A Jubilant Celebration
July 2012 Issue 155
It wasn’t just the performers pulling out all the stops for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert. Behind the scenes, the production team worked with precision and passion to create a phenomenal show that was watched by millions. TPi’s Zoe Mutter explored the visual and sonic wizardry that went into producing an evening of entertainment that firmly made its mark in history.
Putting on a performance staged in front of Buckingham Palace, that will be attended by a 200,000-strong crowd and broadcast live to more than 17 million viewers would pile the pressure on any production crew. This was the challenge facing the hundreds of talented individuals who devoted day upon day to ensure the Diamond Jubilee Concert made a lasting impression on audiences worldwide. In order to mark the Queen’s 60 year reign, the production values of the event had to be of an equally high standard as the stellar line-up, which included Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Elton John, Grace Jones, Madness and Tom Jones.
Reassurance that the concert had been a resounding success and all the hard work had paid off was delivered in the form of the kind words of thanks offered by Prince Charles after the show’s grand finale. Speaking to the Queen, in front of the vast audience, Prince Charles said: “I am sure you would want me to thank, on your behalf, all the wonderful people who have made today possible...And all those remarkable technicians, all 600 of them behind the scenes, without which nothing would happen.” As nods of approval go, that has to top them all.
A PRODUCTION FIT FOR A QUEEN
Organised by the BBC and Take That frontman Gary Barlow, the concert saw the Queen Victoria Memorial, which sits in front of the stunning backdrop of the Palace, transformed into a stage, complete with extraordinary lighting effects, projections and fireworks. Robbie Williams Productions became involved in the mammoth project following an approach from Buckingham Palace in 2010. Event Producer, Robbie Williams [Golden Jubilee Concerts, Mandela Day Concert], explained: “It needed to be bigger and better than the Golden Jubilee and I chose suppliers based on the companies I had worked with for decades. It was extremely challenging, requiring two years of pre-production time and two weeks of production rehearsals with the bands in LH2.”
Suppliers for each and every aspect of the event were carefully selected. Health and safety was put in the capable hands of MRL Safety Limited, while London-based Show and Event took care of security requirements. Power Logistics was then welcomed into the production team to supply power for the concert, with Music Bank providing all backline. Williams turned to Bizzmonkeys (site), Showstars (steel) and Stage Miracles to supply site and stage crew for the whole production including Stage Manager, Mike Grove, forklift operators, stage hands, load out crew, showcall team and spotlight operators. Commented Stage Miracles Operations Manager, Simon Chester: “It was great to get such a big contract on prestigious show watched by millions and to work with a number of production individuals we have very close links with. It was like working with an extended family. Many Miracle workers of the past were in key productions roles and we like to help them whenever we can.”
Band Stage Manager, Nik Rea, joined Mike Grove and the team on the project. Although Rea is a very good friend of Stage Miracles and often works alongside the company, he was directly employed by RWP for the event.
While Williams was responsible for overseeing the project as a whole with help from Production Manager, Kenny Underwood, due to the sheer scale of the concert, responsibility for the visual aspects of the show needed to be shared amongst a larger team. The BBC approached London-based Treatment Studio to create large-scale projections on the front façade of the Palace. Sam Pattinson from Treatment - a collaborative association of designers, directors and visual content producers - was the show’s projected content Creative Director and Producer. This role entailed compiling creative and technical teams responsible for producing the stunning projections.
Pattinson explained how he first became involved in the project: “Associate Lighting Designer, Tim Routledge, very kindly put me in touch with Guy Freeman, the concert’s Executive Producer at the BBC. I then met Guy and Geoff Posner, the Show Director, at Television Centre. The projection was planned for the last hour of the show when darkness had fallen. Geoff gave an outline of what he wanted, which included a variety of different looks such as the idea of projecting a normal English terraced housing and a council estate onto the palace for Madness’ performance of Our House.”
Working under the direction of Posner and Freeman, Pattinson commissioned a number of designers and animators to create the video content. He also entrusted Nils Porrmann from digital design consultancy Dandelion & Burdock with the technical aspect of the mapping. A highly accurate 3D laser scan of the front of the palace was arranged by Treatment, which Mapping Technician, Porrmann, used to produce a 3D architectural model. This allowed him to set up the stage and provided Treatment with a content template from which to work.
Continued Pattinson: “I then approached Chris Bird, Director at d3 Technologies, to control the video output. The company’s d3 is my preferred system and I knew that it had been used for projection mapping very successfully. Chris recommended Warner Land Surveys to do the laser scan of the palace, which I organised a few weeks before the event.”
EXPRESSIVE STAGE DESIGN
This year alone has seen Set and Stage Designer Mark Fisher’s creative flair play an instrumental part in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball and Madonna’s MDNA tour. Working on such high profile productions and having been Creative Director for the Golden Jubilee Concerts at the Palace made Fisher a logical choice for designing the roof and stage on the Diamond Jubilee performance.
