The Chicago Bulls having conveniently thrown away certain victory at the eleventh hour of their last game meant that the arena was free today for us to load in all the additional gear for The Big Video Shoot. Hamish Hamilton is directing, veteran of the Elevation tour shoots in Boston and Dublin. He knows the band well and has spent the past few weeks observing what we are up to and figuring out the best way to shoot the show. We have the luxury that we are just recording both nights. On Zoo, Pop and Elevation we were simultaneously doing a live broadcast to the solar system which adds yet another layer of pressure and frankly means you have to play it a little safer than you might otherwise choose to.
We began the day with a meeting at the hotel with Hamish, his assistant director Hayley, plus Bruce and Smasher (the tour lighting and video directors respectively), Allen Branton the TV lighting consultant and Kevin & Felix, his two board operators who be running the extra equipment. We talked through the setlist and figured out a plan for how we would shoot each song, where the cameras would be, which would be the main shots, how wed light the guys, what the arena would look like and so on. This was incredibly helpful and sounds like the kind of meeting which would precede every shoot of this kind, but due to the particularly loony nature of Big Video Shoots at Big Rock Shows, I dont ever recall having had a meeting like it before. We were all slightly stunned at how productive and sensible it was.
From there to the venue and in came the cameras, tracks, dollys, boom cranes, trusses of audience lighting, control gear, recording truck, blah, blah, and a whole crew of people to take care of it all. Busy day. There was a lot of hurry up and hang around going on, so during the down time I sat out at the mix position finishing my tribute to Soviet Propaganda. Its very funny, but looks wonderful up on the pixel panels. When I shot the video footage of all the band members yesterday, Id used Bruce as a stand-in to set up the shots. Finding myself slightly at a loose end, I made a second version of the gang of four band image with Bruce right in the middle. Oh how we laughed.
By a happy coincidence, the United Center (a basketball arena) happens to have a continuous band of LED screens that circle the court. In fact there are two bands, one on the front face of each balcony, which form narrow rings of video surface used as advertising space. Id seen this in another arena (Denver?) and thought how extraordinary this would look if we could plug it into our system and use it to run our video sequences. It was too much to hope that Chicago would have something similar, but it does, so we set about colonizing it in the name of art. This proved to be far more easily said than done, as the control system for the screens is ancient, without even a USB port to plug into. In fact the entire thing seems to be run from a gas cooker in the basement kitchens, but Smasher is not a man easily discouraged. Much rested on the shoulders of Jeff, the house guy in charge of said LED surfaces. The process of getting image up there was pain itself. Smasher had to remake all the elements from scratch in a format that the gas cooker could understand, hand them over to Jeff on appropriate bakeware then poor Jeff had to sit for hours loading it in, one morsel at a time till the timer went ping. It was not looking promising.
We programmed late into the night, but felt good about being more prepared than any live music shoot since Elvis at Caesars. More tomorrow.