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Backstage Academy reveals talent in final year show

The show took real world concepts, such as a festival stage, and brought them to life at Backstage Academy's Production Park

Backstage Academy, a live event production educational facility, recently held a Graduation Showcase, in which final year students were assessed in a project-based environment across five different presentations.

Vice principal Rachel Nicholson said that the idea of designing real world concepts, such as a festival atmosphere, for the show had grown out of the Live Visual Design and Production course. “It’s the first time we’ve presented the work in this fashion,” she confirmed. “The team looked back at last year and decided they wanted more scope to visualise. Our Live Visual Design course has always been project-based, so we adapted that to the other courses – which seemed the most natural thing in the world to do.”

All shows had come entirely from the imagination of students, she said. “They are exploring the cutting edge of new technology and what can be done, but at the same time it’s also a validation of the confidence placed in the students by the lecturers. Neither could we have done it without the support, passion and enthusiasm of our industry partners. The Graduation Showcase is just one day, but it represents three years’ hard work.” In fact many of those industry partners had already set up training days for students in advance, in order to build operational skills with the platforms.

The five distinct concepts, staged by students from Backstage’s three degree courses – Live Events Production, Live Visual Design and Production and Stage and Production Management – were designed to challenge the audience in some instances, and invite them into the conversation in others.

They were able to connect with advanced motion tracking control, full sensory immersion in a simulated VR ‘CAVE’ type environment (but with Sennheiser headsets rather than stereoscopic 3D specs). Elsewhere, in Studio 001, Production’s Park’s arena sized rehearsal facility, there was a new take on a typical festival stage, while in the Academy’s central studios, moving sound objects in space via d&b audiotechnik’s Soundscape was in play.

Access to Production Park’s vast facilities brought the students as close to a real world scenario as possible. Presentations comprised Diamond Stage (project manager Emily Popham), a unique take on a festival stage, featuring RCF HDL line array rig and Midas FOH desk; Mood Cube (project manager Jessica Miree), an immersive 3D environment with projection onto a HoloGauze surface; Reverse In The Round (PM Abby Draisy) and 360° (project managers Luke Deakin and Scott James), showing the unique properties of Soundscape, using live musicians to move audio objects around in space.

Summarising the experience, one industry partner, Music Tribe’s Joel Perry, stated: “It’s obvious [Backstage Academy] has full industry backing, with all tech companies working together. Being based at Production Park makes this a real-life experience; it’s like a working farm, and as good as any venue. They have access to very high standard kits, and having started at the top end will benefit them further down the line.”