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The bigger, the better This issue of TPMEA presented me with a problem… A problem I had not faced since this time last year, back in Issue 23, when we covered the epic MDL Beast in Saudi Arabia – which took place on the world’s tallest stage. Back then, we spent a ridiculous length of time staring at show shots and scratching our heads over how we could fit the giant stage on the front cover. While smaller-scale shows have taken the limelight throughout 2020 for obvious reasons, just before the year was out, we were treated to a final flourish – a huge New Year’s Eve spectacular from US rockers, KISS, complete with a massive stage and recordbreaking pyro show – which, once again, had me scratching my head over how we could fit the gargantuan production on the front cover. Read our report on page 16. Of course, if my only problem in 2021 is that the productions are too big for me to fit them on the front cover, then I’ll be an extremely happy editor. What the KISS show has proved is that even amid a global crisis, it is still possible to put on a show of prepandemic proportions and, as the vaccine is rolled out and the situation continues to improve, the live events sector is surely going to reap the benefits. Another project that pushed the limits of production at the end of last year was the UAE 49th National Day Show. While the holiday is usually marked with a massive live event attended by thousands, this year’s celebration took a very different form – a kinetic illuminated sculpture installed in the Al Jubail Mangroves in Abu Dhabi. Read our write-up on this innovative project on page 26. Elsewhere in the issue, we speak to the Dubai-based musicians doing their bit to aid the humanitarian efforts following the tragic explosion in Beirut (page 32), we catch up with the iRIG team (page 44) and, to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, we sit down with four of the Middle East’s top female talents to discuss gender equality within the industry (page 38). Enjoy the issue. Peter Iantorno Editor

www.tpmeamagazine.com | www.tpimagazine.com | www.tpmeaawards.com


just brighter just faster just smaller just smarter just



AES Managing Partner, JJ Trichardt shares some reasons to be cheerful as we head into 2021.




The latest news from the Middle East, including the Amir Cup Final, ADIPEC 2020 and a stunning temporary installation at the Museum of the Future.

16 – KISS 2020 GOODBYE

US rockers, KISS, present a record-breaking pyro show in Dubai, starting the new year with a bang.


A kinetic illuminated sculpture brings Abu Dhabi’s Al Jubail Mangroves to life.



32 – DXB4BEY

A livestream concert from Dubai Opera in aid of the ongoing humanitarian effort in Beirut.

38 – INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY Top female talent on gender equality.

44 – COMPANY PROFILE: iRIG The team that rigs the big stuff.


3Monkeys’ Rudi Buchner talks all things hybrid.




EDITOR Peter Iantorno Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7763 233637 e-mail: p.iantorno@mondiale.co.uk

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail: s.hume@mondiale.co.uk

CONTRIBUTING ASSISTANT EDITOR Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8352 Mobile:+44 (0)7592 679612 e-mail: j.waite@mondiale.co.uk

COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Hannah Eakins Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7760 485230 e-mail: h.eakins@mondiale.co.uk

CHIEF EXECUTIVE Justin Gawne Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7768 850767 e-mail: j.gawne@mondiale.co.uk

DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER James Robertson Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7725 475819 e-mail: j.robertson@mondiale.co.uk

GRAPHIC DESIGN & PRODUCTION Dan Seaton: d.seaton@mondiale.co.uk Mel Capper: m.capper@mondiale.co.uk

ACCOUNTS Lynette Levi / Sarah Miller: ar@mondiale.co.uk


COVER PHOTOGRAPHY KISS 2020 Goodbye by Landmarks Live









PRINTED BY Buxton Press • www.buxpress.co.uk


The latest from Africa, including groundbreaking tech at Recharge 2020 and Abbey Road Institute.





There’s no doubt that 2020 was the hardest year we’ve ever faced. It was a year which saw us completely diversify the business and do everything we could to keep the industry going at the height of COVID-19. We brought out many new products, from disinfection tunnels to thermal scanners, which we deployed on events such as Tomorrowland Around the World. This technology proved that it was effective in order to monitor, control and minimise any spread of COVID-19. Of course, the use of this tech alone is not enough to guarantee that the disease doesn’t spread, but it showed that it could be done. It’s our responsibility to create a safe area, so our audience can feel confident coming back to watch live shows again. Even once the vaccine has been rolled out and the disease has been brought under control, there will be a level of rehabilitation before people are ready to come to regular shows again. However, I think that in Dubai especially – a city where live events have always thrived – that won’t take too long. At AES, we’re always willing to take on a challenge – that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. We like to dream big and, most of the time, we land big jobs where we’re blessed by clients who believe in us and know that we can get the job done. We don’t want to be the biggest staging company out there; we just want to do big shows and prove what can be achieved when our integrated technologies are used to their maximum capabilities. I have so much respect for all the other companies out there who are doing their best through these difficult times. There’s always an element of competition, but it’s healthy and we all want to see each other do well. Rather than working against each other, we try to promote synergy among suppliers and competitors so we can get through this together – because we are in it together. My deepest condolences go out to anyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19, but now we must push to ensure that the events industry lives on. Our industry was always there to support whenever there has been any need, and now we are hoping that through innovative ideas and hard work, the community and the world will come back and support the live events industry once again. We were there for them when they needed us, and now we need them to be there for us. We’re all about building stages, building bridges and connecting people. Stay positive, we’re all going to get through it. Photo: AES www.aes.ae





As the UAE celebrated its 49th National Day on 2 December, Dubai sent a clear message that it is open for business, with a spectacular installation at the Museum of the Future. Set to open later this year, the 78m-high architectural masterpiece was adorned with 49 Claypaky Mythos 2 fixtures, which shone beams of light into its central void. With design concept and event production from live experience agency People, eclipse Staging Services worked alongside rigging contractor, iRIG to deliver the ambitious project. The fixtures were hung within a 360° clockface design, from custom-rolled pipe dead hung to the building structure. As the


site is currently still under construction, careful consideration and additional health and safety measures were implemented and followed to ensure that the crew could work seamlessly around the active site. Lighting Designer, Tony ‘Turbo’ Hall worked alongside an eclipse programmer as the light show ran live for six nights. The design of the rig allowed for various key looks, ranging from tight beams all focused to the centre of void, changing between the red, white and green colours of the UAE, to stunning aerial effects as the fixtures tiled out towards the nearby Emirates Towers. “I was delighted to be able to use the Claypaky Mythos 2 from eclipse for this project,”

Turbo commented. “The outstanding output from these fixtures created a one-horse race as far as fixture selection went. During programming, the enhanced output, even in saturated colours, proved a winning combination. The units proved to be extremely robust, with no failures on site. Given the issues with getting to any units, this was of paramount importance.” With the end of 2020 and start of 2021 proving an extremely busy time for eclipse, this project was one of many that pointed to clear signs of revival for the UAE events industry. Photo: eclipse Staging Services www.eclipse.ae www.claypaky.it




Power Logistics has been appointed to deliver temporary power solutions to radical new racing series, Extreme E. With five races planned for 2021, the series will see electric SUVs competing in extreme environments around the world, which have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues and is committed to having a net-zero carbon footprint by the end of its first season. “Securing a contract with Extreme E, which is committed to delivering on its net-zero carbon goals, is testament to the reputation that Power Logistics has built as a market leader in sustainable temporary power solutions,” said Power Logistics’ Managing Director, Mike Whitehouse. “This is an exciting opportunity to work closely with and learn from some of the world’s leading experts in sustainability, not only in sporting events but the wider community.” The contract will see Power Logistics deliver a comprehensive electrical support package that encompasses the team garages and paddock area, along with support structures, broadcast

compound and production areas. Among the services supplied by Power Logistics will be electrical designs, HVO-compatible generators and an experienced team of electricians who will travel to each of the five races in the series. The standout element of the project is the design of bespoke cabling and distribution equipment that incorporates a smart power monitoring system, built specifically to meet Extreme E’s requirements. The new series is pioneering hydrogen fuel cell technology, supplied by AFC Energy, which will enable the fleet of SUVs to be charged utilising zero-emission energy. Power Logistics’ electrical cabling and distribution system will work in tandem with AFC Energy’s system to incorporate the car charging network. Power Logistics will also implement extensive power monitoring of the energy and fuel usage of all touring elements at each circuit. Detailed analysis of car charging and utility circuits will provide vital information, in minute detail, both in real time and post-race, to help the organising team deliver on their sustainable

objectives. “The sustainable innovation driven in a racing series such as Extreme E is often transferred into the domestic market and road vehicles,” Whitehouse commented. “We’re hoping to emulate that within the provision of temporary power for events. Working closely with Extreme E suppliers, like AFC Energy, presents an exciting opportunity for us to push the limits and expand our power monitoring system for a post-COVID world where environmental considerations will be vital.” Ali Russell, Chief Marketing Officer, Extreme E, commented: “Extreme E plans to be a leader and a pioneer in showcasing green technologies that offer solutions for reducing our environmental impact. We welcome all suppliers, such as Power Logistics, which support us to achieve this goal.” The season begins on 20 March in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, before heading to Senegal, Greenland, Brazil and concluding in Argentina on 11 December. Photo: Power Logistics www.extreme-e.com www.powerlog.co.uk




ADIPEC 2020 DMG EVENTS APPOINTS 3MONKEYS TO PROVIDE A SOLUTION FOR THE ABU DHABI INTERNATIONAL PETROLEUM EXHIBITION CONFERENCE, WITH AROUND 90,000 VIRTUAL GUESTS IN ATTENDANCE. The world’s largest gathering of oil and gas industry players, ADIPEC took the decision to move its 2020 edition online, with a four-day streamed event comprising technical and strategic conferences, attended by an audience of almost 90,000 people. Organisers DMG Events appointed 3Monkeys to deliver the virtual solution, which saw some 800 speakers give a mixture of pre-recorded and live speeches. “Our event is probably one of the biggest and most complex that has been done virtually,” commented DMG Events’ Jamie Burton. “We had to arrange for every speaker to be prerecorded for 15 minutes each – many of whom had never been asked to do anything like this before. It was a huge logistical editing challenge.” The 3Monkeys solution comprised two green screen studios – twofour54/Saluki in Abu Dhabi and the 3Monkeys/eclipse facility in Dubai – both served by 3Monkeys’ central control room in Dubai. Inside the control room,


