AJA XENA and KONA Cards Travel with Madonna's 'Sticky and Sweet' Tour

AJA XENA and KONA Cards Travel with Madonna's 'Sticky and Sweet' Tour

August 26, 2008

Short and Spikey Provides Cross-Platform Tapeless Workflow and Real Time Editing for Video Playback Concert Footage

Veteranvideo engineer Jason Harvey, founder of Short and Spikey, knows whatit's like to travel with the band. Working with musical acts such asBeck, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Cher and Cristina Aguilera, Harveyfirst went on the road with Madonna during her 2006 "Confessions" tour.This time around, Harvey is serving as Assistant Video Director onMadonna's "Sticky and Sweet" tour, which kicked off on August 23 inCardiff, Wales, and arrives in the U.S. on October 4.

Inaddition to an elaborate set, Madonna's performance on the "Sticky andSweet" tour is accompanied by dramatic video footage displayed on 17LED screens. Behind the scenes, Harvey uses AJA's XENA and KONA videoplayback and capture cards along with Adobe's complete professionalvideo software as part of the on-site backstage editing system to helpbring Madonna's show to life, simultaneously combining elements ofpre-created videos with the live event.

Harvey developed across-platform tapeless workflow for the tour using three workstations:an 8-Core HP 8600 64-bit PC with 10 terabytes of storage running a XENA2Ke card, a 4-Core HP 8400 PC with 1.6 terabytes of storage running aXENA 2K card, and an 8-Core Mac Pro running the KONA LHe. All threesystems are loaded with Adobe Creative Suite 3, which Harvey and VideoDirector Christian Lamb use to edit and composite all of the videocontent for the show. Each system outputs 1920 x 1080 at 30fps directlyto the video LCD screens, and can also be hooked up to feed each otherdirectly for real time capture and playback.

"For thefirst time, we have a completely tapeless workflow that uses both Macand PC platforms. AJA's XENA and KONA cards allow us to move easilybetween platforms, which is priceless," Harvey explains. "For us it'sall about speed. I can output from the Mac into the PC and vice versa.Then we can loop that material through and send it to our videoscreens. Everything happens exactly the way we need it to, and in realtime."

Harvey's job is two-fold: in addition to preparingall of the edited pre-show content, he also streams and controls thelive video captured during each night's show. To make all of thispossible, Harvey created pre-loaded templates that provide a way formultiple video sources to play in multiple boxes appearing on a singlescreen.  With both HD and 35mm material from six separate editinghouses in hand, Harvey uses AJA's XENA cards to load it onto his systemand position the clips within the template boxes.  Then Harveymanipulates the clips using Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects,color correcting them for consistency and creating composites of thevideo streams for each of the screens before rendering them out forplay during the show. Final clips are rendered at a resolution of 1920x 1080 at 30 frames per second to the Photo-JPEG compression at 50 to100Mbps for use in the Mbox Extreme media server, using a grandMAlighting desk to control the server.

"XENA and KONA giveus the freedom we need to set up a tapeless, cross-platform workflow,"concludes Harvey. "It's a beautiful thing, and it saves us time."

Short and spikey

JasonHarvey is the founder of Short and Spikey, a full-service creativevideo company based in the UK specializing in live music events.  Formore information, visit www.shortandspikey.com.

Christian Lamb is the owner of Frank The Plumber, a Hollywood, CA-basedvideo production company specializing in live music events. For moreinformation, visit www.FrankThePlumber.com.