UK-based specialists in light and pixel technology, Pixel Artworks, have announced the company was behind the creation of the dynamic set and show experience for the recent first world tour of The International Swimming League (ISL), a new start up swimming competition that is changing the world of competitive swimming.
Swimming is a hugely popular sport during global events including the Olympics and World Championships, and The International Swimming League aims to re-envisioning the sport, bringing it to a new social audience to increase engagement and promote public health. The ‘matches’ feature fast-paced, electrifying short-course swimming sessions with the world’s most elite swimmers competing, including Olympic and World Champions from over 10 different countries.
The ISL approached Pixel Artworks in October 2018 to create a unique audio visual sporting experience to fit with the leagues vision of reinventing swimming and spectating for a new generation.
Pixel Artworks created the huge modular set with a 67sqm of 2.6mm pixel pitch LED that radically changes the shape and angles of each of the venues. To create a fanfare and an engaging atmosphere throughout each event, Pixel Artworks produced a graphical video that acts as the narrative for each ISL ‘match’. The accompanying sound design was digitally composed to build a soundscape that heightens the senses and intensified the audience and viewer experience, designed to emphasise the narrative of the celestial origins of swimming.
Natalie Harvey, Senior Producer at Pixel Artworks explains the complexities and creative thought process behind the showstopping production and set: “ISL had a strong vision for the production, and already had a recognisable logo and character figure that we brought to life through the creative content. The 90-second opening animation is abstract and draws inspiration from illustrative animation like manga.”
Working on a show that is being broadcast globally for the first time hasn’t come without its challenges, explains Harvey: “Broadcast times and run programmes are not produced until much nearer showtime. Not only this, but due to the nature of sport, there can be changes in teams up to the event starting. We had to create content which could be swapped quickly as each team also has its own animations.”
The unmissable set piece has now become a vital part of The ISL experience and travelled to every stop of the tour. Teams walk out to the cheering crowds through the set, take photos in front it, and a DJ booth has also been built in. “Our knowledge in spacial design was really pushed, as every venue was very different,” explains Daniel Postlethwaite, Production Director at Pixel Artworks. “We had to consider audience flow, athlete entry and welcome, and pool position, whilst still providing an engaging audio visual experience. We also had to consider the audience, both in the stands and viewing at home, so we chose a very high-resolution LED product that looks fantastic both in person and on camera.”
“Our production team really have been at the core of making this a reality,” continued Postlethwaite. “We had to design and build a modular design to fit all venues, where every rigging and lighting point is different and complex in its own right. The set had to be transportable and relatively flexible to fit various spaces. We had to consider audiences, swimmers jump blocks, and accommodate for unpredictable sized gaps between the LED set and the swimming pool. The new concept meant we had to do onsite testing, and as with any live broadcast, there can be changes. Using disguise servers, combined with real-time workflow Notch, we’ve created a bespoke adaptable system that fits the brief.”
The inaugural season of ISL started in Indianapolis in October and progressed through seven venues across the United States and Europe. The European crowds have responded incredibly well to the new swimming league coming to town, with the Naples crowd reaching near-capacity at 1,600 in attendance, and the Budapest crowd seeing 2,000+ attendees each day. The league culminates in a grand finale at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas on 20 and 21 December.
As The ISL reaches an exciting climax, the final in Las Vegas is billed to be an even bigger achievement for the Pixel Artworks team. “To celebrate the success of this extraordinary new competition, we have proposed an even more extravagant set, featuring extended LED and a more visual experience, all designed to engage and excite spectators around the world,” added Kelly Eagle, Business Director at Pixel Artworks.