Jordi Vandekerkhof from production specialist More To Show worked closely with Frank Anthierens and Nathalie Rasschaert from event agency Alice Events and DDMC Event Design to deliver a world-class special live televised festival event to celebrate Belgian National Day 2023.
This was combined with the 10th anniversary of Belgian King Philippe’s coronation, and staged in front of the magnificent Cinquantenaire Arcade, an imposing 30-metre-wide, 45-metre-high triple arched monument in the centre of the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels.
The festival featured unique performances by 12 dynamic and high-profile Belgian artists accompanied by a 24-piece orchestra including rhythm section.
The triple arched monument was completed in 1905 in time for the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence. Topped by an impressive bronze quadriga, it is flanked by various colonnaded buildings extending along both sides that now host three museums. In front of the arch, a large esplanade cuts through Cinquantenaire Park which is where 100,000 live guests assembled to enjoy the entertainment.
The aesthetic underpinning Frank and Nathalie’s pitch was to present a carefully crafted live experience that also provided a dynamic environment for the multi-camera telecast using the buildings as a stunning backdrop.
This enabled broadcast camera director Hans Pannecoucke to create an outstanding TV spectacle that was equally dramatic and enjoyable for the millions tuning in to watch, as well as those feeling the massive energy and spirit of the occasion in person.
Apart from this, central to their creation was this highly appropriate location for this level of celebration. Their winning idea had always riffed on bringing all these elements together and integrating National Day with the King’s official birthday, creating Happy Belgium, a distinctive and uplifting experiential event complete with its own logo and vibes.
With the event design so intricately linked to the Cinquantenaire architecture, all the surrounding technical infrastructure – stage, lighting, PA arrays, delay towers, IMAG screens, etc. – was added with the goal of blending production seamlessly into the location, achieving a modern elegance and functionality in the historically significant setting.
Once Alice Events was awarded the pitch, it was time for More To Show to get involved and turn these ambitious plans into production realities.
The scope of More To Show’s work included creating a lighting design for the buildings and the stage, managing all technical suppliers including audio, video, lighting, power, pyro and broadcasting and all other site infrastructure and necessities required for the main 2-hour festival section with the specially arranged compositions co-ordinated by musical director Michel Bisceglia.
To beat the zero to full show 5-week timeframe, More To Show energised its vast contact base and put its effective communication skills and collective expertise to work in amassing the right people and kit.
The Cinquantenaire, the inside and undersides of its arches, the exterior and interior walls as well as all the colonnades and supporting buildings were all lit in the plan, transforming its imposing presence and structural integrity into ‘natural’ scenography.
“The key was to get exactly the right blend of technology and historic monument”, explained Jordi, who also faced the challenge of budgeting and co-ordinating the operation in a little over five weeks since being green lighted.
Lighting the buildings brought the space alive with colour, texture, a sense of grandeur and a magical atmosphere, a task primarily achieved using a mix of Chauvet floods and moving lights all supplied, together with the d&b audio system, by rental company, Splendit.
18 x Chauvet Color STRIKE M strobe/wash fixtures were placed inside the peristyles and functioned as an architectural wash for inside the buildings as well as doubling up for audience blinders, using the strobe and tilt function at strategic moments. Forty-eight Colorado Q40 LED Washes covered the building façades in light, and the effects of these two fixtures combined brought a crisp ‘high definition’ impact to the picture.
This was the first major event for Splendit’s 48 new Chauvet Maverick Storm Hybrid 1 super bright IP65 beam / hybrid fixtures, some of which were placed on top of the arch and the buildings, with others on ground level along the front of the facade blasting out into the night sky. A third layer of lighting was created with more Storm Hybrid 1s lower down along the floor line, all adding more depth to the scene.
The stage, a 20-metre-wide dome stage from supplier Gigant International was fitted with clear skins. It was chosen for its compact dimensions and because it would provide all the necessary weather protection for the orchestra and artists, whilst not affecting the visuality of the epic architecture behind.
More To Show’s stage lighting design had most overhead fixtures onstage rigged on a series of different length D-drops clamped to numerous points in the roof, an ingenious plan that accentuated the curvature of the roof and juxtaposed nicely against the perpendicular lines of the Cinquantenaire.
“Straight trusses simply would not have worked in this context, it was really important to preserve the splendour of the buildings as the backdrop”, noted Jordi, elucidating that the aim was to visually integrate the stage to the point that it almost disappeared, a feat they managed with style and success.
Twenty-eight Chauvet MK3 Profile CXs were the primary stage side and key lights, with 56 x Maverick Storm 2 Beam wash luminaires for additional TV light and 14 x Chauvet Ovation 1 Cyc fixtures used as footlights. Robe MegaPointes provided powerful back lighting and aerial effects behind the stage.
Chauvet Strike Array 4 Blinders were deployed on all the six delay towers, combined with PWR Ranger blinders curving around the front edge of the stage roof for audience illumination. Being a telecast, it was important to ensure the audience was well lit, and all the stage lighting was carefully positioned to dissolve into the background once the show started.
Follow spotting utilised two Robe BMFL WashBeams rigged on the main left and right delay towers, both running on RoboSpot remote follow spot systems.
Two grandMA3 consoles were used for lighting control, a full size for the show lighting, operated by More To Show’s Cedric Duré and a grandMA3 light for the key lights and TV specials, operated by Niels Huybrechts, also from More To Show.
The streamlined PA arrays were d&b J-series and live sound was mixed using a DiGiCo console by Frank Voet of MONO.
IMAG was important not just so the large crowd could get a decent overview of the stage action, but also so they could appreciate screen-based elements like the ten video testimonials (one for each year of the King’s reign) from a selection of people who had overcome challenges in the quest to realise extraordinary achievements.
Six 28 square metre LED screens were judiciously positioned around the site allowing excellent views of the broadcast mix while people could still enjoy the buzz and excitement of being there live.
Jordi’s More To Show production team on site also included Linne De Neef, co-ordinating site wide audio, video and lighting, and technical draftsperson Joost Rombaut. It was the first time all of them had worked on a Belgian National Day production.
The lighting crew chief was Cedriek Stoffels from Splendit, Tom Logghe was their audio crew chief, Karel Will was the sound technician and Julian Schelfhout the lighting tech, with the project overseen by Splendit’s owner, Marijn Broeckaert.
It was a massive honour for us to be involved with this event. We were all immensely proud of the results, and enjoyed the amazing teamwork that made everything happen smoothly and enabled us to fulfil expectations. A great mood on site encouraged everyone to work efficiently on their separate disciplines, all united by a fantastic synergy and sense of collaboration to realise Frank and Nathalie’s original vision for a truly memorable evening, enthused Jordi.