Crystal View Promotions contracted the Gearhouse Group of companies to provide the mega production elements at the heart of the “Unite” Nelson Mandela Sports and Cultural day at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on the 17th August.

Gearhouse’s Design and Concept specialist, Tim Dunn, was asked to design a staging and event structure which would fulfil both the sporting and high level show requirements for an event of this nature. 

Both Tim and Gearhouse have previous experience on delivering this unique sport/entertainment combination event. The New Age Friendship Concert staged at Moses Mabhida Stadium, which was conceived and produced by Katija Ali of AA Events & Media Group for match organisers, Cricket South Africa (CSA), was a similar type of event and was also a product of this particular team’s collaboration. The New Age concert turned out to be a visual extravaganza of spectacular proportions which was watched by over 50 000 cricket fans in the stadium - historically the biggest crowd ever to watch a cricket match on the African continent.

Katija Ali (AA Group) and her production team had worked with Gearhouse on a number of previous large scale projects and it was for this reason that they approached the company to create and deliver a technical production design, for the client, Azwifarwi Radebe Crystal View Promotions, to make this event even more unique and magical than the previous ones. 

From inception, the Gearhouse team formed an integral part of the conceptual development and technical design of the event. Being able to participate in production/site meetings throughout the design and planning stages greatly assisted in their being able to devise an impressive staging plan which met the full range of criteria, within a very tight time frame. 

Although a large format staging solution was required to accommodate the high level artists that an event of this nature attracts; it was critical that the stage design also accommodate the sporting codes of both soccer and rugby football. One of the major considerations here was to ensure that kicking sightlines were clear during both the rugby and soccer matches, posing a serious challenge as where to locate the stage. An imposing and dramatic stage presence was called for, yet the lower tiers of the stadium had to remain free of staging during matches. Also, both the stage configuration/design and the delivery of technical elements had to fulfil the very different requirements of the television and live audiences. In short - it called for some out-of-the-box thinking.

Tim designed a multi-level performance structure ensconced within the upper tiers of the stadium’s lower levels, a design which blended harmoniously with the stadium’s natural contours and maximised sightlines with minimal “seat kill”. 

Bringing this high-profile event in on schedule required thorough preplanning on all sides. Numerous site visits were undertaken to establish the impact of the staging decision on the event, on the audience and on the stadium structure itself. 

Every element was meticulously drawn onto the venue plans using Gearhouse’s in-house 3D draughting facilities and final approval on all design decisions and event impact was sought from the Department Of Sport Recreation Arts And Culture as well as local municipal authorities, in consultation with Stadium Management South Africa.

This event required the combined resources of several of the Gearhouse Group of Companies. Equipment supplier, Gearhouse South Africa (Pty) Ltd provided Lighting, Structures, Rigging, Audio and Power. LEDVision (Pty) Ltd’s modular LED screen panels were used to infuse the stage structure with colour and movement and the overhanging “glass” roof was custom-designed and installed by Gearhouse In2Structures (Pty) Ltd, the Group’s specialist design and manufacturing company. 

All technical aspects of the event were coordinated by the Gearhouse Project Management team in close communication with other Department of Sports, Arts and Culture suppliers.

A particularly crowded venue schedule rendered every moment of access to the venue of vital importance. The Project Management team ran a closely monitored minute-by-minute schedule which outlined all equipment and human resources movements and maintained rigorous adherence to timelines. Nothing could be allowed to adversely impact the handover deadline for rehearsals, final sound checks on the 15th and 16th or the post-rehearsal lighting programming allocation.


The sightline requirements for the event necessitated a PA design which combined a low visual profile with a high audio intelligibility. Gearhouse Audio achieved this using a combination of Gearhouse owned speakers and the existing stadium speaker installation. The on-field system effectively achieved full coverage of the lower tiers with reinforcement on the upper tiers from the Stadium’s own upper ring systems. 