“Due to the significance of the site, I wanted the stage and roof to look as little like a conventional rock ‘n’ roll stage as possible. I had to make it look impressive but within the budget constraints,” said Fisher.
The roof and stage were designed to maintain reasonably unobstructed views from The Mall to Buckingham Palace. With the Queen Victoria Memorial (QVM) being a Grade 1 listed monument, the roof and stage structure needed to be built and stabilised without any physical attachment to the monument itself.
The QVM has a nautical theme as it was built as a memorial to the Empress of India at the height of British naval power and therefore Fisher’s roof design saluted this and the choice of timber for the roof beams was also part of his design decision. “The timber beams were large and expressive and the transparent skins between them suggested sails. The bold arching shapes of the beams created a crown around the memorial that unified the jumble of technical equipment on the stage below,” continued Fisher.
The roof was raised off a grid of steel beams that sat on top of the monument’s marble upper pavement. The marble was protected from the steelwork by Geotech fabric cushioning and ply pads. The steel structure relied on self-weight for resistance to wind loads. The performance stage was built over the steel beam grid using rental scaffolding and rental decking.
The roof covered an area of 1,300 sq metres and the longest roof beams were 20m with a cantilever of 12m. Originally the plan was for the beams to be fabricated as timber glulam beams, but as this proved to be too expensive the final beams were fabricated as steel box trusses faced with 24mm birch ply. The transparent skins were made from clear unsupported vinyl film with reinforcing webbing on the seams.
Robbie Williams Productions contracted Stageco to provide the bespoke stage Fisher had designed, with All Access supplying the static carpeted risers for the orchestra and rolling carpeted risers for the house band and guest performers. All Access’s proprietary Versa decks were configured to the client’s specifications at the QVM for the live broadcast.
“As a newer staging vendor in the English market, All Access was honoured to be selected as a staging vendor at such a prominent national event where we had the opportunity to showcase our world-renowned product,” commented Guy Forrester, Managing Director of All Access Staging Ltd.
Meanwhile, Stageco’s Ollie Green took on the task of project managing the installation of 1,000 sq metres of decking around the monument in front of the Palace and then once the main stage platform was complete, the Stageco team installed ancillary site structures. The Royal Box, where the Queen and royal guests were seated, was constructed to link into the Arena Group grandstand seating system, which was plotted and installed to within millimetre accuracy.
Arena Seating was delighted with the crew supplied by specialist event crew company Showforce. Dave Withey, Sales Director for Arena Seating and Arena Structures, said: “Showforce’s support in building the two main grandstands for the Diamond Jubilee Concert, at Buckingham Palace, was invaluable. As always, the crew were hard working, efficient and reliable, ensuring that more than 12,500 seats were successfully installed within the tight timeframe.”
Two FOH structures were installed flanking The Mall entrance to the concert site. At 15m high, 8m by 4m, these multi-level towers incorporated equipment hoisting bays and stair access, double-decker control lighting on upper level, with a TV company and sound kit on the lower level. At the outside ends of each grandstand was a 15m high Stageco delay tower, with sub-hung lighting and trusses for moving heads.
The main platform build took eight days, beginning by installing the ring beam around the statue to support the roof structure. The team then constructed the substructure using 70 tonnes of Stageco’s modular Layher scaff system, with the sub-structure and production underworld based in the monument’s fountains.
Green commented: “Working on such a historically sensitive monument required great care, coupled with the fact that there was still official changing of the guard ceremonies taking place every day, which dictated timings of our 11 truck deliveries. Work halted every day between 10.45 and 1pm when hundreds of tourists entered the site to enjoy the spectacle.
“Given the intricate carpentry details to achieve structural design shapes and the tight knit into the QVM, our team paid particular attention to accuracy while working out to the four statues at the monument’s perimeter.”
Before embarking on fulfilling the visual brief for the project, Treatment Studio’s Sam Pattinson had already established a relationship with d3 Technologies back in 2003, having used d3 - a real-time 3D stage simulator, timeline based sequencer, video playback engine, and content mapper - on the tours of U2, Take That and Elton John. He opted for the control system again for the grand Jubilee Concert, in part due to its ability to simulate an event accurately in 3D before going on-site. The d3 control system provided video playback, mapped the event and was responsible for the concert’s advance simulation and content testing.
“My first big job using d3 was the U2 Vertigo tour. I’ve always enjoyed having the visualiser, which means we can begin to design and build the video in situ before rehearsal. Working with a timeline is also better suited to our approach to production and programming,” added Pattinson.
Chris Bird, Director at d3 Technologies, said: “To get the chance to do such a monumental event together is just fantastic. We believe that the UK audio-visual industry is world leading, and an opportunity to be part of a team that put such an epic event together means a lot to us. The list of artists on stage was incredible, and the technical and creative production team who put the whole event together was second to none. It truly was something special - everybody recognised it as such, so it really was terrific exposure for our product.”
