In the words of Sir Bob Geldof, 20 years ago Live Aid opened up avenues of possibility and he invited us to walk down them. On July 2nd 2005, the world was invited once again and we saw Geldof's quest for help and justice for Africa continue with Live 8.
This huge event brought together millions of people from around the world in an effort to put pressure on the eight heads of state taking part in the G8 conference in Scotland to end Africa's extreme poverty. This monumental effort was made possible not only by Geldof, Bono, and the host of artists who lent their time and support, but by the huge team of production crew around the world who worked tirelessly to put on the biggest pop concert witnessed around the world to date.
Hyde Park's Live8 was the fulcrum around which this huge affair turned. The production was co-ordinated by Clear Channel Entertainment Group under the guidance of production director John Probyn and his team: event co-ordinator Hannah Blake and site manager Andy Pearson.
The level of dedication exhibited by everyone involved was truly astounding. "We've done shows as big as this before, but it's the amount of different people involvedNokia, AOL, BBC, independent radiothat makes it tricky," commented Probyn. "Everyone needs to have their slice of the park to set up and do what they need to do with it. But we can only have the site a certain size, as that's what our contract with Royal Parks dictates, so we've had a lot of juggling to do.
"Hyde Park is a special venue because it's effectively the Queen's back garden. We have a great relationship with the park's management team, but you have to take into account their requirements. And one thing you really have to remember is that there are thousands of people using the park who have absolutely nothing to do with this event, so that makes the logistics very interesting.
"I can honestly say, hand on heart, that if we hadn't had the usual bunch of contractors we have for Hyde Park, we couldn't have done this. We've had to rely so much on Templine, Creative Technology, Star Events and the rest of the companies here who know the park as well as I do to just get on with it."
Massive Show, Massive Sound System
Britannia Row Productions supplied a sound system that comprised over 200 Electrovoice X-Line loudspeaker cabinets, hung either side of the stage and on five pairs of masts set at intervals down the length of the massive site. Six towers of EV X-Line, also powered by EV's Precision Series P3000RL, were used as delays with additional L Acoustic V DOSC towers to ensure full coverage for the crowd. Three DiGiCo D5 Live digital mixing consoles, 48 stage foldback loudspeakers and 24 x 1500 watt amplifiers, all operated by 18 technicians and 25 sound engineers were employed. A further three D5s were used at the monitor positions. The D5s, over 500 Sennheiser microphones and eight kilometres of microphone cable kept the show running quickly from band to band. With 26 major artists, a scheduled turn round time between bands of less than five minutes and a 205,000 audience, Britannia Row Productions, who provided the full PA system for the Live 8 Hyde Park show, certainly had their work cut out.
The entire sound system was controlled by IRIS (Intelligent Remote Integrated Supervision), the software program remotely controlling the P3000RL amplifiers from FOH. Telex Communications' Paul Barretta, Josef Taffner and Franz Lang were on site in a support capacity. "We weren't called upon as everything worked as expected, superbly well," says Barretta. "We had some great comments came from the band's engineers about the audio quality and integrity of the system."
Stage monitors were Turbosound TFM-450 wedges with Turbosound Flashlight side fills and Turbosound TQ-440/TQ-425 drum fills powered by Pulse amplifiers. Several computers were used to control and monitor the loudspeakers over three kilometers of signal cable.
Three DiGiCo D5 Live digital mixing consoles were positioned at front of house, with a further three D5s at the monitor position. At front of house, one console was used for prepping, whilst the other two sat at the mix positions with the same arrangement for monitors. Outboard per console comprised a TC Electronics M6000, two Yamaha Spx990 effects units and a couple of tube compressors. A Midas H3000 operated by Britannia Row's Chris Coxhead also sat at front of house dedicated to VT and announcer's playback, while Andy "Baggy" Robinson and Mark Ballard made sure the D5 consoles were ready for each set.
