OneRepublic Tour Comes to Life with Blackmagic Live Video

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Live director and video artist Stuart Merser who runs Vis-a-Vis Video in the UK designed and specified a customised live production rack with Jeff Nolte at OCD Labs that Vis-a-Vis used to produce creative live video manipulation displays for in-venue iMAG screens while the band OneRepublic performs on their current 2017 tour. They have been successfully transporting and using the rack at tour venues, festival appearances and corporate commitments.

The rack's kit is based mainly on switching, routing and monitoring hardware from Blackmagic Design.  OCD Labs, who specialise in custom-built packages tailored for specific applications, assisted by packaging gear for ease of use and protection against rough handling during touring.

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“We designed the rack to be powerful and portable. It’s an entirely modular system – that is, it contains everything we might need for a show but we can connect to other available hardware components, or integrate our system into a venue’s existing infrastructure,” said Stuart. “That means we can fly into a venue or festival and connect the cameras there into the rack over BNC to give me instant control over the show.”

The rack has been used to deliver all live video for the band’s US and Asia legs of the tour. For OneRepublic themselves, the headline act, Stuart mixes visual content from the rack’s central ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K. Content for supporting acts James Arthur and Fitz and the Tantrums is produced on a supporting ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K.

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Typically, three cameras capture the main action - one with an 86x zoom lens at front-of-house and two four-thirds cameras with wide angle lenses in the pit. Meanwhile four POV-style action cameras are positioned onstage for fixed close-ups of drums, cello, piano and synths. All seven channels are routed to the switcher and several media servers, as well as to Stuart's live video manipulation engine, called VideoDust, to create distinctive graphics from the live inputs.

VideoDust is an unusual video artist's device designed to create real-time video effects and graphic content from live camera feeds – specifically for iMAG screen displays at events. It has a built-in graphics generator and comes loaded with hundreds of customisable presets. “VideoDust is in fact built on Blackmagic capture and playback cards. Every picture on the screens at either side of the band is created live using VideoDust, so it’s essential that each element of the video system is reliable and supplied with minimal latency,” Stuart said. 

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Signals to triangular LED screens, as well as monitors backstage and FoH, are distributed using a Smart Videohub 40x40. The video rack’s Teranex Express standards converters have proven invaluable at this point. “Many of the venues we’ve played have been large, open-air amphitheaters, with delay screens for the audience to watch from a distance,” Stuart remarked. “Quite a few of these only accept older formats. Having the Teranex ïn the system means that we’ve been able to provide a feed in the correct format regardless of the venue or available display systems.”
Everything Stuart produces is captured to SD cards using the HyperDeck Studio Mini. “As soon as the show ends, I hit stop and take the SD card to our tour cinematographer Brody Harper who edits and posts on social media 20 minutes later,” Stuart said. “People demand this immediacy from bands and artists, so being able to translate the live experience across social media channels is a crucial element in any band’s tour today.”

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