An exclusive 10-track performance by Ed Sheeran, including the debut single from his latest album, was filmed by London based production agency Electric Light Studio (ELS). Sheeran’s performance of the single “Bad Habits” headlined summer virtual music festivals iHeartRadio KIIS FM Wango Tango and Pandora LIVE: Ed Sheeran.
iHeartRadio KIIS FM Wango Tango, hosted By Ryan Seacrest, took place on June 30 and also featured performances from Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Ava Max, Bruno Mars, Camila Cabello, Halsey, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Mariah Carey. Pandora LIVE took place on July 14 and also featured Tones And I and Maisie Peters.
Working to a creative plan set by lighting and production designer Mark Cuniffe and agreed by the US radio platforms with Ed Sheeran, ELS was tasked with getting all coverage in a single day of shooting.
“We were asked to take care of filming ten performances, four for Wango Tango, six for Pandora, but with two very distinct looks,” explained Dan Massie, director, producer and ELS MD and co-founder. “Each track also had a different look. The biggest challenge was doing so many in a day. For some tracks, we didn’t get to see the lighting state until we were shooting it, so there was a lot of flying by the seat of our pants.”
Massie and ELS are no strangers to Sheeran performances, having shot many to date from the Multiply album onwards, including “Best Part of Me (feat. @Yebba),” “I Don’t Care” and “Beautiful People” live at Abbey Road Studios.
“We own a number of URSAs and Pocket Cameras at ELS and Blackmagic is our ‘go-to’ primarily because we love the picture quality,” said Massie. “For this production I knew we wanted to gather a lot of data and shooting Blackmagic RAW would give us that.”
Massie and DP Ben Coughlan selected six Blackmagic cameras including four URSA Mini Pro 12K variously rigged on Jibs, Steadicam, dollies, tripod and handheld. “The challenge with multi-cam work is always how to get enough great shots without the master camera ruining everyone else’s shot,” said the director, who had comms and visuals on all cameras to coordinate the moves during the performance.
“I wanted to use the jib camera as our A cam and worked the camera plan around this. The main idea was to have everything moving, so even tripod shots would always have a loose head and panning movements.”
Since multi-cam is typically shot with spherical lenses, Massie says they wanted to “mix it up a bit and embrace the softer anamorphic look” by pairing the URSAs with Angenieux Optimo and Cooke Anamorphics. Specifically, the camera plan involved the A cam on a Jib with a T4.5 Optimo 44-440mm, another URSA 12K on Steadicam switching between 40mm and 50mm T2.3 Cookes and a third URSA on a pedestal dolly on a track.
This was also rigged with a T4.5 Angenieux Optimo 44-440mm. The fourth URSA 12K was rigged for handheld and tripod use and relied on a T4 Angenieux Optimo anamorphic 56-152mm.
Massie supplemented these with a handheld URSA Mini 4.6K G2 switching between a 75mm, 100, and 135mm T2.3 Cooke lens. Below the URSA 12K on the Jib he attached a Pocket Cinema Camera 6K with a T2 Cooke S4/i 16mm.
“We fixed the T-stop on the BMPCC6K at T8, allowing for enough depth of field to not have to worry about the focus,” he said. “This gave us a wide that mirrored the jib movements from the 12K, allowing for two shots in one.”
Shooting at 4K for a 1080p ProRes deliverable enabled further scope in post to reframe shots. Editor Andy Morgan edited and graded at ELS on DaVinci Resolve. “I love the image we get from the URSA 12K, and shooting Blackmagic RAW is perfect for our workflow,” Massie said. “We chose Blackmagic RAW Q5 constant quality as it’s conservative with the data without compromising image quality, which for a multi-cam with ten tracks was very useful.”
He continued, “Blackmagic RAW is awesome to work with in post and keeps our DIT and IT teams happy too with file sizes that don’t kill loads of hard drives. All the information is there to give us flexibility in the grade. It’s really easy to pull back the detail.”
Aside from different lighting designs, the sets for each streaming platform were given different aspect ratios. The tracks for Wango Tango shot 25fps 16:9 and those for SiriusXM at 23.97fps 2:39. Sheeran’s setlist included different versions of “Bad Habits” along with some older favorites including “Perfect,” “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” variously performed with his six-piece band or solo on guitar and looper pedal. The shoot took place over a single day at a location venue in Suffolk involving a crew of 35 people.
“It was great rising to the challenge of shooting so many tracks in such a short space of time,” Massie said. “There was a pre-light the evening before and the shoot day was 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., but the setup and schedule were intense.”
The tracks could be seen online as part of iHeartRadio KIIS FM Wango Tango and Pandora LIVE: Ed Sheeran show on July 14 on live.pandora.com, with a re-air July 15, streaming exclusively in the United States.