The TPi Awards 2015
The 14th incarnation of The TPi Awards, held on 16 February at London’s Battersea Evolution, saw 27 awards presented across various categories such as ‘Live Production Of The Year’ and ‘Outstanding Contribution’. The awards were given to the worthy recipients by host, standup comedian Russell Kane.
Drawing over 1,100 industry professionals from all corners of the globe, guests from France, South Africa, Australia and Brazil all fell prey to host, Russell Kane’s infectious wit during his pre-awards performance, which was given a stratospheric boost thanks to this year’s new event space.
“There is a limited choice of venues in which to hold a 1000+ awards dinner in London, so when we got the chance to use Battersea Evolution we were really excited,” said Amy Wright, Events Manager at Mondiale Publishing. “Due to the scale of the production we install, architectural features are not a requirement, so the venue promised a true blank canvas for us to play with, and it delivered perfectly!”
This 5,500 sq.m blank canvas is, in essence, exactly the kind of venue that TPi Awards suppliers VME, Euro Screens and Hawthorn feel most at home in. When compared to the previous venue at the Hammersmith Novotel, the load in and out was made much easier for production staff and, as highlighted by Wright. The upgraded venue allowed the scale of show to be significantly expanded.
TPi’s General Manager, Justin Gawne, commented: “This year’s TPi Awards represented a sea change in the event’s operation. The move to Evolution has dramatically improved sight lines, catering and interactivity for the guests. It was unanimously received as a step up from previous years.”
FUN AND GAMES
The 2015 attendees were treated to a array of interactive sponsorship goodies, including flashing bow ties courtesy of Robe, whose 200+ lighting fixtures made up a significant part of the lighting rig; and, of course, the PRO show endorsed selfie stick, which provided attendees an excuse to exercise shameless social media vanity late into the night.
Before dinner, over 100 tables immersed themselves in the #CreateLight competition, a light sculpture contest instigated by Philips Vari-Lite and predictably, a significant number of tables sculpted phallic, glow in the dark skyscrapers with the luminescent glow sticks provided.
Lightheartedness aside, #CreateLight was a live event in its own right, with a superb crew headed up by Production Manager, Liz Madden of NoNonsense Group. “I have been Production Manager three times and the TPi Awards are a fantastic event to be involved in. The team at Mondiale Publishing are really supportive, but you are always very aware of who is in the audience. There’s nothing like a bit of pressure to keep you on your toes!” said Madden.
Hawthorn, a new supplier to the awards, provided lighting, rigging and draping. Madden explained: “We were obliged to use Hawthorn for all rigging as they are the in-house team. As plans progressed, it made sense to use them for the lighting as they already had an existing relationship with Robe.
“There are, as always, additional costs when working with an in house team, although Tom Ring, our venue contact, has in depth knowledge of the venue and this made it easy to work with them. Each year we change the local crew supplier to give everyone a chance to support the event and give something back to the industry. The Salima crew, who provided follow spot operators and security for the VIP bars, were friendly, helpful and above all hard working. It was a pleasure to work with them!”
This year the Awards were introduced with an awe-inspiring audiovisual display designed by Digital Insanity’s Richard Bagshaw and Touring IT’s Richard Shipman. As the display progressed it quickly became apparent that 2015’s production had raised the bar to unprecedented levels for future AV industry awards ceremonies.
“It was our responsibility to come up with a theme for the video. The challenge was to make it entertaining enough to grab peoples attention, but at the same time ensuring that the information came across,” said Bagshaw, who created the content in pre-production using Adobe After Effects.
“Following on from last year’s grindhouse cinema theme, this year we decided on the theme of glitch, or digital distortion. One thing we did this year, which we haven’t done in the past, is to make the audio walk up match the style of video glitch. All the video was synched up to the audio, based on frequency analysis of the tracks, some of which had been striped with time code and sent for lighting to chase. This meant that the whole room shook in unison when the glitches occurred and we also had several strobe and video effects that we layered up over the walkup stings to add an extra dimension. The fact that we were using a Euro Screens 3mm LED screen was great as it meant that every little bit of distorted detail was crystal clear.”
The opening track, a glitched-up dubstep remix of Muse’s Knights of Cydonia, provided the thematic anchorage from which the distortions in video and lighting were triggered. With so much sensory content being run simultaneously, processing power was required by the boatload. Enter d3 Technologies.