Madness singing on the roof of Buckingham Palace, accompanied by projections that filled the entire surface of the front of the building, was one of the many highlights of the evening of entertainment that captivated a mass audience. Close collaboration between Treatment’s Pattinson and LD, Durham Marenghi resulted in eye-catching projections such as these that were witnessed by millions.
Commented Marenghi: “Many thought that Madness on the roof and their associated projections was the high point of the concert. Special thanks must go to Steve Greetham and Andy Joyes of XL video with whom I determined the minimum number of projectors that would fit the budget but also guarantee 200 lux onto the Palace ‘screen’. These sequences would involve a delicate balance between stage lighting and video image and it was gratifying to see the amazing work of Sam Pattinson and his team of visual artists garner so much praise and interest after the event on a system that we had so carefully designed.”
Precision was key for triumphant visual spectacles such as the projection enhanced performances from artists such as Elton John, Paul McCartney and Madness. This was made possible thanks to incredibly accurate mapping of the building. Explained Pattinson: “One challenge was not disturbing the palace residents during our rehearsal period, so Nils [Porrmann] created a mask to cover the windows. We also had to keep the content a secret so added an obscuring mask to break the image up. I think we got away with it as we couldn’t find anything online before the concert.”
While Pattinson’s project brief was to work with the BBC’s creative team - principally Lighting Designer, Durham Marenghi, and Tim Routledge - to projection map the Palace; the creative brief was to avoid producing cliched projection mapping looks. “The concern was that the effect is overused and often gratuitous so we tried to be subtle with the architectural looks alongside using the Palace as a canvas for full-frame animation,” said Pattinson.
Treatment had to work closely with the BBC as they needed approval at every stage, although on the whole the initial ideas remained the same throughout the production process. The creation of the content that would be projected onto the palace was a collaborative effort, which saw a variety of animators commissioned. Treatment animators were Mark Hough, Damian Hale, Terry Scruby and Dave Shepherd, who worked alongside Production Manager, Rhyannon Hanbury Aggs.
“I also commissioned Gareth Blayney to create the content for I’m Still Standing by Elton John and Trunk Animation to realise Geoff Posner’s concept for Madness’ Our House and It Must Be Love. I’ve commissioned them to create content for several jobs over the years and I felt the humour inherent in their work was a good fit with the band,” said the Creative Director.
When a quick turnaround is needed, Pattinson prefers to have a broad production, so the Jubilee Concert was the perfect opportunity to bring in a number of talented people, some local and others from further afield. He added: “Although my musical highlight of the night was Stevie Wonder, visually, I was very impressed by Mark Hough’s clever piece for Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die, which animated shadows across the palace. Another of my favourites was turning the Palace into a karaoke machine for Elton John’s Crocodile Rock.”
Lighting the façade in a way that would work in harmony with the 3D mapping video projection was an essential part of the successful design of the event. After generating creative lighting concepts for the Golden Jubilee Light and Fireworks Extravaganza, which took place at Buckingham Palace in 2002, critically acclaimed LD, Durham Marenghi, was asked to return to the palace this year by Robbie Williams Productions on behalf of the BBC to work his creative magic as the concert’s lighting designer.
“My brief was to create a dynamic concert for broadcast with the Buckingham Palace as a background,” said Marenghi. “I specified Clay Paky lights in the main as I needed compact bright sources with excellent optics and reliability as the concept of the stage roof required a clear view for the live and TV audience through the structure to the Palace behind so my design was kept to a minimum over the stage and where possible integrated into the roof beams.
“The brief called for effective lighting of the Diamond Jubilee Concert for HD broadcast during daylight, dusk and night with the associated shift in colour temperature. I had to illuminate the length of the Mall, the Palace - both with coloured light and projection - the 10,000 ballot winning audience and on stage a full orchestra plus a collection of the UK’s best known artists.”
A total of 240 Clay Paky fixtures, hired from rental house Neg Earth, were put to use in the carefully designed rig to create a dynamic light show. Six customised Union Jack dressed Sharpys, which patriotic Clay Paky donated for the concert, were positioned on stage to deliver laser-like illumination. The customised Sharpys underwent heat tests to guarantee they could perform to the highest standard and the lighting team worked through rain and shine to ensure the fixtures could withstand a variety of weather conditions.
Both Neg Earth and Syncrolite played a pivotal role in the event by supplying lighting kit and crew including Neg Earth Crew Chief, Andy ‘Fraggle’ Porter, and Head Syncrolite Tech, Jeffrey A Smith. Also helping to ensure the visual elements of the show went according to plan was Stage Production Manager, Julian Lavender.
Surrounding the QVM, were 60 Clay Paky Sharpy fixtures, which were rigged along with 32 Clay Paky Alpha Spot 800 QWOs (Quiet Wide Optics) and Alpha Wash 700’s on the stage trusses along with a further 10 QWO fixtures on stage. One Sharpy was then used for the crystal glass diamond that Her Majesty placed into a pod, triggering the lighting of the National Beacon in The Mall outside the Palace.
