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Blackmagic Design’s Live Workflow Goes on Tour with Kevin Hart

SXS Events supplied the live production workflow for the UK dates in January 2016 on comedian Kevin Hart’s ‘What Now’ world tour, which took place at major venues including London’s O2 and Wembley Arena.

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Video plays a major part in the tour’s overall aesthetic and content, and influences Kevin’s performance and interaction with arena audiences. The Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K and ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K delivered live video during performances and took a central role in SXS Events’ workflow, comprised of LED screens, IMAG projectors, portable production units and the crew.

“The Blackmagic Design equipment we’ve selected records broadcast grade image quality as part of a turnkey live production set up,” said Johnny Palmer, founder of SXS Events. “We had an extremely short lead time and had to be able to not only deliver a reliable and robust touring package that could deliver excellent results with high video quality and low latency, but also top value for the client.”

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Three Blackmagic Studio Cameras 4K tracked Kevin’s performance on stage - two positioned in the pit and a third, designated as the front-of-house camera, paired with a telephoto zoom. “At some of the venues, such as the O2, we can be filming from up to 50 meters away from the stage, so we need to have the headroom that a telephoto zoom affords to ensure we can still capture a clean, crisp image,” Johnny said. “The cameras’ tally and talkback functions are also critical for the tour’s creative direction. It’s unusual for a live performance set up, but Kevin really loves the tally system because he interacts with the cameras almost as though on a film set, rather than a live stage.”

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The live IMAG mix was cut on an ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K where a live program mix is produced and delivered to three 12m IMAG projection screens, two at either side of the stage and a third above it.

A second ATEM switcher is used to feed the LED screens that act as the stage backdrop, using content from the tour promoter’s media servers. “The fact that we have two ATEM production switchers as part of the touring kit means that we are travelling to all of these dates with full redundancy,” Johnny remarked. “This couldn’t have been the case in the past, as the budgets just wouldn’t have stretched to this.”

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Johnny noted that although each camera has its own operator, the team uses the ATEM Camera Control software to regulate white balance, gamma and exposure across the three cameras. “We’re working in an environment where the lighting changes continuously, so the ability react to those changes and respond consistently across all of our live feeds makes sure that we have full control over the final image,” he said. For larger live productions like this show, teams can run multiple copies of the software for more than one operator. The application can be used to switch video sources and settings spontaneously, load a media pool with graphics, use transitions and keys or, as in this case, remotely control and colour balance Blackmagic Studio cameras.

Video distribution is via fibre optic front-of-house looms, or cables, which also deliver lighting, audio and communications signals. Johnny said, “The connectivity that the Blackmagic infrastructure has means that we’re able to use a much more compact loom, with a diameter of less than an inch, compared to the huge kit we would have previously deployed. With a team of 40 and three truckloads of kit to manage, this is a great advantage to our workflow.”   www.blackmagicdesign.com