In New Zealand, Fight for Life is an annual, televised event in which local celebrities engage in boxing matches to raise funds for a charity. This year's Fight for Life was held in July at the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland, and raised $833,000 for the Meningitis Trust. But boxing was hardly the only attraction. Broadcast live, the event drew about 3,000 people, who divided their attention between the ringside action and numerous live performers, lasers, pyrotechnics, circus acts, freestyle motor-cross, and musical acts.
The North Shore facility is a rectangular building that usually hosts basketball games. For this event, catwalks ran the length of the court to the boxing ring, and there was also a separate stage set up for the other performers. Some spectators sat at tables set up on the floor, while others stood. Therefore, a huge LED video screen, built by Auckland-based MonstaVision and supplied by vendor Oceania Big Screens, was necessary to allow the entire live audience to see the action.
“The screen was set up stage right — it was a flown application, so the screen was hung from two chain motors,” explains Matt Hoare, MonstaVision's marketing manager. “There were a lot of roadies who were pretty rough with the gear, so it was really good to see everything slotted into place.”
Oceania Screens flew an 8x8 panel (364.6ft) MonstaVision MV175 screen from the building's ceiling by clamping each 75lb. panel together using MonstaVision's new QuikRig system, which feature industrial-strength clamps.
“The television cameras love our screen running at [a brightness measurement of] 400 candela, because the screen can match any venue's ambient light level,” explains Steve Wilson, CEO at Oceania. “The color and brightness levels on the MonstaVision screen matched the performers really well.”
MonstaVision's screen modules are designed, manufactured, and assembled in its production facility in New Zealand. “We source various parts from around the world, and we've developed an LED screen using standard computer networking technology,” explains Hoare. “Each complete screen system is basically a computer network. It runs on the Linux [operating system]. We use standard Ethernet cabling, an off-the-shelf power supply, a Cisco switch, and standard PC components.”
Hoare also claims that MonstaVision LED screens require less power than standard LED screens and so produce less heat.
“This allows us to remove cooling fans from the back of the screen, which also means less weight,” Hoare explains. “We completely seal our modules to IP67 rating, and because our screens run at 48Vdc, you don't need to be electrically certified to ‘ hot swap’ modules.”
Maintaining the event's sound quality fell to College Hill Productions Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand, which provided the event's audio equipment.
“Our challenge was to amplify the entertainment and provide the PA for the boxing announcements,” explains College Hill audio engineer Chris Tate. “The stage entertainment consisted of a house band with a trap kit, a bass player, two guitars, keyboards, three brass players, and five singers. In addition, one act of the show required the mic-up of a drum kit that was elevated on a forklift to a height of 12ft., and then rotated 360 degrees.”
The audio system included: 12 L-Acoustics V-DOSCs, six dV-DOSCs, 12 ARCS, 12 SB218s, 20 115FMs, 28 Crown MA5002VZ amplifiers, five BSS FDS-366 drives, four FCS-926 Varicurves with remote, one FCS-960, four dbx 480 DriveRacks with remote and an SIA SmaartLive system analysis, one Soundcraft Series 5 console, one Midas Heritage 3000 console, 12 dbx 160A outboards, four dbx 1066s, one dbx 1046, one Summit Audio DCL-200, six Drawmer DS201s, one Eventide H3000SE, one Lexicon PCM 90, one Lexicon PCM 81, two Yamaha SPX990s, and one TC Electronics 2290. Microphones included: Shure Beta 87, Beta 58a, Beta 57a, Beta 56, SM81, Beta 91, Beta 98, KSM32, VP88, Sennheiser MD421, BF504, AKG C414, C451, Countryman DIs, 20 Shure U4D wireless systems, and four Shure PSM700s.
“The system design was carefully planned to keep audio off the two main catwalks that spanned the stage to the boxing ring as much as possible,” Tate explains. “Many of the 89 players played on the catwalks in front of the PA system. Numerous beltpack and handheld radio systems were used to achieve this. For the last act of the evening, the band had to play while FMX stunt riders jumped over the seated crowd below. At rehearsals, the riders were having problems hearing their bikes over the band, so our solution was to mic up each bike.”
David Eversfield has been the event's lighting designer for two years.
“Each show presents a new set of elements to consider while designing the rig,” he explains. “This year, the main considerations were lighting the boxing for television, having rock 'n' roll lighting for the band and for the Rock 'n' Roll X-Games act, creating circus act lighting, and having dinner table lighting. The performance elements also had safety considerations — lighting them adequately without blinding them.
“Confounding all of these desired outcomes were the major rigging obstacles in the venue. The stadium roof provides many places to hang truss from, but the room was unfortunately bisected diagonally by rigging for safety nets down either side of the motor-cross jump. This made some ideal positions for lighting the boxing ring unavailable, and having a simple box truss around the ring impossible.”
The resulting rig was a staggered truss system that wrapped around the ring to avoid the motor-cross jump. Conventional lights were used to provide a general wash for TV, while moving lights provided color and movement, setting the scene for each entertainment portion of the show.
“I tried to position units to always be in the background of most of the TV shots, while still providing a layered scene for the live audience,” Eversfield explains. “The follow spots were used to pick out the singers or performers as they tended to appear from many different parts of the venue and perform in multiple areas.”
A particularly cool effect was an almost 10ft.-tall metallic skull that flew in over the stage.
“Its eyes were made using RGB LED fittings from ColorKinetics, as I wanted the speed of response possible with LEDs — fast strobing and fast color changing,” Eversfield explains. “Also mounted in the eye sockets were two 5W green lasers that shot out above the audience.”
Eversfield programmed and operated the whole show. “We had very limited rehearsal time, so much of the show was busked live,” he says. “I chose lighting vendor Spotlight Systems Ltd., Auckland, ment supplier because they have always provided me with well-maintained equipment and a full system up and running within the production timeline.”
Lighting equipment included: 20 Martin Mac 2000 Profile 2s, 10 Martin Mac 600s, four Martin Mac 500s, two Color Kinetics C-Splashes, 16 4-Lite Blinders, 30 6-Bars of PAR 64s, eight 4-bars of ACLs, four 5K fresnels, four followspots (including one truss spot), 490ft. of ropelight, 600ft. of truss (box and tri-folding), 24 Loadstar motors, 330ft. black drapes, one Tab Track, one Wholehog II control desk, and one Wholehog II Rock Wing. The shows lasers were supplied by Laser Light International New Zealand and included one Stealth 15W green laser and two Stealth 5W green lasers.
Catherine McHugh is a regular contributor to SRO and to Entertainment Design magazine. She has been covering live event design for over a decade.