December 23, 2014
As the calendar year approaches its inevitably eye-popping, ear-assaulting conclusion, event organisers all over the world will be desperately trying to assemble a celebration that trumps the one from the year before.
In the NYE firework standard-setting location of London, 2014 erupted with distinct grandeur as peach snow, edible banana confetti and orange-scented bubbles cascaded around the Thames. It was the first multi-sensory firework display, and it definitely won’t be the last.
Whether flavoured fireworks are present or not, epic New Year celebration events all share three words in common: technical event production. These three seemingly dull words are a driving force behind the most supreme spectacles on Earth: fireworks illuminating the night sky, projection mapping transforming environments and music production escorting you above and beyond the vicinity.
With up to £2 million being spent on fireworks in the past, and the celebrations showing signs of becoming bigger and better, what goes into technical event production, and what do technical event production companies do when it’s not New Year?
The past year has seen an increasing appetite for experiential productions that are second nature to technical event companies.
The critically and publically acclaimed collaboration between theatre company Punchdrunk and Royal National Theatre “The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable” was an immersive theatrical performance that relied on a complete warehouse redesign. The extent of the transformation was such that a 200,000 sq ft space on the fourth floor became an authentic trailer park in Los Angeles that the audience could explore unrestricted.
It’s technical event production companies that are responsible for the wizardry that transposes the mundane for the magical: “client concepts for elements like stage and set design have become more imaginative over the last few years – at Christmas we’re likely to be making bespoke icecube armchairs, decorative icicles and snowstorms in some of the most unlikely places” say London based creative event production experts Perception Live.
Of course, New Year celebrations won’t merely consist of traditional items in strange places, they will also entail strange items in traditional places.
To celebrate the arrival of 2015, a 15ft illuminated chili will descend in the heart of Las Cruces New Mexico. To make this possible, a crane company will be hoisting the gigantic pepper. It may be surprising, but for crane hire company Emerson Cranes, such requests are nothing out of the ordinary: “Most people would probably be surprised to hear that cranes aren’t just used for construction – our fleet of operators have served creative purposes that many probably assume would be carried out by film production studios”.
For dazzling audiences, set and stage design are just one aspect of the visual set-up. There are pyrotechnics and lighting to take into account too, but the feature that is becoming essential for creating the most fantastical events is projection mapping.
With this projection technology, any structure can become a canvas for mind-blowing visuals: the static can become mobile and the dull can become invigorating.
It has become an integral component of attracting the public to historic sites such as Shakespeare’s house and Warwick Castle. According to G2 Digital who makes the hardware behind such technology, “projection mapping works in unexpected contexts such as Shakespeare’s house and the Shell Centre (which was the site of projection mapping in London’s 2013 NYE celebration) because they command a structural and public authority that can enhanced and explored through altering how we perceive them.”
Since it was first used at Disneyland in 1969, projection mapping has mesmerised audiences. When it was utilised during the 2013 NYE celebration in London, it brought more than 200,000 people to the Thames and over 13 million people to the TV channel covering the festivities.
Sound production, it’s an often overlooked facet of technical event production. It’s immediately recognised (and then usually forgotten) when done right and a source of frustration when it’s of poor quality.
Many of us will have had the misfortune of attending events where the sound equalisation has resulted in the bass of speakers’ voices being transferred to the floorboards, and all meaning being lost.
In order to get the best possible sound for a venue, a huge amount of time is invested in determining the acoustics of an environment. The findings will govern not only what kind of sound system is installed, but where it will be installed too.
At New Year events in particular, the whole of technical event production will be greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, it will be the unison of environment, design, spectacle and sound production that leaves the lasting impression. With sound engineers on-site, fireworks and projection mapping effects can unfold in perfect time with the music.
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