16 technical operators and production crew from the 3Monkeys team oversaw 36 remote caller channels with individual return feeds and talkback. “The complexity of what those guys do is absolutely incredible,” reflected Burton. “It’s certainly way out of the scope of what we have ever done before.” While the event wasn’t quite as profitable as it would have been if it was held live in person, Burton stated that it did “relatively well” from a revenue standpoint. “You’ve got to look at a few other metrics to assess how successful it was,” he commented. “Did we keep the brand alive? Yes. Did we create one of the biggest virtual events – certainly in our space? Yes. And was it a good product with a good user experience? Yes.” Speculating on the future, Burton was bullish about the prospect of return to an in-person event for ADIPEC 2021, which takes place in November. “What is clear is that people want that contact back – they want to see each

other physically,” he commented. “The realistic ambition is for our 2021 event to be as close as possible to what the traditional live event would look like. Clearly, there’ll be measures to increase safety – whether that’s temperature testing, social distancing or something else remains to be seen. Maybe numbers won’t be quite as impressive as normal, but we want to get back to as close to normal as possible.” And whether the event is fully physical, fully virtual or a hybrid solution, according to Burton, one thing is for sure: they will be working with 3Monkeys again. “Those guys are exceptional at what they do – they helped us massively,” he commented. “I don’t think there is anyone in Dubai doing what they do to the level that they do it. No matter what issue I bring to them, they always find a way to solve it, no matter what.” Photos: 3Monkeys www.adipec.com www.3monkeys.net



PROLIGHT + SOUND MIDDLE EAST 2021 CANCELLED THE TRADESHOW GEARS UP FOR A RETURN TO THE REGION IN SEPTEMBER 2022. The fifth edition of Prolight + Sound Middle East, the region’s dedicated exhibition for pro lighting, audio, and AV technology, will return to Dubai in September 2022, organiser Messe Frankfurt Middle East has announced. The three-day event was set to take place in January 2021, however, 2022 was the preferred year for its return with the best interest of all stakeholders in mind, as the world economy recovers from a COVID-19 pandemic-affected period in 2020. Senior Show Manager, Dishan Isaac said the 2022 edition will take place, spearheaded by the Events, Technology & Entertainment Forum – a three-day conference bringing together government stakeholders and industry experts to discuss trends and strategies in developing iconic attractions and live events. “The Sample Music Festival – a purposebuilt stage for DJs, music producers and audio gurus to test their skills with the latest turntables, controllers, mixers and samplers will also return,”

Isaac commented. “Our workshops series will be back as well, such as the Dante training workshop by Audinate, where AV professionals can gather more in-depth knowledge about some of the key design concepts and common technologies deployed in typical medium-sized Dante networks.” He added: “This in addition to the exhibition itself, where some 200 premium brands from across the globe will be on show, presenting the very best in the business for a wide range of visitors, from rental companies, distributors, installers, and system integrators, to venues, end-users, project owners and government associations. There will be much to look forward to when the industry gathers again for three days in Dubai, at a time when the live events and entertainment market will be in the midst of a major growth period.” Isaac believes Prolight + Sound Middle East will continue to engage the industry in 2021 through its AV & Integrated Experiences Webinar

series, along with other digital activities intended to keep professionals up to date on the latest trends in a post-pandemic world. Prolight + Sound Middle East’s fourth edition in 2019 featured 58 exhibitors and 184 brands, while attracting more than 2,700 visitors from 60-plus countries. It is the fifth instalment of the international network of Prolight + Sound events worldwide. Photo: Prolight + Sound Middle East www.prolightsoundme.com

PROUD TO BE INVOLVED IN THE 49th UAE NATIONAL DAY | Show / Broadcast Producer & Production Company |


| Abu Dhabi 2020 |




CT MIDDLE EAST DELIVERS VIRTUAL UCL GRADUATION CEREMONY THE VIRTUAL SOLUTION ALLOWS STUDENTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD TO CELEBRATE THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS. Creative Technology (CT) provided a live platform for a virtual graduation and legacy event for WMP Creative and its client UCL Qatar (University College London in Qatar), enabling students from all over the world to celebrate their achievements. CT supplied a full virtual solution, content management, communication system, and simultaneous translation, which was controlled from the company’s Middle East headquarters in partnership with the client, WMP Creative, Qatar. The virtual solution allowed five different graduating classes and the academic staff to appear in six separate frames to ensure each class was easily identified throughout the ceremony. The equipment used was identical to a normal live show in a control room environment, minus the physical stage that would usually consist of the audio, video and lighting elements. While the client designed the stage, CT built the virtual environment, modelling the 3D object of the stage to help produce the content.


The content was created using 3D software and Notch to provide a fully customisable virtual environment, which saw various elements appear as augmented reality. A key part of the solution was exporting the Notch content into CT’s disguise gx 2c system. This integration enabled CT to use the disguise camera system to build a sequence of different views and simulate director’s cuts for the different cues in the show. The camera system integration gave the audience the perspective that the stage elements and the environment were real, enabling them to feel as though they were attending a live show. CT integrated its Riedel system to the video conferencing platform to enable the client, crew and remote staff to communicate from anywhere in the world. A Riedel Artist 64 matrix frame, controlling six DSP 2312 desktop panels and six Bolero wireless belt packs was also supplied. These units were used by CT crew and clients within the CT virtual studio setup. CT’s operators

were able to program the E2 screen management system and media servers as they would in a normal live event setup from the direction of WMP, creatives and the show caller. The ‘live’ aspects were implemented via video conferencing, and real-time confidence monitors were encoded to return the live feedback to participants, so they could watch the show as it happened. Along with a video return feed, the team could also communicate with the show participants to give them cues. This approach allowed participants to be integrated into the event from anywhere in the world. The success of this solution is visible in the flexibility of the changes applicable in the design and in the real-time generative content that can be triggered and changed based on the client’s request. The graduation was streamed live onto the University’s YouTube channel and recorded so it could be played back via video on demand. Photo: CT Middle East www.ctme.co



MIDWICH ACQUIRES NMK GROUP THE ACQUISITION REPRESENTS MIDWICH GROUP’S FIRST ENTRY INTO THE MIDDLE EAST. Midwich has acquired a majority stake in the NMK Group, comprising NMK Electronics Enterprise, NMK Middle East FZE and Edge. “This is an exciting day for the Midwich Group,” commented Stephen Fenby, Managing Director. “It not only marks the Group’s entry into one of the fastest growing AV markets in the world, but also means we now have a presence in all major global territories.” The NMK Group will continue to be led by the existing management team who will retain a stake in the business, comprising of Alex Kemanes (Managing Director) and Constantinos ‘Dino’ Drimakis (Director – Business Development) who were both mentored and trained by Founder and Managing Director of NMK Group, Nicolaos Kyvernitis, who will retire from the business following a period of transition. “NMK has built a strong reputation for service and its value-add model is an excellent fit with Midwich’s global offering,” Fenby added. “We are looking forward to working with Alex, Dino and

the rest of the NMK Group team. I would also like to thank Nicolaos Kyvernitis for his support, and to wish him well in the future.” Kyvernitis commented: “After serving this regional audio industry for almost 35 years, I believe this is the right time to move forward. I am confident that I leave my employees in good hands as Stephen’s team share the same vision, which is why we considered Midwich as the only suitable partner for us to move forward. That said, we sincerely wish from the bottom of our hearts the best of luck to Alex and Dino and the rest of the group, in continuing the legacy of NMK Electronics Ent.” Kemanes added: “We are confident that in Midwich, we have obtained a great partner with a dynamic team, vast geographic reach and immense experience in the AV industry.” Drimakis concluded: “Having worked at NMK for over a decade, I feel excited for the next chapter in NMK’s history. A merger with a company of Midwich’s magnitude was a natural

progression. NMK has always been innovating and propelling the AV distribution industry forward in the Middle East. We now have a global partner offering support and services across the globe. Filling Mr Nicolaos’ shoes will be an enormous task, which Alex and I feel confident and ready for. We are supported by a solid team of diverse, dynamic and committed people.” Photo: NMK Electronics www.edgeet.com www.nmkelectronics.com www.midwichgroupplc.com




AMIR CUP FINAL 2020 AN MA LIGHTING SYSTEM CONTROLS 150 MOVING LIGHTS AT QATAR’S AHMAD BIN ALI STADIUM. Two years ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the country officially opened its fourth World Cup venue, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Taking place on 18 December – Qatari National Day – the Amir Cup Final 2020 saw the stadium officially inaugurated with a grand opening ceremony that utilised two MA Lighting grandMA3 full size consoles and multiple MA Network Switches. Qatar Vision Company developed, produced and managed the inauguration ceremony and final, while Mohammad Assaf and Mark Anton were the Lighting Designers. The opening ceremony concept and creative treatment was


created by Qatari Artistic Director and Producer, Sharif Hashisho, who is also the Managing Director of Qvision. Best known for his previous work as a Director of Ceremonies for the 15th Asian Games and Director for the 17th Gulf Cup, as well as the Artistic Director and Producer of the IAAF World Athletics Championship in 2019, Hashisho’s concept for the event was inspired by Arabic Poetry. Qvision fulfilled all the technical requirements for the show, deploying the MA system to control 150 moving lights. Due to strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium was only

allowed to reach approximately 50% capacity, with tickets limited to one per person and linked to the holder’s Qatar ID. Following discussions between the Qatar Football Association and the Ministry of Public Health, any fan who attended the match had to return either a positive COVID-19 antibody test or a negative COVID-19 test prior to being allowed access to the stadium. Strict social distancing measures were also implemented within the vicinity of the stadium, including the fan zone and on public transport. Photo: MA Lighting www.malighting.com



Electrosonic opens its new production facility and regional hub in Dubai; PSAV President and CEO, Ben Erwin; L-Acoustics’ Rahul Samuel and Chris Mead; ES:ME Entertainment Services Senior Account Manager, Lars Toonen.


Electrosonic has completed the planning and construction of its new production facility and regional hub in Dubai, designed to provide enhanced local support to Middle East clients. The company already has a core team in Dubai with extensive experience in the region and plans to bring in more talent as part of an ambitious programme to double permanent staff numbers. Paul Kent, Regional Director, Middle East and Africa, commented: “Dubai is at the heart of a dynamic growth region where so many exciting projects are underway. We want our clients in the Middle East to have the benefit of direct, local access to some of the most talented and creative people in the business.” CEO, Jon Hancock added: “I am excited to see us being more strategic in a region which we have been present for many years. Now to have our own fully equipped permanent production

facility is a great step forward that builds on our flagship projects in the region.” ES:ME Entertainment Services has appointed Lars Toonen to the role of Senior Account Manager. Toonen will be tasked with developing customer relationships and will help to steadily grow the company’s client database and increase overall revenue. The company stated: “We would like to give Lars a warm welcome and we are excited to see the positive impact he will have on the company.” L-Acoustics has named Chris Mead as Sales Manager for the Middle East, India and East Africa, as well as Rahul Samuel, as Application Engineer for the Middle East and India. The move is part of an effort to build a dedicated Sales and Application team in the Middle East and India. “The Middle East and India share a common commitment to building innovative and

technically advanced venues and entertainment experiences,” said Cédric Montrezor, Executive Director of Application at L-Acoustics. “This drive to excel and impress has led the region to dynamic growth – growth which remains resilient throughout the current difficult period.” PSAV, parent company of Dubai-based eclipse, is now operating under the Encore name as part of a planned move to align its portfolio of companies, including Hawthorn and AVC Live, under a master brand. “This is an exciting day for our family of companies,” said Ben Erwin, President and CEO. “In a world changed by the pandemic, the Encore brand and new icon signal a forward focus. It puts our customers at the centre as we offer new platforms and tools to enable them to continue to meet and seamlessly connect in person and virtual audiences.” www.tpmeamagazine.com











