Dinner and a Show For 8500 Please

Amway China’s Island Sea incentive event.


13 June 2011

Text & Images:/ Paul Newton

Each year, Amway China rewards its highest-selling dealers with an impressive and memorable international incentive event. This year the destination was Sydney, where the winners attended two days of conferencing at Acer Arena and a day of sightseeing activities culminating in an elaborate gala dinner event at The Dome. Back in September 2010, Blake Harris from Triumph Leisure Solutions (TLS) won the tender to produce the event, and working in collaboration with Ignatious Jones from David Atkins Events and Jason Coleman (of So You Think You Can Dance fame), built a series of performances for the gala dinners that rivalled an opening ceremony for a major sporting event. There were a total of 8500 guests that attended the three-day event, in four separate waves. This meant staging four identical gala dinners on the 16th, 20th, 24th and 28th of January this year. Management of staging and technical responsibilities were outsourced to Joshua James, my fellow director at The Event and Activation Resource (The EAR), who production managed the entire event and liaised with all technical and creative suppliers from the outset. For this event I took on the role of safety officer, writing the risk assesments and managing the safety on-site throughout the project.


Each night, guests walked down a red carpet and entered the hall immediately adjoining The Dome. Here, they were ushered into one of four identical gold-draped photo booths equipped with tiered platforms to accommodate up to 50 delegates for the compulsory pre-event group photo session. Guests then moved through star cloth tunnels and into Island Sea, an underwater spectacular complete with gigantic helium-filled floating sea urchins and seaweed suspended from the roof.

The room was (pardon the pun [It’s unpardonable-Ed]) literally a ‘sea’ of tables, each with their own centrepiece consisting of underwater theming which included a fishbowl with live goldfish. A 30m-wide, Perspex-topped table, located directly in front of the stage, was constructed for the VIP guests and was underlit by strings of LED balls.

During the course of the evening, guests were entertained by dance acts tightly choreographed by Jason Coleman and involving over 200 dancers, aerial performers, and gigantic UV painted (and self illuminated) props, complete with multimedia, laser and pyrotechnic support. Some seven satellite stages were located around the room so all guests felt that they were part of the show. Also on the program were the popular Chinese entertainers Sean Hern Lee, a seven-year old piano prodigy and prolific Taiwanese singer/songwriter Jonathan Lee and his five-piece band.


For those of you unfamiliar with the space, located in Olympic Park, The Dome (built for the Olympics as the Sydney Superdome), is like a massive sphere, cut in half and dropped across the concourse from ANZ Stadium (built for the Olympics as Stadium Australia). The roof structure is a symmetrical web of timber and steel beams that intersect to form over 240 possible rigging points; and almost every single one of them were used. The footprint is a true circle which made installing a show of this complexity even more challenging than usual as there are no parallel walls to reference the placement of stages and other surrounding infrastructure. I have never seen so many laser measurers and laser levellers used on a single event! 

The Dome is attached to a series of exhibition halls that house the Boiler Room for the Big Day Out each year. This year the Big Day Out fell in between the third and fourth dinner so we needed to share the showground precinct that particular week, which we managed seamlessly, but it wasn’t fun.

(above) IMAG picture-in-picture of the action on the main stage, one of eight spread around the venue. Theming included sea anemones overhead between the sailcloth panels and drapes, more water ripple effects than it takes to fill an Olympic pool, ‘you are here’ panoramas, smoke, lasers and of course, live goldfish, who apparently didn’t perform. 

Hectares of sailcloth draped between truss sections helps to add some intimacy to a sports arena transformed into a dinner theatre for a couple of thousand guests.


Clifton’s Productions installed all rigging, draping, staging and lighting for this event. A total of eight semi-trailers transported all this equipment over a four-day period with an average of around 50 install crew per day. Day One was spent installing a total of 220 points by 8 riggers, while the trucks were unloaded in the adjoining hall. Day Two and Three were spent getting all 1.8km of trussing arranged and flown to working height for the lighting install on Day Four. By the end of day four, all luminaires were rigged (and flashed out) and all looms were run and tested. The total weight of metal work and fixtures hanging from the roof of The Dome was around 35 tonne and the total power draw sat at around 800 Amps.

The impressive lighting and rigging system design was the brainchild of Andy Mutton of Melbourne-based Lightning Lighting. The trussing spanned the roof with every possible combination and shape: tight twisting curves, circles, stars, zig-zags, boxes. It was like a flown truss showroom: if it existed, it was in the rig. Fabrics were then spanned across the trussing to create surfaces for lighting and the impression of a canopy over the guests.

The backdrop to the stage was a 12m-high scaffold tower that was clad with timber, then covered with a cyc cloth, to become a performance space for Aerialize Australia, an act that involves aerial performers scaling the screen surface and interacting with video projection. Requiring four tonnes of concrete ballast for stability, the structure took a full day to build… all for a five-minute performance.

