Technology on Tour: Week 3

My name is Katie Grennan, and I'm AMT Lab's current Chief Editor of Research. I'm also a professional fiddle player and am spending the majority of March on the road, thanks an increased demand for Irish music around St. Patrick's Day. Each week this month, I'll give you a recap on where I played over the past 7 days and the different kinds of technologies I used to make my life easier, which might make yours as arts managers easier as well! 

This past week, I took a short hiatus from Irish Tenor Michael Londra's midwest tour and met up with the Trinity Irish Dance Company for a special St. Patrick's Day performance in Lincoln, Nebraska. I toured extensively with this company last year throughout the United States and Japan, but last Friday was our first gig of 2017 - for an audience of no less than 2,000 people! The whole company arrived into town the night before the performance due to everyone's hectic schedules. Therefore, it was imperative that our sound and lighting was up to snuff quickly as we didn't have much down time at the theater before the show to prepare. Thankfully, we were able to rely on GoPros and remote controlled sound and lighting board technology to get us ready for showtime.

1. GoPros (Action Sports Cameras)

Before each performance, our videographer Paul Marshall sets up four GoPros at different angles on stage. Paul explained "we at TIDC are dealing with highly choreographed pieces that do not change night to night.  These complex and beautiful details can and should be viewed by audiences from a number of different angles. When we are on tour, GoPros afford us the ability to record at a bunch of different venues and later mix them together in order to have a multi-camera video." See an example of a video shot in this manner below (a new work entitled "Communion").

GoPros are very portable and easy to set up, and give you the ability to zoom in on certain shots. Even better, most models now come with wifi remote control technology. Paul was able to place the cameras in certain unusual or hard to reach places (such as on the roof) early in the day, and then turn them on right before the performance started via his smartphone. This functionality is particularly handy for him, because he works double duty as our fearless drummer in the band - he HAS to be on stage when the curtain goes up!  GoPros are small and compact, so they can easily be placed at the front of the stage and in places a camera man could almost never get to without disrupting the choreography. This brings the viewing audience closer to the performance and its intricate details, enhancing their ability to feel part of the action. While Paul recommends arts organizations budget around $500 per camera, there are other makes and models available for a lower price tag. Click here for a list of Amazon's top selling action sports cameras that might work for your budget.

2. M7CL StageMix Software - Remote Sound Board Control

M7CL StageMix Screenshot (available on Apple Store)

M7CL StageMix Screenshot (available on Apple Store)

This handy app available on the Apple Store works with Yamaha sound boards, but other digital sound board companies have similar programs. This past weekend, it allowed our sound engineer, Jake Reich, to remotely control the sound board from anywhere in the theater within range of a wifi connection. Because he had a heavy workload of quickly getting the best possible sound mix for the audience members as we all as each of the individual musicians in the band on stage (not to mention the dancers themselves), being able to make adjustments front of house while hearing what we were hearing by standing on stage with us was key. Apps such as these are usually free, but boards themselves are expensive (12-20 thousand dollars). Jake is trained in using Yamaha sound boards, so in the TIDC's tech rider, he makes sure to always include the make and models he knows how to operate best in the requirements. This way, he knows in advance of each show that he will be able to easily complete all tasks required to make our show sound as good as possible. If your touring production is not making use of this free technology, its time to look into it with your sound engineer(s)! 

3. iRFR - BTS - Remote Lighting Design Control Software

Garvin Jellison, our lighting engineer, has made use of similar technology to remotely control the lightening design. One particular program that he is familiar with is called the RFR Radio Focus Remote, manufactured by Electronic Theatre Controls, which is compatible with Eos, Ion, Element, Congo or Congo Jr lighting systems. Again, this technology is free and provides lighting engineers the flexibility to move around the theater to make adjustments and actually seeing how things look from different perspectives, increasing the quality and efficiency of their work. 

Have you found any kind of technology to be particularly helpful to your touring arts organization? Let us know and comment below!