TIME TO REFRESH
The Noor vir Noot story began when Johan van Rensburg and Johann Stemmet were both working at the SABC in the 1980s. As Stemmet, the show’s director, explains: “In 1989, we left to start our own production house, and then the SABC called us for ideas about new game shows. We came up with a concept for a music game show – which they initially shot down because it was thought ‘too niche.’ It was exclusively Afrikaans when launched in 1991, but then we gradually introduced English music and artists over the years – and before we knew it, it was a show for the whole of South Africa.”
Following the announcement of Stemmet’s retirement as the presenter of Noot vir Noot earlier this year, Stemmet says: “Any program that stagnates will die – and it is very important to make sure that the show remains current. The important thing is the television program and not the presenter. In the interests of the program, it’s the right time to make a move. The decision to redesign the look and feel of the show, and to introduce a new presenter, was well thought-through. We first sourced the presenter, and then we consulted closely with the production company [Urban Brew] and the technical supply company [Blond Productions].”
Stemmet will still provide crucial continuity by serving as producer and director of the show, as well as continuing to source the contestants. He outlines some of the exciting innovations ahead: “We are going to change the whole format of the show. We’re involving a younger audience, younger contestants, younger presenter – we’re making it accessible and enjoyable for everybody.”
Some new elements to look out for include the disappearance of the traditional cover band, with this instrumental backing being replaced by a DJ booth – a tweak to the format enabled by the producers purchasing the rights to use original tracks – and the show’s state-of-the-art new set, which introduces a truly stunning visual backdrop to the gameplay.
SET FOR SUCCESS
Blond Productions, a leading technical solutions provider for the live events and broadcast markets in Africa, has been a technical solutions provider for Noot vir Noot and enjoys a close working relationship with both the show’s producers and Urban Brew for many years.
Director of Blond Productions, Christian Ballot, explains: “Over the past five years, we have taken a careful look at the set of Noot vir Noot and slowly implemented upgrades to the technology being employed. We introduced the first moving head lights about five years ago, and we have slowly upgraded technology since then. However, with a show like Noot vir Noot – which has such a loyal following and is so iconic – we did not want to do a drastic redesign too suddenly and alienate the show’s existing audience.”
However, when it was decided that the 44th season of the show would feature a new presenter, Johan Stemmet, Blond Productions and the production company, Urban Brew, worked in close collaboration to develop a brand-new set for the show.
“We worked in a very collaborative way to come up with a new look and feel for the show, and Johan and his creative team gave us free reign to come up ideas for the design of the set – which we built around the technical components.
“As a result,” Ballot continues, “Ryan [Lombard, FX lighting technician] was able to create the set around the lighting design instead of the other way around. We decided to go with a very slick, clean look and feel for the show, with no big lighting fixtures on the floor – which is never really ideal for studio filming, because you don’t want to end up shooting through a beam.”
NOOT VIR NOOT GETS LIT
Ryan Lombard, who served as FX lighting technician on the show expands on his design for Noot vir Noot, stating: “The first thing that we decided was that we were going to go for a very clean set, with no light fixtures on the floor and no visible cabling. We wanted to create a very modern, sleek look and feel for Noot vir Noot, using LED screens and the latest in lighting technology. There is not a lot of space between the contestants and the camera – so it was important to have visual elements behind the contestants to fill up the frame.
“The other important element to the set design was keeping the space open and very slick,” Lombard continues. “I, therefore, decided to specify the Martin by HARMAN VDO Sceptron, which is a linear LED video fixture that is able to display video content as a lighting effect in the spaces between the screens.”
The Sceptrons, supplied by Electrosonic, are innovative fixtures that represent the latest in studio lighting technology, and Lombard outlines some of their unique advantages: “We could have used LED strip on the spaces between the screens, but the Spectrons provided a much more versatile and easy-to-use solution. With the Sceptrons, I am able to upload content that is perfectly colour-matched with the content on the screens and they are bright enough to work as a lighting fixture while versatile enough to display video content.”
Ballot adds on the versatility and user-friendliness of the Sceptrons: “We decided to invest in the VDO Sceptrons because they are highly versatile fixtures that represent a valuable addition to our rental inventory. While they have been perfect for the set of Noot vir Noot, we are able to use them for a wide variety of applications – including outdoor shoots, because they are bright enough to be used as a light source and are outdoor-rated.”
In addition to the forty VDO Sceptrons on set, technophiles will notice the deployment of a number of Absen LED screens on set.
Schalk Botha, product expert on Absen at DWR Distribution elucidates: “The D2V, which Blond Productions have in their inventory, is ideal for studio applications. Cameras love this panel because of its refresh rate, which refers to how fast the individual LEDs flash. The combination of the very narrow pixel pitch and the ultra-high refresh rate – which can be pushed up to 3840Hz on the D2V – means you get smooth footage without flickers or pixilation, up to a camera distance of about three metres.
“The greyscale performance is another big selling-point – and so for your studio, newsroom or broadcast applications, this is a great, vivid, space-efficient solution.”
From a broadcasting perspective, the brightness, crispness and clarity of the screen-filled set design will allow the cameras to shoot in 5600K and perform colour-correction afterwards – and Lombard explains the neatness of the networking set-up between the various fixtures and screens.
“The lighting and screens were all controlled using the MA Network – we made use of the MA MPU, VPU and two grandMA2 lighting desks – which allowed me to control the mapping on all the screens and the Sceptrons. It also allows me create an innovative ‘buzzer’ system that didn’t require the use of an actual buzzer, which contestants tend to find irresistible to touch when they are off-camera and technically not in the game.”
Of course, while getting the look of the set just right was vital for the rebranding project, Noot vir Noot has won loyal viewers over the years because of the integral role that music plays in the show.
As Ballot puts it: “Noot vir Noot is – at its heart – a music show, and therefore the quality of sound is very important.”
Faced with the aesthetic imperatives of the set design, Ballot and his team decided to invest in high-quality audio technology designed to mitigate the need for unsightly boxes, speakers and cables.
On the gameplay side of things, a range of Shure Axient Digitial microphones provides impeccable RF-based microphone feeds. Featuring channel quality metering, AD and ADX cross-compatibility, AES-256 encryption and Dante/AES67 + AES3 digital outputs, the “Axient range has provided everything we needed, both in terms of quality and ease-of-use in Urban Brew’s studio setup.”
Meanwhile, as far as the system design was concerned, Rian Rademan, head of sound and AV at Blond Productions, explains that “Because of the look of our set, we needed the PA to be as unobtrusive as possible. I therefore custom-designed and built brackets for the eight L-Acoustic X8 monitors and mounted them on the walls, thus ensuring that they did not impact on Ryan’s lighting design.”
With the capacity to accurately translate the sonic signature of a large sound system within smaller spaces, the X8 boasts high SPL and extended LF resources in a compact format. As Ballot says, “When people saw how small the boxes were they were sceptical – until we turned the system on and delivered the amazing, distinctive L-Acoustics sound that we knew that they would.”
With its refreshed format and refurbished set – featuring the best of what current entertainment technology and proudly South African talent has to offer – be sure to tune into the revamped 44th Season of Noot vir Noot, which premieres on the 15th of August on SABC2 at 7pm.