Possibly the most eagerly anticipated live music event of the decade, ABBA Voyage brings the 70s supergroup back to the stage in a seamless blend of the virtual and physical worlds.
Several years in the making, the show opened on May 26 in a purpose-built arena designed by Stufish Entertainment Architects at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. Early reviews confirm that it is like nothing seen before, as it adds a new element to the live music experience by blurring the lines between computer-generated imagery (CGI) and reality that can only be seen in person to fully understand, with The Guardian calling it a “jaw-dropping avatar act that’s destined to be copied.”
As a global leader in AV and entertainment technology, Solotech worked under the direction of director Baillie Walsh, working alongside Aniara’s Technical Producer Nick Levitt and Technical Director Joe Frisina, and collaborating with concert producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM,) and TETRO and Greenwall’s Fredrik Stormby to provide audio, lighting, and video solutions capable of pushing the boundaries for live productions. Scott Scott Willsallen from Auditoria supervised the audio elements of the show, with VYV Photon servers specified and programmed by Anthony “Bez” Bezencon.
The project is Solotech UK’s foray as a high-end 360-equipment supplier, as it delivered audio, video and lighting technology and expertise to the show. Solotech drew on its experience as live production specialists to aid in the process from the design stages to installation and opening night to help deliver the incredible event.
Working in close collaboration with ABBA’s production team, Ian “Woody” Woodall, Solotech UK’s Director of Special Projects, led the project, with Paul “Macca” McCauley overseeing the installation of the rental equipment in the venue, and serving as the host to technical demos of the system in the many months leading up to the show. Solotech’s Robin Conway oversaw audio, Oli James handled lighting and Alex Mulrenan managed video and cameras.
The members of ABBA spent five weeks being filmed by 160 cameras for motion capture as they performed the songs that make up the show’s 95-minute runtime. This footage was then used to realise the band in extreme detail, as they look entirely realistic when they appear on stage alongside a 10-piece live band.
Solotech was chosen to help the team realize this transformation from the video performance footage to the physical space due to its multi-disciplinary approach to live production gained from experience working on the world’s biggest festivals and concerts. The result is an unprecedented immersive venue environment that adds another dimension to the show via a unique workflow that breaks new ground by its use of technical innovation.
State-of-the-art equipment was chosen from leading manufacturers, including ROE, VYV, Robe, L-Acoustics and others to augment the filmed performance footage with technology used throughout the venue. The show features one of the largest installations of ROE Black Pearl v2 LED screens, driven by Brompton 4K Tessera SX40 LED processors. It is one of the tallest installations of Black Pearl screens, standing 19 tiles high. Solotech also coordinated the supply of Solotech’s Service+ real-time, managed services software platform.
Woody says: “This project has been special as we’ve spent two years of our lives working on it. It is the most technically complicated and challenging project I have ever been involved in. This is proven by the fact that everyone who has been there cannot find the words to describe it. The technical elements of the show have been virtually flawless from the rehearsals through to opening night on a show that is breaking new ground. These are accomplishments that we are extremely proud of.”