“We ran two d3 Technologies 4U V2.5 media servers for playback, one for primary and one as a hot backup both offering three full HD outputs per machine,” continued Bagshaw. “Luke Collins, our d3 Programmer, controlled the d3 via midi, and the cameras are also being fed through the d3 server, so we had full control of all sources via the d3 server and can also blend and mash up the cameras as required. We were using the d3 server as an integrated graphics package, and it responded to this challenge flawlessly!”
“One very useful feature of d3 is its ability to pre-visualise the show, which allowed us to program the show prior to getting on site and know what it was going to look like,” commented Luke Collins, d3 Technologies’ Programmer. “Then once on site it was simply a matter of connecting to the LED wall and our pre-visualised show became a reality. As well as driving the LED screens, d3 also played out the walk up audio during the awards and provided time-code to the lighting desk for the intro video.”
Richard Shipman, frontman for Touring IT, alongside his partner in crime, Bagshaw, have been directing video at the TPi Awards for over a decade. “Despite all the visual and acoustic triggers set to time code, it’s my job to scan the show and choose optimal camera angles for the screens,” said Shipman.
“This year, myself and Richard chose to embed the sound within the content as opposed to letting the audio simply playback. Ensuring that the live camera feed was integrated within this was tricky - seeing as the glitches needed to be perfectly synchronised - but there was no other option. And yes, even though the show was pre-programmed, there was still - for me - that live aspect to the operation, which certainly kept things interesting.”
Shipman joined the attendees in his praise of the new venue: “Compared to the Novotel, the Battersea Evolution is a dream. The only real challenge was that we had to do a one-day load in, as opposed to the night before in Hammersmith. But all in all, it was great!
“The challenge with the TPi Awards is to keep things technically interesting for the people in the crowd. It’s unlike any other awards show because this is for the events industry, these people put on the best shows in the world. People are waiting for you to fuck up so they can take the piss later on. But that’s kind of its appeal. Above all else, it’s a fun awards show to do because it’s for our peers. A PowerPoint presentation won’t cut it with this crowd!”
Providing the 200 Absen 3.9mm LED modules to create the 7-screen design was Euro Screens. Ben Hyman, General Manager of audio supplier to the awards, VME, explained: “VME is a sister company to Euro Screens and has provided the sound for the awards since 2013. For the 2015 awards, we offered to supply the screens too. Given the close working relationship that we have built up with Mondiale and Liz Madden from NoNonsense, having Euro Screens provide screens as an additional service seemed to be a natural progression for our involvement within the event.
In the past year, VME has invested in 240 panels of Absen LED screens. Traditionally, quality has been the Achilles heel of many a Chinese manufacturer, but with Absen, the case is a little different.
“Of all the Chinese manufacturers, Absen has consistently outperformed the competitors in a number of regards - build quality, ease of rigging, control systems and price. They have been able to develop high-density LED panels at a cost that has allowed us to heavily invest in a large number of screen modules, allowing us to grow a substantial hire stock of A3 panels. They also have representation in the UK and Germany, so technical support and service is easy to obtain should it be necessary.
Three 1920 by 1080 outputs fed six Novastar 660 LED processors, that mapped the seven individual screens to frames within each output. The setup was fully redundant, so there was a primary and backup media server, and all our screens had dual processors configured for redundancy. It was a fairly complex setup but one that ensured stability throughout the night.
“The design consisted of a good number of screens, but there wasn’t really any complicated rigging,” continued Hyman. Cabling was easy as racks were right behind the screens. Given that we loaded in on the day of the awards, the clock is constantly ticking. For this event specifically, it’s always good to have a rig day to iron out any niggles, but luckily everything went according to plan. There’s always something to keep you on your troubleshooting toes, but we had a good team around us to ensure that everything was delivered according to plan.”
This year, Hawthorn was responsible for the lighting design of the event, with Lighting Designer, Jack Sayer and Project Manager, Tom Ring ensuring the proceedings ran without a technical hitch.
“We were informed that the TPi Awards were coming to Battersea Evolution this year, where we are the in-house,” commented Ring. “We were very keen to get involved this year, and Liz (Madden, Production Manager) at No Nonsense Group gave us the opportunity to pitch a design.”