The lighting rig consisted of about 700 luminaires, including (to name but a few hundred) 50 x Robe ColorSpot 2500E and 50 x Robe ColorWash 2500E, 50 x Mac 1200 spots, 82 x Robe 600 LED Wash, 36 x Martin Atomic strobes and 20 x Chromlech JARAG’s. There were 27 universes of DMX512 control, of which eight were wireless W-DMX feeds to the satellite stages. Lighting control was divided between Andy Mutton on dual-redundant Hog 1Ks driving the LED fixtures and Francesco Calvi and his dual-redundant GrandMAs looking after the rest.


Norwest Productions provided their flagship Adamson system, which was processed with XTA DP448s and DP226s taking care of cross over and limiting duties. Networked Dolby Lake 4-12s and 8-8s were used as a front end, allowing wireless control via a tablet PC to equalise and tune all system delay functions. The entire system was amplified by Lab Gruppen FP6400s, FP+ 10000Qs and C68.4s.

Due to some unexpected on-site changes and rigging restrictions, Norwest had to quickly re-configure their main array system as it was overweight by around 500kg. The final system design, consisted of two arrays (left and right) of 8 x Adamson Y18 with 4 x Adamson Y10 underhung. The centre fill was two Arrays of 4 x Adamson SpekTrix with 1 x Adamson SpekTrix sub underhung. Further down the room, delay clusters 8 x Adamson Y10s were used for centre, left and right. Suffice it to say – there was plenty of PA in the roof despite the required reduction to meet weight loading requirements. The front of house consoles were a Yamaha M7CL and a O1V96, while a PM5D and another 01V96 handled stage monitoring.


The event space was wrapped with over 180° of projection screen, in the form of two 60m x 9m curved scrims and a flat 20m x 9m central scrim that formed the stage backdrop. All 1260sqm of projection surface were brand new cyclorama cloth, supplied and very carefully installed by The Look. Big Picture installed and blended 9 x Barco HD 20k DLP projectors together to form a seamless blend 15,744 pixels wide, with a 10% overlap between each of the nine projections. Barco Toolset was used for projector control via a wireless network, allowing the projectionists the freedom to roam the space when tuning the displays.

All multimedia content was created in-house by a team of six TLS designers who worked solidly for six weeks creating some of the most stunning content I have ever seen – the majority of it created especially for the show. The projection backdrop formed a virtual digital set that immersed the guests in an underwater environment complete with hundreds of individually animated fish, whales and turtles. This content (a series of stitched Quicktime movies) was triggered through a rack of five dual-DVI output Pandoras Box Pro servers. A team of three Big Picture projectionists, together with the Pandoras Box programmer, Paul Collison, spent four long, late nights programming the blend and colour balancing the nine high definition projectors to perfection. The system was then handed over to Kim Louey-Gung who controlled and operated the multimedia system each night.

All Pandora’s Box servers used four video layers and three graphic layers. Two of the video layers were used for each scene then cross-faded through to the next scene on the other two video layers. The graphic layers held the IMAG picture-in-picture (PIP) and the table plans used to direct guests to their tables during walk-in.

In total, five sequences were used: two for the main scene looks, one for the camera and layer defaults, and one for the three different IMAG PIPs that were provided via the video capture cards on each server. There was no sub mixer used for the show, each server output was fed directly to its own projector via a dedicated Barco/Folsom ImagePro HD scaler. The video scenes were programmed on alternate sequences, allowing the content to remain locked to timecode, which reduced the possibility of the individual clips falling out of sync.

The engineered camera system was driven by an SD Grass Valley Kayak console with Sony DXC D55 SDI camera chains. The system also included an 8m jib and a Gigawave D-Cam microwave link to the roaming camera located front of stage. Cameras provided live to screen elements as well as recording a mixed, directed feed to a bank of Sony DVCAM recorders each night.

Virtually every possible rigging point in the Dome has a chain motor and truss hanging from it.


Laservision was contracted to provide the laser elements for the event. These include a stunning wave effect that made the guests feel like they were underwater. Special effects such as CO2 vapour cannons, flame blasts, bubble machines and pyrotechnics (truss and floor mounted) were installed and operated wirelessly by a team under the direction of Bob Blore Pyrotechnics.


All systems were synchronized via a dual-redundant Medialon ShowMaster Pro Controller system supplied and programmed by Dean Stevenson of Interactive Controls. The ShowMaster system received SMPTE timecode from the audio playback system and distributed it to all the slaved systems. In the end, all show systems were locked to timecode except for the pyrotechnics and the aerial performers’ StageMaster rigging system, which were manually controlled for obvious safety reasons. Medialon Manager panels displaying timecode and a realtime clock were provided to the showcaller and various stage managers around the room.

The staging of this event involved thousands of hours of meetings, planning, designing and extensive communication between 30 different companies and contractors over a three-month pre-production period. All staff should be incredibly proud of their achievements in staging this event as Amway China was extremely impressed by the end result.


Executive Producer – Blake Harris (TLS)
Creative Director – Victor Mayor (TLS)
Production Manager – Josh James (The EAR)
Talent Director – Jason Coleman (Dance Academy)
Show Caller – Pamela Kekos
Lighting Director – Andy Mutton (Lightning Lighting)
Audio Director – Ian Cooper
Multimedia & Video – Paul Collison & Kim Louey-Gung


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