grandMA3 impresses at Afrikaans is Groot

Afrikaans is Groot is more than just a concert; it's a cultural phenomenon that celebrates the heart and soul of South Africa. The 2023 production at Sun Arena was a testament to the power of music and creativity, showcasing the best that Afrikaans talent has to offer. With its groundbreaking technical innovations, stunning visuals, and electrifying performances, AIG 2023 set a new benchmark for live shows in South Africa and beyond.

This year marked a significant shift for AIG, moving from a church auditorium to the expansive Sun Arena. This wasn't just a change in venue; it was a leap of faith that paid off in spades. The new space allowed for a grander production, with a lighting rig boasting nearly 600 fixtures, all controlled by a full grandMA3 system.

Behind the scenes, Ian Vos, Coleske Group's technical director, orchestrated the intricate dance of lighting, sound, and rigging “The technical team are amazing,” says Ian. “And coming to the Sun Arena improved the show. We hit a bit of a ceiling, literally, in our previous church auditorium because that ceiling couldn’t handle any rigging, so it was a nice way to improve the show, especially in the arena." The technical backbone of AIG was provided by MGG, who have been the show's trusted partner for the past eight years. The system includes MGG's grandMA3 full-size, grandMA3 light and grandMA3 onPC command wing XT, along with a grandMA3 processing unit M and L, and a collection of grandMA3 8Port and 4Port Nodes. AV & Beyond handled the visual design this year, with Hayley Bennett-Freidin and Barry Pretorius leading the creative charge. Joshua Cutts and Andre Siebrits from Visual Frontier took the reins on lighting design, while Murray Lubbe and Gert Watson ensured the audio experience was equally captivating.

Challenges and Innovations

"It's the dedication of the entire crew that makes this show special," says Ian. "The move to the Sun Arena wasn't without its challenges, but everyone embraced it. We faced a tight schedule, the sheer scale of the production, and even a shortage of skilled freelancers due to international opportunities. But for Günther Müller, MGG's project manager, these hurdles were merely opportunities to push boundaries. 

"But for me, this event is a passion," he says with a smile. "It's one of the most technically demanding locally produced shows, and because of its complexity, it pushes us to be creative and stay ahead of the game. We've introduced many new elements. It's the largest deployment of grandMA3 consoles in the country so far, with 72 universes running for full control of all fixtures in the rig. We have individual pixel control over most of the lights." 

A significant innovation was the creation of a "Monster computer" running Depence, a powerful offline visualization software. This allowed lighting designer Andre Siebrits to meticulously program the show offline with exceptional precision. “Andre's programming is incredibly detailed, and the effects he produced are absolutely phenomenal”, says Günther, his admiration evident. “The grandMA3 system has given him the opportunity to explore new techniques, and the effects engine on the phaser allowed him to create extraordinary effects. I attended all of the shows, and each time, Andre managed to surprise us with something new. There were lots of hidden ‘easter eggs’ or gems he included in the design. Joshua and Andre truly created a stunning lighting show.” AIG thrives on constant evolution. Every year, the producers strive to create a show that's bigger, bolder, and better than the last. The 2023 edition delivered on that promise in spades. A flying rocket soared towards the rafters, aerial performers defied gravity, and an impressive array of props complemented the stellar lineup of artists.

A Visual Feast: Stage Design 

The stage design, courtesy of AV and Beyond, was a visual feast. LED screens formed the foundation, with fingers reaching into the roof and a massive central screen dominating the stage. Moving LED panels on either side added another layer of dynamic visual interest. Tailormade Group, the sister company of AV and Beyond, further enriched the experience with their captivating dance routines. The lighting rig, as mentioned earlier, was a marvel of modern technology. Close to 600 fixtures bathed the stage in a kaleidoscope of colors and effects.

A Dream Project

Joshua Cutts has been with AIG since 2015, working as a lighting designer. He comments, "It's one of those shows where we have the freedom to choose the best lights available. The team has been incredibly supportive, providing whatever fixtures we need. This year, we're managing one of the largest setups yet, with 575 lights controlled across 72 universes and over 31,000 parameters on the grandMA3. The grandMA3 performed flawlessly.” “We really nailed it with the grandMA3, and Andre's programming of effects and timing added a whole new dimension,” Josh adds. “For me, and I hate saying this because every year is fantastic, but from a lighting point of view I enjoyed the show more than I have any other in years. The energy and focus of the entire team made working on AIG a joy. When all the departments come together, the final result is truly spectacular. It was a lot of fun!" 

Photos: © Anriette van Wyks

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