Afrikaans is Groot

Working as Project Manager for Afrikaans is Groot (AIF) since it’s inception four years ago, Denzil Smith from MGG had always hoped that Joshua Cutts would some day step in as lighting designer for this slick, large-scale production. A busy schedule with many other prominent shows had prevented Cutts from doing so previously…. that is until the client, Coleske Artists, approved his suggestion to involve Christopher Bolton as a joint designer and thus split the load. They could work simultaneously on separate MA Lighting MA2 desks on the same network using 24 universes.

AIG is all about top Afrikaans artists performing their top selling songs on a world-class stage. The show was held in Pretoria at Moreleta Church at the end of last year with the Cape Town leg hosted at GrandWest Casino in March 2016. MGG were the main technical suppliers.

Coleske Artists have high expectations and lighting had to be spot on for both the live aspect of the show and the DVD recording. The music structure is precise and the lighting was cue extensive, beat for beat on every song, with over 1,600 cues in the show.

Christopher Bolton focussed on fixing the cues after rehearsals while Cutts made notes from the directors, choreographer and wardrobe, dealing closely with the client and keeping communication open at all times.

“This must be one of the slickest technical productions I’ve seen in this country and I’ve worked on a few,” said Josh. It’s probably one of the best Front of House set ups due to the amount of individuals all focussed on different disciplines.

“Content is carefully made for each song, ” explained Smith. “The LDs then have to join into that and add all the lighting, which is not an easy task. With a story line in place, the designers have to match and follow suite without taking over with lighting.”

All programming was done off line via two MA Lighting grandMA2s. The detailed screen showed where the artists would stand, where a microphone stand might be placed, where the props were located.

Bolton and his assistant Jade Manicom spent hours building all the props and putting them into the 3D Visualiser with items such as street lamps, wooden crates, a bridge, bicycle, the skate ramp or even chandeliers. To give an estimation of just how many props were used, they filled an 8-ton truck with props alone when moving the show to Cape Town.

From a lighting point of view there was full access to the full arsenal of Mark Gaylard’s (owner of MGG) store. “Pretty much the sky was the ceiling and there was no ceiling. It was like being a kid in the candy store,” said Cutts. “ Chris and I just added lights to the drawing and from a lighting point of view it was one of the biggest rigs I’ve ever controlled. It was 24 universes of lighting which is bigger than any lighting file I’ve ever worked on.” With the exception of one song the show was fully time coded.

The MA Network has over 20GB of dual redundant fibre line running through the venue which networks all the lighting, video and audio. It’s one of the first times the MA Network was used for such a large event. It was the first time Kinesys had ever been used in South Africa. The lighting truss moved around on stage during the performance, an MGG first. There was also the use of a six mm (10m wide by 12 m deep) LED floor, the first time it had been used to that scale by. A total of 260 lights used to light up the stage and audience.

“The scale of the MA Network was fantastic”, said Cutts. “It was one of the largest MA show files I’ve ever worked on. It ran pretty well in the end, it was hard work to get it there, and the network was solid. It was the first time we had used MA Fibre Switches. Because we ran multiple networks from FOH, we run multiple types of networks. What makes the MA Net Switch so amazing is that I can then dedicate certain Ports to each one of those types of networks. We are then able to split our network up and keep each element of the show secure with the MA Switches. It was great to use a revolutionary product like that. It ran a full redundancy line so if the lighting were to go down, there was a back up in place.”

The venue, Moreleta, has weight restrictions which meant it was previously impossible to front light the church and this would effect the lighting for the DVD. Smith and his team came up with a solution, using the Robe BMFL Blades.

“Because the BMFL is one of the brightest, if not the brightest light on the market at the moment, it is also extremely light,” said Cutts. “So the roof could handle the weight therefore we could use the BMFL Blades for the front light. We put all 12 BMFLs in the front of the church, which in the past would have been impossible because of the weight restriction. The BMFL was our main fixture for front light, because of camera, colour temperature, brightness and weight.”

AIG is a visual show and involves extensive video with LED panels used throughout the set. “Our drive was to carry the video over into lighting. This is not our normal style of lighting because what I usually do is pixel mapping,” said Cutts. “In order to achieve the best pixel mapping, we chose all of the Clay Paky A.Leda B-Eyes that MGG own, the Elation Cuepix and the Robin CycFX 8 as these have multiple video pixels on them for the lighting designer to use. We spread them out as much as we could across the stage in the ceiling and on the wings of the stage so that we could have an image across the stage at any given time.

“We then brought in the Clay Paky Sharpys and the Robin Pointes. We did nice vertical lines with Sharpys popping through the sets. We could do strong hard beams to pierce out of these visuals and also to look for and find the performers, whether they are in the centre, upstage, downstage, or spread. We wanted the Sharpys to draw attention to where the main performer would be.”

“Having Joshua and Chris this time took a lot of pressure off me I would not have to worry about lighting, I would arrive on site and there would be drawings with lights and everything was done. I didn’t have to chase or worry. Having them on board was a huge jump forward.”

Planning has commenced for the next performance in November 2016 and Josh and Chris have again been assigned as lighting designers. Ticket sales opened to the public recently and within two hours, 52 000 tickets were sold.