It seems that mega short timescales have now become almost the norm in the world of technical expectations, but to design and realise a full stadium production in less than a week is still a considerable achievement by any stretch of the imagination.

Add to that the challenges of it being the first music event in Mbombela Stadium Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, a brand new venue built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup — at one of the busiest times of the year for Gearhouse South Africa, with a warehouse stripped bare of kit — and it was “game on” for Tim Dunn and his team, project managed by Catriona Regan, who pulled out all the stops to dazzle the 10th METRO FM Music Awards with style.

As Dunn said: “It was a really amazing experience to produce an entire bespoke stadium show like this in a week, and a testament to the incredible communication, skills and resources of a world class team.” He added that with the time and opportunity for meetings so crazily tight, he didn’t think they could have delivered unless all the required disciplines had existed in one company under one roof.

Johannesburg-based show producer The Mason Company was appointed just nine days before show day, and Yvette Mason immediately came to Gearhouse South Africa’s Jo’burg branch to produce a full design and technical scheme that would work in the Mbombela Stadium. A design for the original project tender had already been submitted but this was when the event was planned to be indoors, so Dunn scrapped it and came up with a completely new concept, involving some serious and intense hours of drawing.

Embracing lateral thinking, he invented a roof system with good sight lines that also offered weather protection, a vital consideration in the thick of the rainy season...and from what was left in the warehouse!


The starting point for this was an 18m TFL roof. This was extended to 24m wide which opened up the viewing angles considerably, but reduced the weight loading to 1.4 tonnes. Dunn’s solution was to add two bays of an In2Structures SupaDome behind the TFL structure and an EHD (Extreme Heavy Duty) ground support underneath, giving another 4.6 tonnes of weight loading, so six tonnes in total, with a working stage area 24m wide by 18m deep with 12m of headroom.

Gearhouse Rigging’s Kendall Dixon juggled some serious maths and spatial practicalities to get all the points for lighting, screens and audio in the right positions and came up with a great result.

The set consisted of a series of wood frame blocks varying 1-6m in height, clad in white vinyl, arranged in asymmetric clusters modelled on deconstructed and abstracted versions of the METRO logo.

This was built by Gearhouse’s set company Sets, Drapes, Screens (SDS), in an operation co-ordinated by Craig Pretorius, with Eyal Yehezkely project managing that element of the production. They also built a black thrust stage in the shape of the METRO logo.

Centre stage was a large LED screen made from Lighthouse R16, flanked by two scenic side panels with the METRO logo. This was alsothe first show for Gearhouse’s new Christie MicroTiles which were used for panelling around the DJ booth.

Lighting had to cater for a standard busy Awards ceremony plus several entertainment inserts, hosted by DJ Sbu and Azania.


The set was specifically designed for gobo texturing — a simple and effective way of introducing a wide range of funky and dynamic looks and presenter backgrounds to the performance.

For the main gobo effects, Dunn utilised 24 Vari*Lite 3500 Spots and 18 VL3000 Spots, with 24 VLXs added for stage washes.

On top of that there were Martin MAC 2000s on the rig; 42 Robe REDWashes 3•192s used for rich saturated set colouration; 48 Robe ColorSpot and ColorWash 2500 fixtures and 18 5kW Panther xenon searchlights radiating out along the sides of the stage, used for illuminating the audience and for bouncing light off the roof opposite.

There were also several i-Pix Satellite and BB4 LED sources.

Dunn had one intense overnighter of programming, using a grandMA full size which also fed ambient video content for the screen and the MicroTiles via two MA VPUs.

Additional screen content, including custom VT inserts and clips from OB producer Clive Morris Productions was run via the Vista Spyder video processing system operated by Mike Tempest of Gearhouse AV, who also received a TX feed from the OB truck for outputting to the screens.

Sound was supplied by Gearhouse Audio and mixed by Revil Baselga, and the show was recorded for broadcast on SABC1.

The end result was a truly memorable event for METRO FM, the biggest national urban commercial music station in South Africa.Dunn concluded: “All the crew were incredible. There was no time for any wavering, we all had to be positive, focused and confident about the end goal, and it just goes to show what can be achieved when everyone puts their minds to it.”

Story by Louise Stickland.

Jun 24, 2011

The Gearhouse Group of Companies