It’s fair to say that 2020 was a hellish year for most people – not least for those in the live events industry. While stripped-back shows and living room livestreams have at least provided some sustenance in this most sparse of years, since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, in truth, there has been precious little in the way of genuine large-scale live events, with top-end production values to match. However, as legendary US rock band KISS took to the stage at Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm just a couple of hours prior to midnight on 31 December, all that changed. An astounding show on a gargantuan scale, KISS 2020 Goodbye was the largest production in the history of KISS – and that’s really saying something, with the band having been around for some 47 years now. The organisation behind this epic production was City Drive Studios, best known for its hit US TV series, Landmarks Live in Concert which, in its first season, saw the likes of Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon and Alicia Keys star in unique performances from a range of iconic locations around the world. Daniel E Catullo, Creator, Director and Executive Producer at City Drive


Studios, explained how even as the severity of the pandemic was still becoming clear, he and his team were convinced that they would be capable of putting on a show of this scale. “Back when COVID-19 first hit, we saw everyone scrambling to put on small-scale performances from their living rooms,” he began. “These were great for a little while, but as everyone else was figuring out how to do this, we were immediately looking into how to safely put on bigger shows with proper production values.” With the pandemic halting the production of an ambitious second season of Landmarks Live in Concert, which was due to take in iconic locations in China and Brazil among others, Catullo set his sights on producing a one-off show for KISS, who he’d been working with for the last show on the band’s End of the Road tour. “I reached out to Doc [McGhee, KISS Manager] and the initial idea was to do a smaller production without an audience with some nice production values,” Catullo revealed. “It grew from that into the biggest production of the year on New Year’s Eve!” One of the key reasons for this growth in scale of the show was the choice of location in

Dubai. Having seen how the emirate had been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, Catullo was certain that Dubai was the ideal place to host a show of this kind and, once the wheels began to turn, the production got bigger and bigger. “Dubai has gone above and beyond in an effort to keep COVID-19 under control,” Catullo told TPMEA. “Without the support from the government, there’s no way this would work. They’ve been incredibly welcoming, great to work with and a massive help in getting this show off the ground. Dubai is one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to pull this off.” In fact, Catullo was so impressed with what he saw in Dubai, that he is planning on bringing a further 10 shows to the city before Ramadan, which is due to begin in early April. Forming a new season of the TV series, Landmarks Live – Dubai, the concerts will take place at some of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks, with the Burj Khalifa, Museum of the Future and the Dubai Frame all potential locations. “There are so many awesome and iconic landmarks in Dubai that there was more than enough to do a whole season here,” Catullo



confirmed. “It’s hard not to fall in love with the place. They do everything on a grand scale and we always intended on going there. We have plans to go really deep in the region.” ‘THE ONLY INFLUENCE FOR KISS IS KISS’ With a focus on boosting the UAE’s live events industry wherever possible, Landmarks Live engaged a number of local suppliers for the production, who formed a large part of the 400-plus production crew on site. PRG was appointed to deliver the full audio, video, lighting and rigging solution; AES designed and built the stage; and Done Events handled operations and infrastructure. “I wasn’t sure what I’d find before I came to Dubai,” Catullo admitted. “I was pleasantly surprised. To find such a thriving community of experienced and talented events professionals was reassuring and the show would not have been possible without them.” Among the few incoming international crew were, of course, the band’s trusted team of


creatives – including 25-year veteran of the KISS camp, Production Manager, Robert Long. Ahead of the show, Long joined Production Co-ordinator and Co-Designer, Ashley Zapar, as well as Nicolai Sabottka and Matthew Varley of pyrotechnics specialist, ffp on a Zoom call with TPMEA. “This single show is just as much work as putting on a full tour,” Long began, much to the amusement of the other participants on the call. “It’s similar to the End of the Road World Tour, with video pods in the air, a huge stage with lifts and massive amounts of pyro – except everything is doubled in size, apart from video and pyro, which are times 10, if not more!” When it came to designing the show, Long explained that, when you’re working with such an iconic and inimitable band, quite simply: “the only influence for KISS is KISS”. He added: “The question we asked ourselves is, ‘How do you make KISS relevant in 2020/2021?’ They started in the 1970s with their big, bombastic pyro shows, the makeup and craziness that made them

KISS, so how do we bring that into the present while still retaining their essence?” The answer, according to Long, related to the band’s name. “KISS stands for ‘Keep it simple, stupid’, so that’s exactly what we did,” he laughed. “We looked at what they already did and made it bigger. The show can never be big enough as far as KISS are concerned – there’s no sky, there’s no limit.” Zapar explained how she and Long had spent a long time with the band going back through old footage of KISS shows in order to see how classic ‘KISS-story’ moments could be retold and reinvigorated with the help of modern technology. “That was really important for the band,” she recalled. “Although they wondered why some of the footage from those early years looked grainy, we were able to take some of that inspiration and incorporate it into our video content, into our Notch filters, and even into when and how we use certain lights during the show. This enabled us to create that iconic KISS show, but with


modern technology it looks so much bigger than was ever possible before.” Asked if the emergence of Notch has been a game changer for how they produce shows, the group was unanimous in its answer. “I don’t think we can do a show without it nowadays,” commented Zapar, who has been with the band since 2017. “With Notch, the sky really is the limit in what you can create. There is such a variety of filters that you can go anywhere from basic filters for artists who want to go for a simple, strippedback vibe, or you create something which looks completely insane but provides the artists exactly what they want. It’s very customisable.” With the ubiquity of social media, increasingly designers are being asked to create shows that fit inside an Instagram-sized box – “you have to create those ‘Instagrammable’ moments; it drives us nuts, but that is what most artists and, in fact, ticket-buyers want,” reflected Zapar. However, with this show being primarily a livestream with only a very

limited in-person audience on the hotel room balconies and poolside at the Atlantis, the team were able to “take that box and design it all the way outwards”. Long commented: “As well as architecturally lighting the building, we incorporated lasers from the rooftop and downstage to the back of the stage. We’ve been able to add lots of different ideas.” Zapar added: “The livestreaming factor means that we get to change that perspective a little bit. We get to make it bigger, we get to look at it from a different angle, which is fun for us, because it’s different.” ‘LOOKS THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE’ As with any KISS show, pyrotechnics played a huge role in the production – in fact, the team was even aiming to break some Guinness World Records in this field. With this in mind, only the very best would do and, according to Long, there are none better than ffp. “Working with Matt and Nicolai on redesigning the pyro aspect


of the show has been a really big feat,” the PM commented. “They, of course, are the best.” With more than 20 years’ experience of working with some of world’s biggest artists including Genesis, The Weeknd, Robbie Williams, Björk, Slipknot and – most notably when it comes to pyro – Rammstein, the ffp team was perfectly placed to create undoubtedly one of the biggest pyrotechnics shows the world has ever seen. With the ffp team going into the show fresh from an enforced layoff due to the pandemic, they were bursting with ideas for how they could push the boundaries of pyro further than ever before. “We had a long period of sitting with not much to do apart from think about where we can take our delivery, so we have been able to develop plenty of new concepts that we wouldn’t have otherwise had time for,” Varley explained. “We keep pushing our own limits.” The fact that the show had only a very limited in-person audience – all of which was situated a long way away from the stage – meant




that many of the normal health and safety considerations that typically apply to pyro were no longer an issue. Add this to the fact that the show was taking place on the largest stage that KISS had ever performed on, and it was a recipe for one hell of a pyro show. “We have had some of the ideas that we’re using on this show for a while, but up until now, we’ve never had the opportunity to use them due to the safety distance required,” explained Sabottka. “To be able to finally put these ideas into practice means that we can create looks that have never been seen before.” Varley added that the fact this show was for one night only rather than a full touring package that would need to be packed up and transported to a new location every night also allowed them to “throw much more at it”. He said: “There are certain things that you can’t do on tour because of the difficulty of upkeeping the units show after show. However, since this is one night only, we can put everything into it.” Described by Long as “the hottest KISS show ever”, the sheer quantity of pyro was unprecedented. Varley put the numbers into perspective. “The average KISS show would use


roughly 100 litres of pyro fluid, whereas this show uses around 1,900 litres of fluid,” he revealed. “So, I guess you could say it’s 19 times hotter!” And sure enough, all this extra firepower saw two Guinness World Records tumble on the night, with the show breaking the records for ‘highest flame projection in a music concert’, setting a new benchmark of 35m, as well as ‘most flame projections launched simultaneously’, with a grand total of 73. Reflecting on the enormity of the show, Sabottka joked about how he’d always wanted to empty both ffp warehouses in Los Angeles and Berlin – “and now it’s pretty much happening!” he laughed. “We love what we do. It can seem like hard work at times, but during those magic hours when the show is taking place and the pyro is firing, it makes it all worth it.” ‘CALCULATED CRAZINESS’ With such a mammoth, record-breaking show, it was only right for it to take place on a stage of equally epic proportions. Enter All Events Services (AES), a company with a long history of providing some of the most iconic structures ever seen in the Middle East and described by Catullo as “the

perfect staging partner”. Recalling the first time he met AES Founder and Managing Partner, JJ Trichardt, Catullo couldn’t help but smile. “I’ve never met a crazier person in my life – that guy would build a stage anywhere!” he said. “He simply does not say ‘no’. It doesn’t matter what I ask of him, he’ll always go away and think about how we can make it a reality.” When TPMEA put this to Trichardt in a later conversation, the South African didn’t disagree. “You have to have a little bit of craziness,” he laughed. “However, the important thing from our point of view is that it’s always calculated craziness. Nothing is ever sent out that hasn’t been thoroughly calculated.” The stage in question was of gargantuan proportions, made up of more than 100,000 running metres of scaffolding – equivalent to 120 times the height of the Burj Khalifa. “This type of technology is not new, but we are utilising all of our years of experience in how we deploy it,” Trichardt commented. “The structure is a hybrid between steel and aluminium. It’s scaffolding used very cleverly, focused on where all the major load-bearing areas are so you can handle extremely heavy


loads. It’s all about activating the correct equipment to its fullest potential. There are 68 tonnes of pure production hanging from the roof, and we are not even at 20% capacity.” Proud of the project, Trichardt reflected on the achievement. “KISS has been around forever, and they are still phenomenal performers. This stage does justice to KISS and allows the team to really up the production values, which will hopefully remind everyone watching at home and at the venue what we’re capable of and why we do what we do,” he stated. “Yes, it’s big, but we all know that Dubai likes to do things on a large scale and so does KISS. It’s a message that we don’t want to stand back regardless of what else is going on around the world.” The fact that the show was taking place on the point of the Palm meant that it was always going to be exposed to the elements and, while thankfully the weather was fine and dry for the majority of the 30-day construction and, importantly, on show day, Trichardt was taking no chances. “We don’t want to play with Mother Nature,” he commented. “Building stages with these kinds of loads on a beach isn’t a walk in the park. There are lots of things we need to consider and address to avoid unforeseen incidents. As

