2015 Pacific Games, Port Moresby PNG

The Pacific Games has been bringing together the island nations of the Pacific in friendly sporting competition since 1963. Held every four years, the 15th games was held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, from 4 to 28 July 2015. 24 countries, including, for the first time, Australia and New Zealand, competed in 28 sports, bookended by spectacular opening and closing ceremonies that showcased the incredibly varied cultures, languages and songs of the tribes of Papua New Guinea. Norwest Productions provided a turnkey PA solution to the ceremonies, supplying gear and crew to ensure that the biggest show the Pacific Games has ever staged was a credit to the people of PNG.

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“The opening ceremony was a big show,” said Andrew Marsh, Project Manager at Norwest Productions. “In the end, there were more channels of radio microphones than any other ceremony I’ve ever done, and that includes the London Olympics, Vancouver Winter Olympics and Asian Games in Doha. It was very technical, colourful, interesting, and also a live-to-air broadcast. It was the first Pacific Games opening ceremony with that kind of budget and creative scope.” With systems designed and prepared in Australia, staff flown in two weeks before opening and greatly reduced timeframes for installation and rehearsal, the logistical and practical difficulties combined with the scale of the project meant this was perfect fit for Norwest’s skills and experience. “Norwest have a long history of working on ceremonies and large special events,” Andrew continued, “especially in strange parts of the world. Our crew have the background and experience to know how to make it work under difficult conditions.”

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After a very fast design and tender response process, Andrew and the team had a task ahead of them to deliver the goods. “The time between being awarded this job and staging was very short,” he confirmed. “We had to start work straightaway. We spent two weeks in the Melbourne facility preparing the equipment to within an inch of its life, so as to be quick to go in. Normally, we’d be on-site for months before doing a ceremony, but this was just two weeks, then intense rehearsals, then the show. We did the bulk of the bump-in in four days. We loaded in on overnight shifts to avoid the heat and other contractors. We ended up facilitating the rehearsals in the stadium earlier than we normally would have done so we could learn the show. We did this with less staff than we normally would, taking 11 instead of our usual 18.”

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Norwest fitted out Port Moresby’s BSP Stadium with an L-Acoustics PA system consisting of100 elements of Kudo supplemented by 48 SB218 subwoofers, powered by L-Acoustics LA-RAKs. Fill and foldback duties were handled by a variety of loudspeakers from Nexo, d&b audiotechnik, JBL and RCF. Two DiGiCo SD7 digital mixers were packed to capacity. “In addition to the microphones for speech and singing, we placed lapel mics on Kundus, which are native drums,” Andrew explained. “We ran cabled mics on four towers around centre stage where they played traditional log drums called Garamuts. We ran a main and backup patch of the playback, and main and redundant receiver for every radio microphone, so 44 channels of radio turned into 88, and 32 channels of playback into 64. We used the full complement of inputs on our 257-input DiGiCo SD7s, and most of their outputs as well.”

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Signal was distributed around the stadium on Norwest’s dual redundant Optocore fibre optic system, patched to the main ‘A’ processing engine of the SD7s. A redundant analogue system was patched to the ‘B’ engine for back-up. Norwest’s custom built RF antennas, distribution, and amplification systems saw 16 units of Sennheiser SR2050 In-Ear-Monitors, two channels sent to 200 receivers of Shure PSM200 In-Ear-Monitors and three channels of BW Broadcast FM Transmit sent to 500 FM receivers, co-existing peacefully in the same RF environment. “Our Optocore distribution and custom RF solutions are something unique,” Andrew commented. “It’s one of the things that attracted me to working with Norwest.” NW Group GM, Graeme Whitehouse, added “Our bespoke RF solutions are designed and implemented entirely by our in-house team, led by Steve Caldwell. Steve’s designs have influenced our entire RF purchasing, staff training, and implementation for over a decade, seeing us become leaders in spectrum management. Our radios don’t drop out.”

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The opening ceremony was a vivid explosion of colour and movement, as tribes from the highlands, lowlands and coasts of Papua New Guinea converged in a display known as a ‘sing-sing’, where each in turn performed their dances and songs, accompanied by their own instruments. “It was pretty spectacular and emotional for all the local people to showcase their culture and diversity,” Andrew related. “For something so big to be executed with such grace and peace is nice. I’m excited that they had such a good ceremony go so well for them.”

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