Belgium based entertainment engineering specialists Wicreations combined their expertise and skills to develop and build a dynamic and sophisticated special performance structure, complete with a full motion control solution, to facilitate a spectacular show featuring 37 international artists including 11 aerial performers.
The show, ‘Odyseo’, was devised by Artistic Director Pascal Jacob to commemorate the 150th anniversary of world leasing Belgian chemicals and plastics manufacturer Solvay. Fifteen performances took place over 10 days in a special tented venue installed at the Solvay Campus HQ in Brussels.
Brussels based Y. Services handled all the artistic, technical and show production and scenography under the direction of Yvon van Lancker, well known for his work with Cirque du Soleil founder Franco Dragone in Las Vegas.
Wicreations was approached by Yvon van Lancker after some previous collaborations, and asked to help realize and build a structure needed to stage this ambitious show. Wicreations’ Project Manager was Koen Peeters.
The Odyseo show was housed in a 50 metre diameter dome shaped tensile structure, custom fabricated by the German company Röder, and each event was attended by over 1000 seated invitees.
Central to staging the production in this space was creating a show rigging superstructure to give a 12 metre diameter completely empty space below … in which the aerial elements of the show could freely be performed.
A careful mix of imagination and innovation was required.
The structure had to enable virtually any possible flying act to take place and also house all necessary lighting, sound and AV equipment - including follow spots and IMAG cameras - and include a catwalk safe working area for up to 16 people.
The showspace required a minimum of 18 metres headroom and had to be able to accommodate 12 moving performer winches … and at one point all aerialists descending simultaneously.
The WI-structure was based on four standard WI-towers joined by custom interconnections. The steel WI-towers’ outside dimensions are 750 x 750 mm, and the main outside cords are 60 mm square tubing with intermediate tubing at 48.3 mm making the attachment of scenic or production equipment very straightforward. The legs are individually adjustable to deal robustly with uneven surfaces.
The main feature of the rigging structure was a circular aluminium catwalk at 12 metres high with direct access bridges coming off the four legs and 24 integrated aerial performer launching platforms – 12 outside of the catwalk and 12 inside of it. This allowed aerial performers to be dropped in unimpeded at virtually any point of the main structure.
This created the working space for the 11 flying artists and 6 Specialist Assistance Riggers, whilst still being able to accommodate an additional tonne of lighting equipment and 1.8 tonnes of audio kit.
Four purpose-built follow-spot / camera positions were created on each of the legs at 7 metres high, the optimum position given the nature of the performance, each designed to comfortably hold one follow spot and operator. These were accessed via ladders mounted on top of the structure’s legs.
The motion control system, fully integrated into the steel superstructure, was the technical hub of the show.
Each of the 12 flying points comprised four main elements – a large curved tracking beam, three trolleys plus a winch and chain hoist – x 12.
The tracking beams stretched from the lower structural circle of the main grid to the top, each with three trolleys connected together by a cable reel. The cable descended from the top trolley, while the other two kept the winch cable close to the beams to prevent it obstructing the artist’s movement.
Each beam was made from HEA 180 steel profiles, bent to the corresponding shape and attached to the main grid.
Chain hoists were used to control the positions of the tracking beam trolleys and these were installed in four sections of hoist truss, each containing two 250Kg and one 500Kg Lift Champ BGV-C1 zero speed chain hoists, together with controller and chain box.
Each hoist chain ran over a pulley system and was connected to the top trolley that could be positioned anywhere along the beam’s path. The other trolleys on the beam automatically followed as they were interconnected via cable reels. The trolleys were pulled back down by their own weight and / or that of the artists.
For near silent operation and to prevent erratic movements, the trolleys were fitted with high-load plastic wheels on bearing rollers, rolling on the top, bottom and sides of the beam’s lower flange. A hinged pulley on the top trolley handled the angles between plus or minus 30 degrees allowing the artists to swing.
The 12 winches (eight at 125Kg and four at 500Kg) were positioned around the structural circle at 12.4 metres high, with each winch cable flowing over multiple diverters, both ‘follower’ trolleys and finally the top trolley’s pulley … allowing up to 12 artists to simultaneously launch from the catwalk and fly in any position.
Prior to installation on the Solvay site, a partial test-build took place at Wicreations’ base in Heist-op-den-Berg.
The actual installation of the show’s rigging structure involved four 60 tonne cranes which created attachment points. The lifting process was completed using eight motion controlled chain hoists and Kinesys Vector control run by the Wicreations crew. This was constantly monitored by positional and load sensors throughout the construction.
Due to the exceptionally tight space between the steel structure and the outer dome roof, the Wicreations team worked closely with the crane company, and the positioning of the cranes and the structure itself had to line up with geometrically pre-set co-ordinates.
The 15 Odyseo performances over 10 days were enjoyed by staff, clients and guests of Solvay who were treated to a hugely memorable landmark production and completely unique show, created just for them.
Yvon Van Lancker comments, “Working with Wicreations was excellent as always. They understood extremely quickly what I wanted to achieve, they have the knowledge, flair and ingenuity to produce a precise, inventive and absolutely safe solution”.
Photos: Christophe Raynaud de Lage
Producers: Solvay - 150th Anniversary
Production & Scénographie - Y. Van Lancker for Y. Services