much as we have the passion and drive to do bigger and crazier structures, what grounds us is that nothing leaves the office uncalculated.” With this show representing the first major production to take place in the region since the onset of COVID-19, Trichardt was full of praise for the UAE leadership on its management of the pandemic. “For Dubai to make this happen and allow this concert to go ahead at New Year while most other countries are locking down is testament to the incredible leadership,” he stated. “They are definitely leaders and not followers and, as a result, the eyes of the world are now on Dubai.” He concluded: “It’s been a hell of an effort to get this monster up and I would like to thank my creative, confident and experienced team that’s given their best during a very reactive and limited time. I’d also thank all our suppliers, who have been co-operative with us over our demands. Hopefully this show will inspire other promoters to come and do a few shows here in Dubai.” ‘AN INCREDIBLE SHOW’ With the giant structure in place, the challenge of filling it with production fell to PRG, which was contracted to deliver the full audio, video, lighting


and rigging solution. “I have a longstanding relationship with John Wiseman at PRG that goes back 30 years,” Catullo revealed. “They have everything we need here in Dubai, so they were a natural choice for us. They have been fantastic.” Video was a key visual element of the design and PRG’s video team, led by Riaan Gomes, flew the back LED wall with over 330 sq m of ROE Visual CB5, and the side screens with 335 sq m of ROE Visual MC-7, which were automated to reveal the band. PRG’s lighting team, led by Martin Smit, installed more than 400 fixtures across the stage, swimming pool and Atlantis hotel, including Robe BMFL Blades, GLP JDC1s and X4s, Claypaky Mythos, Vari-Lite VL Washes, and PRG’s very own ICON Edge fixtures and GroundControl Followspots. The unique nature of the venue, with the audience situated both below the stage around the pool area and high on hotel balconies, meant that an unconventional audio setup was required. PRG’s Matt Oliver and his team designed the unorthodox system using L-Acoustics K1s, K1-SBs, K2s, KARAs and KIVAs, positioned in such a way as to ensure full coverage for both the floor and balcony guests. The system was driven through




L-Acoustics’ P1 and signal was distributed through a Luminex network using Lake LM44. A Shure Axient system was the chosen mic package. Project Manager, Theo Van As, led a total of 58 PRG crew onsite, who formed part of the 400-plus total production crew. “We would like to thank Landmarks Live for the opportunity to work on this incredible show and to congratulate them on achieving not one, but two Guinness World Records,” he commented. “It’s certainly one way to ‘KISS 2020 Goodbye!’” Unsurprisingly on a show of this scale, there were a number of operational challenges that the team had to overcome – none more so than the immense task of ensuring that everyone involved was COVID-19 compliant. “Keeping a crew of this size working safely during these COVID-19 times is a massive challenge,” Catullo commented, adding that they were “going over the top on safety measures”, with production crews split into zones of no more than 30 people and multiple rounds of PCR testing for all crew. For Long, the “biggest hurdle” he had to overcome was putting the show together at a


working hotel, making sure to keep disturbance to guests at a minimum. “We get limited amount of time to work in certain areas,” he revealed. “The logistics side of it is the hardest part. We’re building the stage on a beach next to a pool, so it’s not easy.” In fact, the team had to oversee the temporary removal of more than 70 palm trees from the stage area in order to create the desired effect. “We made sure they were planted in pots and replaced after the show,” Catullo confirmed. “Atlantis was amazing to work with and all the guests were very understanding. They are all there to see the show, so they understand that to build a massive show like this, there’s going to be a bit of disruption required.” With such a large and complicated project to content with, assistance from a company with local expertise was vital to the show’s success. With this in mind, Done Events was contracted as the consultant and on-ground project manager and controller, with its remit encompassing coordination and management with all the contractors. Describing Done’s contribution

as “amazing”, Catullo commented: “Every time we go into another market, we will hire a local company to help smooth the process. They have been outstanding, running the site, from security to infrastructure, just like how they do on any of their other shows.” Working behind the scenes tirelessly, the Done Events team, spearheaded by Suhail Maitreya and Gautam Parekh, provided a range of services to ensure the event went smoothly. These included: staff accreditation; fulfilment of government licences and permits; managing hospitality riders; designing comprehensive COVID-19 and health and safety compliance plans for all crew; co-ordinating with Guinness World Records; and overseeing the technical and logistical requirements of the incoming equipment, from delivery and load-in, to derig and return. “With live events and entertainment paused, we had an opportunity to set a benchmark and also share the best practices with the industry at large that live in-person events and concerts are possible if we plan and take all the necessary


aspects into consideration,” commented Done Events Managing Director, Girish Bhat. “The show went well and it was appreciated by the in-person audience and those online. It was a befitting end to a year that has been challenging for all. With this show, hopefully the entire industry starts its revival path.” ‘HOPE IS AROUND THE CORNER’ A multi-layered undertaking, the project was something of a departure from the docuseriestype productions that Landmarks Live usually produces. “It’s actually multiple projects,” Catullo revealed. So, not only was the performance being viewed live by a limited in-person audience, but it was also being streamed around the world on a pay-per-view basis. “We don’t normally have the live aspect to our shows, but with it being New Year’s Eve and with demand for virtual shows skyrocketing while most of the world is in lockdown, we decided to run it as a ticketed event so people could see it as it was happening.” And the layers don’t end there. Before the show, an hour-long

documentary featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the concert aired; there will also be a DVD of the show, as well as a feature-length episode of Landmarks Live, which will come out later this year. On the subject of livestreaming, Long described shows of this nature as a “viable option” for the short term. “I’ve been a big proponent of not wanting to hurt live music’s brand. I don’t want the audience to get too used to life like this, with limited audiences and watching the show from closed inside their homes,” he commented. “So many people use live music and live entertainment as a form of escapism and it’s hard to create that when it’s not live and in person.” That being said, under the current circumstances, the PM was extremely positive about the production. “The timing was good and what we’re offering is not going to hurt the KISS brand – if anything, it’s going to enhance it. The band would not have it any other way.” Catullo added that the show has now taken an “entirely different meaning” to when it was


initially conceived. “This is a symbol that hope is around the corner and that our industry is on its way back,” he stated. “Even though this year has been wrought with tragedy, it’s OK for us to still smile, laugh and have a good time. The effort we’re putting in will all be worth it if we can make people forget about the pandemic even for a brief period and bring hope for 2021.” As the show finally came to a cacophonous close, with Paul Stanley smashing his guitar violently down onto the stage and a triumphant blast of lights, lasers, pyro and fireworks erupted into the Dubai midnight sky, we were left under no illusions that 2020 was well and truly in the past. If this show is anything to judge the coming year on, then the live events industry is in for a hell of a comeback. Photos: Landmarks Live www.kiss2020goodbye.com www.landmarkslive.com www.ffp-fx.net www.aes.ae www.prg.com www.doneevents.com





Celebrated every year on 2 December, UAE National Day is always a major day on the country’s events calendar. While the holiday is typically marked with a massive live production attended by thousands, with mass gatherings off the table under the current circumstances, this year’s show was a very different proposition. Conceived by Artistic Director and Designer, Es Devlin and produced by LarMac PROJECTS, the UAE 49th National Day Show took the form of a kinetic illuminated sculpture installed in the Abu Dhabi Mangroves. Themed Seeds of the Union and enriched by an incredible team of local artists and collaborators, the show recalled the UAE’s rich history, expressed the country’s values and celebrated the frontline heroes who have kept the population safe throughout the pandemic. “The pandemic presented us with the opportunity to approach the 49th National Day Show in a new way,” commented Devlin, who has


created a number of high-profile productions and installations over the years, including the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony and the UK Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 (currently postponed until October 2021), among many others. “While reaching a vast digital audience through our broadcast, we are staging the show to a smaller, safely spaced, live audience in the Mangrove Reserve on Jubail Island – an area of profound natural beauty and environmental significance.” Indeed, the pandemic required a gargantuan effort to allow the show to be delivered in record time while under the strictest of COVID-19 protocols. The LarMac team, led by Jo MacKay and Ian Greenway and supported by Laura Hall, Siobhan Shaw and Zoe Gillespie, welcomed Nick Levitt as Executive Producer, Simon Lachance as Production Manager, John Wilson as Site Manager and Richard Wythes as Technical Manager. In all, more than 500 creative professionals contributed to the final production. Bruno Poet

was the Lighting Designer; Luke Halls was the Content Designer; VYV handled Video Projection; and the music for the show was composed by Musicom and Polyphonia. Francisco Negrin was the Show Director; Gavin Robins was in charge of Stage Direction and Choreography; Lorenzo Gentile was Casting Director; while Stage Management and Show Calling was handled by Orange Jackets. A truly one-of-a-kind spectacle, the project required a range of highly skilled and specialised suppliers. Wonder Works oversaw Technical Design; lighting, audio and projection were supplied by PRG; while the audio design came from Auditoria. SKYMAGIC delivered an accompanying drone show; Groupe F handled pyro; and SFX smoke was provided by Matrix. The cube and automation were delivered by Stage One; Al Laith provided local support on temporary staging and scaffolding; Showtex took care of scenic dressing; scenic walkways were






“Reclaiming the sea in this way allowed us to control the tide and create a truly unique venue for the ceremony.” Wonder Works Co-Director, Piers Shepperd.

