The PBR Global Cup
By Cat Strom.
No bull**** from Michael ‘Simmo’ Simpson, on the ride of his life with Pro Bull Riders!
In June, some of the best bull riders on the planet journeyed to Australia in an attempt to win the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Global Cup. The two-day event held at Sydney’s Qudos Arena was the second stop on Global Cup’s international tour. Led by fourteen of Australia’s top cowboys, the Australians set their sights on world domination as they battled against Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States for bragging rights and the honour of being named the world’s best.
Unfortunately the Australians were pipped at the post by the Brazilians.
Making sure the production ran smoothly was Michael ‘Simmo’ Simpson, who many know from his years working with Chameleon and some of Australia’s biggest acts. Nowadays Simmo resides in sunny Townsville where he happily works full time as Production Manager for PBR Australia.
“I now work a generally 9-to-5 job looking after anything from transport to merchandise,” commented Simmo. “With this show I’ve not just designed and organised the production, I’ve arranged all the transport and looked after all the logistics.”
It’s been an exciting year for Simmo; not only has he designed this show, he has also been instrumental in PBR Australia investing in its own portable stadium. This year the new stadium will visit eight stops across Victoria, NSW and QLD, with plans to grow to 12 tour stops in 2019.
The new stadium has a 3,500-capacity, which includes seating for 2,500 and 18 arena-side corporate boxes. The seating is expected to reach a capacity of up to 6,500 by 2020. It features a custom-built mega screen to take the audience behind-the-scenes inside the bucking chutes and to give slow motion replays for each ride.
It also provides a rock concert backdrop, with Australian country music star Casey Barnes confirmed as the headline act for every leg of the 2018 national tour.
The stadium came from Pakar Seating in Malaysia, the same company that provides for F1 and V8 events.
“We can now go to any block of land and set up our own venue,” said Simmo. “We’ve only put it up three times so far, so it’s still a work in progress. “At the moment it takes us about three days to erect, two days to put the arena together and then two days to pack it up. It’s great for the patrons because no one is more than 14 metres away from the arena floor.”
It was a few years back whilst working at Chameleon that Simmo first lit the PBR in Australia using a rock’n’roll inspired lighting rig, a world first for any PBR show. Since taking up working for PBR fulltime, he has been on a mission to persuade the PBR’s American partners to switch to the rock’n’roll lighting format.
“They’re used to just switching the room lights on which is very sparse,” said Simmo. “I’m trying to create a little bit of a mood and so far the response from the US guys has been very promising.”
The two shows at Qudos Arena were live streamed to millions of people in the US and the feedback has resulted in the possibility of the ground-breaking lighting design being taken to the US in an attempt to create a signature model.
Simmo certainly added a little bit of rock’n’roll flair to the night, concentrating on the arena floor whilst keeping light away from the spectator’s eyes, although predominantly the event was lit for broadcast. “When the bulls are bucking it goes to white, lit evenly for the camera, but if we have an issue like an injured rider I’ll turn the arena blue to distract the audience,” added Simmo. “It’s all about live broadcast so I don’t go too berserk and it never goes black. I keep it lit and when there’s a good score, I can do a fanfare.”
The main grid was a circular truss with four fingers spanning out. The original design was going to be a wagon wheel with eight spokes and Simmo was going to use ShowPro Dreamfest festoon lighting to do the rim but the budget didn’t allow it. “However it’s a design in my hat for if I get to go overseas with them!” said a hopeful Simmo. “I think they may incorporate some of this into the Las Vegas National Finals where the budget will definitely be bigger.”
The circular truss held Martin MAC Viper AirFX Spots, Claypaky Sharpy Washes and Profiles, MAC101s in bars of four and DTS 200 LED 4 Lites. Three large audience trusses held MAC Viper AirFX Performances, Sharpys and Ayrton Wildsuns in order to cover the expansive arena especially for broadcast.
The Martin MAC Viper AirFX Spots are predominantly for the flood and spot lighting whilst the MAC Performances and Claypaky Sharpys are to light the front of the shoots. “I’m only using them at 15% as the AirFX are really just for added punch on the shoots to give them extra pop,” added Simmo. “However my favourite fixture is the Ayrton Wildsun.
“I love them and wish people would buy more of them! They’re my saviour, they’re so bright. The camera guys say that under the rock’n’roll system with the Wildsuns, they can do double the slow-mo speed than with the arena lights, plus they don’t get flicker.”
Simmo ran the show on his trusty High End Systems Hog4. “The Hog4’s quick for me, and I know the layout very well.” Said Simmo. “Every time I see an MA operator, they have a different layout! I’m a bit of an old fashioned lighting guy, I don’t need to do all the whizz-bang timecode stuff – I prefer to do manual. I run a cue list but you have to be hands on with this show.”
Bulls are difficult to get to work to timecode, even though they are treated as elite athletes and, at an average cost of $30,000, they are pretty pampered. Whilst the show is on they patiently await their turn backstage and then it’s like someone flicks a switch and they become alive. Once the cowboy is ejected they calmly trot back to their pens.
As the bulls are not allowed to travel for more than eight hours at a time, holding pens have to be found for at least eight hours of rest for what is called Camping Cowboy World, and in Sydney they were housed in Camden for five days. The bulls are bred and trained to do what they do.
For the past four years Forefront Productions have taken care of audio for PBR with Simmo singing their praises saying he’s always been impressed by them. “They’ve never let me down and are always ready to help,” he said. “It’s the same with Chameleon; Tony always helps out.”
It’s a fairly simple audio gig; background music and video background with MCs over the top. Occasionally there’s a performer with an acoustic guitar.
“Basically we just need to be hitting every seat in the room at 100dB,” commented Rob Thorne from Forefront. “We need to deliver good speech coverage and also background music coverage.”
Rob achieves this by plotting the venue into the Nexo software they’re using for the Nexo STM system. In turn the software tells him how many boxes he needs and where to put them.
“We then overlay that onto where we can rig it in the building and how it all fits with lighting, video and all the rest of it,” he said. “It’s performed really well and everyone has been very happy with the PA. Coverage is spot on, we’ve grown to really trust the software. If you hang it the way that it tells you to, you can hit every point in the room. Sometimes it may not look correct or what you expect, but we’ve found that it always works.”
The result was four hangs with Nexo STM S118 Subs at the top, then the larger Nexo STM M46 Line Arrays with the smaller Nexo STM M28 Line Array full range box at the bottom. These were all powered by Nexo NXAMP4x4 Processor / Amplifiers.
Rob ran a DiGiCo SD9 audio console which covered FOH and monitor duties. Inputs come from the MCs, entertainers, in-room video and broadcast video, plus background and sting music tracks. Outputs are to the MCs and entertainer’s IEMs, Sennheiser G3s, plus full mix and mix-minus feeds to both video crews.
Additionally, Rob integrated the comms feed into the SD9 via a customised unit so the show caller can communicate directly to anyone via their IEM System, meaning they do not have to wear comms headsets as well.
Photos: Elise Derwin
This article first appeared in CX Magazine August 2018 – print and online.
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