Metallica turn to PIXERA in Riyadh

MDLBEAST Soundstorm is known for top-shelf acts, and the lineup for the 2023 festival took things to the next level, with metal icons Metallica headlining the BIG BEAST stage on opening night.

With limited time and logistical challenges to overcome, the band’s video team was looking for an alternative method of running the show that would make the most of the epic production values on the BIG BEAST stage. “This is not a regular festival when it concerns production values and scale,” noted Media Server Programmer and Engineer, Tom Denney. “Unfortunately, due to logistical limitations, our regular media server system wasn’t available to us, and given the limited time scale, we had to choose to either strip back our show or explore alternative methods of rebuilding it.”

In the end, PRG provided the headliner with a solution comprising two PIXERA four RS servers, two PIXERA four Director servers, and two MA Lighting grandMA3 Light consoles.

“Faced with the need to reprogramme a concert swiftly, Tom Denney and I turned to PIXERA as a solution to overcome technical limitations experienced with other media servers,” explained Gene McAuliffe, Metallica’s Video Director. “The user-friendly interface of PIXERA played a pivotal role in easing the transition. The intuitive design allowed for a seamless adaptation, minimising the learning curve, and enabling Tom and I to dive into the reprogramming process with efficiency.”

Craig Harrower, PIXERA director at AV Stumpf Ltd in the UK, commented: “Metallica needed half the servers they’d typically use to run their content at Soundstorm. That’s not lightweight content, either – these are multiple, large Notch Blocks.”

Denney added: “We found that the handling of live camera Notch effects didn’t faze the PIXERA software or hardware, allowing us to use all our regular Notch effects with up to two independent camera mixes being treated in some songs, and four independent clean camera mixes being used at one point during the show, all of which PIXERA made possible with ease.”

In fact, while many events give artists Notch-ready outputs, Soundstorm featured low-latency Notch effects spanning the entire 189m by 43m LED display made up of 232 million pixels – easily one of the largest on the planet.

“PIXERA’s toolbox proved to be a game-changer as we navigated the challenges of reprogramming within a short timeframe,” McAuliffe recalled. “The versatility of PIXERA’s tools allowed us to seamlessly integrate all the show media, timelines, and effects. This flexibility allowed us to rebuild the concert visuals effectively. The real-time rendering capabilities of PIXERA ensured that the visuals remained synchronised with the live music, contributing to a cohesive and engaging concert experience.”

Denney had spent time using PIXERA’s previsualiser to get comfortable with the GUI he’d be seeing in Riyadh, and he’d had the support of AV Stumpfl’s PIXERA developers in Europe building additional effects they’d be needing for their set at Soundstorm. “There was a high level of dedication, care, and support provided by the whole team at AV Stumpfl – a level of support I have not experienced from any media server manufacturer in recent years,” he noted. “This was very refreshing and gave us a lot of confidence that the challenge on the table was in excellent hands with regards to both software and hardware.”

McAuliffe concluded: “The decision to switch to PIXERA for reprogramming proved to be a successful choice. Emphasising the user experience, the versatile tools in the PIXERA toolbox, and the invaluable support received from AV Stumpfl, the concert exceeded expectations despite the short deadline. The visuals seamlessly complemented the music, garnering positive feedback from both the audience and stakeholders.”

Photo: Metallica, Brett Murray