provided by VK; iRIG was appointed to handle rigging; site power came from Aggreko; and Gulf Crewing Company provided the local crew. The centrepiece for the show was a 15m, 100-tonne rotating cube. Working alongside creative manufacturers Stage One, Wonder Works designed and delivered the impressive structure in under two months. “We have a great working relationship with Piers [Shepperd, Co-Director at Wonder Works],” commented Tim Leigh, Managing Director at Stage One, in a post-event case study published on the Wonder Works website. “He has the tricky job of staying


true to the design intent while being mindful that any proposal has to be buildable within the timeframe. Fortunately, the team was incredibly collaborative, and open to proposing a design that incorporated truss that could be adapted from stock components. This saved time and was a more sustainable approach than creating a structure from scratch.” Set off the coast of Abu Dhabi’s Jubail Mangrove Park, taking a lead from the nearby Louvre and Guggenheim, the cube was positioned in such a way that it appeared to be floating above the water. With tides of up to 2m,

achieving this effect was no mean feat. However, thanks to an ingenious solution that saw the huge collaboration between LarMac and the National Marine Dredging Company, a temporary bund and foundations were built to allow crane access to get the installation underway. With this in place, a larger 4m-high bund was built to create a temporary lake around the performance area, thus protecting the structure while still honouring the original creative vision. “Reclaiming the sea in this way allowed us to control the tide and create a truly unique venue for the ceremony,” stated Shepperd. An incredible


level of detail went into the design of the cube as well as the surrounding elliptical walkway. VK provided the decorative finish of the walkway, including the text lightboxes, seeds and the perimeter lighting. “The finish of the walkway was of a great standard and the service from VK was very professional and thorough throughout the process,” commented Scenic Production Manager, Alun Marks. VK also supplied and installed the LEDs on the iris face – “a very challenging job as all the LEDs had to be installed in situ, after the cube structure was completed,” Marks recalled. “The end result was fantastic and well received by the lighting designer.” Marks was also impressed by the work of Showtex, which was brought in to handle scenic

dressing. Describing the company’s contribution as “very subtle, but incredibly important”, he explained: “Most of their work was masking inside the cube. Although not that visible from the outside, without this masking, the lighting would not have been so dramatic, and the idea of the ‘sculpture’ would have been lost due to having all the internal framework visible.” He added: “Their quick response to fabricating and delivering new masking was impeccable and incredibly important for the fast-paced nature of this project.” ‘A JOY TO DELIVER’ The audio system was designed by Auditoria’s Scott Willsallen, with Richard Sharratt at FOH, Simon Sayer and Edoardo Michalori on replay and


remote support from Justin Arthur, Luis Miranda and Steve Logan. The L-Acoustics L-ISA system consisted of four parts: the cube, which was originally designed as five arrays of three L-Acoustics K2s but later reduced to two in order to enhance the visual effect; the panorama, comprising eight arrays of six K2s and one array of 18 SB28s; the surround, made up of two arrays of nine KARAs and 11 SYVA loudspeakers mounted beside and behind the audience; and overhead, with 11 X8s suspended from the top of the lighting masts. As well as the L-ISA system, Auditoria also deployed 180 5XT loudspeakers (one for each guest) in a distributed mono arrangement, which were used to deliver the show’s dialogue and narration. “This technique allowed us to




“Everyone felt a great sense of achievement to be delivering any show in such difficult circumstances, never mind a show that truly reimagined National Day celebrations forever.” LarMac Director, Jo MacKay.

maintain the power and instrumentation in the music while also providing excellent speech intelligibility,” Auditoria stated on its website. The company went on to acknowledge some of the people who made the show happen. “Thanks to Andy Jackson and his team from PRG Deltasound for supplying, installing and maintaining the system for us. Thanks to Toby Chester and Martin Dineley for their efforts in managing the PRG audio team. A huge thanks to Es Devlin and her design team, Jo MacKay and the whole team at LarMac for involving us in this project. Congratulations on delivering a really amazing project that was a joy to deliver.” Using the cube as a storytelling canvas, visuals were beamed onto its surface using Barco UDX-4K32 projectors. While the cube was rotating, it was being tracked by media servers through positional data and camera-based IR


tracking, which allowed the image alignment and blending to follow the cube. There was also an impressive lighting package comprising Claypaky Scenius Unicos, Robe BMFL Blades, SGM P-5s and Q-7s, as well as GLP impression X4s. The cube was also surrounded by a spectacular firework and drone display. In-keeping with the narrative of the show, SKYMAGIC deployed 300 drones to amplify the story being told on the cube high into the night sky. Reflecting on the event, the company’s Creative Director, Patrick O’Mahony, commented: “It was an honour to be invited to work alongside the world-class teams, individuals and friends involved in the project and fantastic to be back doing what we love after such a challenging year.” With the UAE 49th National Day being marked in such style, plans for an even bigger and better celebration for the country’s 50th

National Day in 2021 are already underway. “Our ambition is that the sculpture will form a legacy on a new site, sowing the first seed in the lead up to the celebrations of the UAE 50th National Day,” stated Devlin. And this ambition is already being fulfilled via an unplanned phase of the project, as the cube centrepiece has been transformed into an art installation called The Seed, which was open to visitors from 14 December to 30 January. Looking back on the project, LarMac’s Jo MacKay concluded: “Being part of such a great project during these COVID-19 times lifted the spirits for many of the people involved. Everyone felt a sense of great achievement to be delivering any show in such difficult circumstances, never mind a show that truly has reimagined National Day celebrations forever.” Photos: Nicolas Chavance, Groupe F www.larmaclive.com










When news broke of the catastrophic explosion at Beirut Port on 4 August 2020, Dubai-based guitarist and composer, Niki Mukhi, like many others around the world, was devastated. “It just didn’t seem real,” he commented. “It’s been a devastating year all round, but this disaster really hit home, with so many people having their homes destroyed, and businesses blown to the ground.” While the world watched on in horror as the numbers of dead or displaced continued to rise, Mukhi, whose father was born in Beirut, felt a burning desire to do whatever he could to help the ongoing humanitarian efforts. “I had to do something and I wanted whatever I did to create a substantial impact.” The first person he called was his friend, Assaad Lakkis – a fellow musician and the Founder of Bull Funk Studios. “Assaad is Lebanese, so we both have a lot of love for the place,” Mukhi confirmed. “Assaad jumped


into action straight away; he was already busy providing perishable goods and doing whatever he could to help the cause when I called.” The pair discussed potential ways of using their shared skillsets to raise much-needed funds and awareness. With COVID-19 restrictions in full force, a regular ticketed concert was out of the question, so the idea of a livestream emerged. “Assaad and I had seen quite a few livestreams over the past few months, so we know what works and what doesn’t. We came up with a plan to put together all of the most wonderful musicians in Dubai, as well as some really good speakers.” With a concept in place, next on the agenda was the not-inconsiderable task of getting a line-up of artists confirmed, booking the venue and collaborating with a raft of local companies to gather support on everything from backline and lighting, to photography, social media and catering. Produced in association with Arbor

Dubai – a School by Praxis – and aired across social media on 8 December 2020, DXB4BEY was created with the support of a range of individuals and companies. These included: Dubai Opera; MEI; SSL; Editor, James Gosney; DOP, Tom Richardson Productions; Redlegacy Design; Creative Technology Group ME; Reachr Social; Akela Films; Pinsanity; Subsonic Studios; Hyku D Photography; Nino Analog Photography; The Guild PR; and Eventagrate. Hosted by comedy superstar Wonho Chung, the four-and-a-half-hour livestream featured performances from Tina Yamout, Danny Aridi, Layla Kardan, Hadi, PAV4N, Bull Funk Zoo, Gaya, The Niki Mukhi Quintet, Noush Like Sploosh, Noon, Jad Abi Haidar, Jerome Deligero and more. Lakkis explained how the initial idea was to go for a truly live broadcast – “with watchout systems, redundancies, the whole works” – however, due to the length of the show and the limited time available in the venue, a


pre-recorded livestream was the most prudent option. “We had a two-day timeslot available at Dubai Opera and with the load-in and rehearsal time, pre-recording was definitely the best option,” he commented, adding that this gave them much more control over how the final product looked. “The team was so good that everything already looked really great right off

the bat,” he added. “We just had to cut things together in the final edit.” Despite the tight timeframe, Lakkis was full of praise for Dubai Opera. “They were incredibly supportive and professional,” he commented. “The venue lends itself to a great-looking show. Aiden [Kobus, in-house Lighting Programmer and Operator at Dubai Opera] did a fantastic job


on running the lighting for the show – especially since we had so many different styles of act and we didn’t have time to programme anything in advance. All I had to do was make it sound as good as possible.” On the subject of sound, the Bull Funk Studios Founder was all too aware that this was a common area where livestreams can fall




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Niki Mukhi and Assaad Lakkis.

“It was a beautiful mesh of the raw talent this exists here in Dubai. Most of the guys involved were already thinking of what they could do for Beirut before we approached them, so this was the perfect opportunity for them to help.” DXB4BEY Organiser, Niki Mukhi.

down. “Most livestream broadcasts look pretty good, but they very rarely have really good sound because the way that sound is often approached for a live broadcast is very different,” he commented. “If you treat it like a normal live show, then a lot gets compressed out when it’s played over the streaming platform.” ‘A PERFECT SYMPHONY’ With viewers of the livestream encouraged to donate to the ongoing efforts in Beirut, a crucial part of the concept was to have the


show livestreamed across multiple channels simultaneously, thereby generating a much larger audience than would be possible on a single channel. Dubai Opera, Khaleej Times, MTV Lebanon, Lovin’ Dubai, What’s On Dubai and UAE Up to Date were just a few of the pages that streamed the show. “It was absolutely vital that we were able to work with all these partners in order to get the content out there to as bigger audience as possible,” Mukhi revealed. “We’re incredibly thankful for their support.” As is always the case

in this post-pandemic world, the team were faced with a raft of COVID-19 protocols to follow in order to ensure the safety of all performers and crew. “COVID-19 procedures were extremely tight at the venue, as you would expect,” he confirmed, adding that the key to a successful show was very much in the planning. “If you’ve got everything set up and planned, then all you need to do is execute. Assaad managed the entire production and accounted for every minute so that we could maximise on the time we had with everyone and the venue. It


was planned and executed beautifully, everyone brought their A game, and it came together like a perfect symphony.” Clearly pleased with the line-up of artists that came onboard for the show, Mukhi explained how, as well as the primary goal of raising money for the humanitarian effort in Beirut, it was also important for him to champion local Dubai talent. “We had such a variety of artists – everything from Arabic singers, to rappers, instrumentalists and soul music – who generously gave their time and effort to the cause,” he commented. “It was a beautiful mesh of the raw talent this exists here in Dubai. Most of the guys involved were already thinking of what they could do for Beirut before

we approached them, so this was the perfect opportunity for them to help.” Including artists and production crew, around 150 people came together to make this livestream a reality. “I honestly am blown away that we managed to pull something like this off all from good will,” Lakkis reflected. “To have all these incredibly talented people working together like clockwork – it was amazing to see.” In conclusion, the pair stated: “The incident on 4 August at Beirut Port broke all our hearts, and the people of Beirut still need all the support they can get as they rebuild their city and their lives during these difficult winter months.” UNHCR is continuing to provide shelter and medical


assistance to those in need across Beirut and is working to provide maintenance and support as people rebuild their homes and their lives. “Their estimation is that each unit will cost $1,900 to provide minor repairs for windows, doors and false ceilings to approximately 88 beneficiaries. Let’s do all we can to give them all the help they need.” The full show is still available to view on the DXB4BEY Facebook Page. Photos: Fil Seaton at Team Hyku D www.bullfunkzoo.com www.nikimukhi.com www.dubaiopera.com facebook.com/dxb4bey/live





