Fusing TV and AV to create a fun-filled virtual corporate event
Live production and events company Chameleon knew that expectations could hardly be much higher when they were approached recently to produce a virtual corporate event based on popular ITV entertainment show Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. The company knew that it needed to corral some of the best technical talent in broadcast TV and audio-visual technology to help deliver the hugely intricate event which featured a stellar lineup including Stephen Mulhern, Gary Barlow and Professor Green. As part of this remit, Chameleon engaged Anna Valley to serve as video partner, LED set supplier and a key technology provider.
The impetus behind the project was the desire of a major global corporate to thank its resellers for their sterling work during the pandemic. It was also intended to provide a replacement for an annual in-person event at a major London venue, with the virtual event providing a touchpoint for the same group of people.
Chameleon has a long history of working with this client on both in person and virtual, TV style events and was initially approached to design the set for the ambitious project inspired by Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (Lifted Productions/ITV Studios.) Retitled for the occasion as “The Retailer Celebration, the event was conceived from day one as an innovative fusion of TV and AV elements.
The initial plan to use an existing TV studio had to be revised when it proved impossible to book a sufficiently large facility. A protracted search to identify a suitable venue ultimately led to a large building located adjacent to a major sports site. “But whilst the room was massive, it didn’t fit the original idea, so we had to go back to the drawing board,” recalls Chameleon production manager Sam Parkins. “At this point it quickly became clear that rather than simply requiring a camera company, we were going to need a video and secondary layer partner that could handle a lot of different aspects to help deliver the fast-paced show.”
Having worked with Anna Valley previously, Parkins was aware that the company possessed a wide range of expertise that included the supply and operation of LED virtual sets. Their team was also able to tackle one of the greatest challenges associated with the final choice of venue – the 150m distance between the studio area and gallery, which Anna Valley addressed by installing a fibre link.
“Having Anna Valley onboard provided a lot of reassurance about the complex technical requirements,” confirms Parkins. “As well as the fibre connection, the network and signal management requirements were extensive, and Anna Valley made sure all of that ran smoothly too. They are a great company to work with because they are able to cover so many bases.”
Having Anna Valley onboard provided a lot of reassurance about the complex technical requirements…they are a great company to work with because they are able to cover so many bases.
Sam Parkins, Chameleon production manager.
Ultimately, the crew – many of which were provided by Anna Valley – comprised about 70% personnel from a TV background, and the remainder whose experience was rooted in event technology. Anna Valley’s ease in traversing both worlds proved to be another factor in their favour. “Their experience of delivering hybrid TV and interactive events was a significant part of the appeal,” confirms Parkins.
“As well as the events history, they have a lot of grounding in the TV world, and it was apparent that they could provide a bridge between my design and what the director – who is from a TV background – wanted to achieve.”
With a strong rapport in place between Chameleon and Anna Valley, the collaborators were also able to handle a compressed schedule that had to accommodate more late changes to set design and technology than would normally be the case in ‘regular’ TV production. As Andrew Newport, project manager at Anna Valley, confirms: “There was relatively little time to bring it all together, whilst a changing brief meant that everyone had to think on their toes. There was a very acute need to be reactive and adaptive.”
The Retailer Celebration ultimately took place on three separate stage areas – two of them located in front of large LED sets supplied by Anna Valley and including more than 20m of curved LED backdrop. The company also designed and commissioned the fibre-connected gallery, from where all of the main broadcast and AV tasks were conducted.
In addition, Anna Valley supplied portable production units (PPU), communications equipment, cameras and camera guarantees, and video recording systems. Crew provided by the company undertook many of those most demanding duties, while remote contributions from home-based attendees were handled by White Productions.
Elaborating on his experience of such complex projects, Parkins says that “Chameleon are expected to be in control and there are a lot of plates that need to be kept spinning on a project like this. When I have Anna Valley on site, I know they will have all of their responsibilities covered and I don’t need to worry about those aspects at all – they are taken care of.”
Whilst it’s unlikely that anyone involved in the project would have turned down the offer of a few more weeks to deliver it, the consensus view is that it nonetheless proved to be a highly entertaining event. With Dermot O’Leary and Stephen Mulhern among the hosts, there was a performance by Gary Barlow and a number of remote and in-person contributions from other celebrities.
Parkins confirms that the event received “a very positive response from the client, with the senior shareholders all very pleased. It’s one of two or three jobs that we’re especially proud of this year – and this was the biggest by far.”
Reflecting on the event, Parkins notes that “it really was a stellar crew. From graphic designer to camera supervisor, we had a very strong technical team – and Anna Valley was a big part of it.”