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Anna Valley delivers hybrid event video for Chameleon Live 360° summit.

Anna Valley delivers hybrid event video for Chameleon Live 360° summit.

The idea that a corporate event should ideally possess the impact and production values of a hit TV show is pretty well-established at this point. But when you introduce complex video requirements, on-set games, awards presentations and live performances, along with input from multiple remote locations, it’s clear you are talking about a whole new level of sophistication.

It was precisely this scenario which faced design and event production house, Chameleon Live, when they began working on a major hybrid event for a premium global automotive manufacturer. It was not the first time the company had taken technical responsibility for this annual celebration, but the 2023 event was certainly the most elaborate and challenging to date. With such high stakes involved, it’s no surprise that they again chose to work with tried-and-trusted collaborators, including video technology partner Anna Valley.

360° challenges

The two companies first worked together on this event in 2021. With pandemic conditions severely inhibiting the scope for in-person gatherings, the partners delivered a wholly virtual event based on popular ITV programme Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. Retitled for the occasion as The Retailer Celebration, the event fused TV and AV elements to deliver an entertainment spectacular that featured presenter Dermot O’Leary and musical performers Gary Barlow and Professor Green.

With Covid restrictions easing, the 2022 event moved towards a more hybrid-style format, featuring a small in-person audience of 50 complemented by several watch parties, involving resellers and dealers, at remote locations. For the latest event, the client asked for a step-change involving a 360°, in-the-round style format (loosely based on TV music programme Later…With Jools Holland), an on-site audience of 150 VIPs, and full remote production at three locations where there had previously only been a basic set-up and limited interaction with the main studio.

However, it was the primary location – at the client’s own facility – that presented the greatest hurdles, as Chameleon Head of Production Sam Parkins indicates:

The building is normally used as a museum and car showroom, and as such it did not have sufficient power capacity, so we had to bring in generators. Day one was largely spent pulling cables into the building through the roof and getting that whole side up and running! Then there was the fact that we were working with a 360° studio, which is always challenging. It means you have to think very carefully about the schematics in terms of cable runs and power distribution, as well as where you are going to place cameras, LED screens and so on.

Ultimately, the primary studio area was set up ‘in the round’ with a trio of stages: a band stage, a bar stage and the main stage. A total of five LED displays – all 3.5m high and ranging in width from 5m to 10m – were employed to display content including interactive games and awards presentations to the in-person audience. Implementing the video wall element was not without its issues, as Andrew Newport – Head of Video at Anna Valley – recalls: “That all required very rigorous planning; three of the displays had doorways into them, some had jagged edges on the side of them, and really only one could be described as having a standard format.”

As well as the video walls at the main site, Anna Valley provided six cameras, playback equipment (including a pair of Green Hippo Boreal+ media servers and the EVS system), and a sizeable contingent of crew. The company also designed and commissioned the fibre-connected gallery, from where all of the main broadcast and AV tasks were conducted.

‘A lot of moving parts’

In addition to proceedings on the main site – where presenters included a returning Dermot O’Leary, Stephen Mulhern, and Rachel Riley – the 90-minute show drew on live segments at three remote locations: Huddersfield, Cheshire Oaks and Stockport. Setting up at these locations – each hosting watch parties for around 100 people – heralded significant IT duties for the technology partners, including workarounds for different firewall configurations.

Anna Valley supplied both crew and equipment to the remote locations. “Each site was equipped with two cameras, two 75” TVs, some lighting, and the Haivision Makito transportation system that was used to connect the different sites,” recalls Newport. “We also supplied the intercoms that enabled contact back to the main site.”

With Chameleon Live responsible for personnel from various suppliers on-site for seven days, and a crew of up to 120 people at any one time, there is no doubting Parkins’ assertion that this was a project with “a lot of moving parts”. It “represented a massive logistical challenge,” confirms Chameleon Project Manager Emma Freestone, “We had to transform an unconventional space to operate as a 360° studio and ensure significant amounts of equipment operated effectively at multiple sites.”

“It was a truly hybrid event,” confirms Anna Valley Account Manager Ben Gibbs, “and I think it’s a testament to the efforts of everyone involved that the final 90-minute show went so smoothly and received such positive feedback from the client.” “They were absolutely buzzing and very happy with the end-result,” confirms Parkins, and it all depends on the technical team behind you. Sam and the Chameleon team were ably supplemented by a trusted supply chain including sister company Entec, the UK’s original music production company.

So much of the show balances on the supply chain that you pick. I could have gone to another video supplier, but Anna Valley don’t just provide high-end video and complicated systems, they care about the show and they’re our partners rather than our suppliers.