POPPY BALLON, FREELANCE STAGE MANAGER What sparked your interest in the industry? My ‘wow’ moment was when my mum took me to see The Lion King for my birthday. Becoming totally immersed in the production, I decided there and then that I would be working backstage on this show one day – and, sure enough – it was a great moment when I finally got to realise that ambition. Before coming to Dubai, I enjoyed a 13-year career in the West End, working on some of the biggest and longest running shows, including Buddy Holly, We Will Rock You, Cats and Phantom of the Opera, where I worked on the audio team. There was a lot to learn – from dealing with the mics to mixing – but I put in the hours every week and finally getting to mix with an audience


was a hugely satisfying achievement. Once word got out that I was mixing, I was offered the number two sound role on the UK tour of The King & I. I then did Ghost the Musical and Sister Act back on the West End, before my first international tour with Mamma Mia, starting in Shanghai and ending in Eastern Europe. Although I loved the theatre environment and had achieved my original ambition of working on The Lion King, I knew that audio wasn’t my ultimate destiny. I felt pigeonholed and I wasn’t really fulfilled. I wanted to get into stage management. When I arrived in Dubai, just over eight years ago, I knew that this was my opportunity to explore pastures new. I didn’t know anyone here,

but I did my research and found a wonderful guy who we all know and loved – Nigel Beaton – who was willing to teach me everything he knew about stage management. He was the greatest mentor I could have wished for. I took copious notes on everything he did, trying to overcome the doubts of how I could live up to his standards. It was the greatest career decision I ever made! Tell us about your scope of work… I now work mainly as a stage manager, but I’ve also broadened my scope of work to cover production and artist management on various occasions. My very first stage management role was the NYE Sandance, on Atlantis Beach


with the record-breaking attempt of the most fireworks. Here, my sound background was a huge advantage, as I had that technical knowledge to underpin my role. I worked on the Asian Games Ceremony, in Turkmenistan, which was a completely new learning curve. I’ve also been a part of the biannual IDEX Live Demonstration Opening Ceremony team on a number of occasions, which I always enjoy. With huge explosions and tanks flying past at speed, there is no room for any mistakes! In 2018, I joined La Perle on a temporary basis, having never previously worked on a water show. I learned so much on this job; so many different systems need to be put in place for the show to run safely and smoothly. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Done Events on several occasions for RedFest DXB, Blended and for Dubai Jazz Festival on the main stage. I worked on Mother of the Nation for Flash Entertainment, as well as the Middle East Event Awards. More recently, I’ve been running some of the one-off shows at Dubai Opera. What have been the biggest achievements of your career so far? For me it’s the concerts, as I very rarely see women doing it, and I like to show others that it can be done; you can achieve anything that you put your mind to. One of my most memorable moments was working with the Lionel Richie

team. It was one of the emotionally hardest yet proudest moments, as I had just lost my mum, who was the biggest Lionel Richie fan, and I knew she would have been so proud of me. His music always reminds me of her. Have you ever witnessed any form of discrimination in the workplace? Years ago, in the UK, I turned up on-site as part of a set-up crew, and you could just see the groans when I arrived – not one of them said “hello” and there was clearly a negative atmosphere. But I was there to do a job, so I ignored them. Attitudes soon changed when we were shifting some Martin by Harman MAC 1000 moving heads up to the roof of the building… We were taking them up in pairs, but I lost my partner for the final steps – he’d gone off on some distraction and didn’t bother coming back – so I picked up the lamp (which weighs just under 40kg) and carried it up the spiral staircase on my own. There was no animosity towards me after that! I think, nowadays, perceptions have changed a lot from back then. Working in Dubai, I’ve found some casts in the big ceremonies weren’t prepared to listen to me, although they did listen to my male colleagues. If one way isn’t working, you adapt and adopt a different approach, which is what I did; sometimes you just have to play to people’s egos. It doesn’t bother me, as I get results.


Can you see any signs that the historical gender imbalance in the industry may be starting to shift? I feel that it’s still heavily favoured towards men on the stage side of things. Most concerts or festivals I work on have only men on stage, whereas the women are in the organiser or artist management roles. During the time I’ve been in Dubai, I can only recall working with another female on a concert fewer than five times. When I’ve spoken to other women here in the past, their hesitations in working on concerts tended to stem from a lack of technical experience. I don’t feel that it’s the same in the UK though, as I know a lot of female friends who run a concert stage. Ceremonies and events also tend to be very different – sometimes it’s even an all-female team. What is your advice for women who are looking to get into the industry? Whatever role you want to go into, its available to you – you just need to go for it! They’re not gender specific. Do your research and find a good mentor. I’ve had people reach out to me, asking for my help on how to get into the industry and I’m more than happy to help others. If it wasn’t for someone helping me back then, I wouldn’t be here today. Photo: Poppy Ballon




MINNIE WALLINGTON, DIRECTOR OF CLIENT SERVICES MIDDLE EAST & ASIA, ARENA GROUP What sparked your interest in the industry? As with many seasoned event professionals, I fell into the industry by chance when I began working with Red Bull UK as a project manager within their Motor and Air Sports division in 2002. Although I had no prior knowledge of the sector (cars, planes, and bikes), I loved the challenge that it posed, and it ignited a passion for events in me that I still have today. Tell us about your role at Arena Group… My current role is Director of Client Services for the Middle East & Asia regions of the Arena Group, which means that I have responsibility for the delivery of sales targets and budgets, delivering and executing a unified sales strategy and process flows, and management of the sales teams in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Korea offices. What have been the biggest achievements of your career so far? This is a difficult one to answer as I am so proud of many of achievements my teams and I have made over the years! Being appointed a director for the Arena Group, having worked my way up the ladder from account manager, has definitely been one of my proudest moments in terms of my own development. When it comes to project delivery, managing all elements of the logistics, co-ordinating staff and pilots for a number of Red Bull Air Races throughout the UK is what sticks out most. This role, one of my first as a relatively junior project manager, saw me co-ordinate over 2,000 people coming from all corners of the world for a period of two weeks. I’m still tremendously thankful to Red Bull for having the confidence in me. In the end, the greatest achievements that we make in this industry, and the reason why event professionals keep doing what we do, are the experiences that we as a team create for other people – really, that’s what it’s all about. Have you ever witnessed any form of discrimination in the workplace? I have been extremely lucky in my career so far to have never felt personally discriminated against or to have directly witnessed it happening to a colleague. I attribute this to the culture of the businesses that I have been fortunate enough to work for. I do, however, appreciate that not every woman in our industry is so lucky. The fact of


the matter is that our industry is still extremely male dominated, at every level. That can breed a bit of a ‘boys club’ environment, which in turn can foster many forms of discrimination, whether direct or indirect. That said, I’m so happy to say that we’re beginning to see the tide turn as more and more women take on leadership roles, and with that, the culture is beginning to change. How is this change manifesting in the industry? I feel that the change is happening at different rates within the different areas of the industry. For example, the AV, power and rigging businesses are still led predominantly by men, whereas we’re seeing more and more women take senior roles within event management, project direction, site management, operations and artist liaison and many other key roles within the industry. What is Arena Group doing to ensure gender equality? Historically, Arena has been no different to the majority of businesses within our industry, with an almost entirely male leadership team; however, that has changed significantly over

the past few years. For example, the sales teams within the Arena Group are comprised almost entirely of women, and of the nine most senior positions within the Middle East & Asia region, four are filled by women. What is your advice for women who are looking to get into the industry? Events is such a diverse and multi-faceted space, with thousands of roles to choose from – everything from exhibitions, to concert touring, private parties, or the Olympics! My advice to women trying to break into the industry would be not to pigeon-hole yourself into roles that have been traditionally seen as ‘female’. Do you have a passion for music and see yourself pursuing a career in audio engineering? Go for it! Experience and work ethic are everything in events – take internships, start at the bottom, work hard and it’ll pay off. There are few industries where the pressure is as high as it can be in events, but in the end, the rewards are higher, and the feeling of family that event professionals experience is second to none. Photo: Arena Group www.arenamea.com



IRUM ASHRAF, GENERAL MANAGER, CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY QATAR support from my line manager at the time, who was compassionate about the situation and understood the challenges I was going through. What is CT and the NEP Group as a whole doing to ensure gender equality? NEP is not only looking at gender equality but diversity and inclusion as a whole. It’s a global commitment towards how we, as a company, manage issues such as employment, gender, race, sexual orientation and religion, without any bias. Over the past six months, we have identified diversity focus points across all business sectors, and we are now exploring how we implement the correct tools towards making changes and shifts to becoming a more inclusive company. I am appointed as the Diversity and Inclusion Champion for Creative Technology across the UK, Europe and the Middle East, and we are taking great steps towards identifying what our challenges are around diversity and equality.

What sparked your interest in the industry? I did not initially set out to be in the events industry. After completing my masters in Cultural Management, I landed a job working as a project manager at Live Theatre, Newcastle, where my role covered everything from the event programming to funding. My interest and passion for the industry grew from there, and in 2004, I landed a senior position in the events team at Birmingham City Council, delivering festivals and events for crowds of over 40,000 people, which brought its own level of adrenaline. In 2008, I moved to Qatar, where I took on the role of events director for several years before moving across to Creative Technology in 2012. Creative Technology had started its Qatar operation and was looking for someone to join the team who could help grow the business across the region. Tell us about your role at CT Qatar… Being the General Manager covers a range of

responsibilities, from overseeing the day-to-day operation of Creative Technology’s Qatar branch, to driving sales, client relationship management, and expanding our market share. I often say a GM wears many hats, and this certainly reflects within my role. As well as managing a team, I am involved in all aspects of client meetings and briefings, site visits to signing off budgets.

Can you see any signs that the historical gender imbalance in the industry may be starting to shift? I believe the industry is still male dominated, and there is still a gender divide when it comes to certain positions and sectors of the industry. Women are still perceived to take on jobs within administration and marketing and men on the more technical and production side. I believe the shift that has come is within companies and in their processes of diversifying their staff. Creative Technology has become more proactive in this, and we now have several female employees who are senior technicians and project managers. It’s potentially an industry that will not level out, but we will see more women taking on roles that have historically been geared towards men.