Lighting Designer, Jack Sayer first started working in the industry nine years ago at a small hire / production company, and came to Hawthorn through his knowledge of Avolites media servers, as he explained: “After building up my skills in lighting I decided to go freelance and further develop my passion in lighting design and programming. Within my time freelancing I decided to extend my skillset into media servers, eventually buying my own Avolites Ai media server. This year has seen a change for me, as I am now full time at Hawthorn as Head of Lighting at our Cambridge office, dealing with lots of highly creative projects including driving our Ai Infinity EX-8 servers.”
While Ring came up with the concept of a series of trusses pitched across the room to create chevron shapes; it fell to Sayer to utilise this dynamic dimension of the truss design to create a wide variety of positions with the lights. He continued: “I wanted to create a clean and stylish looking design using certain fixtures that could create multiple looks throughout the event. Tom and I agreed the overhead trusses should be purely made up of 46 Pointes as this would give me scope to drive these lights to their max.
“I am a big fan of Robe fixtures, and I’ve used the Pointe since it came out as it’s a brilliant unit to use mainly down to its versatility and speed.”
Also specified by Sayer were a wide selection of Robe fixtures including 38 BMFLs (22 in the main room, 12 in the reception, four in the atrium), 32 LED Beam 100’s (14 floor US and 18 on the front truss), 21 CYC FX8’s (LX2) and 70 Parfect 100’s (18 per truss in the reception, 16 for specials - including the Robe bar and the DJ area). In addition, one MDG The One Hazer and 10 Martin by Harman Atomics were utilised.
“This was the first time I’ve used the BMFLs and they certainly didn’t disappoint; great gobo selection, amazingly fast zoom and iris and extremely bright and fast for a unit of that size.
“The LED Beam 100’s are also an amazing unit in my opinion, because they produce great colours and are very small, they can hide anywhere, and their speed is ridiculous!
“Robe’s CYC FX8’s are a very unique product with full pixel control and their zoom and tilt ability meant that I was able to create a variety of different looks without too much fuss.
The whole lighting show was orchestrated on an Avolites Tiger Touch II console, with an Avolites Pearl Expert Pro running as backup. Sayer continued: “I have always been an Avolites user - and owner of an Expert Pro. I love the flexibility and the speed with which I can create different looks. My programming style takes inspiration from Rock ‘n’ Roll, where you don’t get huge amounts of programming time, so knowing the desk inside out is important. This skill was vital on this show, as everything had to be programmed in pre-production due to the short get in time on the event.
“My personal programming style is very cue heavy with different cue-lists and linking cue-lists in order to be able to chop and change throughout the programming time and being able to edit the cues very quickly.
“Obviously this was a very high-pressured event due to the audience attending, I took this into consideration and extended my allocated pre-production programming time,” continued Sayer. “The height of the venue always plays a factor but designing with this in mind and being able to see the design in our 3D visualisation suite was great. The main special consideration was time, the entire crew arrived at 6am in order to get everything in and give me some programming time before rehearsals. As Hawthorn is the in-house supplier for Battersea Evolution, this gave us a massive advantage when working here due to our in depth knowledge of the space and system.”
Hawthorn’s in-house black Milos 300mm Light Duty Truss was employed for behind the stage and drape lines, with silver Prolyte x30v creating chevrons across the ceiling. All in all, 350-metres of truss were hung from the ceiling. The silver truss was used to create an extra dimension to the roof in contrast to the black drapes - 150-metres of black wool serge drape also supplied by Hawthorn. The London-based company also supplied 20 eight by four LS-Live Litedecks, carpets and fascia, in addition to 50 motors and power distribution for the site.
Concluded Sayer: “I would like to thank everyone involved in the event, and I would also like to thank Ashley Lewis, Mick Hannaford and Nathan Wan from Robe for all of their help throughout the lead up and on the day of the show.”
Ring added: “It was Stressful knowing that the whole industry is looking at us in a room full of lighting designers - but really good to showcase what we are capable of. It was also really good to work with Jack (Sayer, LD) on his first large-scale event with Hawthorn since joining the company. I am very proud of the team that I had working with me to put on such an amazing show with very little time.”
Delivering audio to this year’s Awards was once again Cheshire-based VME, whose nine-strong crew implemented a Martin Audio MLA Compact system to distribute PA sound flawlessly to all corners of the busy room.
