Print Project: Runway

The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show runway wasn't complete until PNH Solutions imaged a 60,000-square-foot backdrop.

Five million viewers from more than 190 countries tuned into the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai late last November to see a top-tier lineup of models clad in the company’s latest collection, performers ranging from Harry Styles to Miguel, and nearly 68,000 square feet of fabric for the show’s immersive, panoramic graphic backdrop. From a print industry insider’s point of view, the massive stage backdrop with continuously changing light projections stole the show.

PNH Solutions, a Montreal-based large-format PSP that has previously provided largescale backdrops for the 2016 Invictus Games and 2015 Pan American Games, partnered with Solotech, another company out of Montreal specializing in audio, lighting, and video systems, to execute the colossal undertaking. While Solotech worked with 4U2C to orchestrate the striking visual effects, PNH was tasked with creating and implementing the printed fabric panels and corresponding hardware for both the rehearsal at the Videotron Center in Quebec City and the show broadcast from China. 

PNH imaged 13 separate fabric “techno mesh” panels with the shop’s Durst Rhotex 320 printer, with individual panels measuring up to 113 feet wide and 46 feet tall. The panels were then tightly joined together with zippers and suspended from the ceiling with an aluminum cable. The entire backdrop was held together at the base with a fabric tension display composed of modular steel piping. The challenge for PNH? Ensuring that the fabric and frame were exactly the same size to avoid any creases, folds, or loose areas that could affect the light projections. After a number of tests and tweaks, PNH succeeded in preparing both the fabric panels and frame to the exact dimensions requested by the show, without an inch to spare. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details – and in this industry, no detail is too minute.

Fabric media suited the project in a way vinyl could not. The material doesn’t reflect light, which aided the projections; the media is lightweight, which is an important financial consideration when shipping product halfway around the world; and the panels remained intact without creases or folds, even after the long journey from Montreal to Quebec City and eventually to Shanghai. While other media options may have required ironing or steaming after shipment, the mesh panels were ready for install as soon as the crates arrived at Pudong Mercedes Benz Arena.

If producing and transporting the materials to the show was considered a feat, installing nearly 70,000 square feet of graphics spanning the entire stage and runway was an entirely different beast. Over the course of eight hours, 20 installers from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees prepared the backdrop for the fashion show. As the fabric panels were suspended from the ceiling, some installers found themselves hanging from the rafters with rappelling gear. All of the coordination paid off as millions of viewers oohed and aahed at the spectacular effects throughout the runway show.

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