The BRITs 2009
April 2009 Issue 116
TPi takes a look at some of the production highlights from February’s big event at London’s Earls Court...
With the Mastercard-sponsored BRIT Awards impudently snapping at the heels of the Grammys in terms of the kudos of its gongs and the visibility of the televised live show, this year’s event at London’s Earls Court benefited from the extra glamour and chutzpah provided by an incredible flowering of British talent, and featured live performances by Grammy winners Duffy, Coldplay and Estelle.
The success of the 2009 BRITs owes much to the regular team of contractors, gathered over recent years by MJK Productions under the leadership of technical production manager Mick Kluczynski, whose untimely death — only 12 days before the show — cast a huge shadow over the build-up.
XL Video project manager Chris Saunders, who was working on his 15th BRITs, reflected: “The BRITs was a great tribute to Mick’s amazing technical, practical and communication skills and his ability to see ‘the big picture’. He was the first person to have wanted ‘the show to go on’, but it’s definitely not the same without him!”
Sound supplier Britannia Row extended its impressively consistent run with the Electro-Voice X-Line system. “It is the perfect system for a format like the BRITs,” said Brit Row’s Bryan Grant.
Filling the Earls Court Arena with the great and the good of the British music industry, the 2009 BRIT Awards featured a dizzying variety of performers and genres. Something of a coup for the organisers was the opening performance ‘Get On Your Boots’ by U2, whose forthcoming 360° world tour will once again introduce new production innovations to the world.
With the emphasis very much on live performances from British artists, the programme ranged from Coldplay to Girls Aloud, Take That to the Kings of Leon, The Ting Tings to the Pet Shop Boys.
“To be able to handle such a spread of A-list acts and keep everyone happy is amazing,” said long-time BRITs sound designer Derrick Zieba. “We didn’t have a single adverse comment from any artist, engineer or manager; they were all more than satisfied with what we’d done, and that is why I specified the X-Line.
“We first used this system configuration at Earls Court in 2006, and it has worked so well that there’s absolutely no point in changing it. I’m happy for our control systems to evolve, but with the main loudspeaker elements, the tried-and-tested consistency of the EV X-Line is the route to go.
“As a sound designer, my brief is crystal clear: to produce as good a sound as can be achieved in that room, and to deliver it to the live audience and the broadcasters. I don’t want a PA system to add any colour, and one thing that still surprises me about X-Line is that it’s about as neutral as a system can be. We’re equally happy using it at the Classical BRITs show in the Royal Albert Hall.”
Zieba welcomed this year’s change to the BRITs set. Designed by Nicoline Refsing and Mark Fisher of Stufish, it featured a single performance stage instead of two, and allowed Zieba to narrow the distance between left and right main PA hangs.
Left and right of the stage set were 15-module hangs of X-Line mid-top cabinets and 10 X-Subs, with a centre cluster of six small cabinets squashed into a tiny space below the follow-spots. The substantial delay system operated as a duplicate of the front system. With a L/R/L arrangement on the hangs, each with eight EV XLS cabinets, the FOH engineers used the two delay hangs in front of them as their reference.
Two control system packages were made available to the live bands, offering a choice between DiGiCo D5 FOH and monitors or Digidesign Venue FOH and monitors. A Yamaha PM5D was used for presenters Kylie Minogue and ‘Gavin & Stacey’ stars Mathew Horne and James Corden, and playback.
Zieba and his team took advantage of EV’s NetMax digital matrix system, added into the system for extra control from the FOH position. “The whole system is mastered through IRIS-Net control and supervision software,” explained Zieba.
“However, NetMax helped us enormously by giving us accurate and recallable control of all the smaller speakers, allowing us to insert EQ and delay, and meter the results. It gave us the same level of control over the rest of the system that IRIS gave us over the main PA.”
The main PA was trimmed some 15 metres above the stage because, as Bryan Grant explained: “The BRIT Awards is essentially a TV show, so nobody wants to see sound equipment in shot. It is one of the specific reasons for using X-Line, as we can fly all the bass cabinets, keep the stage uncluttered and still give everybody in the house a full-range sound.
“It’s a very good tool in this respect because we can get it up high and still achieve very even coverage. The X-Line boxes throw well [the Xlt has a 120° dispersion] and they have a very good sound. After four years of using the system on this show, our feeling is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
X-Line also delivered the goods for the BRIT Awards’ notoriously demanding noise police, who enforced even more detailed regulation this year. Measurements ran over a whole day to monitor the exposure to employees, although Zieba reported: “Not only did we meet our show targets but we met our all-day LEQ targets as well.”
For the seventh year running, Sennheiser microphones, in-ear monitoring and personnel played major roles within Zieba’s sound department.
Kylie Minogue, James Corden and Matthew Horne used SKM 5200 microphones with Neumann KK 105 heads, and the same combination was used for all guest presenters.