VME Project Manager, Ben Hyman was on hand to discuss the company’s role at the awards. “This was our third year working on the awards. Historically the Novotel posed a few issues for the sound, mainly with regards to the infamous ‘back room’, which everyone is aware of.. Being our third year working on the awards now, we’ve been able to hone in and improve the sound year on year.
“This year, we’re using 12 MLA Compact modules in a left centre right configuration, and three hangs of MLA mini as delay hangs (4 cabinets per delay) to help distribution without having to overstep the venue’s tight SPL restrictions and eight MLX subs (four a side) to give a little helping hand to the low end needed for the music genre that the awards was focused around. Given the roof height and loading capacities, MLA Compact and Mini were the most ideal choices of speaker cabinet for the event.
At FOH, VME supplied a Yamaha CL1 desk, which was manned by Audio Technician Mike Thorpe. Hyman explained: “The CL1 has a really small footprint. For a corporate event of this kind, the Yamaha console fits in perfectly.” Four Sennheiser SKM 5200-II handheld radio microphones were used with EM3732-II, with QLab providing backup audio playback for the stings, as they were played by video from their servers.
Continued Hyman: “Unfortunately we’re constrained with the venue a little, as with most venues, in terms of SPL. We’ve got to be careful as there’s a zoo nearby in Battersea Park. The Llamas apparently don’t like bass! We’ve been clever with the MLX subs running them cardiod, and ensuring leakage from the entire system is kept to a minimum. It’s only with a system such as MLA that allows us to control the sound in such a way, which is why we achieved higher than normal levels in the venue.
“It’s got to be right. It’s not an easy corporate show. Everyone’s got a critical ear. It’s very nice to have Martin Audio here with us supporting the show. Martin Audio is a great believer in the show, and they have supported us each year. Everyone working on the show is doing so because they really want to be involved with the show. It would be much easier to be on the other side drinking and relaxing, but at the end of the day, it’s a privilege to be involved, and we’re not prepared to turn down the opportunity!
According to Dion Davie, Director of VME, host Russell Kane reacted very positively to the sound coverage, adding: “He was completely blown away with the sound, having performed in the venue previously, and told us he had never experienced anything this good - which was awesome.
“Russell Kane covered a lot of ground across the stage with his Sennheiser handheld radio mic. But with so much rejection and loads of headroom in the system we were delighted with the way the MLA system behaved.” Kane used a Sennheiser SKM 5200-II wireless microphone with an ME 5004 cardioid capsule, a combination designed for world class live events.
He concluded: “In fact, all the feedback we had was positive, with guests saying it was the best sound ever.”
Davie also praised the role of NoNonsense Group’s Liz Madden, commenting: “You couldn’t ask for a better Production Manager - she was brilliant.”
Reciprocating to this compliment, Madden added: “As always, the VME team were a pleasure to work with; they adapted well to the new space and delivered exceptional sound in the venue. Presenter Russell Kane had raised concerns about the sound at previous events at the venue but he was delighted with the superb quality on this occasion.”
Madden continued: “Russell Kane was a true professional and working with him was a real pleasure. He totally understood what the event was all about and captured the audience’s attention from the moment he walked on stage and hosted the awards brilliantly. He did have reservations about the venue as when working their previously there were issues with the sound but he was thrilled with the results and said it was one of the best events he had worked on.”
Martin Audio’s Andy Davies provided technical support for the event, and was de facto System Engineer on the night, creating the optimisation of the system in the Display2.1 software.
Working alongside Davies providing MLA support was Chris Pyne, former FOH Engineer to Kylie Monogue. TPi last met Pyne backstage on a swelteringly hot day in Hyde Park in the summer of 2014, when Pyne was assisting with the British Summertime festival. On a cold day in February, Pyne commented: “At this event, coverage is the most important thing to take into consideration. Particularly in this environment, speech intelligibility is of prime importance in an awards ceremony, and as such, becomes our priority.
“The room itself is geared perfectly towards live sound. The room is walled by thick black draping, which helps to absorb a surprising amount of background reverb and echo. It was an exceptionally dry room. In this environment, its good to be dead.”
Continuing the trend of praising the venue, Pyne concluded: “The venue is much easier to deal with than the hotel, that’s for sure. Makes life much easier. The difference is that it is a venue above all else.”
