2021: A Festival Season For The Ages Down Under

2021: A Festival Season For The Ages Down Under

Photo by David Solm

Around this time of the year inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere more often than not look longingly at, say, the hot summer in Australia and all that it entails: the beaches, the sun and the surf, the festival circuit, the parties. 2021 is no exception, however partly thanks to our AV Alliance member Novatech, that longing is tinged with something else: hope

South Australia is among the very first places where live events are taking place in 2021, and the entertainment industry now has a shining example of how returning to “almost-normal” is a real, tangible possibility come summer. The event that has captured the world’s attention in the past weeks was the Summer Sounds Festival in Adelaide,  Australia’s first month-long, financially independent, and most importantly COVID-safe outdoor music festival in 2021. Can such a thing even exist these days, you may ask? Absolutely! 

In what is already hailed locally as the “post-COVID world”, our Adelaide-based AV Alliance member company, Novatech Creative Event Technology – in collaboration with local promoters and rigging company Nexstage – created a festival experience that will be remembered for years to come. The event, which took place in Adelaide’s Bonython Park (Tulya Wodli) over the course of January, ran 20 epic shows with a diverse program to audiences of 2,100.

For those of us watching live streamed shows or old concert DVDs while enjoying a drink in the safety of our homes in most part of the world, such a feat seems almost incomprehensible now, but Novatech’s innovative solution will prove how it can be much more than just a mere possibility for festival organizers with hopes of reopening this summer.

Summer Sounds Festival Adelaide by Novatech - photo by David Solm

 

Photo by David Solm

That innovative solution came in a format that has proved hugely popular for the festival audience is the “Party Pod” system, which provided the perfect way to ensure a regulation-compliant, and COVID-free experience for everyone. Punters purchased access to Party Pods that were separated by a safe distance and fencing and were suitable for four to six people, and of course no festival would be complete without the ability to choose from different packages. Attendees could choose from VIP, Gold, Silver, or Bronze seating packages, the VIP Pods coming with a premium location in the first five rows, a private toilet block, faster drink service, and a choice of premium drinks. Not surprisingly, these features proved so popular for festival goers that the need for having such features at all future events has already been voiced.

Party in the pod

“The Party Pod system is fantastic” according to Leko Novakovic, the Managing Director of our member Novatech. “While some people were apprehensive about being ‘penned in’, all doubts were removed after the first weekend. About 80% of the feedback we’ve heard is that this is the way all festivals should be staged from now on, COVID or not. Most people want comfort and luxury, and to be able sit down. The VIP and Gold sections are really nice, with their white picket fencing and vines, and everyone has tables and chairs. The Silver and Bronze pods that are further back are on raised decks, so everyone has good sight lines. Audiences need to experience this system for the first time to appreciate how great it is”, says Leko, and based on the reviews, appreciate they certainly did. From where we are standing, party pods seem to be an immensely appealing solution to complying with safety regulations!

 

Summer Sounds Festival Adelaide by Novatech - photo by David Solm

 

Photo by David Solm

Without the crowd’s ability to move around as one would do at a traditional festival, Novatech made sure that the sound design was perfectly adapted to the situation and every seat of every pod – whether at the front or at the back – had equally great coverage. Novatech also provided an extensive lighting package on festival-size rigs, which ensured that visiting artists did not need to add extras or floor packages. They worked closely with the promoters on the stage design, which enabled them to incorporate scrims on either side of the stage that not only hide the main PA, but also frame the huge LED IMAG screens that flank it, making for a professional and clean stage look. 

In collaboration with ROE

Novatech selected our AV Alliance technology partner ROE Visual’s CB5 LED panels fitted with Air Frame for the stage design. The screens flanking the stage left and right measured 3.6 by 6 meters, while the upstage LED wall measured 8.4 by 4.8 meters. Six HD cameras captured the live IMAG visuals. Novatech has a long-standing exclusive partnership with ROE Visual and after having had their large inventory of ROE Visual panels and strips sitting in their warehouses for months on end, the team was especially excited to have them installed at the first live event of the year. We can only share the team’s hope that this new era of live events that has just started is going to speed up the recovery from the effects of the pandemic.