Alternate mix positions were used to allow for the incredibly short turn around time between bands and during the show. DiGiCo's David Webster prepped the console for each band. He and Rob Andrews were also on hand to give any additional assistance required with the D5s. John Lewis and Chris Morrison were assisted at monitors by DiGiCo's Bob Doyle and Roger Wood, with Wood prepping for each band.
The scene backstage worked like a carefully choreographed, industrial ballet with Steve Jones's stage team rolling the backlines on and off, the sound crew line checking, the revolve turning, the final checks, next band on, last band's gear gone. "And so quiet," says Grant. "No panic, no shouting, just a relentless rhythm. It was beautiful to watch."
Acoustic specialists Capita Symonds work closely with Royal Parks in the preparation and development of a noise control strategy. Symond's John Staunton was on site during both rehearsal and show day. "Bryan Grant, Mike Lowe and their crew, especially Jock and Richard have done a terrific job this year at Hyde Park," he comments. "There were the highest noise levels we've ever had inside the site, with the corresponding lowest levels outside. They've done a really good job of keeping the audience happy and the residents of Marylebone and Park Lane happy as well."
The Visual Component
Creative Technology's compliment of 12 giant LED screensa combination of Lighthouse, Unitek and Sacorelayed the action. Their total area was 472m2, the largest concentration of screens ever used at a European outdoor concert site, with 1.4 million pixels made up of 8.5 million individually controlled LEDs. Digital delays were used to overcome synchronization problems with audio and video at the back of the arena, as video signals travel at 690 million mph while sound only travels at 750mph.
It's unsurprising that the show saw the biggest ever concentration of screens for an outdoor concert anywhere in Europe, with the equipment for both front and backstage supplied by Avesco PLC companies Creative Technology and MCL.
Five LED screens were positioned on stage. The main screen comprised 8x6 modules of Lighthouse 19mm in 16x9 format measuring 9.76 x 5.25m. Flanking it were two 6.4 x 4.8m 25mm Unitek screens in 4x3 aspect ratio, which were divided into four equal columns and arranged in a 90 degree arc either side of the main screen to visually "wrap round" the performers. On each of the PA wings was an 8.54 x 6.44m Lighthouse 19mm screen, configured in 4x3 ratio.
100 meters from the stage were two delay screens. These were 44m2 CT/Screenco mobiles with Saco 15mm screens in 4x3 aspect ratio, one of which is based in the UK and the other from CT's Dutch sister company JVR, who also supplied four Barco D-Lite 7 LED screens in 16x9 aspect ratio, each measuring 4.48 x 2.69m to ScreenVisions for the Berlin production. These were used as delay screens along Berlin's "Strasse der 17 Juni," while two Barco G5 projectors with 300 x 225 projection screens and three 42-inch plasma screens were supplied to one of Dutch national television's studios for their broadcast of the event.
Towards the back of the Hyde Park arena were three further mobiles, two 40m2 Lighthouse 25mm and one 30m2 Panasonic, sub-contracted by CT from Sweden's Massteknik. All the mobile screens were fed via digital video delays, allowing the timing on the video signal to be adjusted, to sync with the sound. "Doing that makes a major difference on a site as big as this," noted Avesco's business development director Dave Crump, of the Hyde Park Live 8 gig.
Across the top of the stage 25mm Unitek modules were deployed as a giant1.2 x 35m LED banner panel, a configuration more commonly seen at the side of soccer fields. Driven by a dedicated text system, it was used to display slogans from Comic Relief, which provided much of the supporting visual material. The control system was operated by scoreboard specialists Technographics.
In addition to the out front equipment, CT and MCL supplied all the video gear for the backstage areaa 2.56 x 1.92m Lighthouse 10mm screen in the artist's garden and two of the new stand alone Lighthouse PopVision screens in the main hospitality area, as well as a number of plasma screens put in by MCL, another Avesco company based in Birmingham. Graham Thomas, project manager at MCL, commented, "We have done the backstage work in Hyde Park for several years now, using the Lighthouse screens as an alternative to Video Walls made our life a lot simpler and resulted in much better images in the artist areas."