Have you ever witnessed any form of discrimination in the workplace? In my early career, I faced a lot of issues with both my male and female co-workers. I was a young female working in a director position but was perceived as having less event industry experience than some people in my reporting line. I don’t agree that my age or gender should be a factor in where I was in my career, but more my passion, my drive and ability to do the job. The negativity drove me to work harder, often 18-hour days, and it subsequently steered me further in my career. I also had

What is your advice for women who are looking to get into the industry? If you have the passion, drive and ability to work hard, then there are roles out there for you. I believe gaining experience across all event sectors is certainly key in moving up the ranks, but also to help someone new to the industry decide what area of events they want to move into. Developing experiences on the administrative, logistics, technical and delivery side will certainly provide you a great level of exposure. Photo: CT Middle East www.ct-group.com




KAREN BEATON, MANAGING DIRECTOR, GULF CREWING What sparked your interest in the industry? Serendipity! I always wanted to be a ‘party organiser’ as a child, but just didn’t quite know what that meant or in what guise I could use it as an adult. While I’ve always worked in service provision industries in some capacity – including working in tourism, hotels and hospitality, property management, banking and finance, and quality management systems – I have always circled events and event management within my tenure in each of these sectors. I made the jump into the heart of the entertainment industry whilst enjoying a brief sabbatical from work when I was offered a role as an artist liaison assistant at the first ever F1 in Abu Dhabi. From there, I fell in love with the Industry, hook, line and sinker. I’ve been lucky enough to move through the ranks quickly, experiencing a number of different roles, which have led me into the operations and festival management side of the sector. Tell us about your role at Gulf Crewing… It’s an incredibly diverse schedule. A large portion of time is sales conversion driven, so I spend a lot of my time talking with clients, discussing projects and directing my team. Understanding the existing as well as projecting likely client needs allows me to forecast current and future work and liaise with the Operations Team to ensure delivery and invoicing. My role is also that of a ‘rain-maker’, ensuring that we continue to operate successfully as a company, maintain income, attract and maintain clients, always ensuring that our fantastic and loyal workforce are well looked after and prioritised in any work decisions that are made. Most importantly, it is about knowing when to flex and be ready to adapt in challenging conditions – this has been especially important given the current pandemic situation we have all been dealing with. Initially, it was about steadying the ship during a particularly tumultuous period, and while that remains an ongoing challenge given the constant regional and global shifting sands, I have been able to relax the helm a bit more, allowing me to intensify and direct my focus and attention on the strategic growth and expansion of the company within the region. What have been the biggest achievements of your career so far? Having worked with some of our most prominent industry figures over the years, this is an


incredibly hard question to answer. However, a few highlights include working with Al Laith in 2010 to project manage the build and delivery of the biggest stage structure seen at the time in the Middle East, for the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. There’s also the year I spent as the Head of Operations on the Abu Dhabi leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. As well as the delivery of the first ever concert series for the Formula E in Riyadh – one of the most enjoyable, emotional and humbling experiences I have ever encountered. Have you ever witnessed any form of discrimination in the workplace? Discrimination is all around us – visible or not – and it transcends so many different forms, whether it is about culture, gender, ability or beliefs. In some way or another, I believe that we have all been affected, directly or indirectly, at some point in our lives. Discrimination in all its forms is rightly becoming intolerable due to the continual media attention, social media pressure and advocacy from support groups as well as celebrity engagement shining a spotlight on the issues. It wasn’t really until the #metoo movement gathered pace and we started to see famous personalities come forward, rather than the ‘ordinary’ girl on the street, that the world woke up to and acknowledged the prevalence, and

indeed the spectrum, of discrimination faced in day-to-day life. In dealing with discrimination, both as an organisation and an industry as a whole, it is imperative that everyone is part of the conversation. This is not an issue that can be solved in isolation, or by a homogenous group. What is GCC doing to promote gender equality? One of the challenges we face in the Middle East is that crewing is synonymous with the male gender. While we are eager to promote gender equality within our workforce, at this time, it is harder to find females trained in specific trades. We all agree this is not the case internationally – I have worked with some of the best female crew out there – however, it is something that we continue to work towards in the Middle East. There are also certain constraints from a legal classification aspect, which can impact on our determination to add true gender mix to the crew. However, we are seeing a growing number of women within the Arab world take up senior positions within government and national sectors, which should help drive the focus of women in roles that would traditionally be reserved for male counterparts. Freelance workers are contracted based on ability and skillsets rather than gender. As an example, we work with both male and female


artist liaisons – a role probably more commonly associated with females. We also have a number of female stage managers registered with us – again, a role that is more traditionally linked to males. We do our utmost to ensure that our database of those skillsets is as diverse as possible, and choices are made on ability and reputation rather than gender. The management team of GCC is 75% female and GCC hires on ability and not for any other reason. Can you see any signs that the historical gender imbalance in the industry is shifting? Absolutely! There is a far greater prevalence of women across the spectrum of the industry’s roles than in previous years, and that is an incredibly exciting situation, so I would say that this is not just starting to shift, but that the advancement of women within our industry has already taken a monumental leap. This is reflected in our own skills database, which clearly shows we are seeing a more even split of male to female ratios across the same or similar disciplines. From set carpenters to stage builders and production managers all the way through to tour managers and agents – the number of females taking up these roles

is steadily increasing, and we are also seeing further heartening signs with more woman than before taking up senior positions within the large multinational companies. What is your advice for women who are looking to get into the industry? Get as much experience as possible; event management and the associated industries are a wonderful melting pot of skills and talents. Never think you don’t have something to add to the mix; it’s not a glass ceiling industry – you are only constrained by your own talents, desires and abilities, although you sometimes have to shout very loudly to be heard. The nature of our industry means it is a very amenable, and possibly unique environment, which allows you to enter at one level, try out the different jobs, determine what is and what isn’t the right fit for you, and change course whilst staying in the industry. It is essential to have an abundance of passion for succeeding in challenging and busy environments; this is not the type of work you take on unless you have a strong interest in the industry and feel you have the energy, drive, and focus to get stuck in. Honing time management


skills and developing lateral thinking ability will stand you in good stead in any role linked to the industry, as most projects are time bound, and you can always guarantee at least one thing on your daily schedule will throw a wobbly and require some fast brainwork to bring the plan back on track. I have always found it useful to have a very healthy sense of humour, as this helps you to retain a clear perspective and to shoulder whatever the day throws at you, especially when you are in the middle of delivering a project and the stress is building. But the rewards of all of this hard work are manifold; the lifelong friendships which are forged on your journey, the wonderful characters you meet, the memories that you build… the sheer esprit de corps is second to none and bolsters even the most difficult day. In my opinion, I have the very best job in the world. I get to do exciting things, meet exciting people and visit exciting places. Yes, it is hard work, and it is not all glam and rock ’n’ roll. Yes, you do need tenacity, and a belief in yourself not to give up when the going is tough. But I wouldn’t swap places with anyone. Photo: Gulf Crewing www.gulfcrewing.com

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While dazzling light shows, massive LED screens and booming immersive audio systems so often take centre stage on major productions, without the rigging infrastructure – the key element from which everything else is based – there would simply be no show at all. So, with rigging such a vital aspect of any show, it makes sense that the most talented freelancers are highly sought-after. This was most certainly true of former freelance riggers, Ryan D’Cunha and Mathias Wilke. “We were, without doubt, the go-to rigging freelancers for all of the larger companies in the UAE,” D’Cunha stated confidently. “If they could get one of us, great; if they could get both of us


on the same gig, even better. However, that was a rare occurrence because we were both so busy.” So, with packed calendars, in 2015, the pair decided to join forces and form their own company in order to combine their skillsets and offer clients the kind of bespoke service that was in extremely high demand. “And that’s how iRIG was born.” The company made a promising start, with business flowing in steadily for the first six months or so. However, when iRIG was awarded the contract for Montiongate Dubai, the business went to another level, with another major job – the major scenic rigging for La Perle – following soon after. “Those two large-scale

projects immediately threw us into the mix as the go-to rigging company in the country,” D’Cunha reflected. “While we might have been fresh-faced as a brand, we had 30-odd years of combined experience before we even joined forces, so I think that gave clients confidence in us.” Nowadays, iRIG is known for its work on large-scale and specialised productions, with the UAE 49th National Day installation at the Museum of the Future as well as the KISS 2020 Goodbye New Year’s Eve show among some of its most recent high-profile projects. “We always like to rig the big stuff!” D’Cunha laughed. “We love doing the large, out-of-theordinary projects because, on top of the rigging



Facing page: iRIG’s Ryan D’Cunha, Nadim Muhammad, Sergio Barcon, Mathias Wilke and Rowel Aguilar.

services we offer, we provide a bespoke design and fabrication service, so you can dream up something wacky and we will find a way to make it work.” This bespoke service is where Wilke’s talents really come to the fore. “What Mathias does is extremely specialised; his attention to detail and ability is probably what sets us apart from the companies that turn down the jobs that look like a crazy idea,” revealed D’Cunha. “He runs everything from the initial meetings to operational and project management, design, drawings, calculations and certification, right up to fabrication. I tend to come into it more during the on-site element of the job, although obviously both of us can do both disciplines.” Despite the range of total service providers in the UAE offering their own rigging services, the pair don’t see this as direct competition. “There are plenty of companies that do everything and, yes, some of them have very good rigging departments,” Wilke admitted. “However, when

jobs become more specialised or difficult, that’s when you need to bring in a specialist and we have all the specialisms in-house to be able to take on those more out-of-the-box projects.” D’Cunha added: “It’s a good thing that nowadays most companies are being sensible and using specialists like us, which then allows them to focus on the video, lighting, sound – whatever they do best. It’s nice to see that the mindset has changed in that sense; just in the same way that we wouldn’t do lighting, video or audio if we were asked to.” ‘AN OPPORTUNITY WE COULDN’T REFUSE’ Like just about every company in the live events sector, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for iRIG. “The real extent of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t hit home at first because we hadn’t had a break in so long,” admitted Wilke. However, the grim reality of the situation soon set in as all events began to vanish from the calendar. “We realised that this wasn’t going

to go away any time soon, so we decided that we needed to get our team home safe back with their families,” D’Cunha recalled. Acutely aware of the effect a complete loss of income would have on the families of their employees, the iRIG Co-Founders took the decision to continue to pay their team while they spent five months at home unable to work. “We are lucky that the company has relatively low overheads, so we were able to do that,” said D’Cunha. “The knock-on effect of us not being able to work and earn money isn’t just with our team, but also with their whole families, who rely on their income to live, so we have got a duty of care to them. We didn’t do that for any reason other than we value and appreciate them and their efforts.” While 2020 was tough year, one highlight for D’Cunha was winning Rigger of the Year at the TPMEA Awards. “This award gives me recognition for all the effort it takes to successfully, safely and consistently provide the best possible




“We’re looking forward to opening a Saudi operation... Anyone who isn’t looking closely at the opportunities in Saudi Arabia must be mad.” iRIG Founder, Ryan D’Cunha.

rigging solutions,” he said. “It’s an honour to have my industry peers and colleagues publicly acknowledge my work. We do it because we love it; you can’t be in this industry half hearted.” Perhaps going against the grain during this uncertain period for the industry, iRIG has grown its footprint recently – doubling the storage space at its facility in DIP. “We’ve taken the warehouse next door and knocked through,” revealed Wilke. “We are holding much more stock now, so we needed the extra space. It was an opportunity we couldn’t refuse.” A major reason for the increase in stock is that iRIG was recently appointed as the distributor for the Middle East and Africa for GIS Swiss Lifting Solutions to distribute the company’s electric chain hoists. “That was part of the reason for the expansion,” Wilke revealed.


