BtoS Productions frontman Nazeef Mohommad explains the various elements that interplay to create the AR Rahman concert experience.
The Gateway with AR
“Having travelled the world with Mr. Rahman, I realised that we have the music and talent that is world class but don’t have that kind of production. There was a lot of compromise when it came to production and visual outlook. So the first step I wanted to take was to visually upgrade ourselves, because there’s no cost to creativity, creativity comes from within. When you have to build a stage, its costly but when you have to build a stage with better vision, there’s no extra cost. It is your mind-set. Uplifting the visual element of each song, enhances the experience of the song.”
Explaining this more elaborately, “For Dil Se we obviously don’t put hearts, we have built a factory. So, what does a factory do? The interpretation is this constant pumping like your heart. We’ll show a factory that has crystals and moving elements and sparks coming out. So when you look at it and hear the song, there is a connect!”
“I start working full-fledged on a concert one month before. I start putting things in place. The non-creative planning starts three to four months before. The marketing, client servicing and all of that but individually I take one or one and a half months to creatively plan the show. The choreography, lights, shoots, and audio. I love shooting every concert. So I use all these cameras where I showcase the shoot on all these delay screens. I shoot and record at the same time. We don’t treat the delay screens lightly. I show what’s actually happening on stage, from the person at the back to everything.”
For each of his concert, Mr. Rahman personally gets involved in every visual. He is constantly giving us his inputs and also giving us alternatives if he doesn’t like something! Now he is also directing his first movie. He is not just a musician. He has a certain eye for visuals and he sometimes says, “less is more.”Certain songs have very minimal visuals but it alleviates the experience. We look for the resonance point when the right amount of visual, right amount of lightning and sound, all come together perfectly. That’s one resonating moment when all the three frequencies come together. It is beautiful. A great line that Mr. Rahman once told me, “When you become too intelligent, art suffers,” that is what I believe in every time we work on a concert. Sometimes we try to build something with too much technology, too much physics and I ask myself , “Where is the art in it, it’s just science and physics.” This constantly reminds me of the privilege and honour I hold to paint his songs, creating his music videos, and having him on stage with all his visuals behind.
Setting up for AR
“Mr. Rahman being the most prolific and iconic musician in the country, he pretty much gets the attention he deserves. So building a large scale stage and led setup is easy for us. But even if you have a single small LED wall on a small stage, it is what you do with it that counts. Sometimes, we just have tungsten bulbs and that’s what a song needs, sometimes we have the luxury of using technology to the best of our ability. Strategically we use a lot of technology to make the concert sharper, edgier and more appealing. With AR, the entire concert is time coded. I can literally press the start button and automatically have my audio, visual, and lighting syncing up. I can literally hit the play button and I can take a step back which means there is a clear preparation for each of these three divisions, much before. Speaking of audio, even if it’s pure live, we still rehearse the song live. During this, we create a recording of the rehearsal so I’m able to impose elements on top of it. Then there is an obvious sense of jamming in a live concert, so I have another system. Suppose Mr. Rahman wants to do something impromptu, I shift to my second system, so I stop going on time code. I’ll go on memorial code, so I have two consoles every time. So the minute I see something happening live, I’ll switch to my manual board so that I can construct something on the spot. That’s the beauty of it.”
In a nutshell:
Timecode is a technology used for timing signal. The signal can come from an external source or a software that triggers lights and visuals as per a pre-determined time sequence in sync with the song playing on stage so as to create a more visually appealing performance for the audiences.
“Firstly, Timecode is the technology we use. As for our servers, we are probably the only ones using massive servers because of the scale we are indulging. We carry our own custom made servers because for our output we need, generic servers available in the market don’t suffice. So we’ve literally built our hardware system and we carry this system with us everywhere! Second, we use three dimensional graphical projection where every visual has a depth, has a third dimension, there is a z-axis. So whenever you see something on stage, either something is coming to you or something is going away from you. You are always immersed in the visuals. So if you are standing here in the crowd there are three perspectives and you are the fourth perspective! You are engaging yourself in a very convincing virtual reality. It captivates you almost immediately!”