For their live vocal performances, Take That chose chromed SKM 5200 with KK 105 heads, and The Ting Tings used e935 wired mics.
These were followed by show stopping performances from Kings of Leon, putting their e945 wired mics through their paces, and Girls Aloud who favoured customised SKM 935 radio mics.
In-ear monitoring was a Sennheiser-only affair with the G2 300 series employed by all IEM-using performers.
Rabbit, Kings of Leon’s monitor engineer, was delighted to see Sennheiser on site for another year supporting the event with both equipment and technical know-how. He said: “It’s always good to turn up and find Sennheiser on site supporting a big event like the BRITs.”
The BRITs’ sound team included FOH engineers Chris Morrison, Dave Bracey and Ben Milton, monitor engineers John ‘JJ’ James and Ben Philips, system tech Nico Royan, stage techs Pete McGlynn and Steve Donovan, and Barry McCloud on radio systems.
Amongst the lighting fixtures specified by LD Al Gurdon and supplied by PRG were 24 i-Pix BB4 LED 4-lite units.
Supplied with special ‘double-up’ hanging brackets allowing two BB4s to be rigged together to make up an 8-Lite, six units in this format were positioned on the front truss pointing into the audience, with another two per side on each of two satellite trusses, hung stage left and right above the front line of the stage.
They were used for classic Molefey-style effects, providing strong and intense bursts of colour and illumination across the large live audience and highlighting the vast interior of Earls Court.
“They are absolutely super bright,” commented lighting supplier PRG’s crew chief Rich Gorrod, adding that they are far brighter than a conventional 8-lite and the tech time involved with BB4s is considerably less than with Molefeys and scrollers.
There is also the power saving implications of running a BB4, which, with a consumption of 120W, draws just half an amp on full at 240V. Theoretically, they could have run all 12 BB4 ‘8-lite’ units off one 16 Amp feed at the BRITs!
Lighting programmer and operator for this year’s BRITs was Ross Williams, using a Roadhog Full Boar console.
Also providing a touch of visual glamour was special effects company MTFX — more info can be found in this month’s Special FX feature.
XL Video supplied screens, projection, a Hi-Def PPU and control — a project jointly managed for XL by Chris Saunders, who co-ordinated the cameras and control, and Paul Wood who managed the screens and specials.
The centre onstage screen elements consisted of 80m2 of 11mm F-LED, a product that has been specially developed by and for XL, and is available exclusively as a rental item from the TPi Award-winning company. A further 30m2 of Lighthouse 7mm was utilised for the presenter screen.
An integral element of the stage design was a pyramid shaped projection backdrop, which was fed by 12 Christie S20+ projectors all rigged and focused at different angles. Getting these lined up correctly was a major global challenge for the XL crew. The individual projector outputs were aligned and soft edged together to produce one large image.
Four Catalyst media servers were programmed and run by Richard Turner via a WholeHog II console. In addition, the playback set up featured two Doremi hard drives, a Virtual VTR and two stills stores.
Outputs from all of these, two GV LDK 8000 HD cameras (also supplied by XL as part of the I-Mag mix), together with seven broadcast camera feeds were all processed via a Barco Encore multi-screen control system. This was operated by James Morden who sent the relevant content to screens.
All the pre-recorded video playback material was supplied by the production. The majority was created by Hello Charlie, with onedotzero supplying special footage for the truly show-stopping Pet Shop Boys’ performance that closed the live action. This followed their collection of the Outstanding Contribution to Music Performance award.
One of XL’s HD PPUs was at the core of the live screen I-Mag mix cut by Ollie Bartlett. This was based around a Grass Valley HD Kayak mixer, fed by the two XL cameras plus another seven HD feeds supplied from the CTV OB directed by Phil Heyes.
To further facilitate audience enjoyment of the I-Mag, XL supplied two flown side projection screens that were fed by Barco ELMs, and also inserted PiP I-Mag into the pyramid projection system.
XL’s 20 person crew included LED crew chief Paul ‘PJ’ Maddock-Jones and projectionist Warren Galt.
MJK’s production team featured Kate Wright, Tony Wheeler, Lisa Shenton, Amanda Crane, Sarah Willis, Tank, Roni Horner and Yvonne Ryan. Annie Crofts, Maggie Mouzakitis and Ceire Deery looked after the BRITs TV production.
Other suppliers hired by MJK included Stageco, Blackfriars and Steel Monkey (set), Blackout (draping), Eat Your Hearts Out (catering), Show & Event Security, Showstars (local crew), Stage Miracles (stage crew & management), Mojo Barriers UK, MRL (health & safety), Outback Rigging, Unusual Rigging (house riggers) and Templine (power).
Photography by: John Marshall/JM Enternational & Wen.com
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