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Te Papa’s AV team contribute to Wellington’s new convention centre
Wellington’s brand-new convention centre Tākina offers local, national, and international conference industry professionals and suppliers state-of-the-art audio-visual technology, aligning the capital with Auckland and Christchurch in the lucrative business events market.
Opened in June 2023 the name Tākina, gifted by Kura Moeahu, Taranaki Whānui means to invoke, to summon, to connect, to bring forth. The stunning building, located opposite Te Papa, is expected to contribute $44 million a year to the local economy, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to attend conferences and exhibitions.
Whilst the building and system infrastructure is owned by Wellington City Council, the new Convention Centre is operated by Te Papa, bringing together two world-class venues, managed by one local, experienced team under the brand ‘Tākina Events’. Project managers Willis Bond and architects Studio Pacific took full advantage of this insider knowledge.
The glass encased convention centre is spread over 18,000 sqm, with three main levels plus mezzanine floors. Two levels are dedicated to convention and business events, able to be hired separately or together and feature two flexible plenary spaces seating up to 700 people and 1,600 people respectively. This is accompanied by 2,770 sqm of exhibition or pre-function space across both floors. The ground floor encompasses an exhibition space, offices and café.
The AV System Design
Andrew Bruce, Manager of Creative Technology and Development, had spent the previous twelve years overseeing the AV infrastructure at Te Papa and was set to expand his role to encompass Tākina. He became involved in the new build in early 2020 alongside Futureworks, a local Wellington company specialising in integrated control systems who had been engaged by Wellington City Council. Project managers Willis Bond and architects Studio Pacific were keen to bring all parties to the table to work on the system design. Andrew recalls, “It was a highly collaborative approach. My team were very well established at Te Papa and knew what was required from a live events perspective and the user end, and Futureworks were brought in as the control system design and programming experts.”
“Our number one focus was flexibility and number two was user experience. We wanted the spaces to be able to be completely customised to a client’s needs and for any external technology to simply plug and play. The AV system is a networked based solution allowing for any AV signal to be routed to anywhere in the building. There are also two physically separate networks, one for business IT usage and one designed specifically to run our AV system.”
The solution was around the QSC Q-SYS ecosystem as the audio, video and control platform.
The real challenge for the collaborative team was not the control system but the balancing exercise that every venue faces of aesthetics versus practicality, “The architects really listened to us and took on board what we suggested. For example, they wanted the speakers to be invisible but respected our need for quality, so we compromised by designing the QSC KLA12 line array speakers to be installed in a manner that is as aesthetically pleasing as possible. We wanted more steel to be installed to support an extra rigging point, and the architects understood our reasoning.”
Other suggestions adopted as a result of Andrew and his AV team’s input included bigger screens, opting for Screen Technics 325, and brighter Panasonic 3-chip 20,000 Lumen projectors, “We also changed the room and AV configuration from longways to sideways and added an SDI video distribution system for improved latency and lower compression. We also pushed for Dante, thinking of the end users, and matched the speaker prep network across the two buildings.”
“The AV team seized the opportunity to install a new hearing assistance system across both buildings as the Te Papa one was due for an upgrade. The new system covers the main and peripheral function spaces, removing the need for installation on a per-event basis, making for a highly cost-effective model for clients. A baseline truss and lighting system was also purchased including an Art-Net control network. Futureworks also integrated this into the control system.”
The installation included the Panasonic hi-spec 20,000 lumens laser projectors for impactful onscreen visual display, energy efficient long-life LED stage and room lighting fixtures, and mounted pre-tuned QSC PA systems. The same staging system, as used by other local companies, StageDev was also sourced, “We have good relationships with Wellington AV suppliers and venues. They hire from us, and we hire from them, and we wanted to maintain and grow those local networks and support local business, so we made sure everything integrates.”
The Tākina Events team is led by General Manager Andrew Dorrington, who brought his fifteen years’ experience at the helm of Te Papa Venues, supported by Project Sponsor Syd Duflou and Project Manager Sarah Delahunt, for Te Papa.
The two AV teams, the infrastructure team and a client facing event services team, are led by previously introduced Andrew Bruce and by Tom O’Sullivan, Manager of Audio-Visual Event Services, respectively. AV technician and coordinator roles have increased by four full time employees and the number of casuals has grown from eight to 16.
In addition to the in-house service, Tākina engages with the wide array of specialist industry suppliers that Wellington and NZ have to offer.
From General Manager Andrew Dorrington’s perspective, the AV design and installation has been a phenomenal success, “Considering we had to deal with COVID, that the building was handed over on time is testament to the hard work and efforts of everyone involved. Due to the experience in our in-house AV team, we were in a good position to establish our operating rhythm and our clients to date have been very impressed with the technical team’s event delivery. AV has been, alongside our focus on our people and our quality local food, the heroes of what Tākina has to offer.”
