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Version 2 supplies lighting and control infrastructure to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Party at the Palace
UK – TV, broadcast and event lighting rental specialists, Version 2, supplied the moving lights, control, cabling and power distribution infrastructure for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Party at the Palace, catering for the needs of all four stages and the audience areas, including the Royal Box, which had been built in front of Buckingham Palace.
One of the main highlights of the four days of Jubilee celebrations that marked the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne, the Party at the Palace, took place on the evening and night time of Saturday 4th June 2022. The stunning two-and-a-half hour event wowed the nation and a global audience of 13.4 million viewers, with a dazzling array of technology, and programme of classic performances that began with Queen and ended with Diana Ross.
Produced by BBC Studio Events, and with a multi-stage design by Stufish, the set featured four stages: the Pop Stage and Orchestra Stage which flanked the Palace gates, the Palace Stage that linked the Pop and Orchestra stages and the central ‘QVM’ stage around the Queen Victoria Monument, connected to the rest of the set by a catwalk.
The performance areas were defined by 70 silk covered truss tower pillars with custom mounting plates that were designed in house by Version 2 and manufactured locally. “Not only were these key elements representative of the 70 years of service the Queen has given the country, they also provided elegant mounting solutions for the moving heads that Nigel used to light the event, and were much easier for the crew to rig and access,” says Version 2’s Joe Marter.
The responsibility and privilege for lighting this momentous event went to lighting designer Nigel Catmur and his team of five console operators supported by gaffer Mark Gardiner and his team of 12 site technicians and the team at Version 2.
Version 2 was approached by Catmur in January 2022 to supply the lighting after winning the tender process from amongst a strong field of contenders. Both Catmur and Gardiner were happy to have them on board. “I have worked with them many times and was delighted to be working with them on this very special event,” says Catmur.
Catmur and Version 2 worked closely together through various developments of the design, adapting kit lists to fit suitability and availability until a final design was signed off in April. This left about six weeks to procure 1009 lighting fixtures, most of which were supplied from Version 2’s rental stock, with cross-hire support from close collaborating companies.
“Fixture choice is always a balance between budget and availability,” says Catmur. “The budget for these kind of events is never as big as one would imagine, but it helped that I am now so am familiar with what they have in stock. And when they didn’t have it, they were excellent at sourcing and investing in what I needed.”
Catmur was adamant from the outset that he wanted Robe BMFL followspots and Robe BMFL Blades as the keylights for all four stages. “Martin Mac Aura XBs were also a given,” he says. “They are a fantastic unit with colours that are perfect for lighting people’s faces for camera, as well as being able to do all those rock and roll chases.”
All these fixtures were protected from the elements under cover of the Pop and Orchestra stage roofs, but IP65-rating was essential for almost everything else. “As we discovered on site during the build up, the rain could be torrential,” says Catmur.
“The IP65 rating was paramount for the majority of the fixtures on the QVM stage and many fixtures on the Pop and Orchestra stages, all of which were completely open to the elements,” says Marter. “Given the nature of the event, the vagaries of the British weather, and the fact the eyes of the world were upon it, it was essential the fixtures were weather-proof.”
The most prolific fixtures on site were from those from Cameo. “I didn’t know these fixtures but knew we needed something in incredible quantity, small and waterproof with a similar look, because I’d be using 3 or 4 units to uplight each of the 70 pillars,” says Catmur. “Joe Marter recommended and sourced them and they turned out to be an excellent choice. They are absolutely superb units. I was genuinely impressed and they were remarkably reliable too. I think we only lost one out of the 142 Cameo Zenith W600 and maybe two out of over 400 Flat Pros which, in the pouring rain, is pretty good!”
“Lighting the QVM stage was quite a challenge because of its position so far in front of the set-up,” says Catmur. “Central lighting positions would obstruct the sightlines up the Mall so we had to push the rigging positions much wider left and right than we would normally want to go. Consequently the angles were very wide and flat, but they worked extremely well and had the added advantage of being able to reach the outer edges of the Pop and Orchestra stages at the rear.
“For the QVM stage front light we relied on 12 BMFL Blades and some Astera AX5 on the floor, backed up by four Robert Juliat Lancelot followspots and 6 BMFL Robospots.
