It was easy to get caught up in the excitement of the Riverview School’s annual fundraising gala with its spirited live auction, stage shows and convivial company, all set against a 16-acre Cape Cod campus in Derry, NH. The Events United team experienced this first hand last year when they provided the lighting, audio, video and scenic elements for the popular affair at the boarding school, which serves 11 to 22-year old students with learning challenges.
Tim Messina and his team at Events United knew that they would have their work cut out when the school turned to them this year, in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown, and asked them to host a virtual gala at their Studio Lab facility.
“A big challenge for us was to take an event that was already spectacular in the live setting and create the same effect for guests virtually,” said Chase Clark, production manager and lead audio engineer with Events United. “A lot of the energy in a live auction comes from the people in a room. So, how do you recreate that in an hour-long livestream? This was the question we had to ask ourselves at the start of the project.”
The Events United team, including Messina, Clark, general manager Donald Van Slyke, and production design manager Jon Martell, came up with some good answers, as they created a livestream that helped the renowned school exceed its goal and raise $865,000. Key to their successful effort was an engaging lighting and video design that featured 46 Chauvet Professional lighting fixtures and 60 F2 LED video panels.
“There were a number of different facets to this gala,” says Clark. “We had a silent online auction featuring items from all ends of the price spectrum, as well as a raffle of a new Mini Cooper. In addition, the evening featured performance videos of John Legend, Sting, and Rick Astley alongside segments where the school’s music educator sang along with the students online via a Zoom call. Our job was to tie all this activity together with attractive looks that supported what was happening without distracting from it, while reinforcing the school’s purpose at the same time.”
With this in mind, the livestream regularly went back to displaying the school’s Village of Dreams graphic on its 32’ by 11’ video wall. The high-resolution LED wall was also used to pump up interest in the auction and pledges by displaying a thermometer showing the amount of money raised. Auction items were another item featured on the wall, as were the videoed entertainment segments.
“The wall created an upstage backdrop that gave us and our clients a great deal of flexibility,” adds Clark. “For this event, or any other event, we run the wall with NovaPro UHD Jr and support it with Chauvet’s ground support kit. The 2mm wall always looks incredible on camera, which is the ultimate goal in the end for these live streaming events.
“Regardless of the event, our purpose of the video wall is to allow us to have a blank canvas for our clients to use, since the scope of each shoot can be drastically different,” continues Clark. “We recently purchased a lot more of the F2 tiles that we will soon be adding to our studio to create a more immersive video element.”
Also featured in the livestream rig were eight Maverick MK2 Spots, 12 Maverick MK1 Hybrids, and 10 Rogue R1X Washes for front lights and specials, as well as four STRIKE 4 blinders for eye candy, six COLORado Solo Battens for uplighting, and six COLORado CYC 1 FC units, used as footlights on the downstage edge to soften some of the shadows casted by the overhead lights.
“We include a lot of fixtures in our livestream studio,” said Clark. “Having them available adds to our flexibility, so we can create a variety of looks from simple to elaborate. When clients come to us with an idea for an event, we work closely with them to give them a deeper understanding of what is possible with creative technology and deliver something that significantly enhances their vision.”