With certain restrictions still in place in South Australia, the event had to have a COVID Management Plan approved by the public health offices. Thankfully Summer Sounds Festival had not had any issues with getting the green light, and Leko Novakovic attributes the success in part to SA Health and Chief Public Health Office Professor Nicola Spurrier. “We’ve taken to calling her Saint Nicola,” jokes Leko. “SA Health have been incredibly supportive. Professor Spurrier came down to see the festival herself, and loved how it was planned and executed.” Health authorities also granted special exemptions for artists to travel in from New South Wales, which was subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine prior to January 31. 

While Australia is still one of the few places on earth where restrictions are finally being eased, the message that such an event can take place in January 2021 is sending to the rest of the countries is that the end is finally in sight, and that with careful planning and close cooperation with health authorities live events can and will return – hopefully sooner than we think.

Wait, there is more!

Novatech had quite a busy January under their belts; in addition to the Summer Sounds Festival, our Adelaide-based member also took part, just like every year before the world turned upside down, in the celebration of Australia Day.

Australia Day is the official national day that – this year more so than before – reflects on and celebrates Australia’s rich history and diverse community, and is observed on January 26. Novatech has proudly supported the Australia Day Council of South Australia (ADCSA)  in delivering a number of creative and innovative events for the past 14 yearsAustralia Day in the City, organized by the ADCSA, is an event that Novatech has been particularly proud to work on for nearly a decade and a half. Not only does it allow them to “be a part of inspiring the national spirit and enriching the life of the nation” but also to bring their innovative solutions and their A-game to the table. 

For obvious reasons, the usual celebrations of Australia Day 2021 were different from what they used to be; for the first time ever, the event took place indoors at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, and it hosted a range of live music acts. Meticulous planning for the AUS DAY IN THE ARENA was no small feat for Novatech and took several months, but in the end it allowed Leko and his team to realize one of the largest indoor events since the beginning of the pandemic.

 

Photos by David Solm

A day in the arena

AUS DAY IN THE ARENA was the first large-scale indoor live music event in South Australia since the pandemic outbreak. Two half-hour long shows ran at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on the same day, which saw a 5,000-strong live audience for each show – seated safely in a ‘checkerboard’ pattern around the arena, complying with all health regulations.

The massive free event was headlined by Aussie rock band Birds of Tokyo, and our friends at Novatech supplied a one-stop-solution for staging, video, projection, lighting, audio, and communications. In addition, the entire event was live streamed. To ensure that the safe seating system did not hinder the overall concert experience for the audience, Novatech created a central square stage, which itself was designed as a projection surface, supplementing huge Wahlberg roll-down screens hung around the arena. These screens were controlled by the video and lighting system and rolled down a semi-transparent gauze for projections, which allowed those seated behind the screens to still see the stage.

Working with disguise and Barco

Novatech once again worked with our technology partners in delivering its solutions for the event: they used disguise 4×4 pro media servers to deliver content to six Barco UDX 32k 4K projectors that covered the Wahlberg screens and stage, with additional video run through the venue’s in-house LED cube.

There is a common psychological symptom born out of the pandemic: the fear of being with people. For many, going back to what our lives used to be is a scary thought, and images of festival goers enjoying themselves without face masks or in close proximity to each other make them uncomfortable. But for us in the event and entertainment industry, the will to contribute to a life filled with unforgettable experiences through events that bring us together once again is stronger than this fear. By ensuring that everything is done by the book, and all health and safety measures are complied with, we can soon experience the joy of being around each other in person once again.

We at AV Alliance are working towards that goal every day, because there is nothing we love more than to bring people together and give them event experiences of a lifetime. Once we all get the green light, we are ready when you are.