From a high-profile fashion event in a socially distanced venue with an army of masked crew, to working in sparse TV studios and on-air radio broadcasts, sound rental company Britannia Row Productions has maintained COVID-19 secure working practices during the pandemic.
Freelance sound engineer Scott Maxwell was touring with deep house DJ and producer Jax Jones when COVID-19 cancellations saw his calendar fall apart. After months without pushing his faders, Autumn finally kicked off a run of new shows. A theatre production in Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre was his first foray into socially distant events.
The theatre partnered with Stage2View to present a selection of West End and Broadway musicals and plays, allowing for a cinematic experience in the atmosphere of a real theatre. Productions screened included The King and I and 42nd Street in 5.1 surround sound. Using an L-Acoustics Kara, KS28 and SB18 subwoofers spec, the show was heard perfectly throughout the venue’s 200 socially distanced, seated attendees.
At a COVID-19 secure high-end fashion show for Italian luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta, the stage was built out into the auditorium to ensure strict social distancing was in place. Here, Brit Row’s Tom Brown designed the audio system using L-Acoustics 112P self-powered coaxial cabinets, with Maxwell on site for show day. “There were acoustic challenges at this venue as the performance and audience area passed from an acoustically treated auditorium onto a cavernous stage area,” says Maxwell. “Therefore, we had to get the system to cover evenly with great musicality. Crowd restrictions and spacing issues do mean we have to overcome such challenges.”
Maxwell reunited with Jax Jones alongside vocalist Au/Ra and MD William Bowerman of WFB Live, to debut new single I Miss You on Little Mix The Search. The rehearsals were spec’d by the engineer and supplied by Brit Row, with a set up comprising a DiGiCo SD11 console, Shure PSM 1000s IEMs, Sennheiser 6000 handhelds and classic Pioneer DJ decks, the spec was then replicated on set.
“A large part of reassuring clients during the COVID-19 climate is thorough microphone & IEM pack cleansing. The focused sterilisation of microphones is simply the new normal,” continues Maxwell. “No one else is allowed physical contact with the mic or packs except me – wearing masks and rubber gloves – and the singer. You have to be very consciousness of equipment handling and clinical storage at all times.”
At reality TV star turned DJ Joel Corry’s Kiss FM Haunted House Party gig, COVID-19 cleansing was again at the top of the agenda. At the main venue, other artists recorded from separate locations to keep numbers down on the shoot day. Pioneer DJ supplied Maxwell with a limited-edition DJ setup solely for Corry’s use, in order to keep contamination risks to a minimum.
Jax Jones’ promo continued as he was welcomed to Sunday Brunch as a musical guest. The song was pre-recorded to avoid physical encounters with the other guests. “We had to be off the set before the show even started airing, which was a first! To make sure we got the mix signed off in rapid time, I used my DiGiCo and Waves MGB to stream the music out to our MDs William Bowerman and James Trood, who were off site due to the COVID-19 studio restrictions.
“To achieve this, I used Audio Movers, a Plug-in that runs off a DAW. It’s a very beneficial tool for COVID-19 related scenarios like this, as it allows for the creation of live broadcast mixes to be streamed out in real time, whilst we can tend to live edits at the MD’s request.”
Tour Manager Ben Taylor, Director at Tour Cloud, works with a roster of artists including Jax Jones and Joel Corry and is a return client of Brit Row’s, often requesting Maxwell to handle the task in hand.
“There’s so much checking in every aspect of the job now, you do need to know you’re working with people who are going to be thorough,” he explained. “COVID-19 tests and temperature checks, paperwork to advance show; every detail is considered for days or weeks even for a one-song appearance. There’s risk assessments and method statements for literally every person we work with. Scotty has been great at flagging any potential contamination points and keeping the artist as safe and stress-free as possible.
He added: “When getting equipment and crew from Brit Row, there’s never an issue. Ever since I became involved in my artists’ productions, working with Brit Row has been a smooth experience and despite the pandemic, we’ve still received amazing service. They’ve helped us adapt to budgets, which I really haven’t enjoyed asking our suppliers to do, but Brit Row have been totally compliant, more than helpful. They’ve enabled us to get the job done without compromise.”
He concluded: “Of course, it’s not just down to cost; every time the rider comes out, it’s delivered in perfect condition, no wonder every engineer we work with wants us to use Brit Row for their gear! Director Lez Dwight and Account Manager Tom Brown are very accommodating, so we get precision delivered kit by a truly professional team, worldwide.”