The audience in The Mall were lit with 170 Chrome Parcans fixed to the flag posts. Key light from the FOH towers was produced using 32 Alpha Beam 700’s, four Alpha Beam 1500’s, five Robert Juliat Lancelot and four Gladiator followspots. A total of 32 Alpha Wash 1500’s were then placed around the Palace façade, with the roof performance from Madness requiring another four QWO 800’s and 10 of the new Thomas Smartline 4’s. These fixtures were selected for their high quality optics, compact size and high output. “This provided pin sharp gobos on performers a few feet away and also in the air and on the audience hundreds of feet away. It was remarkable,” commented Marenghi. “Around the stage 60 Alpha Beam 1500’s were used for aerial effects, 60 being the key number here for a Diamond Jubilee. I had 50 searchlights on the roof for the Golden Jubilee.”
Also incorporated into the lighting design were 80 i-Pix BB4 washlight and 30 of the new i-Pix i-Line 600 RGBW linear battens, which were integrated into the roof beams. A total of 12 Color Kinetics ColorReach Powercores were placed on top of the beams to light the monument, while 32 Color Kinetics iW Blasts lit the Royal Box. Managing Director of i-Pix, Chis Ewington, said: “It was an absolute pleasure to launch our new product at such an auspicious occasion. Durham did a terrific job and we are very proud as a British manufacturer to have had such a presence in the show.“
Audience lighting was carried out by 20 Syncrolite SXL-7/3’s and 30 Syncrolite Arena Colors illuminated the Palace façade. At the start of a week of programming, time was dedicated to focusing the Syncrolite Arena Colors, which lit the building when daylight and pyro was too strong for the projection image.
While Marenghi was responsible for the stage lighting design of the event and integration of projection and pyro, Tim Routledge was Associate LD and Lead Programmer, working on an MA Lighting grandMA2. Meanwhile, Alex Passmore operated key and audience lights on stage and rode overall levels for TV Lighting Director, Steve Nolan. Also working within the lighting team was Palace Production Electrician, Dennis Gardner, and Dave Hill, who controlled the Palace compound, balcony and roof systems from a grandMA1 console.
“One of the fascinating aspects of our work on large events is that we become responsible as Directors of Photography for every visible image, whether it be for the live audience, for the 17 million viewers on television, for the national and worldwide press or for every other media from YouTube to T-Shirts and mugs so attention to the smallest detail is fundamental to a successful event even though it often goes unnoticed,” commented Marenghi.
The Blackout team was involved in the smooth running of the event too, working closely with Robbie Williams Productions, Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation and industry peers to provide general dressing, tab trucks and truss to let performers on and off the main concert stage.
BALANCING STAGE LIGHTING WITH VIDEO
As well as programming a stunning design using WYSIWYG, Marenghi produced a meticulous running order that took into account precise levels of daylight so the video mapping would be displayed in its full glory. Working in collaboration with XL Video Project Manager, Steve Greetham, and projection extraordinaire, Andy Joyes, Marenghi designed a projection system and finalised a layout specifying the number of projectors that would fit within the budget and balance the stage lighting with video images. The extensive and creative LED stage screen content was created by Miguel Ribeiro and his associate Paul Clutterbuck.
Greetham spent weeks specifying and supplying equipment and crew for the projection mapping onto the Palace. He also selected 600 tiles of Pixled FX-11 LED to form the onstage wraparound screens on the concert stage. Barco FLM HD 20Ks were the chosen projectors for the event, with 36 of them arranged in stacks of six. A further 12 Barco Image Pros, a pair of Lightware DVI matrices and the monitoring used by d3 Technologies for video mapping and playback were also supplied by XL Video.
According to Pattinson, Greetham and Joyce were “fantastic from the start and made the whole process painless”. Onstage screen display was managed by Crew Chief, Graham Vinall, who oversaw the IMAG mix of the performances taking place on the crown-shaped stage. This was filmed using XL-supplied Sony Z-series HDV cameras, Panasonic camcorders and monitoring. Elsewhere, ADI supplied two of their giant iCONIC 100+ screens for the concert. The large, high-resolution LED screens, which feature ADI’s 16mm outdoor product, were positioned at the heart of the event by the Buckingham Palace gates, while eight other models of iCONIC screen were located down The Mall and further iCONIC 100’s were positioned in Hyde Park and St James’s Park, for those that were not lucky enough to be inside the ticketed concert. Ballot winners viewing the concert at the Palace could see the performance in high definition detail on the iCONIC 100+ screens, which displayed a live feed and graphics. ADI’s Head of Screen Rentals, Nick Robinson, commented: “Our screens added to the overall visual impact of the concert and also ensured the huge crowds down The Mall and in the Royal Parks didn’t miss out, allowing them to engage in the occasion and watch the amazing performances live.”
