Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at MIF13, Mayfield Depot, Manchester

Look around the panorama above to explore a series of panoramic 360° views around Mayfield Depot. Toggle between a view showing the show layout, and the depot as it was before rigging, by click the button on the top right. Click/tap the red hotspots to jump from viewpoint to viewpoint.

Massive Attack v Adam Curtis, the much-anticipated event from Robert Del Naja, Adam Curtis and UVA opened last week as one of the headline attractions at this year’s Manchester International Festival. I was there in Mayfield Depot on the day before the show opened, just as the crew were testing video and audio. I have to admit, I had high expectations when this gig was announced: I’ve admired Adam Curtis’ documentaries for the last decade or more, and I last saw Massive Attack play in Manchester in 1998, when guests Horace Andy & Elizabeth Fraser (appearing here at MIF) provided outstanding performances. Expectations were raised further after spending an afternoon shooting the venue before it was cleaned and rigged out, trying to second-guess how it’d be used for the event.

Shooting this was… challenging and complicated. Capturing a 360° panorama requires shooting a series of images, in this case looking around every 90°. And shooting another series of different exposures to capture the wide dynamic range of light. Try doing that in a dark room where the video screens are constantly playing a huge range of different coloured, contrasting content; cycling rapidly and changing the light levels and reflections.

360° panorama of Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at MIF13

When I originally shot the venue back in May there was less light, but I had the luxury of several hours to capture the series of HDR panoramas at my own pace, largely undisturbed. Not this time… I had a brief window before full rehearsals commenced. All while crew members are frantically criss-crossing the floor, and visitors in high-viz vests are milling about. Definitely a shoot to keep me on my toes.

So a combination of patience, luck, determination, and a well-honed post-production routine resulted in the final image, which manages to capture the structure and feel of the newly-repurposed Mayfield Depot, but also gives a flavour of the intensity of the visual content (see the trailer below). It’s an incredible venue and a hell of an AV setup, and this should give an indication of standing the centre of such an immersive space.

360° panorama of Massive Attack v Adam Curtis at MIF13

Disclaimer: When I wrote this I’d not yet seen the full show… just some of the footage during the AV tests, and hearing a little of Liz Fraser singing a cappella on stage (which was pretty special). I saw it the following evening: it was overwhelming, disconcerting, thought-provoking and challenging… exactly what I’d expect from Adam Curtis, Massive Attack and UVA!

Panoramic camera rig in Mayfield Depot

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