Behind The Screens: A Day With i.am.adinkra

It’s 8 am on Friday, April 15th.

It’s Easter Friday. The sun is barely out and the weather app on my phone says there might be scattered showers later on in the morning.

I’m at the Accra International Conference Center, not too far from Parliament House. There is minimal activity as I drive through the gates of the premises. But in six hours, the auditorium of the center will be full of people attending the Harvest Praise 2017 event.

Calm before the storm at the Accra Conference Center

I walk into the auditorium and it looks like there’s still some stage work being done. Some crew are moving equipment in and out. Wires are being run to the stage and lights are being tested for the show. I walk to the middle of the room and that’s where I find Michael.

Michael Bediako, Founding Partner of i.am.adinkra is seated at a long desk, surrounded by computers monitors, running wires, sound equipment and a couple of Macbook Pro laptops. He waves me over and I make my way towards him. He looks focused as he stares into the laptop screen as I approach.

Michael Bediako, Founding Partner of i.am.adinkra

He also looks like he hasn’t slept in a couple of days.

Michael and his i.am.adinkra team have been tasked with the production and visual design for the Harvest Praise show. They are working with three other teams who are in charge of sound and video as well as live streaming.

Michael is seated alone at the desk, working on one laptop, putting together visuals for the show. There’s another Macbook Pro laptop open which has a similar visual production setup. Wires are running back and forth from different computers and different monitors on the desk. A button on a black console with the label “HDMI” blinks off and on.

I’m not really that much of a morning person these days. My eyes are a bit heavy from lack of proper sleep and I would love to crawl back in bed. But for Michael, sleep and nap time are not options at this point.

“I’ve been here all night actually. Didn’t get to catch much sleep”, Michael tells me as I take a seat beside him and we catch up to what he’s been up to.

Production equipment

Michael and his team have been busy putting together the production design for the Harvest Praise 2017 event. The event starts today and there have been little hiccups here and there with the project but nothing too bad to cause panic.


Harvest Praise Stage Setup

The first show starts at 1:00pm and Michael and his team need to make sure that everything goes right and according to plan.

All around me, workers seem slow. Probably a little bit of fatigue for everyone. From where I’m standing, the stage looks half ready. Equipment is still all over the place and there’s a sluggish mood that you can feel in the building.

A bit of cause for alarm?

Not really. These are just small hurdles for Michael and the i.am.adinkra team. It’s nothing they can’t handle.

Beginnings and Teamwork

‘i.am.adinkra was registered as an official company in August 2009. It was set up as a company to deliver production design and live visuals support for corporate and social events. Michael helped scale the operations of the company after he came back to Ghana after obtaining his Masters in the UK in 2014

Since 2009, i.am.adinkra has done work for a lot of brand name companies and their portfolio and clientele includes the likes of Samsung, MTN, Mandela Washington Fellowship and church ministries including Joe Mettle and ICGC.

i.am. adinkra impressive list of clientele | Image Credit: i.am.adinkra

Impressively, the core team of i.am.adinkra is composed of four individuals: Michael Bediako (CEO), David Opoku (Managing Partner), Francis (Logistics) and Nana Kwame (Web and Mobile Development).

The gang’s all here. Team i.am.adinkra | Image Credit: iamadinkra Instagram

Leader In The Making

I’ve known Michael Bediako since boarding school. We both attended Akosombo International School (AIS) and we were both science students. I can say that Michael was easily the smartest person in the room when we started classes. There was this aura about him which made you like him once you met him.

But there was a time when I thought Michael wasn’t actually going to make through school. For whatever reason, Michael kept falling sick. He spent a lot of time in the dormitories, unable to come to class. Sometimes he managed to make it out and be in class but most times, his illness just prevented him from doing much. There were times that I thought he would drop out and not finish school.

But he persevered through it as the years went on. I didn’t get to see Michael in his fully recovered form as we approached our last term in school. I left to go to the US for my final year of school and we lost touch for a while.

Michael finished school at Akosombo and then went on to complete his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

Remember when I said Michael was easily the smartest person in the room?

