And the award goes to...

S&S chats to Guido Sperzaga and Alessandro Castriciano
2014, Awards, Event, Middle East, Protec, The onlooker, Analysis, Broadcast Business


S&S chats to Guido Sperzaga and Alessandro Castriciano about how their new company ‘The Onlooker’ executed the sparkling Middle East EVENT Awards last May.

When did the planning and conceptualisation begin for this year’s Awards? guys
Initially Richard Brook from Informa contacted us and we started to think about what we could do, coming up with this exact idea about 20 to 25 days before the event. We already knew we wanted to create this kind of set-up, but then of course we needed to find a technical supplier and explain to them what we need.

So together with Richard, we began to discuss what was possible, but mainly what the set-up would be for the evening.

The main issue that we had was recognising that this year for the Awards it was better to do the event in a horizontal way, with the stage in the middle – as opposed to last year where the stage was at the front of the ballroom. And that’s what Richard had in mind too.

So that’s why we came up with this feasible, technical concept in terms of stage design. After that, set – up took around 30 hours before the show.

You worked on the Awards last year, tell us a bit more about the difference between this year and 2013’s ceremony...
Well, as I say - flipping the stage set-up from a vertical to horizontal position was the main difference, and this consequently gave us the opportunity to play a lot with the huge wall behind and to use the entire length of the ballroom, which spans about 50 metres.

And it proved even better from the audience’s point of view, because in each and every position they had the opportunity to properly look at the stage – seeing both the video content on the specific two screens, and the live feed on the other two from wherever they were seated. That was the main point from our side.

Tell us about the video content playing on the screens and your involvement in that...
Actually we started from a theme coming from Informa – called Fire & Ice, and then we created the whole concept. Everything from the opening video, to the kind of content that needed to be displayed for the categories.

One thing that was very important to us was considering the people who could see the awards nominations but may not have been able to see the events in question. So we integrated more content about the events that won the awards, so people could see more footage or images from those particular events.

The challenge was introducing 20 categories, with a lot of cues, images and so on. Ensuring that the content was not the same, repeated on each screen. We didn’t want to show every single one of the 20 categories in the opening video because it would last too long and you lose some of the impact and magic of it.

So there was one category on one screen, and one on the other – so in 10 cues at the intro we showed all the content relative to the nominations. The content was also created in such a way that it could run around 360 degrees all over the ball room.

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What was the trickiest part of a set up of this nature?
Catering to 80 tables in the ballroom, so around 800 people, was tricky. That’s why technically you have to make a lot of decisions, because moving the technical elements can be difficult with that many people.

Another challenge was the height of the ballroom, it’s only five metres which isn’t that high, so it’s not easy to set-up a lot of equipment -and in this case there really was a lot – without damaging any of the existing infrastructure.

By the end there was a lot equipment, the timing was OK – but it was a bit tight given how much was involved. There was a lot of explaining to people about what had to be done, explaining to the people going on stage to give awards, explain to Phill Jupitus about the running order – generally making people aware of the flow. Making sure everyone was briefed, so whenever we made one call – everyone knew what they were doing.

How did you come up with the music element?
We chose the music, we moved away from the classic standard – we went a little more rock n roll. It was an event reflecting the events industry here so we felt it made more sense to have something that reflected the feeling and the mood of the people attending. The music for the opening was composed specifically for this.

Which suppliers did you work with on the event?
Everything technically was provided by Protec, we approached them with this idea and they opened their technical doors to us, basically saying ‘guys – feel free to use whatever you want to make a very good event.” Then we started to marry these elements with our original thoughts and then. well, you saw the end result...

There was a list of suppliers that Informa contacted for the Awards, they asked for our ideas and we suggested the main people in the market that everybody knows and left it to them. I’d never worked with Protec before, but I’ve known Steve Lakin for eight years. And I really appreciate that he gave us a lot of trust to say “you can produce the concept and content creation, you can manage the event and the showcalling”.

But of course their name was also involved, so if it went badly it reflects not only on us but them also, so everything had to be just right.

We are in the middle between an events management company and the technical provider so we fill a gap in the market where we come up with a viable solution. We spoke the same language, so this communication came from our experience –in this case with Informa – translating a marketing idea, message or theme into a project.

And it was even easier from a Protec point of view as we’d already thought about any possible technical issues because we’d worked in that venue many, many times in the past. The added value was that based on these experiences we were be able to create specific content in order to impress the people gathered.

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How do you feel the event went overall and is there any changes you’d make for next year?
I must say, we’ve had really good feedback from both the organisers and people who attended. I think people appreciated it for three reasons – firstly the visibility offered setting it up in this new way. Secondly the content, and lastly just the impact that is offered by such a surrounding.

And it was all people in the industry, so they’d have an idea of technical issues or disasters that would happen in the evening. So we were under a lot of scrutiny! But we’ve honestly had really good feedback.

As for changes, maybe if we had more set-up time perhaps, we would add in more technical solutions. Perhaps more special effects and these kind of things.

I need to thank Protec for their support because they’ve been amazing, in terms of trusting us to execute the show, technical support, on site help and so on. They know how we work and how we deliver things and they trusted us from the start.

And - of course - my thanks go to Richard at Informa for giving me the opportunity to do the Awards once again. It was important for us to do this to show what we are able to do, coming up with this technical, feasible creative concept – following every step from the beginning to the end, on site and content creations.

We work a lot with in the corporate world so we have very good experience in how to translate a brief that comes from the event management company, in to a visualisation and how to use the right technical support in order to deliver a message.”

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