Gearhouse Group supplied full technical production (Lighting, Staging, Audio, AV, Rigging, Power distribution and some Set elements) for the CNN African Journalist of the Year Competition 2012, (produced by Mark West of CAP Events) which took place at the Government Complex Auditorium, Lusaka recently. The event is focused on encouraging, promoting and recognising excellence in African Journalism and has been running since 1995. The event is hosted in different regions annually and was this year hosted by CNN and MultiChoice in Zambia and broadcast live on ZNBC.
Just over 700 guests and dignitaries attended the event and the Gearhouse team, having supplied the 2007 and 2009 events, was well prepared to give the attendees a high quality technical experience.
"We have a long standing business relationship with Mark West of CAP Events on events like the 2003 Cricket World Cup, The Presidents Opening ceremony and more.' said Gearhouse Project Manager, Eyal Yehezkely. "We gained the confidence of the client and his team right from the start of talks here in SA, which helped enormously with everything that followed. It was great working with him and other technical team members of the calibre of Producer Tamara Dawning, Production Designer Dewet Meyer and Lighting Designer Alasdair Richards."
The brief to the Gearhouse team was clear and simple; requiring crisp, high quality Audio Visual, clarity and good coverage on Audio and delivery within a given budget. Other than a bit of Gearhouse input on the Lighting and Audio aspects (from Herman Wessels and Jako de Wit respectively) on how best to achieve the desired result - plus a bit of intense planning to keep the load confined to a single interlinked closed truck - there were no real challenges in delivering exactly what the client wanted for both the Awards and Banquet areas.
The event was two months in the planning stages and the pre planning paid off richly as the event progressed exactly along set time lines. 11 Gearhouse crew members flew into Lusaka to set up the event with a lead time of four days.
According to Yehezkely, Alasdair Richard's lighting rig was designed specifically around the camera requirements and it worked perfectly. The rig was comprised of ETC Source 4's, 2 and 2.5K Fresnels supplemented by BB4 LED wash lights and Robe ColorSpot 700E's hung off an EHD ground support structure and run via a GrandMA Lite. T-shaped truss supports onstage were cleverly configured to serve the dual purpose of supporting the set flattage and providing backlighting positions for the set.
The set itself was designed by Dewet Meyer of JDM Unlimited with a richly patterned set of circular panels and rectangular set pieces radiating outward from a central point. While the flattage was fabricated onsite by a local set builder, the CNN Logo was manufactured by Gearhouse' set building company Sets, Drapes, Screens (SDS) over five days before being carefully packed and transported to Lusaka.
Gearhouse Audio chose an L' Acoustics DV Dosc System because of its even coverage and small footprint. 2 hangs of 3 dV Dosc were outrigged to hang in front of the main truss to ensure a clean camera shot. L'Acoustic 115HiQs provided side and centre downfills to achieve complete coverage.
The brand new venue has lots of highly reflective hard surfaces, so the speaker system has to be focused exactly over the audience area to minimise any possibility of sound reflections. The position of the PA and the height of the roof allowed for plenty of gain before feedback on the Lectern mics, making for a stress free mix.
All speakers were powered by L'Acoustics LA8 amplified controllers and networked with the new network manager, "which is a real pleasure to work with" according to FOH engineer, Jako De Wit.
"When working across the borders, the trick is to keep it simple," adds De Wit "one must be able to replace a piece of equipment with something locally sourced, if necessary." He used Nexo PS10 speakers onstage as fold-back for presenters and backstage crew and JBL Eons 510s in the foyer for announcements and background music.
On the AV front, 16/9 front projection from 4x 10K Christie Roadsters and a Panasonic PT-DZ6710E relayed Supersport feed to large screens either side of the stage using fibre cabling to overcome the delay in single transmission from OB van to screen and ensure a crisp, stable image.
"Every event teaches us something new," says Yehezkely "In this case, working with a state-of-the art OB Van gave us new insights into the latest video switching gear and HD facilities. We enjoyed an extremely close working relationship between Lighting and Cameras... the Lighting desk was placed inside of the OB Van to assist seamless interaction between disciplines.
On this event, Yehezkely comments that his team was particularly "on point" in terms of the power distribution, power back up systems and Auto Q screens. "These elements worked exactly as they should - 100% - but their importance to the show was superior to the rest of the disciplines for the simple reason that without them we would have no show."
Gearhouse Group is working more and more into the African continent, a development which comes with its own set of challenges. Yehezkely is one of Gearhouse's team of African facilitators fondly referred to by the company as "Our Men in Africa." He manages mostly the Southern and East African work, while colleague, Bill Lawford covers Central and West African events. "We have put serious effort into extending our work across the borders and we have a team of people ready to take on jobs into the continent. It obviously takes much more planning and intelligent use of equipment and furthermore, I enjoy travel and exploring new places."
"A spate of such jobs since January 2012 includes jobs like Emirates, Standard Chartered Bank and CNN in Zambia, David Sanborn in Botswana and in September we are looking forward to another Standard Chartered Bank event in Kenya."
The Group has also provided services in Maputo and finds that both international and local South African promoters/producers find it easier to work with a "one stop shop", especially when supplying across the border. "We have experience in working into Africa, we have highly qualified, motivated technicians and depth of resources and above all we present high quality solutions at cost effective prices."
The Gearhouse Group aims to extend their services even further and to become the key supplier of specialist events on the continent.Story by Robyn D'Alessandro, photo courtesy Dewet Meyer (JDM Umlimited)