TPi: Qlimax

Backbone International extends its production partnership with Q-dance, deploying a technical package and personnel to one of the biggest indoor hardstyle and hard dance events on the planet. Organized by Q-dance and heralded as the leading hardstyle and hard dance event in the Netherlands, for almost two decades, Qlimax has transformed the GelreDome, Arnhem, into an annual haven for nearly 30,000 ravers. TPi sat down with Backbone International Technical Producer, Jari van Leerdam and Q-dance Production Manager, Jeroen Beverwijk, to reflect on the mammoth undertaking.

Turning a rough sketch into a reality

Dubbed Symphony of Shadows, the latest edition of Qlimax featured 11 of hardstyle and hard dance’s most iconic artists. Once again enlisting the technical expertise of Backbone International, Beverwijk explained how the event’s design was conceived. “We at Q-dance came with a creative drawing, and the technical team at Backbone International was able to turn a rough sketch into a reality,” he explained. “They ensured everything was technically feasible, from trussing and lighting fixture placement to decoration.”

Beverwijk described Q-dance’s relationship with Backbone International as “essential” to the delivery of the event. “We don’t have in-house technical support at Q-dance,” he said. “Of course, we have experience with technology and live events, but Backbone International is a specialist when it comes to putting the big picture together.” Building on the company’s pre-production knowhow and in close co- operation with the client, Van Leerdam oversaw the technical production of the event: “We translate the creative ideas of Q-dance into a technical design that is not only buildable – especially within the boundaries of the budget – but feasible within the load in and out timeline.”

From sound clusters to flown dancers in cable harnesses

Backbone International worked to a nine-day load in schedule, with the final two days being used for programming. The main challenge in holding the Qlimax at GelreDome Arnhem, home of Dutch football team SBV Vitesse, meant the team had to work within tight parameters and strict stadium sound restrictions. Having built three decks in the stadium to increase the capacity, Beverwijk proudly stated: “Every year, we improve the production values and the show becomes even more technically advanced.” This year, the production came up with a new way of rigging the audio, so the sound came from above.

“An indoor show is difficult, but it’s something we have experience in,” Van Leerdam said, referring to more than 30 sound clusters hanging from the roof. “They are rigged above and pointed downwards to prevent spill outside the stadium, focussing the sound to the centre of the stadium.” Flown dancers in cable harnesses with corresponding interactive LED panels were among the technical talking points. Beverwijk explained: “Our two main priorities are decoration and technical, which Backbone International is an expert at.” Of equal importance was health and safety, “With nearly 30,000 visitors, it was crucial to ensure that the square footage was exact in our measurements.” Van Leerdam furthered: “First and foremost, wearing a safety helmet and a high-vis vest. Secondly was the logistics, ensuring everybody has a safe environment to work on each facet of production – which were prepped on the ground level when possible, and then rigged or rolled into place.”

Along with all the pre-planning, Backbone International worked closely with Q-dance on the technical design. “The production value amazes both the technical team and visitors every year, exploring new technologies and ways of reworking existing techniques – it is important to Q-dance as a company and Qlimax as a brand,” Van Leerdam commented. The masterplan of how to load in the equipment, while keeping in mind the efficiency of the crew and the arrival of materials, was something that Backbone International and Q-dance really concentrated on during production meetings. Van Leerdam reminisced: “Working with creatives, finances can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s something we accept and have experience with delivering.”

Q-dance is always pushing the boundries of technical innovation

Combining automation, video and LED, Backbone International was also keen to explore the famed decorative elements of Qlimax. Van Leerdam said: “The decoration and themes of the festival are equally as important as the tech; without that, it would be a shadow of the event that it is considered to be today.” Backbone International and Q-dance introduced two layers of LED, with the header video wall translucent, creating a series of big looks. “Combining those graphics added an exciting dynamic to the show,” Van Leerdam explained that together with the lighting and audio design, it was an “amazing” addition, which made the “budgeting and sleepless nights” all worth it. Other advanced show elements were the projection of the hologram on the screen behind the DJ booth accompanied by a flying aerialist, a hardstyle choir, stage and scenic design as well as the impressive light, laser and pyrotechnical show.

Van Leerdam enthused: “Q-dance is always pushing the boundaries of technical innovation, and that motivates us to make sure that we get the most out of every piece of truss, LED panel and lighting fixture we put in.” Beverwijk explained that the feedback among industry peers was favourable: “The design of the stage, show and the music is really important because we’re presenting to a hardcore fanbase and this is one of the most important dates in their calendar.” Van Leerdam recounted the company’s ethos, by translating sketches of the creative team into a feasible project. “It’s a continuous challenge, which we happily accept,” he commented. “It’s why we wake up in the morning and don’t go to sleep at night.”

TPI Interview issue #239 Qlimax