At the time of opening there were 118 multi-day conferences and events on the calendar, and the internationally acclaimed interactive LEGO brick exhibition, Jurassic World by Brickman, opened in the ground floor exhibition space on Saturday 3rd June. This is being followed in December by the world premiere of Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Exhibition.
Conferences to date have included MEETINGS 2023, the tradeshow for the Business Events industry, the first time that Wellington had the capacity and capability to host such a national event; Water NZ with 1700 conference delegates and 180 trade delegates; and The Festival for the Future, Aotearoa’s biggest leadership and innovation summit. Upcoming international events include the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) in 2024, iPRES 2025 – International Conference on Digital Preservation in 2025, and the International Sedimentological Congress in 2026.
All events to date have gone off smoothly without a hitch. Andrew Bruce explains, “We knew we shouldn’t tie the final programming down until after we had run a few events as we weren’t sure how we would use everything, so we have done some fine tuning since opening but I am really pleased with the result and confident that we have achieved the flexibility and ease of use that we wanted.”
The Benefits of Collaboration
A gravel carpark, a couple of old, derelict buildings and a small car rental place have been transformed into a modern purpose-built conference venue. With stunning architecture, intelligent spaces, and cutting-edge technology, this venue alongside neighbouring Te Papa, is a game changer for Wellington.
Tākina was constructed on time and with only a $5.75m budget overspend for a total of $185m. The AV team were invited in at the design stages and given an opportunity to share their valuable practical experience with the wider project team. This advice was taken on board to positive effect. Teething problems were negligible and the convention centre has opened to rapturous reviews. In the words of the General Manager Andrew Dorrington, “We understood the market because of our backgrounds with Te Papa Venues and a lot of people spent a lot of time together planning. The end result is thanks to all those individuals and their blue sky thinking.”
- Audio DSPs – QSC Q-SYS Core 510, Core 110f
- Audio Amplifiers – QSC
- Speakers Main Plenary Line Arrays – QSC KLA12; KLA181
- Speakers Meeting Spaces – QSC KW152, KW122; QSC Ceiling Speakers
- Patching – Dante network and Q-SYS Atterotech XLR-Dante Wallplates and Stageboxes
- Assisted Listening System – Williams AV WaveCAST
- Video over IP – AMX SVSI encoders and decoders
- Projectors Main Plenary – Panasonic PT- RZ24k; PT-MZ16KL
- Projection Screens Main Plenary – Screen Technics 16:9, 325”
- Projectors Meeting rooms – Panasonic PT-RZ120; PT-FRZ50
- Projection Screens Meeting Rooms – Screen Technics 16:9, 275”, 200”; 150”
- SDI distribution – Blackmagic Matrix Switchers, Fibre-optic Transceivers; HDMI to SDI converters
- QSC Q-SYS control systems
- QSC Touch Panels
- Samsung LED displays
- Samsung Signage Monitors
- Samsung MagicINFO Signage Software
- Cisco Core Switch
- Cisco Network (edge) Switches
Truss and Lighting
- Truss systems – Milos 290V Heavy Duty Black
- Lighting – Fresnels Chauvet Ovation
- F-915FC, Profile Spots Chauvet Ovation REVE E3 (25-50) and Parcans Prolights VersaPar 12
- Lighting Control Distribution – Artnet network and Swisson DMX mergers, splitters, nodes and converters.
- Pharos LPC Controllers and TPC Touch Panel Controller
- HP Presentation Computers
- HP Speaker Presentation Server and Distribution
- Extron USB network interfaces
- Allen & Heath SQ series consoles with Dante
- Shure Wireless Microphone Systems
- Shure & DPA Lectern Microphones
- QSC K series portable speakers
- BlackMagic ATEM Production Switchers
- Monitors – HP, Samsung and BlackMagic
- Streaming – Epiphan Pearl, Vmix and Zoom
- Cameras – BirdDog P200 PTZ and controllers
- Panasonic 86” portable Display and Trolly
- Lighting consoles – ETC ColourSource AV
- Interfaces – Swisson DMX-Artnet nodes XND-4
- Prolyte StageDex Staging Systems
- Custom Digital Lecterns (Lectrum L20 tops)
- Custom Lectern Plinths
- Drapes and Tech Drape systems
- Installed AV Systems Design – Futureworks in consultation with Te Papa’s Technology team
- Installed AV Systems Install – Futureworks
- Installed AV Systems Commissioning – Futureworks and Te Papa’s Technology team
- Truss, Lighting and Staging Integrators – Metro Productions and Grouse Lighting
- Metro Productions
- Grouse Lighting
- MDR Lighting
- HP NZ
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