Vital to the success of the ‘Gearhouse hat-trick’ was the internal communications system deployed at the events, which provided the crew with a way to coordinate and manage the audio, lighting and visual aspects of the various productions.
As Gearhouse’s Jako de Wit explains: “One of the biggest challenges with the project was that while we had comprehensive riders for Guns N’ Roses and Beyoncé, the Global Citizen Festival production team provided us with sound riders.
Outside of that, everybody had to negotiate for their space. As a result, the most challenging aspect of managing the project was ensuring that communication channels were open between all of the crew members involved, all of the time.”
We spoke to three key players to find out how they solved these technical challenges and what equipment it took to pull of this impressive production feat.
Lighting Designer at Gearhouse SA
Speaking about the logistical approach his team adopted, Grobler says: “We started by looking at the Global Citizen event, as this was the biggest and would be the most timeconsuming, and reversed the process from there. Having OTR II drawn in, we looked at the other acts and their potential needs and – not forgetting the broadcaster’s needs – took it from there.”
However, as tricky as this process was, it was given a further twist in the form of the Guns N’ Roses concert, which took place a few days before in the same venue.
“Guns N’ Roses was treated as a completely separate production,” Grobler explains. “This is because it was planned and approved before Global Citizen confirmed. Therefore, some of the elements in Global Citizen were worked out of the Guns N’ Roses planning to ensure faster, smoother turnaround times as much as possible. Effectively, we had a complete separate lighting rig waiting in the wings for the Beyoncé rehearsals to finish; then we could take it out and wheel in the rig for Guns N’ Roses.”
In addition to a true arsenal of gear – including 11 grandMA2 consoles (five full, six light) and scores of Luminex switches – Grobler provides a sense of the networking requirements for a project of this magnitude.
“When you do a show in the FNB Stadium, and it is not only on a stage but the entire stadium, it becomes a touch scary. Lots of lights, power and processing to make it all work. To give you an idea of the scale, the 2010 World Cup Closing Ceremony, excluding video servers, was about 48 DMX Universes, and we had 120 for this. After weeks of planning and conference calls between myself and the OTR II team, I made the call to stick to one product and tie it all in together.
There were about 50 Luminex switches doing various things, and if we had really wanted to, we could have delivered 300 DMX Universes.” Reflecting on the project, Grobler says the biggest challenge was “meeting everyone’s requirements and expectations. We had some of the bigger touring and concept designers come in – not to mention meeting deadlines. This is where we needed a strong Crew Boss and an effective team that could punch through boundaries and deliver against all odds.”
He concludes by saying, “For me, this was an event for the books. Bigger than anything I have worked on before and I feel we can be proud of it. It is proof that we as a team can deliver any task at hand.”
Live Events Technical Manager and Controller Support for Luminex at Electrosonic SA
Jesse Dullabh echoes Grobler’s thought about the magnitude of the networking task they faced.
“The networking requirement for the show was the biggest in country to date.” Dullabh explains that, essentially, the network needed to “get all of the different lighting consoles talking to the lights. A large part of the networking was the ability to get all the grandMA consoles taking to each other, as well as operating independently, when required.
“Due to the size of the events,” he explains, “a total of 22 Luminex Switches were used on the show. These included Luminex 12, 14R, 16XTs and a 16FRO to achieve the lighting solution. In addition to this, there were another 30 16XTs for other departments from Beyoncé’s rider. Other usage of the switches were associated with the multiple D3 media servers and a few other servers based on what artists toured with which was largely used for the content on the LED walls of the production.”
Speaking about the Luminex brand, Dullabh shares that “Luminex has started to be adopted internationally as the networking device of choice and, therefore, was the central backbone for the design. Luminex assists in making networking easy through its smart and intuitive webinterface. This allows us to
generate VLANS [virtual subnetworks] in a matter of seconds, as well as trouble shoot as issues arose through the Luminex Monitor, which is built for the live entertainment industry. The combination of fibre and Cat6 cables we used worked smoothly, allowing for distances over 100 metres to be connected with ease.”
As Dullabh explains, “Electrosonic are the sole distributors of Luminex, and so it was imperative that support was given during such a big load in. Robert [Grobler] required support with the network design to achieve a fast and smooth transition during tight turnarounds from show to show.” According to Dullabh, “Robert did a lot of the work and pre-production off-site ahead of the event, as he didn’t want to get onto site unprepared. This allowed for an easy transition. Once the international touring groups arrived, we were ready to tap into their networks with ease.”
Dullabh says that experience was “truly world-class”, and that he feels “glad to be part of the biggest lighting and networking event hosted in this country to date. The combination of events with legendary artist was another tick in the box, but I was happy to play a role in assisting Gearhouse and to represent the Luminex brand of products.”
Business Development Manager at Gearhouse (Cape Town)
According to Gearhouse’s Thabiet Waggie, his team was responsible for “distributing audio, video and data to remote locations in and around the Festival Precinct.”
“Audio Visual over Internet Protocol (AVoIP) technology is creating a buzz in tech-orientated industries around the world, but in the case of the Global Citizen Festival, which had so many different moving parts that needed to be seamlessly linked together, its deployment was a necessity,” says Waggie.
“We specified the use of AVoIP because of the distances between the artist compound and the green rooms, holding rooms and production compound. These areas were also both inside and outside of the stadium,” he points out, making traditional cabling solutions impracticable.
Waggie’s team were also able to furnish the festival crew with “VLANs for crucial data that was used for AutoCue and transmitted between the AutoCue rehearsal rooms and the OB van, as well data transmission from the production compound and backstage areas.” Waggie shares that his strategy used a “combination of wired, wireless point to point and wireless bridge technology,” a flexible set up that allowed the crew to maximise what was available to them and work around the logistical challenges presented by the venue.
In terms of the gear required to execute this innovative connectivity solution, Waggie’s team employed both 4K-ready Matrox Maevex and Teradek Beam encoders and decoders, which transmit over the 5GHz band are ideally suited to crews needing to feed full HD video back to an OB van.