Staged in the grounds of Windsor Castle, the Coronation Concert was a masterclass in live event production. Watched by a 20,000 strong crowd, and over 12 million television viewers, the event deployed the finest presentation techniques and performance technology available today. Delivering the high-tech control stability at the production’s core, MA Lighting’s grandMA3 system – both hardware and software – were deployed to provide lighting control which was literally fit for a King…
As a specialist in televised spectaculars, lighting designer Nigel Catmur is well accustomed to the particular pressures of Royal occasions. Most recently, he has shone light on high-profile events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in 2022, as well as Her Majesty’s funeral and the proclamation of King Charles the following year.
For this concert on 7 May, the day after the coronation of King Charles III, Catmur and his team had a sensible attitude which can only have helped: “We tried to remember that this show was effectively the after-show party for the coronation, not the main event, and as such we wanted it to not take itself too seriously!” he says.
That sense of fun and celebration certainly came across. Presenting a rich mix of musical and cultural influences, the concert featured pop stars Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, Paloma Faith and Take That, plus performances from legends such as Andrea Bocelli, Sir Bryn Terfel and Lang Lang, as well as community choirs and spoken word performances. It was a visually stunning show: a feast of perfectly integrated lights (supplied by LiteUp Events), video (screens and projections from Creative Technology, media servers programmed by Matt Lee, content from NorthHouse), lasers (from ER Productions) and drones (from Sky Magic).
Construction of the stage, on the East Lawn of Windsor Castle, began on 31 March. For the lighting team, a week of initial programming and previz of Catmur’s design, using grandMA3’s integration with Wysiwyg and Depence, began on 24 April, before seven days on-site. The stage itself, measuring 70m wide, 36m deep and 22m high, featured an extensive lighting rig with various tasks.
“The stage was in the shape of the Union Flag,” explains Catmur, “and we wanted to mirror that in the trussing overhead, to create a strong red, white and blue visual at certain points in the show. This led to a bespoke overhead truss – a major design feature, which gave us a series of interesting lighting positions. In addition to overheads, the entire site needed to be lit, and for this we had hundreds of IP65-rated fixtures lighting the audience, trees and walls.”
The extensive programming duties were divided between Martin Higgins, looking after moving lights, and Dan Street, with responsibility for audience lighting. Each used a grandMA3 Light, running the latest v1.9 software in session. “In the programming stages of a production of this scale, with multiple operators, it’s critical that you have a clear plan of who is doing what,” says Catmur. “The trick is to then not be slavish to that plan: things develop on-site, and plans change.”
Both Higgins and Street have extensive experience of using MA Lighting systems, most recently the additional power and flexibility of the MA3 hardware and software in combination. Here the four grandMA3 Lights (including two backups), were running MA3 (software version 18.104.22.168) in session. Keylight was operated by Oliver Lifely, via his favoured Compulite Vector Green console, which was running through the main grandMA3 system. “Ollie was merging into our MA3 system via Art-Net,” explains Higgins, “so we had all of his lights patched, effectively. With the priority merge of the Art-Net incoming, we could take one of his backlights or keylights and join it into audience chases if needed, then release it from our programming back to him again.”
grandMA3’s support for Art-Net 4, the DMX-over-Ethernet protocol, allows this flexible and reliable integration of other consoles into the MA network. But Higgins also praises another feature of the MA3 system, the Viz-Key, which enables entirely dependable connectivity between the grandMA3 system and third-party visualisers. “The ability to use the MA Viz-Key with the Depence visualiser was really good for us,” says Higgins. “Having the ability to preview gives you confidence in what you’re doing. I think the previz ability that MA provides nowadays is so useful.”
Higgins and Street were impressed by the solidity of MA3’s latest software. “Version 1.9 is so, so much more redundant and robust than previous versions of MA3,” says Higgins. “I’ve used MA3 for quite a while now, and I’ve become accustomed to learning along the way. You see a desk crash and think, ‘Okay, that was because I did this‘ – but with v1.9, I didn’t see that happening: it’s solid. That gives me even more confidence in this system.”
Street agrees. “I think version 1.9 is definitely a seismic leap forward. For me, certainly on a live broadcast like this, I felt much more stability, I trust that what’s going in is going to come back out the other side.”
The pair also praised NDI (Network Device Interface) functionality. Higgins explains, “I would get the video content from NorthHouse, and as I’m programming, my laptop would then playback the audio, with the timecode and video, into the MA, but with NDI as well – so Dan, sitting at his desk, could see what the video was doing at that point in the song without having to look across to my laptop.” It was a useful feature here, where the pair were adjacent, but as Street says, “We were just making use of it because we could. If I had been at a different location, having that available across the network would have been very useful.”
Another handy function, given the complexity of the rig, was the MA3’s MVR (My Virtual Rig) capability, says Higgins. “During prep, Nigel sent me the MVR of the rig as a 3D drawing. Being able to take that into the MA3 meant that my patch took a couple of hours, rather than a couple of days. Thanks to MVR, all the information was there. I could just lasso the 3D window and create my selection groups. It saved me a lot of time.” He adds, “With MVR, the MA3 effectively gave a consistency to what was quite a varied rig of LED PARs… I don’t think I could have made it look quite so smooth on the MA2.”
The resulting show was a stunning collaboration – a crowning achievement for all concerned. It was also another world-class showcase for that vital foundation of confidence that comes from MA Lighting’s peerless technology control.
Lighting Equipment and Crew – LiteUp
Screens and Projection – Creative Technology
LED Screens Media Servers – Cats Life Media
LED Wristbands – CrowdLED
Lasers – ER Productions
Drones – Sky Magic
Follow Spot Operators – ProSpot
Lighting Designer – Nigel Catmur
Moving Light Programmers – Martin Higgins
Moving Light Programmers – Dan Street
Keylight Operator – Oliver Lifely
Media Server Programmer – Matt Lee
Lighting Gaffer & Project Manager – Dan Bunn
Network & Systems – Marc Callaghan
Head Rigger & CAD Draftsman – Russell Cobden
Lighting Technician – Thomas Ramage
Lighting Technician – Adam Jones
Lighting Technician – Ryan Harrington
Lighting Technician – Rob Myer
Lighting Technician – James Gardner
Lighting Technician – Adam Martin
Lighting Technician – Iain Keightley
Lighting Technician – David Peters
Rigger – James Hubbard
Rigger – Barnsley Gain
Rigger – Tim Williams