Set-up in these locations wasn’t without its challenges though - while video testing and colour matching the screens down The Mall on the morning of the concert, ADI needed to work around ever increasing crowds trying to bag a prime viewing spot and even the changing of the guard. Meanwhile the vigorous pre-event testing of the iCONIC 100+ screens on the Palace forecourt was hindered by tight security restrictions, but the team’s knowledge of their products helped them through.
Creative Technology (CT) also provided an 87 sq metre Lighthouse R7 screen in Trafalgar Square and a 39 sq metre Lighthouse R7 screen in St James’ Park South, enabling the tens of thousands of visitors to view the long weekend’s festivities in all it’s regal glory. CT additionally controlled the content across a total of 13 screens in central London, combining the main broadcast feed, locally generated live images and an advert roll with both ticker and emergency messaging options. Signals were distributed over a fibre network ensuring highest image quality and allowing critical video delays to be set for each screen on the Mall enabling the video images to remain in synch with the relatively slow moving audio travelling the length of the Mall for the Monday night concert. At the furthest point a delay of around three seconds was required to bring the images back in line with the concert sound.
Despite the grand scale of the concert, Britannia Row took the challenge of supplying audio equipment in its stride. The company deployed systems to cover not only the concert, but the full length of The Mall, St James’s Park, Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park too.
Britannia Row’s MD, Bryan Grant, commented on how the company went about tackling such a huge project: “We worked on the Golden Jubilee 10 years ago and were over the moon when Robbie Williams asked us to do this one too. There were no PA towers because it was a television show principally so that’s where we came up with the idea of concentric arcs of speakers stacked at a relatively low level. Having got the basic design together and decided what kit to use, a team had to be assembled who were going to make it work. Credit to all the crew and engineers; it sounded incredible.”
Having toured with pop royalty such as Oasis, Peter Gabriel and Kings of Leon and being involved in large-scale shows including The BRITs during the eight years he has spent at Britannia Row, audio engineer and technical genius, Joshua Lloyd, was thrilled to play a part in producing the concert for the Queen. “Bryan Grant asked me to get on board to look at both the system design of the PA, consoles and generally stringing a large quantity of equipment together spread over a large area. Obviously he thought I was the maddest so I’d give it a bash, which I did happily as I always relish a challenge!” said Lloyd.
The audio expert was initially involved in meetings with Grant, the BBC and Robbie Williams’ production team to discuss what the show entailed as it began to develop. Lloyd then set to work designing a PA that could not be flown or seen by the audience due to the show being filmed for television. “Obviously this introduced several challenges in itself. As well as designing the audio system to cover the QVM there was also how to get it all wired together over such a large site as we also had systems in The Mall and St James’s Park which all required signal and control over them.”
Added Grant: “Our brief was to provide an ‘invisible’ PA - no towers, no flown arrays, but of course it had to sound perfect! We therefore decided on a small, powerful, distributed system and our Outline Butterfly was the obvious choice. We’ve had many compliments on the quality of the live sound so I’m pleased to say the plan worked! It’s tools for the job when it came to choosing kit. We’re not exclusive on one product so we chose what worked best for the job and the Outline Butterfly was good; it’s small, unobtrusive and packs a punch. We knew it would be able to deliver the audio where it was needed and has a good sub bass
Although the PA needed to have minimal visual impact, the system still had to achieve the required coverage and a high quality sound. Britannia Row deployed 96 Outline Butterfly enclosures with 48 Outline Subtech subwoofers. “We decided to use Outline Butterfly due to its size, weight and dispersion and also it’s a fairly full range box for a small line array,” said Lloyd.
Platforms were built for the PA, which comprised eight stacks of four high Butterfly cabinets around the stage for the standing audience. The seating blocks were covered with eight stacks of six high butterfly cabinets. There was also a delay ring of L-Acoustics 108’s on poles around the seating block upper area and a sub array around the monument of 44 Outline Subtech 218’s and then various infills of L-Acoustics ARCS and 108’s. The entrance to the Mall was covered by a further four stacks of Outline Butterfly. Elsewhere, at the Commonwealth Stage an Outline GTO system consisting of 20 GTO, four Mantas and 12 GTO subs were deployed.
“We were contracted by Innovision to supply the delay speakers down The Mall, St James’s Park and Trafalgar Square, and we used 18 hangs of V-Dosc for this’, said Grant. ‘The V-Dosc is well established and it sounded great in the Mall; I went down there for a few minutes to check on the delays and ended up staying the best part of an hour because it was just so much fun; everybody was singing along.”
Said Lloyd: “One slight spanner in the works with cable runs was that the routes that the royals were to use could not have cabling running over them so this involved long runs of cable and going via underground ducts. We used over 6.5km of fibre just for getting signal to all the zones of PA. To give you an idea of distance, the run to get from front of house to stage was 500m. The reason we had to cater for this was as parts of our system were used for evacuation system alongside the voice alarm system installed by the lovely gents at Westminster Sound and these bits needed to be in on the processional day on the Tuesday after the concert.”
