In collaboration with The Beanstalk, Bad Weather Productions and Blue Array Productions deliver the AV elements of the South African festival, located in Newtown, Johannesburg.
This year saw the third edition of the Cottonfest festival, a venture founded by the late, inspirational South African rapper Riky Rick. Taking place on the 23rd and 24th April 2022, Cottonfest celebrates a diverse range of music, highlighting both well-known and upcoming South African talent with over 130 supporting artists on the line-up. With the passing of Riky Rick, this year’s festival was a celebration of his iconic legacy, which touched the hearts of so many. Indeed, the festival, championed by co-founder Alain Ferrier and his events and activation company The Beanstalk, observed a considerable turnout, with over 10,000 people in attendance, carrying on the flame.
Cottonfest represents more than simply a music festival, it is a cultural landmark. It’s founder Riky Rick, conceived and built the brand to represent a space where all forms of expression, creativity and various elements of counterculture intersect and thrive. Since its inception, festivalgoers have gone all out with their fashion. One of the main precepts of Cottonfest is that every light should shine; self-expression is required, and bright colours are strongly encouraged. The return of the festival in 2022 was no different, a sea of colour and a healthy mixture of high-end garments and streetwear. This year the theme was ‘University of Cottonfest’, demonstrating its strong ties to youth culture in South Africa.
Due to the scale of the event, several stakeholders were involved in the audio-visual implementation and production, including South African AV production specialists, Bad Weather Productions, who were responsible for technical production throughout the festival, including a live stream broadcast; Stage Audio Works (SAW), who assisted with their StreamWorks streaming solution; and Blue Array Productions who supplied end-to-end d&b systems based on J-Series with V-Series front fills across Cottonfest’s three stages. The constant flux of COVID regulations meant that the design itself changed multiple times before eventually being adjusted so that the stage placement and audio coverage could accommodate a larger audience.
It was important to Riky Rick that up-and-coming artists receive the exposure and notoriety they deserve, and this was reflected in the layout of the festival. There was no de-facto ‘main stage’ – instead, the line-up was curated specifically to intersperse larger names with lesser-known ones, across the site, in a very democratic setup. The livestream followed the same philosophy, showcasing a diverse selection of acts to illustrate the breadth of the festival.
“We were thrilled to have all three stages running strictly d&b systems as per the client request,” elucidates Nathan Thiart from Blue Array Productions: “We only had two days to install all the systems for the festival, and we were not let down by how straightforward it is to deploy the PA. The flexibility and scalability of d&b systems are a huge benefit.” The feedback from the performance of the d&b setup was also resoundingly positive: “All in all we had great coverage throughout each of the venues with artists complimenting us on the quality of sound at each stage.”
With the rising popularity of the festival, there was an even greater impetus to deliver a high quality live streaming solution this year. The imposition of COVID restrictions shifted a lot of the emphasis on to the virtual depiction of the festival, for those that could not attend. To this end, Bad Weather opted for a StreamWorks solution from Stage Audio Works.
According to The Beanstalk’s brief, the livestream this year should be more lifestyle focused, staying true to Cottonfest’s core by showcasing all the extraordinary outfits and activities that are present on the site. However, this was easier said than done, as it required Bad Weather to deploy an entire B-Roll team to capture and edit footage from around the festival to be played during changeovers to avoid repetitive ad-rolls. Bad Weather worked with Inka Kendzia, who was the Festival VJ responsible for Broadcast Assets for Cottonfest 2022, to introduce elements of augmented reality-based branding experiences to the livestream, to ensure that any advertising played during the stream was as engaging as the rest of the content.
The official Cottonfest 2022 livestream received incredible support, with over 150,000 unique visitors tuning in over the two days, with peak viewership reaching as high as 7,000. This is a testament to all parties that were involved in the event, but especially so for Bad Weather’s tight collaboration with StreamWorks. Together, they worked diligently to ensure a premium viewing experience, with no downtime. The implementation of a myriad of safeguards and redundancies ensured that the show went on, whatever happened. They went as far as employing an internet provider to supply internet on site, as well as using both MTN and Vodacom Cellular data in the initial phase to cover all bases.
For a seamless livestream experience, camera lines and angles needed to be considered from the outset and incorporated into the stage design. Consequently, Jonathan Bandli, the Creative Director at Bad Weather Productions explains that they simulated the setup first: “We designed all the stages as well as all the camera placement and shot lists inside of Vectorworks, a 3D, collaborative piece of design software that was crucial in understanding what we will see through the lens before we get to site.”
Bandli was thrilled with the result: “When combined with an incredible graphics package, we were able to deliver an extremely dynamic stream which kept viewers engaged throughout the festival – a fact that was demonstrated by the sustained viewership data. We are proud to continue building the festival in the way that Riky Rick would have wanted.”
About Bad Weather Productions:
Bad Weather Productions is a creative technology studio crafting experiences through vision and ambitious technical integration. Armed with inspired technical solutions and creative expression, they have the power to transform a story into an innovative masterpiece.
About Blue Array Productions:
Blue Array Productions (Pty) Ltd was established over a decade ago, with nothing but the objective to evolve into a one-stop audio video rental company. Whilst the company is growing at a tremendous pace, the road behind us definitely speaks of success. We are constantly expanding our inventory to stay up to date with the growing demand and international standards of the industry.