‘Better days are coming’ – Dermot Kennedy @ Ally Pally

Dermot Kennedy's Lighting and Production Designer, Owen Pritchard-Smith and Video Programmer, Joe Lott of Quantum Creative reflect on curating visuals for in-person audiences and the pros of hybrid collaboration. TPi's Jacob Waite reports...

Having entertained music fans and provided an outlet for a talented production team with a series of livestream shows in lockdown [see TPi #255], Irish singer-songwriter, Dermot Kennedy returned to the road with his most ambitious tour to date and three sold-out shows at London’s Alexandra Palace.

The project comprised the expertise of Creative Director, Richard Sloan; Creative Producer, Peter Abbott; Lighting and Production Designer, Owen Pritchard-Smith; Content Producer, James Lockey; Video Programmer, Joe Lott of Quantum Creative and Lighting Chief, Dave Moorcroft.

Following a successful run of shows in the UK and Ireland, three nights at Ally Pally saw the addition of downstage lighting, video pods, wings and a thrust to the show design, the latter courtesy of All Access Staging UK. “Having waited for 18 months, we knew this had to be something extra special,” Pritchard-Smith began, explaining the pros of a hybrid working environment. “We discovered working via Zoom is one the best ways to brainstorm. I could share my Capture screen, allowing us to play with ideas in real time.”

Given the complexity of the lighting rig and the unique state of the world during the pre-production phase, creating a rigging system for lighting pods was the visual team’s only real challenge. “Their offset provided for some fun top-rigging solutions,” Pritchard-Smith recalled, praising the support of lighting and rigging vendor, Christie Lites. “Account Handler, Andy Strachan and the team were supportive throughout the entire process, which involved a few design iterations.”

The lighting rig boasted Martin by Harman Viper Profiles, Performances, and Robe RoboSpot BMFLs. Key to the show’s aesthetic was the use of colour, creating cross stage gradients, using GLP impression X4 bar 20s and JDC1s. “The transition from a warm amber through to a rich blue during the track, Moments Passed, was one of my favourite looks,” Pritchard-Smith remarked. “The gradient provided a multitude of shades and colours as it crossed the stage.”

Video, provided by Creative Technology, was driven by two Green Hippo Boreal+ media servers, controlled by two MA Lighting grandMA3 light consoles, both supplied by Quantum Creative. The visuals were mostly camera based with live feeds creatively treated and mapped onto LED screens. Multiple fixed, remote PTZ and a FOH long lens cameras provided plenty of angles to construct dynamic compositions. Camera feeds were sent via fibre to the video rack at FOH, where up to four were cut on a Blackmagic Design ATEM video switcher, before being sent to the media servers.

“The software, Central Control, allowed me to both operate the media servers, direct the up to eight cameras and control multiple PTZ cameras,” Lott said, explaining that through DMX triggers on grandMA3, the media servers would send OSC messages which Central Control would receive and translate into commands to control the Blackmagic ATEM switcher without latency. “My camera cuts were triggered on timecode via the MA3 console, so I could recall predetermined camera cuts for each song.”

After 18 months without audiences, Pritchard-Smith was lost for words. “I can’t even start to describe how amazing it is to be back doing live music again. The energy at FOH for every show has been electric!”

Dermot Kennedy’s sound engineers hit the open road with DiGiCo SD5