A Summer of Music with Blackmagic Design

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Our appetite for live music festival is insatiable; every year more and more events are added to the European summer festival circuit. Producing broadcast quality content at live events is becoming increasingly important, as the audience for these performances stretches far further than the lucky few who get tickets. Live event teams face a difficult balance between keeping festival crowds entertained, as well as capturing the essence of the festival for the millions watching via live web streams, catching highlights on TV or enjoying ‘bonus’ material on artists’ future releases.

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French live video and event production company, Sombrero & Co, is using a Blackmagic Design live production workflow to achieve high quality video content at its schedule of live events throughout Europe including France’s biggest festival, Vieilles Charrues, HellFest and La Route de Rock. “Sombrero’s heritage lies in filming live performances for future distribution, so our directors have an inherent understanding of the editorial composition required to capture the energy of a live performance in recorded footage,” explains Julien Brunet, Sombrero & Co. “As our projects have expanded to the live event production for the big screens at festivals and concerts, we needed a technical set up that was robust enough to withstand tough, outdoor locations, as well as the flexibility and scalability to handle a variety of stage set ups, all within our event budgets.” Julien explains that for many of the events that Sombrero now handles, Blackmagic Design’s live production equipment helps the technical team to balance these requirements well.

Blackmagic Design Production Equipment for Sombrero & Co

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A robust workflow for festivals
For many of Sombrero’s live event workflows, Julien and the technical team install bespoke optical fibre based networks to handle all AV signal transmission across entire festival sites. “Optical fibre brings us a number of advantages; the ability to transmit signals across long distances without any degradation of quality being the most critical for our live work. Our control rooms can be located anywhere on a festival site, so a fibre based network gives us the speed and flexibility we need to manage signals for multiple stages that need to go to a number of different destinations.”

Julien explains how each fibre network is adapted and customised for the festival’s specific requirements. “For the Rock en Seine site in Paris, which is one long narrow stretch along the riverside, with each stage in a row, we used a dual optical fibre ring, which gives us a very stable, but flexible network across the stages, which enabled me to make changes or replace cables easily, even whilst the festival is in full swing. Combining these types of network infrastructure with robust AV hardware means that we are always able to adapt to a festival’s needs without any disruption to the video production.”

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Sombrero’s optical fibre networks are complemented by ATEM Studio and Camera Converters, which transmit HD camera signals through to the control room. These robust units enable the technical team to keep the cameras close to the action on stage, which is vital for capturing the essence of a live performance, whilst delivering quick, high quality signals to the control room for the live mix. Blackmagic Design’s MiniConverters, which act as the network ‘glue’ are also prevalent throughout all of Sombrero’s festival workflows, together with Smart Videohubs routers for signal distribution to LCD screens at the side of the stage, OB vans for broadcasters and to web streaming outlets. “Whether our brief is to film a performance for future use, providing a live feed for the stage’s big screens, or producing content for TV and web broadcasting, we know that we can rely on each element of the Blackmagic Design workflow,” explains Julien.

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Capturing the excitement
In order to achieve exciting and entertaining content from the festivals’ live performers, Blackmagic Design’s ATEM 2 M/E switchers are used by Sombrero’s directing team. “We can have up to eight cameras on stage, which can be a mix of robotic, crane and shoulder mounted units, and our directors need to be able to get the best shots to reflect that performance. The ATEM 2 M/E gives us a broadcast grade program mix with professional transitions, in built DVEs and mixes that help translate the energy of a live performance to the screen.” The team also manages the onscreen content in-between performances, including line up schedules, commercials and short films, which are also all run through the switcher.

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Whilst the Rock en Seine festival workflow featured separate control areas for each stage, Vieilles Charrues used one central control room to manage the live feeds from the two main stages. “When devising the workflow for the Vieilles Charrues control room, we decided on a dual switcher workflow because it gave us more flexibility,” explains Brunet. “Many of the larger international acts will come with their own creative directors, who want to check the footage matches their wider vision for the artists. The additional inputs and monitoring features offered by the ATEM 2 M/E Production Studio 4K gives us the flexibility to do that, whilst still providing video content for the big screens to keep the crowd entertained.”

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Content for a wider audience
Increasingly Sombrero is tasked with helping broadcasters create content at live events for those keeping up with the event from home. Online and ‘red button’ additional coverage of festivals now requires constant updating with performances from across an event, not just the main stage headlines. Julien explains that Sombrero collaborates with a number of partners, from local TV broadcasters across France, to the online arms of national broadcasters such as France Television, so the content has to be of broadcast quality. “The combination of creative content that we get with the ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher, combined with the robust design of Blackmagic’s live production kit means that we can always be confident in delivering what our partners need.”

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