Avesco also had the massive logistical task of controlling the entire on screen video production and programming at Hyde Park. Outside broadcast supplier Bow Tiewhich facilitated the main BBC systemprovided a dedicated outside broadcast truck for screen production equipped with it's own dedicated cameras and multi-channel VT record/playback facilities. Much of this equipment was supplied by another Avesco subsidiary, Presteigne Broadcast Hire.
Getting the Message Across
Director of the overall screen program was Kevin Williams. "My brief from Steve Allen (event production manager) was that the theme had to be very strong throughout the video presentation," he said. "We needed to get the message across, but not ram it down people's throats."
"However, it also had to be a rock n' roll show, whose format wasn't dictated to by the demands of the television coverage. We were in charge of the live feeds to the BBC, not the other way round."
To ensure the video element broadcast the message as globally as possible, Williams employed foreign language dumpersmessages that were displayed on the screens in various languages from Russian to Japanese.
The live footage for the screens utilised three camerastwo on the twin front of house control towers and a third in the pitthe screen production also taking isolated feeds from several of the BBC's cameras.
"The desk was full," Williams continued. "There were five separate matrix outputs to the onstage screens, so we could switch them independently, and one way switching for the delay screens further back in the park. This allowed us to have graphics on stage and camera relay on the delay screens."
This dual use of camera images could have caused problems for the BBC cameramen, so the camera viewfinders all featured a red and a green tally light. The red light indicated the camera was on air on the BBC coverage and the green indicated it was on air on the Hyde Park screens.
VT playback facilities were use to play material produced by the Portobello Studios of Comic Relief lynchpin Richard Curtis, who had the role of associate producer at the event, while another major element was an EVS hard disk recorder, which allowed the team to simultaneously record six incoming lines from the concerts in Philadelphia, Berlin, Paris, Rome and a couple of switch feeds from other sites.
"We could record them all simultaneously throughout the day. That way, if a couple of good performances had been recorded elsewhere, we could go back to that footage during artist changeovers and play them back independently of the BBC," said Dave Crump.
Graphic content for the main screens was produced by Richard Shipman, working direct for Steve Allen, using three Doremis and two channels of Arkaos. Further graphics-related services were provided for the SMS and MMS messaging facilities, which were available to the audience via sponsors AOL and Nokia.
This enabled audience members to send images from camera phones via MMS. Montages of those pictures were then collated live on site and put on to the screens during breaks between acts, alongside the SMS messages.
"There were real time counters on things like how many people texted in their support and how many registered on the web site," added Crump. "Names scrolled up at different times between acts of people who have registered. All of this was sourced from the Avesco's Graphics Portacabin by the stage From here Richard Shipman, Arthur Jackson (running the content for the banner panel screen) and a host of others supplying the MMS, SMS and real time web information were based among a stack of computers and online links.
Brits Are Best In Show
As might be expected, Kevin Williams' day was extremely hectic. "The insert VTs from Portobello Studios which were to go behind tracks of bands didn't come in until the last moment and every band came in with their own ideas or visual material which they wanted playing in. That all had to be re-formatted as well," he said.
During REM's set, the band's video director Blue Leach took Kevin's place, but otherwise Kevin was at the helm throughout the production. He is full of praise for the team effort that everyone involved strived so hard to achieve:
"The one thing that really came across was how everyone worked together. Once we knew where everyone stood in the game plan, everyone worked as a team. They were absolutely fantastic. They all made it happen at short notice, literally with blank pieces of paper, and it worked perfectly."
"The highlights of my day were the Who and Pink Floyd," he continued. "I could hear the cheer when I put Dave Gilmour on screen at one side of the stage and Roger Waters on the other."
At the end of a remarkable day an exhausted Dave Crump commented: "This has been one of the most incredible shows we have ever been involved in. Stuart Young and his team on the screens, Kevin in the truck and Richard Shipman in the at-times-chaotic Portacabin have all done a fantastic job and proved once again that we Brits are the best in the world at putting on a show."