IMPROVING THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE
After working out how to get the extremely long cable run in, Lloyd needed to find a way to distribute the signal. The audio engineer gave the delay time for the PA down The Mall to Stuart Young at CT London who would time align his screens to the PA, improving the experience for viewers down The Mall.
The audio team also spent some time working on the logistics of the audio integrating into the big picture of the show while the house band were in Cato rehearsing for two weeks with just their monitor system. Another two weeks were then spent working out staging, setting up monitor mixes and working on song arrangements in LH2 with the band, orchestra and solo artists visiting on a day-to-day basis. A further two days of rehearsals finally occurred on site at the QVM.
Lloyd used a proprietary recording set up based around a DN9696 to record all rehearsals. This was designed to work seamlessly with the Midas consoles with only a few connections and allowed Lloyd to listen back either with each artist or at a later date as he built the session file to fine tune the mix as well as giving him the ability to run off recordings for TV production to work at show timings.
As well as working out how to fit everything onto the desks to ensure the show ran smoothly, another major part of Lloyd’s job was to solve the technical problem of making sure the sheer number of consoles involved in the show were communicating with each other. He set about putting together probably the largest Midas digital console networks ever constructed, which connected a Midas XL8 on stage to mix the house band and orchestra, a further two consoles (a Midas PRO6 and PRO9) as the guest artists’ monitor consoles and PRO9s to mix the orchestra and house band at FOH and a Midas PRO2C for the presenters.
“We chose these desks firstly because they are arguably the best sounding consoles out on the market and secondly because they are proven to be very reliable and stable, which is vital on a show like this,” highlighted Lloyd. “Finally, they are very flexible in the amount of console settings that you can reconfigure on a scene by scene basis, which in a fast moving show is crucial. I could re-patch inputs, change bussing and routing, fire external effects and have show notes pop up all in one button press. I think it’s the most flexible desk in that sense.”
Brit Row also supplied a DiGiCo SD7 at either end of the multicore for Stevie Wonder and a Yamaha PM1D on monitors for Elton John, while Paul McCartney came in self-contained with an Avid Profile at FOH and a Midas H3000 on stage. The outboard used on the show was minimal; external reverbs on the guest monitor desks (TC Electronics M3000’s) and external reverb for the orchestra desk (TC Reverb 4000, Bricasti M7 and Lexicon PCM91).
Although mainly making use of the onboard effects offered by the FOH desks, Lloyd and fellow FOH engineer, Richard Sharrat also utilised a TC Electronics M6000 Reverb and D2 Delay, Cranesong STC-8 and a Waves Maxx BCL. He continued: “We were pretty much using every feature of the desks; onboard effects, dynamics and automation. The EQ and dynamics on the Midas digital consoles are fantastic and second to none which is great at keeping the footprint down by not using lots of external units or having to use plug-ins. The automation was great for all of us as its flexibility allowed us to cater for the needs of everyone, then hit next and be ready for the next artist instantly.”
OPTIMISING THE MIX
As each of the performers was using their preferred vocal mic and all of the artists’ songs were so different in terms of arrangement and genre, the tracks were stored using scenes. This allowed the audio team to optimise the mix for each artist both in monitor world and out front to then be recalled. The team at Brit Row took on the task of handling 528 channels of input units distributed across five consoles. In total, the engineers worked with 14 Midas DL431 24 channel splitter units and three Midas DL351 input units to allow for the complex routing for the show. This included 96 channels for the house band - which could be seen by the Monitor XL8, Pro9 and Pro6 as well as the FOH Pro9 Mixing the bands - and 96 channels for the orchestra, which could be seen by the monitor XL8 and FOH Pro9 mixing the orchestra. The FOH orchestra console then provided stems to all three monitor consoles of the orchestra and the monitor console also had access to each orchestra section leader. The FOH band console also saw 56 channels of additional input solely for Elton John’s performance, which was mixed by Lloyd.
Once the sound left all of the consoles at FOH it hit a pair of Yamaha DME 64’s, which acted as a dual redundant matrix system taking the console inputs, the evacuation system (provided by Westminster Sound), the VTs for The Mall and St James’s Park and distributing this to all zones of the PA. It also provided a back-up mix for broadcast in case of any failure. Once leaving the DME it went on to Brit Row’s fibre returns system, which uses Lab.gruppen LM26 and LM44 series processors and Audinate’s Dante for audio transit over fibre. A total of 48 processors drove the system whilst allowing the crew control from FOH of the vast area from the end of The Mall all the way to the stage as well as localised control.
Added Lloyd: “The whole audio path remained in the digital domain from the stage box until the amplifier, which is important in maintaining signal integrity when that distance in some case is measured in kilometres. The entire system also has a large degree of redundancy built in, which is a vital factor and something analogue returns couldn’t have provided us with.”
