Next Product Conference July 2015

July 2015 saw us  build our 7th conference for Next at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham. The Next Product Conference is the biggest job in the Congo Blue calendar, with pre production at around seven weeks. This includes five weeks of completely refurbishing over 450 set panels from the previous season.

The conference is attended by over 1000 Next staff members, mostly consisting of store managers and assistants. Next use this conference to update staff with progress and any changes within the company, as well as displaying to them new products coming into their store over the next few weeks.

Below we take a close look at how the set and technical took shape within the main conference room.

Set Build

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Congo Blue designed an ambitious set for this years conference, with the theme being best described as ‘Tetris’. As with every show Congo Blue designs, it is made into a 3D render to give the client a real sense of what their show will look like. You will see details of this in the image slider above.

Once the design was signed off, the set was taken into software called Sketchup, where it could be drawn to millimetre accuracy, plans could be produced and then passed onto the set department at Congo Blue. It also gave us the ability to digitally send the information of what wood pieces needed to be cut. This helped speed up the production time and allow the set team to focus more on the finished product. The Tetris element of the set was prebuilt into 12 sections (six per side), which meant minimum build time on site. Again, all these steps to minimise production time on site meant that the set team could spend longer making the finish of the set the highest possible quality, and we believe that high level of finish was achieved.

There’s no greater compliment than the client asking if they can keep the set and use it on their own in-house productions. We were more than happy to accommodate this, so we carefully dismantled the set at the end of the event and ensured it was safely loaded onto the back of their transport.


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Lighting is always vital to a successful conference set, but even more so with this particular design. What really made the Tetris boxes stand out is the shadows they cast across each other. Even though the set is physically made up of just over 200 boxes, the casting shadows gives the impression of double that!

Using the visualisation software WYSIWYG, we were able to simulate exactly how each light would react to the boxes. We spent time experimenting with different positions and heights to give us the exact look we were after.

To create the look we used 24 of our new Prolights Cob Pars to create the striking look and, thanks to our friends over at AC Lighting, we were able to also get hold of 24 barndoors for these fixtures at late notice. Using these barndoors, we were able to direct the light off of parts of the set we didn’t want to illuminate. This was especially important as inside of the Tetris blocks was a rear projection screen which played a key role in displaying information throughout the conference.

To create some stunning aerial beam effects, we placed 12 Showtec Infinity iB-2Rs on the lighting grid. These were perfect for creating beam effects for the delegates to walk through as they entered the conference room. These were then faded out as the conference started to make sure the full attention was still on stage.


As with all high end conferences, the video element is an essential part in order to get across the client’s message; Next is no different. We worked closely alongside Clive Green at First Byte Graphics who produced incredible PowerPoint presentations for Next.

On this set we went with two 16ft x 9ft screens, rear projected onto them using Christies L2K1500s to give a stunningly bright image. Image switching was handled by our Barco PDS-902, and we also had HD Panasonic displays as comfort monitors, and PlaybackPro looking after all the video playback.

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