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Case Study: Metallica 40th Anniversary Shows

Metallica recently commemorated their 40th anniversary with two celebratory concert events. Production Resource Group, LLC (PRG) brought the event to life for streaming audiences using 4K broadcast and POV cameras.

Gene McAuliffe, Video Director & Engineer for PRG, was the Director for these memorable events and helped select the on-site technology. With regard to imaging, McAuliffe was responsible for picking nine of Sony’s “familiar” HDC cameras, including the HDC-4300 and HDCP50, which he chose because of their “multi-format options which allowed for 4K and 3G versions of all cameras” as well as “the various lensing options, effortless operation, and native picture and color quality,” and “flexibility in formats, frame rates, and control.”

“The decision was also based on a delicate balance of budget, schedule, logistics, and artistic desires, which together made it obvious that 2/3-inch cameras on SMPTE-cable were the right way to go,” said Jim Toten, colorist and EIC. “With these being the go-to camera for live broadcast production, we benefited with basic elements: good sounding Intercom with plenty of gain, as well as solid and familiar operator controls and menu navigation, returns, viewfinder markers, focus, and peaking. In addition, the camera’s 2/3-inch sensor enabled a longer reach with regular broadcast lenses, which allowed us to place the cameras further from the stage. Personally, I enjoy the painting features like Knee/Gamma saturation and the variety of Gamma tables.”

McAuliffe chose to employ 4K for this landmark occasion. He explained, “Because this was such a special show, being the 40th anniversary of the band, I really wanted to capture this in the best quality possible. Sony’s cameras allowed us to capture and archive everything at 4K and HD for any future use, while operating the live stream and show at an HD format.”

Toten also spoke of the benefits of 4K capture: “We ran the cameras in 4K mode, then utilized the 1080P down conversion at the CCU for use with IMAG and the live stream. This reduced the amount of processing equipment, and more importantly, minimized the latency from camera-to-screen.” Furthermore, despite the cameras being used alongside competitive equipment, Toten found that he was able to closely match the Gamut, Gamma response of the HDC cameras with other tools used in the production.

The aesthetic for these events was greatly influenced by Metallica and their music. McAuliffe said, “I became the video director for Metallica in 2017 and since then, I have worked closely with Dan Braun, Show Designer, and Rob Koenig, Lighting Director, creating unique looks for every song in the catalog. We have really tried to find ways to use video, cameras, and lighting together to produce a more artistic and memorable show than people are used to seeing. There has been a real desire to showcase the band in a way that is different from any other shows. With the extensive catalog that the band has, we are constantly exploring new visual looks and ideas.”

The production also employed an elaborate stage design by Dan Braun, which consisted of 46 different LED surfaces in a 360-degree orientation. This type of intricate setup does present a unique set of challenges, particularly with framing, but McAuliffe and PRG’s media server and programming team rose to the occasion. Despite the challenges, McAuliffe proudly noted, “we were able to program every song to have a distinct look while still showcasing the band to everyone in the building.” Toten congratulated the LED team for making all of the different components match and look great.

With regard to workflow, McAuliffe explained, “We used SMPTE fiber to handle all signal and control from camera head to the camera control unit backstage. There we could send the 4K output directly to our record decks while simultaneously sending the 3G output to our flypack production system. This was used to cut the screens in the arena and also produce a live stream for Amazon Prime and CODA Collection. We had three engineers backstage that could live grade the cameras using the RCPs along with their scopes and monitors.”

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