In the Field: Luna Remote Systems

Having been the camera system of choice on a number of global tours, Luna Remote Systems has recently found a new niche in the world of livestreaming. TPi speaks to Luna Remote Systems Co-Owner, David Nixon and Camera Operator, Brendan McCool about the company’s offerings and why we are likely to see them on more riders in the future.

Since 2014, the team at Luna Remote Systems has cemented its place as one of the leading remote camera system suppliers in multiple markets, including broadcast, film and live events. For the latter, the company’s products have been a regular sight on a number of large-scale live tours in the past few years – from Shawn Mendes to Drake. Despite lockdown being in full effect, the Luna team has not neglected the live music market, having been the camera system of choice for a handful of bigbudget livestreams, including James Bay’s show at Shakespeare’s Globe and Niall Horan’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

“We started from the ground up with a single system operating out of a garage in Barnet,” stated Co-Owner, David Nixon, who alongside Dean Clish, founded Luna Remote Systems with high aspirations, hoping to become the largest supplier of high-end specialist remote camera support systems in the UK. “Breaking into touring came naturally to us,” continued Nixon. “Many of our systems were already used on multi-camera TV music shoots. Despite this and after some research, we felt it was important to cater for the specific differences and working practices to make our equipment more tour friendly. We worked hard on repackaging the kit, stripping weight and reducing the number of boxes. All of which help to significantly reduce load-in times for crew.”

To get a first-hand account of how the equipment handled a long world tour, TPi grabbed some time with Shawn Mendes: The Tour Camera Technician and Operator, Brendan McCool. For the duration of the 10-month tour, which comprised 100 shows across five continents, McCool and the team manned an arsenal of two Junior5C Remote Dollies and two Series5C Axis Hotheads.

“I have worked with Luna since they first got started,” recalled McCool, outlining a long working friendship with Co-Owner, Dean Clish. “For Shawn Mendes: The Tour, we had the two Dollies on the main stage – one at the front and the other in the rear,” he explained. “We then had one of the hotheads on stage for a locked-off shot, with the other on the b-stage.” The entire setup meant that two operators were able to control the four machines via a purpose-built operating station. The systems were configured into an IP network and run over a single SMPTE fibre per system.

Prior to the production hitting the road, the team at Luna Remote made sure they knew exactly what the client was looking for from the touring kit with a number of meetings with Tour Director, Wannes Vandendriessche.

“Luna Remote’s Junior 5 Dolly gave us the ability to dynamically capture what we needed to be able to translate the artists energy to the crowd. The small footprint of the system made it easy to travel around the world and the quick rig time meant we didn’t have to worry about being ready for the show on a tight schedule,” explained Vandendriessche.

“When it comes to a touring environment, having everything run over SMPTE was a godsend!” exclaimed McCool. “The fact that this was a multi-camera setup, but all run on one fibre meant it could be deployed very quickly. In the touring world, you are not able to lay loads of cable each day, so this solution was very neat. Also, any one of the control desks could control any of the systems, which gave us a great deal of flexibility.”

McCool enthused about the shots that were captured utilising the Luna system for the IMAG screens, stating how “it was broadcast-quality each night” – a view that was clearly shared as many of the shots from the Luna system were also spliced into a recording of the show for Netflix. For the Toronto show Director, Paul Dugdale utilised the Luna kit, supplemented with Sony F55s.

For the screens coverage on the other shows, the kit was fitted with Sony 1500s. “I know they had a lot of cameras on that shoot, but as Shawn had become so accustomed to the Luna Dollies we had on the tour, he was well practiced at playing to the camera, which created some great looks for the final Netflix cut.”

Talking generally, McCool discussed how the level of touring camera production prior to lockdown had seen a seismic shift and, with the number of shows likely to be limited for forthcoming tours, a solid camera package will be more important than ever. “After Shawn’s tour, we were getting a lot of interest from other projects, which were halted due to the pandemic. However, what we produced with Luna’s solutions clearly grabbed people’s attention.”

With touring still on a hiatus, McCool has turned his hand to the world of sport, working on a number of basketball projects where Luna Remote Systems have been deployed, with the Junior 5C Remote Dolly tacking up and down the court.

With touring making up 20% of Luna Remote’s revenue, the pandemic inevitably had a hit on the business. However, according to Nixon, the company has “bounced back strong” using the time to improve and develop some new solutions, which will soon be available for its customers.

“The increase in COVID-19 safe livestreams has meant that we have been in demand in the latter half in 2020, which we anticipate to continue at least until touring starts to pick up,” he explained.

“Streaming as a whole has given us all the opportunity to work in some amazing locations that would have been overlooked in normal times. We think that it is a great niche for us, where we really thrive,” he added. “All of our systems are compatible with both cinema and TV setups and allow the operators to have finesse and nuance in their moves, creating some truly breath-taking shots.”

As Nixon rightly pointed out, remote cameras offer a great solution to reducing the number of crew on set as well as offering angles unachievable with conventional cameras.

Nixon is now looking forward to a busy few months. “We’re delighted to announce that we’ve brought Jo Adams into the team as Commercial Director. Along with her, we have created a roadmap for the continued growth of Luna over the coming years. That involves expanding all aspects of the business, including upscaling our existing inventory of equipment as well as offering new exciting solutions in the near future.”

Collectively, Luna Remote is focusing its attention on the sports broadcast and light entertainment that has continued to be steady. “We have one eye on the touring and events sector,” added Nixon, which he predicts, “will recover with a vengeance”.

This article originally appeared in issue #259 of TPi, which you can read here.

Photos: Luna Remote Systems