“We needed a services department for that and also somewhere to hold stock. We’re offering a service that nobody else in the region offers. We can go into venues and make it bespoke for that venue with no excess. It’s a really great add-on to have. It’s the first distribution deal we’ve done, but if it goes well, who knows, there’d be no reason to stop that expansion.” And iRIG’s ambitions don’t end at the UAE border, as the company is also in advanced planning to open a branch in Saudi Arabia. “We’re looking forward to opening a Saudi operation,” D’Cunha shared. “We were close to completing it before lockdown, but it’s certainly on the cards for some point in 2021. Anyone who isn’t looking closely at the opportunities in Saudi Arabia must be mad. The volume of work and the need for specialised skillsets is huge.” Looking back at

the history of the company, D’Cunha recalled a number of landmark projects such as La Perle, the Pope’s visit, UAE National Day and the Founders Memorial, however, as a big boxing fan, there were none he enjoyed more on a personal level than December 2019’s Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia. “To build that big roof and to be able to be ringside watching Anthony Joshua fight was huge,” he reminisced. As far as future plans go, aside from the upcoming Saudi expansion and the GIS distribution deal, the motivations for the iRIG team are clear and simple: “For us, it’s all about finding a solution when everyone else says that it can’t be done. It can always be done and there is always a solution.” Photos: iRIG www.irigevent.com




It seems like the events industry has only just come to terms with virtual events and how to produce them efficiently and effectively. Now, many clients in the corporate world are thinking about hybrid events. But what does ‘hybrid’ mean, and how does it affect the way in which we work? Before 2020, many international conferences already operated in a hybrid way, allowing attendees to follow the programme remotely with what we called webcasts at that time. Typically, webcasts focused on a live edit of camera and presentation signals and occasionally added their own information or graphic layers. The output was focused primarily on information, relying greatly on talking heads and not bothering too much about delivering something overly entertaining or engaging. A client told me recently that due to the rise of virtual events, they now understand the shortcomings of the traditional webcast concept and they are eager to explore ways to improve them – applying lessons learned from virtual events. Webcasts define one manifestation of hybrid. The event takes place physically with a limited number of attendees in the physical space and another – potentially much larger – group attending remotely. Even without a pandemic, this type of hybrid is interesting because it increases the reach of the event and possibly opens an additional revenue stream for organisers. The second scenario is the stage programme, with speakers who are unable to attend in person dialling in instead. In the past, we

grudgingly accepted video messages as replacement for live or put up with poor-quality live solutions due to the prohibitive expense of a proper remote connection. However, I think by now, we’ve all realised what TV production knew years ago: you can have remote speakers in decent quality live on stage via IP, interacting with other people on stage as well as with the audience. Beside the known names such as Teams and Zoom, there are a handful of very interesting niche products out there like GlobalM or Quicklink, which provide better quality and a more controlled production environment to achieve this. The way remote speakers appear on stage will be a tremendously interesting playground for our creatives. There is always the good old PIP to show the remote speaker on the video backdrop, but think further – what about dedicated screens or on-stage raisers moving in and out? What about remote speakers in green screen studios appearing full body size on video backdrops? We explored the technicalities of all that while doing virtual events, so why not apply this knowledge in the physical space? The creative possibilities do not end with the treatment of remote speakers in the physical space; we still must find out how to enhance the broadcast product. Once we are back in a physical space, we will have to rely more on camera signals again. But we learned from virtual events that we can combine physical setups with virtual components, either extending the physical setup with virtual background elements or by adding augmentation layers to the scenic. Going down that line, we can not only enhance the webcast, but we can also give the webcast additional features, making it a product of its own. With our friends at Mediascreen, Munich, and Trackmen, Cologne, we combined camera tracking technologies with real-time content about a decade ago, using the output on projected stage backdrops. We called it Dimensional Staging at that time. It was an exciting technical exercise which at the end did not add a lot of value to a physical event. However, for a hybrid event, it does make a difference. You have an interesting new way of working with digital stage backdrops in the physical and the remote delivery. Applying this, you can create shows that are close to what you would usually see coming out of a virtual TV studio without having an ugly green screen as a backdrop in your physical space. Many AV suppliers have explored that route with their AR, VR and XR offerings as part of their virtual event strategy already. We should not forget that we explored the delivery of events based on multiple location settings during virtual events. International conferences might take place physically and parallel in seven sales regions, where all seven regions come together in all venues for auditorium sessions and then go back to more localised content. It will be up to creative and conceptual brains to use the existing technological framework developed in the area of virtual events to define a status quo for hybrid. Most of the technological hurdles have been overcome in 2020, so let us start using them in 2021 and get back into the ballrooms! Photo: 3Monkeys www.3monkeys.net





For most countries around the world, the prospect of a live event with multiple DJs and musicians playing to a traditional in-person audience in 2020 was nothing short of a pipedream. However, thanks to an innovative new platform from Irish-based Health Passport Europe, Cape Town was able to host exactly that, as RECHARGE 2020 took place on 21 December. Held at the Grand Café & Beach, the event utilised the latest developments in rapid COVID-19 testing, combined with the secure Health Passport Europe mobile technology, in order to make everything as safe as possible for


all staff, performers and guests. Representing an important step towards the wider opening of events in 2021, RECHARGE 2020 passed off without a hitch. The concept was very effective. Ahead of the event, all attendees including staff and performers were required to download and set up the Health Passport Europe mobile app for free. On the day of the event, everyone was tested for COVID-19 using the latest rapid antigen tests (again for free), which are approved for use in South Africa. Within 20 minutes of testing, results were returned and updated securely to each person’s Health Passport Europe app. At event entry, security staff scanned each

person’s Health Passport Europe app and also their event ticket. All those who entered the event had negative test results. COVID-19 health guidelines were adhered to by all within the event site to ensure the lowest level of risk for all. There were multiple positive detections made at the rapid testing centre. Those who returned a positive test were referred for a followup PCR test in order to confirm the diagnosis, before being given professional medical advice in line with the national health guidelines. “This was an important moment for the events industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic,” Justin Van Wyk, CEO of


Big Concerts commented. “Using the Health Passport Europe platform allowed this event to proceed with the highest levels of risk mitigation, demonstrating the way forward for live events globally. The system allowed us to offer pre and post-event testing for maximum reassurance, protecting attendees, performers and everyone connected with the event.” Robert Quirke, Founder of Health Passport Europe, said: “Our team is excited and humbled to have worked on this project for Cape Town and to have contributed to the safe reopening of international entertainment and tourism. The secure technology is engineered to work with all official COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. Many thousands of people are already using the mobile system and it is helping industries to return.” Speaking to TPMEA from his Dublin head office after the event, Quirke recalled how the concept for Health Passport Europe came to be. “Building this platform for the world to use is based on a global need in a time of crisis and emergency,” he began. “Back in February last year, we put in place a three-phase model to respond

to COVID-19: ‘survive, protect, thrive’.” The ‘thrive’ phase is all about finding ways for society and economy to recover safely and efficiently. “Health Passport Europe was built to quickly help to kickstart the global economy again – whether that’s an airline, a live concert, a conference or a sporting event – the system and process is designed to support that,” he explained. As the Cape Town test event proved the concept, Quirke recalled how even the attendees were emotional at being given the chance to get back to some semblance of normality. “A lot of people were very emotional,” he revealed. “Anyone who has ever produced an event will know that the most important aspect is in the crowd, so when you see the emotional release for the audience and give them some hope for the future, it’s really special.” With more than 500 tests carried out ahead of the event and 30 positive results being returned – each of which was confirmed with a follow-up PCR test – Quirke made the point that not only did this event not contribute to the spread of the virus, but it actively contributed to


the suppression of it. “Each of those 30 people would not have otherwise been tested if it wasn’t for this project,” he commented. “Those people were out in the community, completely unaware that they had the virus, until they had their test and just by this one event, we directly contributed to helping to stop the spread of the virus in that community.” With the platform already being quickly adopted by many leading medical and pharmacy organisations and having been tested extensively across a range of industries including healthcare, logistics, hospitality, education and nursing homes, as well as a trial at Dublin Airport, Health Passport Europe could well represent a viable route for the global economy to bounce back. When it comes to live events – an industry that has suffered worse than most at the hands of the pandemic – a platform that means live events can not only avoid the transmission of COVID-19 but actively suppress it could be just the boost the sector needs. Photos: Health Passport Europe www.healthpassporteurope.com





Based at Mastermax Studios in Midrand, Johannesburg, Abbey Road Institute teaches a professional one-year Advanced Programme in Music Production and Sound Engineering. Since it opened in February 2020, the educational institute has been able to offer its students access to the latest state-of-the-art equipment, including a number of DiGiGrid products as standard at each of its digital audio workstations. The Institute’s Managing Director, Johan van der Colff, gave his thoughts on the products: “I was introduced to DiGiGrid products by a friend at Waves,” he began. “At the time, I was doing a lot of large channel-count multitrack recording that required MADI connectivity – I was first introduced to the DiGiGrid MGO and MGB products, which I started using as the interface for the events I was recording.” That was seven years ago and van der Colff has since made further investments in DiGiGrid for the benefit of the local and international clients that record at Mastermax. By the time the Abbey Road Institute was brought into the facility, DiGiGrid was very much at the heart of the operation. “We wanted to place the Abbey Road Institute’s educational programme directly alongside our commercial operation, believing that the only real way to learn this craft is with


hands-on, on-the-job, apprentice-style training,” he stated. “The system allowed us to be very creative with the way we think about routing and in-class participation; since the whole classroom is on the SoundGrid network, students can easily share what they’re working on with the class by just assigning the classroom D interface to the students’ computer core audio.” He added: “It also allows us to demonstrate to the students the future benefits of networked audio. We can sit in the classroom and access any device, in any room in the whole studio complex, be able to listen to what’s happening in other suites, do collaborative recording between different rooms, and really just push the system to the maximum of its capabilities.” One more very important determinant was that the students have dedicated workstations in the classroom that they use for assignments. “We needed high-quality IO devices for each one,” van der Colff said. “The DiGiGrid units fit the bill perfectly, offering pristine recording and monitoring on a very small footprint.” In the classroom, DiGiGrid M units are used for each student workstation, with a D at the lecturer’s station connected to the room speakers. In Studio A, an IOS and a DLI bridge AVID 192 IO interfaces, while a D is situated in the control room for local IO and room monitor outputs. The production suites, set up with a

‘home-studio’ vibe in mind, are equipped with D interfaces and are used by students throughout the first and second terms to learn how to manage resources and extract the best results from smaller setups. Another IOS is deployed in the mix suite, feeding into an SSL SIX – the suite is set up as an analogue/digital hybrid to maximise creative flexibility. Because all the rooms are on the facility-wide DiGiGrid network, all rooms and workstations can access each other’s IO and servers if not utilised. Plans are also in place to introduce some IOX and IOC units for portable use anywhere in the facility where more IO capability might be required. Within a month of opening, the Institute faced the massive challenge of a hard lockdown in South Africa due to COVID-19. “We certainly had to adapt fast,” van der Colff recalled. “While the theoretical side could be taught over Zoom, the fact that we were using the DiGiGrid M interfaces made it easy for us to give the students their in-class workstations to take home. This meant they had the right tools to properly complete their assignments and continue their learning experience in the best possible way.” Photos: Abbey Road Institute www.abbeyroadinstitute.co.za www.digigrid.net

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Enabling The Safe Return Of Events We long for the feeling of togetherness, enjoying those shared moments at events, festivals, concerts and sports. Nothing beats the live experience, and Health Passport Europe helps to get the show back on the road and fans in the seats. www.healthpassporteurope.com

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TPMEA #028 - February/March