Anna Valley takes on technical production management for the launch of the Lotus Emira
Lotus is on a mission to become a truly global performance car brand. Since taking over the business in 2017, Chinese auto giant, Geely, has already invested over £100m in the company’s UK facilities – but this is just a fraction of the funds set aside to make the switch to selling only electric cars by 2028. Before completely embracing electrification though, Lotus planned a “last hurrah” to the petrol sportscar with the launch of the Emira at their headquarters in Hethel in July 2021. Lotus turned to Blueprint Partners for event design and they, in turn, enlisted Anna Valley to technically production manage a spectacular launch that marked the end of an era.
“Emira Unboxed” was a live, one-hour broadcast and in-person launch that defied the limitations of social distancing and exemplified the benefits of a hybrid approach to events. The show took place in front of a massive LED cube on the skidpan of Hethel Test Track and was hosted by Andy Jaye and Helen Stanley, alongside Formula 1 World Champion, Jenson Button. In addition to the 200 press and VIPs in attendance, the event was live-streamed to a host of online and social platforms. It also featured a virtual audience of 131 superfans (as a nod to the fact that the Emira is the 131st car that Lotus has taken from design to production,) and contributions from experts via live feeds and in video packages that were pre-recorded at a purpose-built studio on site. But the cars took centre stage with a ballet of historic Lotus cars preceding Emira’s explosion onto the track and the dramatic finale when the front wall of the “LED box” lifted into the air and the Emira emerged for the first time.
Delivering the event
Blueprint Partners relied on three categories of suppliers to help them deliver the ambitious event: a team of freelancers to work with their team on the creative production; NEP UK to provide outside broadcast technology and support; and Anna Valley to technically production manage the event and supply additional services including lighting, power, structures, video streaming and displays.
After using Anna Valley for screens for years, and more recently with the Matrix acquisition, their ability to fully technically production manage and look after elements that are outside the purview of pure AV is really useful. It means we can cut down on the number of suppliers that we need to interface with, and they can join all the dots.
Mark Anand, Blueprint MD
With twelve 45-foot artic trailers of equipment, a production team of up to a hundred crew members on-site for seven days and tens of kilometres of fibre, camera and power cables linking up multiple sites at the venue, this event had a lot of dots to join!
In addition to translating Blueprint Partners vision into a technical plan and providing a safety overlay to the whole show, Anna Valley was also responsible for converting a disused part of the factory into a television studio and delivering the key element of the unboxing: a 147 cubic meter structure, wrapped in LED, with a front wall that lifted into the air. While unboxing the Emira was Blueprint Partners idea, it was up to Anna Valley to figure out the mechanics behind the reveal. “Originally the car was going to rise on a lift from inside the box but, because it was a pre-production model rather than a finished car, it was too heavy to lift up,” explains Anna Valley’s project director, Ben ‘O Shea. “About a week before the event, we decided to use Kinesis to lift the front panel of the LED box instead and then built a supporting structure and worked with both lighting and structures suppliers to design and rig Kinesis motors and add dramatic lighting design to complete the effect.”
While the launch presented some significant production and structural design challenges, the biggest risk was undoubtedly the weather. “In the seven days we were on site, we went through multiple weather warnings including two severe wind warnings which took us very close to the design limitations on the structures,” confirms ‘O Shea who described the conditions on the day as “biblical.” Working on an active race circuit, with massive distances between the studio, skidpan and production areas also made moving around the site difficult and communication critical. “You can’t just pop out from the gallery to talk to someone, because it would take you fifteen minutes to get there,” confirms Anand. “That meant communication and complete trust was key.”
Surprisingly, COVID doesn’t feature on the list of challenges for this launch. In fact, Anand believes the pandemic presented a unique opportunity, “The client originally wanted this to be a live event that may be streamed. Covid gave us the opportunity to reset that balance, and ensure everyone felt that being an online event first was the right way to go.” However, Anand concedes that creating a live experience for four different audiences – the in-person attendees, online viewers, 131 superfans and contributing experts, all with different content delivered at the same time – certainly added to the complexity of the event. “It really was a matrix of deliverables and each show or experience had to feel like it was designed exclusively for that audience, even though we were trying to do ten things at once.”
The launch of the Lotus Emira surpassed all expectations. Within an hour of the event, thousands of potential customers had configured a car on Lotus’ website and the online stream has been viewed over a million times so far. Anand attributes the event’s success to good storytelling and collaboration saying, “Fundamentally it’s about storytelling and it’s about audiences. With this form of hybrid event the potential audience and potential for engagement is so much higher, but you have to change your mindset. To deliver the event, our job is to paint the outline of what needs to happen and then we rely on everybody working on the event to make it better and use their skill and talent to improve it. The numbers speak for themselves, the engagement speaks for itself, the impact it had speaks for itself.”
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