March 11, 2022 - Metallica, one of rock music's biggest, most influential and enduring groups, recently commemorated their 40th anniversary by staging two celebratory concert events. Production Resource Group, LLC (PRG), one of the world's leading entertainment and event technology solutions companies, brought the event to life for streaming audiences using Sony's HDC series of 4K broadcast and POV cameras.
Gene McAuliffe, Video Director & Engineer for PRG, was the Director for these memorable events and helped select the technology that was used on-site. With regard to imaging, McAuliffe was responsible for picking nine of Sony's "familiar" HDC cameras, including the HDC-4300 and HDC-P50, 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."
"Over the last two years I have spent a lot of time working in PRG's production studio where we used the same Sony HDC broadcast cameras and I have really come to appreciate and prefer the look for this camera type," said McAuliffe. "The cameras also offer so much flexibility in formats, frame rates, and control, making them hard to beat."
Speaking of the look, Jim Toten, Colorist and EIC, explained that part of the decision to choose the HDC-4300 was due to the camera's "ability to dial in the desired look to create the final images."
"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 Toten. "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."
But it isn't only McAuliffe and Toten who value Sony's cameras. McAuliffe said, "The operators really appreciated the ease of use with these cameras. On this project we needed to have cameras that could be fully controlled by a single operator. Having the ability to set up custom viewfinders with framing markers, multiple return feeds, and lens indicators was integral to making the best show."
Another reason Sony's cameras were elected is their ability to capture in 4K, which McAuliffe chose to employ 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 so we need cameras that can adapt to the ever-changing show and produce high quality images in a clean, consistent, and exact way."
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 RCP's along with their scopes and monitors."
Overall, McAuliffe and the PRG team found Sony's cameras to be "a great solution for delivering a high-quality look and feel while keeping a broadcast style workflow in place for the live event." He added, "With lots of time and skill we were able to create a final product that fit in with the artistic vision of the client, while keeping with the standards for live broadcast. With the multi-format capture, we also have flexibility in any future use of the archived footage."
With many more milestone anniversaries on the horizon, there's no doubt the content captured will live on in the minds and on the screens of current and future Metallica fans.