2020 has been a roller coaster for everybody. As a business watching our forward order book dissolve in mid March was hard – we were unsure what the short term would look like for the events industry. We had hoped since lockdown started that we would be involved in helping to deliver a Literature Festival of some description for Cheltenham Festivals in the autumn. And so it was a real pleasure to be involved in delivering one of the few events to happen in 2020, and have an audience in venues, doing what we do at Production AV.
COVID Secure Production
Previous years have seen the team at Production AV delivering hundreds of sessions across multiple venues over the course of the annual Literature Festival. For 2020, the team at Cheltenham Festivals put together a dynamic program that mixed virtual online sessions with live content, and allowed both an online and real live audience to enjoy sessions from a host of authors and guests across 11 days.
Production AV was engaged to provide on the usual in-venue solutions required to stage the live events, albeit scaled down from the more typical 11 venues we have helped deliver over the last 10 years. With COVID scaling back the program, Cheltenham Festivals used Cheltenham Townhall and Pillar Rooms alongside the Everyman Theatre to deliver the live events program. Careful planning was undertaken to ensure that the complete schedule of build, live and de-rig could be delivered in a COVID secure manner to minimise the risk to everyone involved.
Production AV liaised closely with the Festivals chosen online production partner to ensure that technical delivery was seamless across the venues.
Whilst the situation around the event felt very different, delivery on site felt reassuringly similar to previous years, despite the additional measures to guard against COVID. Each venue required a crewed solution to take the range of feeds, and send them to the relevant displays. Typically this was several PowerPoint feeds, VT playback, presenter stage feeds and a mixed camera feed from the Streaming providers.
We carefully built systems for each venue based around our high quality inventory. Switching was handled by Barco hardware in all three venues, with high brightness Barco projection in the Everyman and Townhall, and connection to the venue installation in the Pillar Rooms. Playback was handled competently by our range of high spec PC and Apple hardware using software such as QLab as required by the content. All systems ran natively at FullHD ensuring all content was pixel perfect from end to end.
This was handled by our talented team of dedicated event professionals – working as a central point to manage the presentation aspects of each session, and liaising with the stage management team and presenters to ensure that content was played at the right times, and hand off between streaming and the venue was managed correctly. Our thanks go to Sam McCrea for the Everyman Theatre, Jimmy Flanders in the Town Hall, with Olie Goulding in the Pillar Rooms.
Once again our thanks go to Cheltenham Festivals for involving us in the project. We look forward to working with them in the future on the other festivals.