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Massive Tour Success For XL Video

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A leading rental supplier of video display systems is continuing its long term touring relationship with UK experimental music production phenomenon and trip hop collective Massive Attack.
XL Video are supplying customised Barco O-Lite screen modules and a d3 visual control system for the current tour.
The band kicked off 2010 with the release of their much anticipated fifth studio album, Heligoland and continued with their amazing and constantly evolving live show designed by United Visual Artists (UVA).
For many years, video - both text and image - content has played a major role in Massive Attack's shows, and in reinforcing the power, politics and emotion of their music and messages. They have always used the medium in off-beat and inventive ways that unapologetically engage their fans in cerebral and imaginative challenges.
XL Video's Des Fallon is the Account Handler, and also has a long history with the band and Production Manager Dave Lawrence.
He commented: "Massive Attack shows are always a real pleasure to work on - never predictable, always interesting, and forever pushing the psychological boundaries of what can be achieved with video in a highly focussed and intelligent fashion."
Massive Attack were one of the prime movers behind the development of UVA's highly versatile d3 PC-based media server and control system - of which XL was the first UK company to invest.
It was 2003 when Massive Attack first went out with a show devised by UVA, and d3's first precursor, Mosquito, was developed to run the visuals. It used a pixel mapping system which was unique at the time.
The d3 on the current tour is programmed and operated by Icarus Wilson-Wright, who has worked with Massive Attack for several years, and is also a musician.
The d3 is far more than just a media server. It offers a complete 3D visualising environment and runs on a timeline, stacking layers of looks and events vertically, making it very similar to video editing software in operation, therefore perfect for running timed events.
It has many unique features, some of which have been modified to allow the Massive Attack show to run as needed. It's a "complex system that is capable of producing great simplicity" explained Wilson Wright, in particular referring to its ability to incorporate last minute changes to the show content.
This happens on a daily basis. Central to the show and to specific songs are updates to reflect location, language, international and local news headlines, etc.
There are three different modes of change regularly required to organically adapt the Massive show's video content.
The first is tweaking of the visuals for a new or different arrangement of a song. When this happens, Wilson-Wright will receive an MP3 file from FOH Sound Engineer Dave Bracey, drop it into the d3 library, associate it with the track and then "quantise" it - which effectively places the bars in order. From there, it can be edited to suit the new format.
The second is the updating of text to make it relevant to the location. Text continues to play a powerful and meaningful role in the structure of Massive Attack's live performance. The songs "Inertia Creeps" and "Safe from Harm" both involve up-to-the-minute text information related to the news and opinions of the day, which is also translated into different languages and alphabets. Once the text file is imported to the d3, the words can then be manipulated and arranged so the scrolling suits the rhythm and mood of the song.
This has potential for enormous reaction, especially when travelling in non-English speaking countries, where the news headlines and local stories appear onscreen in the local language. It allows the core elements of the show to have a full impact anywhere, and the flexibility of d3 also allows them to completed bi-lingual translations for regions where more than one language is spoken!
The third circumstance for which the new show needs to be integrated - often at the last moment - is when guest artists are invited to contribute - the band are very keen on this type of dynamic collaboration. Recently at a show in Paris, French guerrilla photographer/activist JR was invited to participate, and turned up in the late afternoon with RAW files of his most recent portraits. Wilson-Wright took them into the d3, converted to bitmapped files, animated them and then inserted them into the timeline for "Teardrop" - all in a seamless and straightforward exercise.
"Editing on the fly in this way is incredibly easy with the d3," he confirmed.
d3 is also used to take control of some of the lights - designed and operated by Robin Haddow - for certain songs, merging both lighting and video cues. The d3 is timecode operated, using a programme change MIDI note to select the track and the BPM info to start and run it - received from an Akai MPC machine onstage.
Massive Attack's screen consists of 15 customised frames, specially engineered for touring by XL Video, all containing Barco O-Lite 510 LED blocks making a 15 metre wide by 3 metre high back wall. These bolt together very quickly to form the upstage surface. Lighting is also positioned behind this, to take advantage of the screen's transparency and to blast through it for additional high-power effects, either when it's on or off.
The O-Lite is controlled by 23 Barco controllers run in "custom" mode - for a very bright and highly flexible system which is processed by a D320 Lite DVI input card.
The Massive Attack tour has just finished in Mexico, then goes to Australia and New Zealand.

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