Keeping equipment dry in rainy conditions provided the biggest challenge for Gearhouse’s technical teams working on Ultra Fest South Africa. James Ling reports for Pro Audio MEA

With events staged in cities right across the globe, Ultra has become one of the most recognisable brands in the world of electronic music festivals. Having grown organically from its Miami roots, Ultra Fest performances can now be found in South America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

The African leg takes place over consecutive nights in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The most recent event saw the Johannesburg leg take place once again at the Nasrec Expo Centre while the Cape Town Stadium provided a new home for Ultra in the west of the country. For the 2017 edition of the festival, as with the three that preceded it, Ultra promoters In South Africa, Showtime Management, selected Gearhouse South Africa to supply the technical equipment for the concerts.

‘We supplied all the roofed structures, VIP decks, LED screens, lights, trussing, rigging, generators and power distribution, audio, DJ equipment, cameras and A/V control,’ says Eyal Yehezkely, Gearhouse' overall project manager for the festival. In Johannesburg, the setup was larger as Jaco Saaiman, project manager for the Johannesburg event explains: ‘Not only did we supply the main stage with all of the mentioned elements but we also supplied the B-stage in Johannesburg with all structures and technical equipment this year.’

The audio side of this saw both Gearhouse teams turn to L-Acoustics. The main system in Cape Town comprised 24 of the manufacturer’s K2 cabinets with six dV-Dosc for down-fill. Low end support was via 16 of the French company’s SB28 subs. Additional speakers came in the form of 20 Meyer Sound Milo 90/120s with 16 of the American manufacturer’s HP700 subs. Control from FOH was via an Avid Profile desk.

On stage, the DJ booth was equipped with 20 Pioneer CDJ2000 Nexus players and six Pioneer DJM900 Nexus mixers. The DJs were served by 12 L-Acoustics dV-Doscs, a pair of dV-Subs and eight HiQ115s for monitors mixed via a Yamaha M7CL.

The following night 1,300km away in Johannesburg the local Gearhouse team deployed 36 L-Acoustics K1 cabinets with nine Kara for down-fill as the main hangs with 16 K1-SB flown subs. In addition to this, the system for the main stage also included 24 V-Dosc with six dV-Dosc for down-fill, 24 Kudo and 48 SB28 subs. The system was powered by 64 L-Acoustics LA8 amplified controllers while six Lake LM44s were used for system processing and signal distribution and a 48-channel Avid Profile provided the FOH mix.

The DJ setup on stage was remarkably similar to the Cape Town leg with 20 CDJ2000s and six DJM900s. These were joined by four Pioneer SL1200 turntables. The monitoring system for the DJs comprised 12 L-Acoustics Kara with eight SB18 subs for low end and eight HiQ115s. These were processed by a further LM44 and mixed on a Yamaha M7CL.

The B-stage at the Nasrec Expo Centre relied on a distinctly smaller system. The main hangs were formed of 12 Kudo cabinets with low end via the same number of SB118 subs. On stage, six dV-Dosc and a pair of dV-Subs alongside four HiQ115 cabinets served as monitors. Power was via eight LA8s and the stage was mixed on a 32-channel Yamaha LS9 at FOH.

While audio was a priority for the festival, with the DJ locked into a restricted performance space the visuals also have to come to the fore. This is where Gearhouse Group company LEDVison was called in. ‘Because the artistes are mostly DJs that don’t really move around to fill the stage, the LED is used to create more lighting and video effects,’ explains LEDVison’s Jessica Green. ‘It becomes an interactive element with the audience, adding to the overall entertainment experience.’

The solutions supplied by LEDVision saw the Cape Town Stadium equipped with 216 Lighthouse Duoled18 panels, 102 of the manufacturer’s R16 panels, 108 ROE Visual MC7 panels and 142 of ROE Visual’s RS1200 LED strips. The larger Johannesburg setup saw 240 of the Duoled18s, 150 of the R16s, 144 MC7 panels and 196 of the RS1200 LED strips.

‘Incorporating the ROE Visual MC7 panels and ROE Visual RS1200 strips has added new creative elements to the rig for the use of the lighting and video engineers,’ says Ms Green. ‘The U’s at both venues were filled in with the ROE Visual strips. In addition to this, bespoke rigging frames needed to be designed to fly screens at 45-degree angles in the ceilings of both venues.’ 

With two very different sized productions to stage, the respective crews faced different challenges during the setup. ‘Cape Town was about 15 per cent smaller than Johannesburg, but had less time to build and working in a stadium was at times restricting,’ recalls Mr Yehezkely. ‘However, Cape Town enjoyed fine weather. Johannesburg had open space that was easily accessed, yet suffered from heavy rains and winds.’

‘The Nasrec Expo Centre is a huge space so getting equipment in and out is easy,’ furthers Mr Saaiman. ‘We did however have a tough time with weather, it rained during the entire setup for both structures and technical and only stopped raining on the day of the show'.

‘It was very tricky getting all the technical up and running with all the rain and moisture,’ he continues. ‘Some gear could handle the wet weather but most of the lighting on the “wings” had to be kept closed up until the evening of the show to avoid damage. We did however plan for this and had two trucks on standby which were used as workshops which we could send equipment to in order to get fixed, fired and back onto the rig.’

‘Weather did play a part in this year’s setup as well,’ agrees Ms Green. ‘Even though Johannesburg was loaded-in mainly in constant rain, there were not a single issue with the screen panels at all.’

With both events delivered successfully everyone concerned is keen to reflect on a job well done. ‘We’re very happy and very proud to have achieved this,’ offers Mr Yehezkely. ‘The client and the international team were complimentary of our delivery.’

‘Although the two events took up the majority of our stock holding, all of our technical crew and the full attention of all our management team, it is team work finally that enabled the LEDVision team to put all the elements together in the very tight production schedule,’ adds Ms Green.

‘This was truly an amazing team effort and we were able to deliver on time and to the client’s expectations,’ surmises Mr Saaiman.

All this teamwork meant that the party could go on at Ultra Fest, whatever the weather.

Story by James Ling, reprinted courtesy Pro Audio MEA

Photos by - Justin Sullivan, Soundpix LMC Marc Berma AL NICOLL PHOTOGRAPHY Viewography and Soundpix

May 3, 2017

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