Once again d3 Technologies' d3 media platform is on the road with British singer/songwriter Robbie Williams as he circles the globe on his eleventh and latest world tour. The d3 creative software suite and servers were deployed on Williams's "Let Me Entertain You 2015 Tour," which wrapped dates in Eastern Europe in August. The Australian leg of the tour begins in October.
"Last year I used a couple of d3s on Robbie's 'Swings Both Ways Tour' to [play back] content onto a large, curved Austrian drape that wrapped around the whole of the main stage," says Screens Director Philip Haynes. "I was amazed on a daily basis how I was able to adapt to differing trims and shapes of drape. This really put d3 in my mind as capable of doing more involved camera-as-content type shows.
"The brief for this year's arena tour was to dispense with traditional IMAG screens stage left and stage right and have both cameras and content composited together live on a very large upstage LED screen," he explains. And d3 was front of mind for the project.
"Phil put forward d3 as the best tool for the job. I had always thought of [it] as being a special toy for very special occasions like pixel mapping and myriad other high-precision [tasks] that d3 is so clever at," says Video Director Jon Shrimpton. "I'd never have thought of d3 for a flat-screen project. But after seeing it on the first day of rehearsals, with its total pixel accuracy and extraordinary low latency, I was d3's newest fan!"
It was precisely those qualities that led Haynes to select two d3 4x4pro's for the new tour. "D3 has the advantage of extremely low latency plus pixel accuracy, unlike some other systems, which have a very slight interpretative aliasing not noticeable on a monitor or projection but which can look a little soft on LED," says Haynes.
He also liked being able to use Pro-Res files with d3. "Pro-Res files are a very defined workflow within content houses, and we know the outcome when working with LED products, which are always the hardest on showing banding in content played back," he explains.
In addition, "the capture makes a big difference in quality. d3 uses broadcast standard cards that are far superior to frame grab cards," he notes. And "the media SSD raid has been invaluable with just over 1Tb of show content loaded on both machines."
A lot of Haynes's prepro was based on checking the stability of the workflow and solving creative problems presented by the show design. "We had to make the workflow clear for Neil Harris and content house We Are Shop. We have had to use so many layers to achieve some of the composited looks; we had to work out what performance hits we would take by running so many layers with alphas and tracking mattes and running with four HD-SDI 720P/50Hz sources," he explains.
"Feeds have been invaluable since the tour has four different-size screens depending on venues - then with the fly-away shows with huge ranges of screen size, they always give me a way to work around daily problems," Haynes states.
Despite excessive heat in Abu Dhabi and Athens and oppressive humidity in Bucharest and Italy, d3 has been putting on a show every time in every venue, he reports. And support from the d3 team has been "brilliant" throughout the tour. "They're always on the end of an email or the phone for me," says Haynes. "They wrote patches on a Friday night during rehearsals to solve some problems presented by my Pro-Res workflow. I can't praise them enough."
For Robbie Williams's "Let Me Entertain You Tour" Willie Williams is the Creative Director, Mark Cunniffe the Lighting Designer, Jonathan Rouse the Lighting Director, Ric Lipson of Stufish the Set Designer, and Steve Iredale the Production Manager. XL Video is the video vendor for the show.
d3 is the world's first fully integrated visual production system for video professionals, combining a real-time 3D stage visualizer, timeline, video playback engine and projection mapping tools into one product. d3's unique integrated workflow assists the designer at all stages of the project, from pitch through development to final delivery. www.d3technologies.com