing has thrown a spanner in the works.

It's down to 2 issues from what i can tell. 1) The data rate. The XF305 is 50Mbps. 2) The colour space... the XF305 is 4:2:2.

The 550D shoots at 44Mbps with a 4:2:0 colour space.

So now i'm thinking that 4:2:2 is making the difference here. Obviously, the Canon line-skipping on the DSLRs isn't helping here... but the XF305 was up against Sony EX3's, Sony XDCamHD cameras and Canon DSLRs in the Howard Jones edit... and it was easy to spot the XF305 footage on the timeline.  It was the only camera with a 4:2:2 colour space. that means i've got to choose between using an AF101 with a NanoFlash OR i go for the Sony F3 with a NanoFlash.  From what i've heard from people who have done comparisons between these 2 cameras, there's a big difference in the look.  Then there's the price. To get an F3 with 3 primes and an adapter to use my existing 35mm lenses is going to cost around £20,000. To get a similar set up with the AF101 is only about half that... in fact, if i forget the cinema primes and go for DSLR lenses, it would be even cheaper. But... there's talk of a Sony F1...(NXcam35)..maybe that will be the perfect camera for the job?

The Panasonic AF101

The NanoFlash.
The Sony PMW-F3

As bloody usual, it's a waiting game. We've just got to wait and see what the best camera is the month before the shoot and go with that... it's almost pointless making decisions now. Such is life now that the market is moving so fast.  I think what i've learnt though, is that without seeing the footage from these cameras, it's all a guessing game. Maybe the F3 doesn't need 4:2:2 to impress? I really need to see some raw footage and have a play with it.  I'm almost scared of going to the BVE again next week... i might get to try the Arri Alexa...and then i'll really be in trouble.