From the outside, the complex of buildings at 21-25 Bonville Road, Brislington in Bristol UK doesn’t look markedly different than it did in 2019. Inside, however, a quiet revolution is underway. The building’s owner, Pytch, which until recently was known as SXS Events, has been busily reinventing itself since the COVID-19 lockdown brought its thriving live event business to a sudden and complete halt.
Almost immediately after the pandemic hit, the company began looking for ways to repurpose its extensive inventory of equipment, as well as the vast pool of skills, experience and knowledge possessed by its team members.
First came Intelligo, an all-in-one digital platform that makes it easier for schools to implement online learning programs. More recently, Pytch launched The Virtual Venue, a powerfully-equipped production space that, in only its first month, has produced a stunning array of livestreams, ranging from a planetarium show and feature films, to corporate training sessions and music performances.
“Our clients still needed to deliver their messages to their audiences, pandemic or not,” said company founder and Managing Director, Johnny Palmer. “We’ve never been ones to sit around and wait to be told what to do, so we built The Virtual Venue in record time.”
The response from the market also seems to be setting speed records. “We got income online super-fast,” said Palmer. “We now have a string of bookings that will keep us very busy through the end of the year.”
Described by Palmer as a “collision between live events and TV that combines the best practices of both worlds,” The Virtual Venue features a 12m by 15m main stage, plus a green room. The stage is outfitted with the latest gear from the company’s inventory, including an extensive collection of our fixtures.
The Maverick MK1 Hybrid and the Rogue R2 Wash have emerged as workhorses of the kit, being positioned in different spots and used in varying quantities, depending on the needs of each individual production.
“We value the versatility of the Chauvet fixtures,” said Palmer. “They can be deployed very quickly to provide compelling specials. The Maverick Hybrids are used as spots and key lights. Their varied color temperature makes them ideal. We are also using R2 washes for color washing and moving color effects on the stage.”
The versatile lighting kit comes in quite handy at The Virtual Venue, given the wide range of productions being streamed there. Set up, which is done in shifts to minimize contact, is an ongoing process to keep up with the demand for the space. Palmer has even been pleasantly surprised by the number of new clients that have signed up for The Virtual Venue.
As for the future of Pytch – although the word “events” is no longer part of the company’s name, it will certainly be picking up where it left off when the ban on public gatherings is lifted. (It did over 10,000 live events as SXS Events!) However, even when the pandemic passes into history and the live events business is once again thriving, The Virtual Venue will likely continue to boost the fortunes of this company and set a standard for its industry.