Mixing the show presented numerous challenges, firstly due to the difficult elevated FOH position with its letterbox opening, making it challenging to get an idea of what the audience was hearing. The generator parked behind the FOH team also masked some of what the engineers could hear. “As well as this, the rain meant rehearsals were changing and, because of the weather, at points the orchestra could not play. The fast running nature of the show also added challenges,” said Lloyd. “However, we have a great team of guys; our lead systems guy on site, Tom Worley, was constantly giving us feedback on how it was sounding and he did a great job of tuning the PA coupled with getting a reference of what was going on in the audience in relation to FOH. All that and some near field monitors meant we got a great result.”
A SMOOTH RUNNING SHOW
A combination of a top of the range PA system, consoles and microphones was at the heart of the concert’s sonic triumph. Backing vocal mics were Sennheiser e935’s, with e901’s and an Audix D6 in the kick, which Lloyd found to be a perfect combination. Guitar mics were Shure KSM32’s with Avalon DI boxes. “On the orchestra everything was double mic’d with Schoeps Mk4’s and DPA 4060 on hi strings and Schertler’s on the lo strings, which is what FOH Engineer for the orchestra at the concert, Richard Sharrat, often uses on orchestras and gets a great sound with,” said Lloyd.
Sennheiser products featured heavily in the kit inventory, including SKM 5200 MK II microphones with KK 105 heads for the presenters and 2000 series IEMs for all on stage IEMs. Sennheiser’s SKM 5200’s were used for artist mics along with the MD 5235 for Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole and Jessie J and a custom version for Kylie Minogue. Other models used at the event included an SKM 2000 with 935 head for Will.I.Am, a KMS 105 wired Neumann for Annie Lennox, an SKM 2000 with 965 head for Renee Fleming, an e 935 wired mic for Ed Sheeran and Shirley Bassey’s custom ‘diamond’ SKM 5200 with KK 105 head.
“Sennheiser provided fantastic support. Andrew Lillywhite, Mark Saunders and Tim Sherret were on site to cover the very complex RF set-up along with Tony Scaife from Brit Row. Midas also provided onsite support as well as back-up during the pre-production period.”
Sennheiser Artist Relations Manager, Mark Saunders, was proud to be a part of the concert following the company’s involvement back in 2002 at the Golden Jubilee. He added: “The gig turned into one of the most technically testing and RF heavy events of this type - and was possibly the highest profile event we have been involved in since the days of Live 8 and Live Earth. Alongside our long relationship with Brit Row, this show also allowed us to work with many artists, including Kylie, Annie Lennox and Gary Barlow, who have had a long association with Sennheiser and Neumann, as well as some of the newer generation of artists using Sennheiser such as Ed Sheeran and Jessie J.”
Meanwhile, over in monitor world the house band XL8 had a 14 way Sennheiser 2000 series IEM system for the band and orchestra conductor IEMs as well as Brit Row’s orchestral headphone system, which provided 58 IEMs for the orchestra divided up into sections as well as a few hardwire packs for the percussion players. Elton John and Stevie Wonder used a separate dedicated console package supplied by Britannia Row, utilising the 28 channels of IEMs available. All RF for the concert was handled by by Tony Scaife alongside Sherratt and Lilywhite from Sennheiser.
Lloyd explained: “The system was quite a large and complex one due to the nature of the quick turnarounds between acts, which were around two minutes. At an event like this the sheer quantity of RF, both on stage and around the site, being used by world broadcasters means management of RF is a huge task and the equipment we use needs to be solid in its performance and coverage. Also the stage was very large, so a traditional pair of directional antennas did not provide sufficient coverage, meaning multiple antennas along with headamps and filters were needed to compensate for the large cable runs.
“Having Sennheiser on site meant, as well as having back up and support for their equipment, we also had a vast wealth of RF knowledge and back-up, which is integral to the smooth running of a show like this with so much going - and they make it look so easy.”
Only one member of the house band was on wedges, using a single d&b audiotechnik M2. The guest PRO9 and PRO6 monitor consoles had seven ways of Sennheiser 2000 Series IEM each, which provided IEMs for guest vocalists. For wedges, Turbosound 450’s and a compact sidefill of L-Acoustics Arcs and d&b Q-Subs were selected, with both desks sharing the wedges and fills, which could be seamlessly switched between with Brit Row’s proprietary 24 way monitor switcher.
SUPERVISING THE SOUND
Previous work on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and 80th birthday combined with a longstanding relationship with Britannia Row meant that freelance Sound Designer and Engineer, Derrick Zieba was first in line for the role of Live Sound Supervisor on the Diamond Jubilee production. Also acting as Crew Chief for the live audio crew on site, Zieba collaborated with Britannia Row MD, Grant and FOH Engineer / PA System Designer, Lloyd.
“The audio kit we chose was, in the opinion of Josh, Bryan and myself, the very best pieces of equipment for the job out of the vast range of products from Britannia Row Productions,” said Zieba. “With there being no flown PA made it very hard to rig. The PA comprised many small elements, all of them balanced and time aligned to make it a cohesive whole. It took all the available time, right up until show to deliver small tweaks that eventually delivered the high quality sound live at the event.”
