Gearhouse South Africa supplied full technical production, design, crew and equipment – including lighting, visuals, video, audio, set, staging and power - to the official City of Johannesburg's New Year's Eve 2008-09 celebrations.
For the fifth year running, this was staged at Mary Fitzgerald Square in downtown Johannesburg, and broadcast live on SABC 2.
Unique Design Gearhouse's Tim Dunn designed a unique new roof structure for the occasion which combined elements from one of Gearhouse In2structures' Dome venues with a StageCo roofing system. The dome structure had fully transparent skins, allowing Dunn to light the stage from above, with lights rigged on the 25 metre Stageco mothergrid above, blasting right through the roof to the stage. This created a vibrant new dimension to the whole show. Dunn also designed the stage, set, lighting, specialist visuals and all the show's video media.
Upstage on the deck, under the Dome roof, were 4 vertical curved trusses that hooked over at the top ends, used to provide dynamic multi-focus moving light positions.
“The challenge was on to imagineer a totally different set of aesthetics from anything else that's ever been seen or done before in Mary Fitzgerald Square or any other downtown location,” states Dunn. Both he and Gearhouse have worked on many other events there.
He continues, “It had to be interesting, visually stimulating, flexible enough to accommodate assorted artists and performers, and satisfy the technical and creative demands of both TV lighting and a live audience. Most importantly, it had to be a memorable part of the experience for the 30,000 odd people seeing the show live”.
The show was headlined by South African chart-toppers Freshlyground, plus a star studded line up including KB, Gang of Instrumentals, Wonderboom, Blesem, Howza, Fikile Mlomo, DJ Jam DDJ Zee and others.
At the back of the stage Dunn positioned a massive Lighthouse high resolution LED video screen, measuring 28 metres wide by 5 metres high, supplied by LED Vision. This was integrated seamlessly into the physical flow of stage and set and used to show a collection of tailor made media – both narrative and abstract - produced by Gearhouse Media's Marcel Wijnberger to Dunn's brief.
Keeping the stage looking clean and clear brought a functional bonus of aiding quick band changovers. Dunn's concept of adding attitude and further shape to the stage with industrial style corrugated texturing was achieved by cladding the set exteriors with custom designed and printed vinyl. The set was constructed by a team from SDS.
Lighting Dunn operated lighting for all bands using a grandMA full size console. A second grandMA full size, operated by Wijnberger, supplied all the video playback content. This was linked into to a Barco Encore multiscreen management system, utilised to fit and send everything to screen.
The Encore system routed and scaled content from both the MA servers and a TX feed from the SABC OB truck onto a series of non standard format screens.
The lighting rig included 116 i-Pix Satellite LED â€˜brick' lights attached to the top of the Dome roof supports and a series of custom made scaff pipes. These fixtures were all pixel-mapped into one of 3 grandMA Video media servers being used for controlling the show's media and video content.
Over 120 moving light fixtures were used – a combination of Martin Professional and Robe. Thirty-two new i-Pix BB4 LED blinders were placed above the clear skin of the Dome to light the stage from above. The rig also included approximately 200 conventional lights – PARs, Molefeys, Phillips 400W floods and asymmetric floods, plus 4 x Gladiator and 4 x Supertrooper Xenon spotlights.
Audio Audio equipment was all supplied by Gearhouse Audio, with FOH mixed by Tom Gordon and monitors by Cyril “Rasta” Sewela, both using Yamaha PM5D consoles.
The main arrays – rigged off two TFL V-Towers consisted of 12 VDOSC elements over 8 SB28 subs a side, augmented with dV-DOSC infills and a dv-DOSC delay for the VIP Area on the steps of the African Museum.
All these were driven by networked LA8 amplifiers. Gordon utilized all the PM5Ds outboards and 2 Dolby Lake Processors for system EQ and routing. He also used a small analogue console for VT and in-between band playbacks and the presenter slots.
Monitors were L-Acoustics HiQ 115 wedges, with dvSUBs for the drums. Gearhouse Audio also supplied a full package of mics and stands including Shures and Sennheisers, with Shure SM58 radios for the vocals.
Production power for the entire event was supplied by four 300KVA synchronised genny sets from Gearhouse Power.
And the weather ……. Just an hour ahead of the live TV broadcast - and for the first time in the show's history – the weather turned! The skies opened and gale force gusting winds blew sheets of heavy, persistent torrential rain directly into the stage …….. making it impossible for any bands to use the downstage area.
The production team thought on their feet …… hastily moving the DJ decks upstage centre and constructing a makeshift tent for cover.
In South African spirit, there was no dampening of the crowd's enthusiasm as they continued to dance, and the event essentially transformed into a massive rave.
All artists waiting backstage to perform appeared onstage in the rain, helping Johannesburg to celebrate the arrival of 2009 in memorable style with a mass Splash Dance and Rap!
The audience - now completely drenched and steaming in the summer heat - stripped off and danced – determined not to be defeated by the elements!
The Gearhouse SA production and the event's multimedia design was another resounding success for the City, once again creating a fabulous party atmosphere and proving that offering accessible high-profile-high-quality events with excellent production values can massively reduce trouble and promote harmony, community, peace and love in urban centres.