A Chemical Catalyst


The Chemical Brothers spectacular “We Are The Night” tour has just finished its second summer run – back by popular demand on the international festival and touring circuit this year, after enjoying massive success in 2007.

The show is renowned for its amazing visuals - created by Adam Smith and stored and played back via a Catalyst digital media server - which is absolutely central to the performance.

Digital media specialists Projected Image Digital (PID) spoke to the Chemical Bros 2008 tour show programmer Matthew Button about his Media Server of choice. He sought a lightweight, fully portable solution for visuals storage and playback. Both he and lighting tech Toby Dennis invested in Mac Book Pros to which they fitted the latest 32Gb Mtron 2.5 inch solid state hard drives and installed the latest version of Catalyst. The Mtron is turbo-charged to give super-quick video access time.

The visuals show was originally programmed on a Catalyst running on a Mac G5 desktop, and this was then transferred to the laptops for the 4 month 2008 tour's hectic schedule which included 10 shows in 10 days in Australia alone, and lots of flying in other territories. “It had to be something we could take on the plane with no fuss – you can get consoles and media servers anywhere along the way, but the video was 80% of the visual show and absolutely critical to us,” said Button, adding that, apart from no excess baggage charges, this set up also had the added bonus of ensuring the show was secure and with them at all times.

The other big plus was that it reduced the SR footprint by a third in terms of the space required.

The Mac Book Pros (the second was used as a backup) were running 4 layers of video footage and proved absolutely rock solid throughout. They initially experimented to find the correct codec (AIC) and the best resolution for the playback to run at to look its best on their midstage Stealth screen.

The Catalyst was triggered by the grandMA lighting console which was operated by artistic director Ricardo Lorenzini, and the desk also controlled the lasers.

The Video and grandMA desk page change was triggered by timecode with all video intensity and lighting/laser changes done ‘live', allowing elements of all the visual mediums to be tweaked so all the operators could move and groove with the organic flow of rhythm, music and ambience.

PID offers the Mac Book Pro package for running Catalyst as part of a flexible and affordable range of Catalyst solutions for theatre, concerts, TV and events.

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