Although Zieba has worked on a vast number of projects during his 40 years in the live sound industry including being Sound Designer for the MTV EMAs for over a decade and The BRITs for the past 20 years, the Diamond Jubilee Concert has been one of his most memorable. “The whole project was a difficult, exhausting but ultimately very satisfying experience that I was proud to play my part in creating. I have never received so many positive emails, text messages and calls about any of my shows before,” said Zieba.
Also making up the Brit Row audio engineer team was FOH Engineer for presenters, Chris Coxhead, Houseband and Orchestra Monitor Engineer, Graham Blake and Guest Artists Monitor Engineer, John ‘JJ’ James. Head Stage Tech was Pete McGlynn and Stage Patches were Ricky Gallagher, Jacob Grey and Colin Pink. Also providing their technical know-how were PA Systems Engineers Tom Worley, Terrence Hulkes, Dave Compton and Hector Riviera.
THE GRAND FINALE
To top off the royal celebration, fireworks filled the night sky with colour in one of the most breathtaking pyrotechnic displays the UK has seen. The company behind the visual treat was London-based Starlight Design which since it was set up 35 years ago by Michael Lakin has worked on projects all over the world such as the inaugural Singapore Youth Olympic Games and the Queen’s 80th birthday celebration at the Palace. “We started off as a lighting company specialising in private parties and then developed into set design for events 25 years ago. We then moved into the firework side of events and as far as I know, we were the first company in the UK to develop our own computerised firing system,” said Lakin, who now heads up the fireworks division of the company.
Robbie Williams Productions, a company Starlight Design has worked with on previous outdoor events, brought Lakin onto the concert, which was the biggest UK event Starlight had been involved in. “When I was contacted back in March, my brief was to produce a short spectacular finale plus some pyrotechnic moments during the concert. The fireworks at the end of the show were complicated due to the setting and logistics of getting it all onto the roof and into the garden of the palace. We built platforms to support the fireworks on the roof, which was logistically difficult. However, getting one’s head around the stage pyrotechnics and what each act wanted - especially in the amount of time we had to do it - was in some ways more testing,” Lakin continued.
Leading up to the historic event, a team of 12 staff from Starlight Design worked on site for over a week. Around 3,000 individual firework cues featured in the concert, which were triggered using a Fire One firing system, with another controller activating the stage pyros, which had been imported from Next FX in the US. Approximately 2,000 single shot effects were utilised for the stage pyro of a total 8,000 individual effects that were fired throughout the entire show. Many of the effects were specially imported for the event including the pink blinker shells from Spain and the single shot candles, which were used to create diamond effects.
“The poor weather the day before the concert made life a little interesting but other than that the difficulty was the fact that we were working on the roof and in the garden behind the Palace in a relatively tight space. We had to try to protect everything from fallout from the fireworks and the stage pyrotechnics always present a problem because you need to find places to safely launch them where there aren’t artists, especially with the large number of stars on this show.”
Firehoses were used by the Starlight Design team to wet down the roofs of the marquee and the tents that were closest to the firing zone were covered with plastic sheets to stop burning embers marking them. On the Palace roof steeldeck platforms were then placed along the area from which the fireworks were to be fired to lift them off the surface.
Added Lakin: “It was a major project to be involved in and such a fantastic job to get but waiting to press the button for the main show was nervewracking to see whether everything would go according to plan. It was a relief when the fireworks had been fired and I could relax a little. The highlight for me was the finale; the speeches, the anthem and then the fireworks, as far as I was concerned, was the icing on the cake.”
The combination of astounding pyrotechnics, lighting and projection resulted in one of the most talked about events of recent years and, according to the BBC, 2012’s most watched TV programme so far. Due to the impact the concert had on an international scale it was also a project that crew members have tremendous pride to have played a part in. Treatment’s Pattinson said: “Treatment has been lucky enough to work with the Rolling Stones, U2, Lady Gaga, George Michael and Jay-Z, amongst others, but we have never received anything like the response the palace projections have received. It’s been particularly nice to have members of the public emailing to tell us how much they enjoyed them. That’s what its all about, isn’t it?”
His sentiments were echoed by Brit Row’s Grant, who concluded: “As an overall production, I can’t think of a more complex one we’ve been involved in because of all the factors that had to be taken into account including the location!. All credit to Robbie Williams and his production team who had spent many months getting everything very well figured out. The cooperation between everybody was amazing; Robbie certainly runs a great production. Standing in the Mall with hundreds of thousands of people just enjoying the experience was a fantastic feeling; it was a real coming together of the people.”
Photography: Helen Marenghi, Jennie Marenghi, Malcolm Birkett, Mark Fisher, Rachael Wright, Mark Kimber, Nick Robinson, Peter Macdiamid and Duncan McLean