Well, Michael wasn’t done with school. He went on to do his Masters in Mechatronics at Newcastle University, thanks to a Tullow Group Scholarship scheme. For his Master’s dissertation, Michael was said to have studied computer programming so he could build an autonomous mobile robot. (Told you he was smart!)

When he came back to Ghana, he reinvented i.am.adinkra and the rest is history.

Crunch Time

It’s 11 am and things are slowly coming together. The Harvest Praise Band has been on stage doing bits of choreography and stretching their vocals. The stage almost looks ready for the show but there’s a little bit of housekeeping left to be done.

The sound engineer has arrived and is going through his equipment to make sure his sound levels are good and optimal.

Sound engineering checking his levels

 

i.am.adinkra stage visuals

Michael is still behind the computers, making edits for visuals which would later appear on the stage in the various screens as the musical performances take place. There’s a lot of activity as the sound and video team set up alongside, getting their equipment ready. But none of this seems to distract Michael. He’s absorbed with his stuff. A perfectionist at work.

On his laptops, there are different design and visual effects software. He manipulates them with ease, testing out different styles and visuals which all display on stage at the push of a button.

Testing of visuals on stage


It’s now 12:09pm. It’s about an hour till people start streaming into the auditorium for the Harvest Praise event. There’s a small scramble by the video team who are trying to get their video equipment sorted out.

A bit of an argument starts brewing between a team member from the video team and one of the event organisers. Apparently, there was some miscommunication about the placement of a video camera for the TV live stream. The camera is in the way of the pathway where event goers would pass to take their seats. It’s a bit of a heated debate but things eventually simmer down.

Nothing much to see there. Things keep moving on as planned.

Miscommunication about camera placement

Crew tags are being handed to the teams, wires are passed around and HDMI cables are being plugged into different laptops and computers. It’s crunch time as the event is about to get started and people are busier than ever. Occasionally, there’s an accidental trip of a power cable which turns off a couple of computer monitors on the production desk. But it’s not disastrous. Just a nuisance as computers have to be rebooted again.

Most of the movement and activities are coming from the video team, who are trying to get their cameras set up properly for the live show.

Lights, Camera, Action

It’s 1:00 pm and it’s basically showtime. Outside the auditorium is relatively calm but inside, it’s a bit of a frenzy. Everybody is moving in and out, checking to make sure everything is operating and functioning as it should. There’s also a lot of chatter on walkie talkies with team members confirming if everything has been set up correctly.

The show is about to start and it looks like everything is a go. People have began entering the conference center and are streaming into the auditorium to take their seats.

The mics are on, the lights are flashing, the Harvest Praise band are on stage and show is about to begin….

Showtime

The music is loud. Very loud. The energy in the auditorium is electric and contagious. Behind the scenes, the production team is checking to make sure there are no hiccups as the show goes on.

At first, the sound levels for the video team are a bit low but that’s soon fixed and it’s smooth sailing as the show goes on. All teams are locked in as the band on stage perform and the audience gets into the music.

Everything is going well without a hitch. The video team is getting their streams, the adinkra team are handling their visuals and the sound team seems to have their stuff organised.

This is just the 1:00 pm show. The next show would take place around 4:00 pm. For Michael and his team, the first part of their job is basically complete and now the second part is all that’s left to finish up before they can call this project a wrap.

By the time the second show is done, Michael and the team will have to close up shop and pack up all their visual and design equipment. That shouldn’t take long right?

Actually, taking down everything will probably take a while. We’ll probably be here all night“, Michael told me earlier.

That’s another night with no sleep for Michael and his team.

But he seems used to it. This isn’t their first rodeo after all. After almost 10 years of doing all these events, he’s probably been through all this before.

Every now and then, one of these projects throws you a curve ball or two“, Michael texts me the night after.

“Sometimes you just have to be ready to catch one of those of those curve balls”.


Thanks to Michael and the i.am.adinkra team for giving me access to the show to write this piece. You can check out i.am.adinkra on their website: i.am.adinrka. You can also follow them on Instagram to see what they’re up to.

You can check out more behind the scenes pictures from the photo gallery below as well as a snippet video from the show.