Electric Aura designs Rick Hansen celebration
It was in 1985 when Hansen set off in his wheelchair on his Man in Motion World Tour, covering 40,000 kilometers through 34 countries in over 26 months to raise funds for spinal cord research.
Vancouver production design firm Electric Aura Projects and PRP have a history of creating events for the physically challenged, including the World Wheelchair Rugby Opening Ceremonies, the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Opening & Closing Ceremonies and past events with Rick Hansen.
This event had to accommodate the needs of Rick Hansen, The Rick Hansen Foundation and CTV. There would be musical acts - performers Sarah McLachlan, The Canadian Tenors, Jann Arden and more. Audience members in wheelchairs would need to take the stage to share their stories. And it all had to read well on camera.
Electric Aura Project's Robert Sondergaard was production designer, lighting designer and operator for the musical performances.
"It was a celebration of Rick Hansen's achievement, a springboard to motivate future generations to take up Rick's challenge to make change in their community, and a live music event all of which needed to be captured on TV," Sondergaard says. "The design elements had to be grand and formal with an award show look to them, but at the same time we needed to have a set that was dynamic, high energy for the music numbers. Blending these needs was my main challenge."
The production centered around the stage design for the wheelchair access. Everything else - lighting, video, musical performances - would take shape from that.
"From the beginning we wanted to not only make the set accessible, we wanted it to also look and feel accessible," Sondergaard says. "This is no small challenge, seeing as we needed ramps that were at the required 12:1 ratio (run/rise). We decided upon a circular center stage 36-inch high, 24ft diameter riser as a focal point for the main speeches and presentations. Presenters would come from the audience onto the stage, and because building a 36ft long straight ramp was not going to be practical or aesthetically pleasing, we built a curved ramp around the outside of the circular stage. This provided a clean, striking solution for access."
He continues, "On the back quarter of the centre stage we added a set of curved stairs. We also added a switchback of ramps to the front of the main performance stage. The front edges of these ramps were lined with Octostrips so they were visible in all camera shots of the stage." Christie Lites supplied more than 400 moving lights including: 60 Elation ELAR Pars, 158 Martin MAC 101s, 191 MAC Auras, 50 MAC 2000 Profiles, 10 MAC 2000 Wash, 15 MAC III Performance, eight MAC III Profile with Fader Box and spot arm, three grandMA consoles, seven network signal processors and 97 motors.
Midnite Hour Productions of Toronto supplied two video screens each comprised of 84 VisuaLED panels (168 total); the upstage set comprised of 31 1mx2m Martin LC Series Panels and 90 VisuaLED panels; and 6 Barco CLM R-10 (10k lumen) projectors.
On Sondergaard's Electric Aura team were Jason McKinnon as lighting/followspot director and operator for presentations; Jason Bolger as project supervisor; Charles Arrata as production rigger; and production electricians Pete Siller, Ken Reckahn, Conrad Dew and Adam Volk. Sondergaard says, "The live event itself was so moving - it was a real triumph of the human spirit. It's satisfying to see a project like this come together after a year in the making. We've enjoyed working with PRP, Rick Hansen and CTV on the show - as well as in the past - and we look forward to more projects with them."