The followspots were rigged in a spot tower behind the audience seating above the press box, at the maximum height allowed, and operated by Dave Scrivens and his team of professional followspot operators from Pro Spot.
“I chose the security of the Lancelots because I wanted to be absolutely certain I had the power to cut against the daylight at the start of the show,” explains Catmur. “Given the show starts in daylight and that we had the highest profile band opening the show, it’s a big moment and having that extra power from the Lancelots provided that reassurance for that specific moment. They are beautiful machines; ferociously bright!”
“I was very pleased with the result. It was an amazing event to be part of. We are all incredibly proud of what we managed to pull off!”
The mammoth task of organising the logistics, and designing and installing the control and distribution infrastructure was the responsibility of freelance gaffer Mark Gardiner and his team of 12 carefully selected technicians. Gardiner has known and worked alongside Nigel Catmur for a very long time, and also for many years with Version 2 and its MD, Nick Edwards.
“With no pre-existing infrastructure on site, we literally had to build everything from scratch: stages, grandstands, pillars, etc,” says Gardiner. “My role was to put together the lighting for the show, book the crew, handle the logistics of every aspect from the trucking to the order in which we build the show components. This involved liaising with every department to ensure the correct kit was delivered to site over multiple days to keep the work schedule flowing.”
A major part of Gardiner’s remit was to design and install the lighting control system which entailed several kilometres of fibre supplied by Version 2. “From the central, custom-built control desk hub at the back of the south grandstand, we had the best part of 3km of fibre cable running around the site,” he says. “The system was run on over 150 universes of DMX and had three types of lighting control across multiple networks on different V-LANs: ArtNet protocol, SACN and MA-Net. Alongside this we also integrated a High End Systems Hog across the sACN part of the network that was looking after all the screen content. This enabled this operator to take control of the brightness of the screens to be able to balance them as the light level dropped.
“It took a lot of processing to achieve a seamless integration and that takes a lot of planning from the outset before you even get on site.”
This was in no small part facilitated by the team at Version 2. “I was able to give Version 2 my list in advance and they built the control racks to my specification. We then spent four days with them at Version 2 HQ prepping all the control elements and building the entire system before moving on site at the end of May, with just a week of build up before rehearsals.
“It wasn’t possible to connect of all these elements on site until Day 10, so we built the whole system in the warehouse and linked it together with the actual length of fibre run we would use on site to replicate the ‘real’ conditions. But because everything was physically so much closer together in the warehouse, we were able to make any adjustments in a fraction of the time. It’s so much more efficient than building a system on site and we knew it all worked before we even got on site.”
Full connectivity on site involved working with all the TV and sound departments to run cabling through subterranean tunnels and ducts, which in turn had to be organised with the Parks Authorities for the police to search the ducts beforehand and have an overview that it was safe once the lids went back down.
“It all came together and worked on that first day, brilliantly and with no major problems,” says Gardiner. “It’s actually quite a big moment; you would be surprised how pleased you are as a team when it all goes right! The prep beforehand is invaluable and not something that all production companies understand, but BBC Events gets it entirely – they trust us to deliver – and Version 2 is exceptionally good at it.
“Version 2 understand what is needed to put on a show of this scale and were completely unfazed by it. It’s the little details that they are so good at facilitating. Joe Marter in particular as the account manager was just amazing. Nothing was a problem for him and he supported me very well, giving me excellent options each time I had a query.
“The whole team are very happy to oblige and help in any way. The quality and reliability of their kit across the board is brilliant and we had hardly any swap outs. They did a great job. They should be very proud of themselves.”
“It was a genuine privilege to partner with the BBC, Nigel Catmur and his team for this once in a lifetime production,” says Version 2’s Nick Edwards. “The end result was truly stunning, the plaudits for Nigel’s design are still ongoing; I’m sure this production will be talked about for many years to come!” Edwards concluded with praise for his team “I must give huge kudos to Joe Marter for heading this one up so diligently. Credit to our operations team, it was a herculean effort to pull off a job of this magnitude so well.”
photos: © Getty Images / Hannah Mackay, Chris Jackson and WPA Pool.
12th July 2022
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