FURNITURE AND BRANDING
The Battersea Evolution central bar area provided guests with the ideal post-dinner focal point for the late night antics that have come to define the TPi Awards and after show. As liberal measures were deluged into tumblers, poured by bearded barmen at the TPi central bar, on the outskirts, a smattering of coloured Chesterfield sofas were strategically placed for small clusters of networking guests.
Rider Provider’s Georgia Juet commented: “This is our second year in partnership with the TPi Awards. Last year we provided classic furniture to fit with the film noir theme. This year we rolled out our coloured chesterfield sofas - Rider Provider has the largest stock of coloured Chesterfields in the UK!”
“We’ve got orange, purple, pink, green, and red ones.” In addition to the foyer area, Rider Provider also kitted out Robe and XL Video VIP rooms. “It was a very straight forward event, the venue is nice and easy to get in and out of, so for us, this made matters much more straightforward!”
Sunbaba were once again entrusted with branding. Madden commented: “Sunbaba made use of the space available in the foyer and around the great central bar to ensure all the supporters and sponsors of the event were given the recognition they deserve.”
HEALTH & SAFETY
Gallowglass Health & Safety provided consultation and advice to the TPI Awards, working closely with the venue team and coordinating with contractors to create an integrated event safety management plan.
Principal Safety Consultant, Steve Kearney said: “We started pre-production for the Awards in late December 2014 after being contacted by Production Manager Liz Madden of the NoNosense Group.”
“Reviewing suppliers’ documentation on behalf of the production company was an integral part of creating the event safety management plan. Detailed site plans provided by the production company and the various suppliers enabled us to ensure that no part of the installation would compromise the safety of another or create any additional risk.
“All the information provided by the NoNonsense Group, suppliers and venue were collated into the event safety plan. This was sent on to the venue for approval and passed on to all suppliers, so that everyone involved was aware of all the procedures and safety measures that had been put in place.
“An event of this size involves a lot of individual suppliers working in close proximity, increasing the potential for one contractor to unintentionally enter another’s work area and put them at risk,” Kearney said.
It was therefore encouraged that all contractors should inform each other of works they’d be carrying out. Segregated work areas were necessary and with the assistance of an extra set of eyes (in this case, Madden’s) work was monitored and instruction was given to members of the production where necessary.
“Obviously a large number of guests in an enclosed space poses certain risks and we constantly monitored access and egress for guests and staff. It was also important to ensure that the siting of tables provided sufficient access for waiting staff during service.
“Given the high profile of the awards and involvement of the best companies in the industry, there’s no room for slip-ups of any kind. But as you’d expect, some of the best suppliers were involved. From our point of view this was evidenced by the quality of the health and safety documentation they provided us with. This gives a very good inclination as to how to they will operate onsite.”
Kearney concluded: “A structure that has been specifically designed as an event space will have built-in benefits from a health and safety perspective. The Battersea Evolution offers some fantastic facilities for production companies, including rest and welfare areas. The dedicated vehicle and pedestrian-only routes also provide good access and egress, which significantly reduces the risk of accidents.”
KB Event supplied two trucks for the show. “We were delighted to support TPi for this years awards, it is a genuine pleasure to be involved,” said Managing Director, Stuart McPherson. “What can I say? The parking and loading situation was in a different league to last year. Access, load in and load out were a breeze. Battersea Evolution is by far our venue of choice for an event like the TPi Awards.” McPherson added: “Planning was excellent and suppliers and venue were all very accommodating so very straightforward and easy for us this year.”
Madden concluded: “Getting used to a new venue was a good challenge and they understood the needs of the event and worked with us to make the event a success. We have had positive feedback and we have found a new home for the event. Having just 24 hours to make everything happen was a challenge but everything was planned in advance and we made use of every minute to ensure sufficient time was available for a rehearsal. KB Event left a trailer on site as large vehicle movement is restricted when guests are on site. This meant that load out of kit in the main space could happen as the show was dismantled making the process much smoother.”
Madden is passing her PM duties on for the 2016 events but said fondly: “I will miss working on the event but I am looking forward to simply attending it once again. It’s not easy staying sober at one of the industry’s best events!”
As preparations for the next year’s TPi Awards get underway, TPi’s General Manager Justin Gawne concluded: “We are looking forward to creatively utilising this space to its maximum capacity over the coming years.” TPi Magazine & Awards would like to extend a huge thank you and congratulations to all of the winners, shortlisted nominees and all those who attended. Your support was incredible.