Access talks to Origin Technical Productions (OTP)’s technical director Ben Cox about production trends and its spate of high profile projects including Boomtown and Horrible Histories at the Tower of London…

What are the recent trends in event production?
In the last couple of years, OTP has seen a general trend of clients moving towards a more immersive experience for their audience, seeing larger budgets allocated to the décor and design elements; not just for the stage production, but for the venue, or arena.

Building structures to form elaborate entrances, signage and decor solutions, OTPs ability to combine structural engineering with design and creative construction provides a niche market position to facilitate cost effective turnkey solutions inhouse. A perfect example of this is the single supplier service OTP provided for Horrible Histories at the Tower of London.

What challenges are coming up? 
The events industry is synonymous with short lead times, and unsurprisingly OTP has become experienced with turning around difficult projects quickly. As a company, OTP likes a challenge to find a solution to an unusual problem.

Whilst OTP has one of the largest stocks on Arc roof structures in the UK, our passion is for solving creative and structural problems. All of OTP’s larger Arc roof stock have been designed and engineered in-house, allowing for easy customisation and modification to suit a client’s specific needs – crucially this flexibility reduces lead times as there is significantly less reliance on third party design and products. OTP also works with several local manufacturers for custom steel, aluminium and PVC components to externally certified designs.

Having relocated to new premises in March this year, OTP is also undertaking a thorough renovation and restructuring of its warehouse operations to ensure that the whole planning and execution process is as efficient as possible, and minimising staff costs to ensure OTP represents value for money whilst ensuring the detail and superior quality of execution that clients have come to expect is maintained or exceeded.

CASE STUDY: Horrible Histories at the Tower of London

OTP were approached by a long-standing client to facilitate the design and production of Horrible Histories in the moat at the Tower of London in May 2019. Having produced the Horrible Histories at Hampton Court the three previous years, the production at the Tower of London required a complete rethink and new technical specification. The stage needed to meet stringent size regulations, whilst being aesthetically sympathetic to the location.

From a technical aspect, whilst the daytime shows required only a basic stage lighting wash and power was provided from an onsite mains supplies, the strict noise controls and maximum structure height presented audio challenges. Independent stair access was also required for the audience, and forklift access into the moat during the build and strike periods was limited to two hours in the morning and evening – outside of opening hours.

The basis of the stage structure was a customised 8m Arc roof in front of which OTP created a bespoke timber façade, attached to a Layher scaffold framework and in order to achieve the maximum trim height for the line array OTP commissioned custom hanging beams. These beams were designed to be capable of cantilevering over 1T from the front of a tower, and crucially allowing the motor to be mounted to the rear of the tower, out of sight of the audience and in this instance winning valuable extra height.

Like so many of OTPs events the technical production was facilitated using in-house stock technical equipment alongside the staging elements.

Stage: 8m Arc roof with side sheds and bespoke façade, provided with full structural and wind loading calculations and ballasted with a combination of water and concrete kentledge.
Audio: d&b Y series line array with V series subs with D80 amplifiers controlled with a DiGiCo SD9 mixing console. Sennheiser G4 radio equipment was provided with DPA microphones and dual Mac Mini playback racks running Qlab 4 with tracking backup were utilised with cueing and sound effects.
Stairs: Custom clad Layher staircase to facilitate public access down a 5m vertical drop whilst meeting all H&S design regulations, again provided with full structural and wind loading calculations

CASE SUDY: Boomtown

OTP were approached by Boom Town to supply the Layher scaffolding support structures for Area 404 and The Grid – a new district and stage for 2019. OTP were provided with concept drawings for the cladding and basic structural design, from which OTPs inhouse team designed, modelled and quantified the Layher support scaffolding before outsourcing independent structural calculations for each of the unique structures.

Having a team onsite for just over a month, OTP facilitated the construction of twelve independent Layher scaffold support structures, clocking up 3168 hours on site. All the structures were designed to withstand and wind speed loading of 28m/s utilising over 100T of ballast and in excess 93T of Layher scaffolding, trussing and other structural metalwork components.