How Novum took British Gymnastics’ production to the next level

When British Gymnastics wanted Olympic levels of production, it bought in Novum AV to fire things up. 

Traditionally held in a ‘bog standard’ leisure centre with little in the way of bombast to befit the sport’s pedigree, the British Gymnastics Men’s & Women’s Artistic British Championships 2015 is now a veritable spectacle, and held at The Echo Arena in Liverpool.

Indeed, the event has escalated its production to a stage where it wouldn’t look out of place during the 2012 Olympic Games, according to Ben Willcox, event technology manager at British Gymnastics.

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Novum AV commercial director Tim Jacques, adds that over the past three years at the Echo Arena, the AV supplier has worked to build up the sport’s presentation into a full high production show. “The event is being aimed, not just at gymnastics fans – which historically it has been – but to the general public.

We’ve been building in extra elements like pyrotechnics by Galaxis Showtechnik’s G-Flame and dropping the lights between presentations, as well as adding beam lighting and special effects to gear the crowd up,” he adds.

While the British Gymnastics organisation could traditionally be a bit conservative, the sport’s growing audience numbers – now up to 7,644 visitors – have persuaded the organisation to make bold moves forward, focusing on the technical elements, says Willcox.

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“There is a big push on event presentation in a number of sports, especially post-Olympic Games, and we’re keeping pace and innovating. The interest in gym clubs increased after 2012, along with expectations,” he adds.

Novum worked alongside British Gymnastics’ events team to bring a technology-focused aspect, picking suitable effects, like low-level smoke effects. “We’re at the level of effects on a par in some of the Olympics venues,” says Willcox. “We are one big team, and we collaborate over which elements we throw in. We’ve had bigger ticket sales year on year as a result.”

The partnership started when Novum worked on smaller scale gymnastics programmes for British Gymnastics earlier this decade and, after meeting a number of staff, Jacques quoted to supply a more low- level event, which was described as “flawless” by the organisation. When the Olympics happened, Jacques helped get Novum involved in more ambitious discussions. “After working on some smaller events with Novum it seemed logical to let them step up to the next level,” adds Willcox.

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British Gymnastics has now forged a strong affinity with The Echo Arena, adding more and more effects to its events there, like the pyrotechnics that went down this year. For the Men’s & Women’s Artistic British Championships 2015 event, this year saw another step up, with two articulated lorries of kit required, compared to one the previous year.

Novum’s work has earned the company several related contracts for British Gymnastics events, which Willcox says helps keeps consistency across all the organisation’s events. “We use Novum and it gets slicker every time. Our budget for event presentation is pretty much the same this year, but it’s about thinking of variances and getting more value.”

A further beefing up is planned for next year, according to Jacques. “Currently, we’re using the in-house sound system, but we supplemented some subs, which I think we’ll improve on next year, when we’re looking to install a fully fledged sound system. This event is the first time we’ve had a big area of pre- production, with a pre-programming day, with CAD models mocked up back at Novum HQ.

“We went through the competition agenda and discussed how we wanted it to look. Everything from the walkie talkies to the communications has been a collaboration.” Further changes for next year are also being discussed. “We looked at screen technology, which we moved away from LED to projection due to budgets,” he says. “We’d like more LED, but a principal sponsor was missing, which restrained that budget. We’ve raised the bar so much everywhere, but some elements need more adjustment next time.”

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“Some of the discussions this year were over beam lighting, so we chose a hybrid fixture that allows for lots of patterns on the roof and floor,” adds Jacques.

The event was again live-streamed, but this year featured an electronic scoring system with video replay – managed by Novum – for all of the judges. After another year of painstaking attention to detail, Novum has raised the bar.

STICKING THE TECHNICAL LANDING

Tim Jacques
“The loading schedule is quite tight. The Echo Arena was due to have an event in the venue the night before, so the scheduling of the rigging, fixtures and trusses required careful timing. Coordinating all the suppliers, from the podium suppliers to the AV, was a tight schedule. Luckily, we’ve got great channels of communications now.”
Ben Willcox
“A lot of this was reccied in advance, where we broke ourselves down into two teams. We had no more time but double the equipment to install. The Echo Arena has a great team who are very flexible, and they work with us. They helped us get hold of some cable kit for the power supply. The teams at British Gymnastics, Novum and Echo really pulled together.”