Audio Visual/ LED 

Some forward thinking during the conceptual phase resulted in the final product combining the Gearhouse AV components with the existing stadium installation. Stage placement was calculated to incorporate the Stadium’s LED screen into the stage “backdrop” along with the LEDVision LED product. All the individual stage LED screen elements were ingeniously arranged to form a single screen when viewed from a wide angle.

The screens were used to relay a combination of artistic elements together with camera to eye magnification elements and also served to provide masking wings for artists’ entrances. 

596 panels of Lighthouse DuoLED18 and 12mm product were used to create visual interest around the stage and for display use.

196 panels of Lighthouse DuoLED18 made up the two 8m x 4m IMAG. Onstage 315 Lighthouse DuoLED 18 panels were configured as 20,16m x 1,73m or 20,16m x 1,15m sections with an additional 85 panels configured as column sections.


Gearhouse In2Structures’ custom-built roofing system used 300m2 of clear PVC membrane to create a transparent 19.8 x 15.6m “wave-like” roof which also provided artistic lighting potential for specific lighting effects.


Much of the production was suspended out of the stadium roof and both the hanging stage roof structure and complex ring truss system carried a significant amount of lighting fixtures and other elements. 

The structural engineers involved in the initial construction of the stadium participated in checking and approving the complex rigging requirements to ensure that no undue stress would be placed on the stadium structure by the proposed 10,240kg load. Due to the unique nature of this design the Gearhouse team worked very closely with Stadium Management South Africa and the stadium’s consulting engineers throughout the lead up and installation to guarantee the safest possible build. 

A team of 8 riggers put in the 17 motors required to fly the rig out of the roof and over the stadium seating - a position which proved quite a challenge for both Rigging and Lighting to access. Preplanning for lighting included the submission of calculations to the stadium construction engineers.


Lighting a stage tucked so far back into the grandstand was a first for the Gearhouse Lighting team and required a completely different mind-set to the traditional concert stage set-up.

Lighting supplied:

40 x Robe Robin 600 LED Wash16 Robe City Scape Extreme24 Vari*lite VLX LED Wash24 Vari*lite VL3000 Spot69 Searchlights3 Grand MA lighting consoles24 x Robe 2500 wash6 Gladiator 3kw followspotsCabling and networking control solution


37 x 8’ A-type truss2 x 6m Circle truss2 x 7m circle truss27 Extra heavy duty truss sectionsTo save time on site, the lighting was pre-programmed in the Lighting office in the week preceding the load-in. An additional 4 nights of onsite programming allowed for the adjustment of levels and looks in the stadium before the programming was complete. All Lighting ran through a GrandMA Network.


2 x 1000kVA synchronised generators provided guaranteed backup and prevented the failure of any systems on the stage production.

Power provided 800 amps for lighting over a distance of 100m (from the generator village to main stage) using 4 x sets of 120mm cabling. Audio and LED required a further 200Amp supply, split to stage left and stage rights using double 70mm cable runs. 

This is conceivably the first time that a large concert event has been undertaken on the same day and in the same venue as two major sporting events. The myriad challenges that this particular production brought to bear on the delivery were met and dealt with efficiently by a specialist team which included many of the Group’s field experts.

The Gearhouse Group’s range of disciplines and companies are accustomed to working together seamlessly under the overall supervision of a project management team which handles different areas of the project. The Senior Project Manager functioned as the key point of contact between client and technical team, channelling all information and feedback and coordinating efforts to streamline the process. The onsite teams also made good use of the well-established technical and administrative support infrastructure, daily report back systems and scheduled site visits to escalate and address any onsite issues before they impacted the event.

All stakeholders on this event worked closely together to create a truly remarkable event for The Nelson Mandela Sports and Cultural Day; a fitting effort for an event with “Unity” as its central theme.

Story Robyn D’Alessandro – Photo courtesy AAA media

Mar 15, 2013

The Gearhouse Group of Companies