For the first time in Africa, the Black Entertainment Television (BET) network (DSTV channel 129) presented the BET EXPERIENCE AFRICA, an urban entertainment and lifestyle extravaganza which flights in locations around the world, and was on at the Dome on Saturday 12 December 2015.
The 12-hour entertainment fest featured a substantial line up of musicians for the closing concert, including the top hip-hop and R&B talents of Young Thug, Rafael Saddiq and undisputed headliner Mary J. Blige. In keeping with the international events, the SA version featured a celebrity basketball game, a comedy stage, a fashion, beauty and health Expo showcasing the hottest brands and trends, a Sneaker Con and a daytime sound stage with performances by top African artists.
Gearhouse again teamed up with Cape Town-based design and production agency Formative to stage the multi-artist main concert spectacular. We caught up with Gearhouse lighting designer Robert Grobler to find out a bit more.
Q: What was the initial client brief for the show?
RG: It was important to keep to the look and feel of the BET brand. Keeping that in mind it needed to be something slick and lifestyle oriented, with a clean look, we decided to go with a design based on LED video strips to mirror the design elements of the BET brand. The strips really brought everything together, and gave the stage a unique look and feel which still accommodated all the international artist’s different requirements.
The end result was a design created by Grant Orchard from Formative and slightly modified to accommodate all the artists, but which still maintained the look Formative designed and which the client was very happy with.
Q: What were the main lighting and staging design elements – and why were those choices made?
RG: There were two main elements we had to keep in mind. We had to be able to accommodate all the international artist’s technical requirements (a common challenge on multi-artist festival-type shows) while still keeping a unique look that works for the TV broadcast of the show. We also had to keep the crowd entertained during the sometimes quite lengthy change overs. To do that a B-stage was built, with a DJ who created a great vibe, but which also maintained the look and sound of the BET brand. As for the main stage we ended up doing a combination of all the artist’s requirement to come up with a lighting rig that worked for everyone.
Q. Was the design built around any gear in particular? And how did the great video content for the backdrops work?
RG: Everything in the design definitely had a purpose. As far as the content goes, the international artists supplied their own media servers that plugged through our main media server. The rest of the content was created by Formative using a D3 server to run it all. We had a very limited time to get everything up and running. Getting all the frame work for the LED strips up and running was what took up most of the design and construction time but was crucial.
Story and photo reprinted courtesy ProSystems