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Header image for article Adele’s One Night Only: Cinematic Multi-Cam with Sony VENICE and AbelCine

Adele’s One Night Only: Cinematic Multi-Cam with Sony VENICE and AbelCine

AbelCine recently supported the live recording of pop sensation Adele’s One Night Only television special, which aired simultaneously on CBS and Paramount+ in November 2021. Directed by Paul Dugdale, who received the DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement (Variety – Specials) the live-to-tape concert special debuted new material from the hit singer’s latest album, 30.

AbelCine became involved in the project after Netherlands-based Tech Manager Bolke Lautier contacted us on behalf of Fulwell 73 (the UK-based production company). The client was looking for a one-stop-shop with white glove service, capable of providing cameras and fiber backs as well as engineering and camera tech support.

Sony’s VENICE camera was chosen for its unique mix of cinema-oriented aesthetics combined with support for protocols from the world of broadcasting. AbelCine supported no fewer than 17 Sony VENICE cameras – each with their own operators and ACs – with lensing, tripods, accessories, etc. AbelCine also managed the conversion of fiber-based signals originating from MultiDyne units attached to each camera into copper-based SDI signals feeding a remote truck provided by Game Creek Video. Additionally, Steadicam operator and camera-movement specialist John Perry provided an AGITO modular dolly system by Motion Impossible, which was setup, configured and supported by Jeff Lee, AbelCine’s Director of Education and Product Specialization.

The concert took place at the famed Griffith Park Observatory in the hills above Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood, running about three hours and timed to unfold as the sun set. AbelCine Camera Technology Specialist Ian McCausland oversaw the camera builds for all assistants and operators in order to make sure each build supported their needs and requirements for capturing the one-time event. “What was unique about the Adele project was that we had large-sensor VENICE cameras with focus pullers, which isn’t always the case, in order to achieve a cinematic look – what we call ‘cinematic multi-cam’ – but then all camera signals were routed to a remote truck as in a more traditional live broadcast event”, says McCausland.

Sony VENICE in Rental

Each camera was recording internally for the highest quality while a live signal was sent through MultiDyne fiber backs to facilitate monitoring and live switching – what’s known as a “line cut” in the broadcast world. A previously recorded interview, between Adele and Oprah Winfrey, who introduced Adele for the special, was set to be intercut with the musical numbers. Prep for the camera assistants took place over a three-day period at AbelCine’s Burbank location leading up to the Sunday night performance. The performance was originally scheduled for the next night, but a rare (for LA) forecast of rain prompted production to move the performance up by a day.

Lensing ranged from traditional broadcast-style ‘box’ lenses by Fujinon, for stationary cameras, to Angenieux 24-290s (as well as the full-frame “12x” version), to lightweight Angenieux EZ zooms (many also configured for full-frame to match the sensor in the VENICE cameras) for Steadicam builds. Iris for all cameras was pulled remotely in the truck, provided by Game Creek Video.

AbelCine Video Engineer Neil Staff provided technical setup and support for special “throwdown” racks which took the fiber signals from each camera (including video, timecode, genlock, lens protocols, tally and others) and converted them to traditional signals over copper cabling to be sent to the remote truck for live switching. Fiber runs from a given camera back to the truck could range from several hundred feet up to almost 1000’ so a fiber connection was essential to avoid a large and unwieldy “braid” of cables from each camera, and to allow for flexible freedom of movement for camera operators.

“My role, and the system we’ve developed, could be described as ‘truck assist’”, says Staff. “We had a full-blown remote production truck there, but they’re not equipped to receive the feeds directly from these cinema cameras. So we act as a sort of ‘hardware buffer’, turning the feeds into signals than can travel over copper wire to go into a traditional broadcast switching environment”. Staff notes that the feed was bi-directional, and that tally, timecode, genlock and comms audio were also fed forward to each camera. Untethered cameras, such as those used for Steadicam, helicopter, and Motion Impossible’s AGITO, had their signals transmitted over RF directly to the truck.

Jeff Lee, AbelCine’s Director of Education and Product Specialization, provided setup and technical support for Motion Impossible’s AGITO modular remote operated dolly system to facilitate capture by a Sony VENICE camera rolling on custom PVC dolly track. “There was a 50-60’ curved dolly track in roughly a half-circle shape, running towards the front-of-house so that they could have a moving camera capturing just the right percentage of the stage”, says Lee.

Sony VENICE in Rental

In the end, resources from different departments came together under the umbrella of AbelCine’s Production Services group to facilitate a large, multi-camera live production on a compressed schedule. Sony’s VENICE camera contributed its famous cinematic look, while easily integrating into traditional broadcast infrastructure. While, individually, many of these production techniques aren’t new, the staff, expertise and equipment made available by AbelCine allowed for a technology showcase that is pointing the way to a new production paradigm for filmed live entertainment.

 

Geoff Smith
Camera Technology Specialist, AbelCine NY

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