JUNE / JULY • ISSUE 030
DUBAI WORLD CUP A TOUCHING TRIBUTE TO THE LATE SHEIKH HAMDAN
NOOR RIYADH • UAEFA PRESIDENT’S CUP FINAL • IN THE FIELD: NEWTEK TRICASTER 2 ELITE • AFRICA PULSE
WELCOME... TO TPMEA
A welcome boost In our last issue, Gallowglass Health & Safety’s Steve Kearney used his First Look column to call for vaccine passports to be introduced for all attendees at major events in the UAE. Now, I’m not for one minute saying that TPMEA has any influence whatsoever on decision-making within the UAE Government, but it just so happens that as of 6 June 2021, all attendees to events, activities and exhibitions related to sport, culture, social and art must be vaccinated. At the time of writing, the UAE has vaccinated more than 78% of eligible groups over the age of 16, and while guidance is constantly being updated, last month’s relaxation of the rules to allow entertainment venues to reopen and live events to return was a huge step forward and a welcome boost for the industry. One such live event that took place following the relaxation of rules was the UAEFA President’s Cup, which saw the return of fans to UAE stadiums for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A huge undertaking for the catalogue of local and international suppliers who brought the showcase to life, the event proved what can be achieved through a combination of creative collaboration and hard work. Read our report on page 38. Our cover story for this issue comes from Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse. Another testament to the imagination and ingenuity of those working in the industry, with a planned aerial spectacular having to be cancelled due to the tragic death of the late Sheikh Hamdan, the event was transformed at the 11th hour to become a touching tribute. Find out more on page 18. Elsewhere in the issue, we hear from Simon Ransom, Group Director Middle East at Encore, who discusses the company’s recent rebrand (page 13); we take a deep dive into Saudi Arabia’s first ever citywide festival of light and art, Noor Riyadh (page 28); and Stuart Andrews provides a fascinating insight into the live events industry in Rwanda (page 50). Enjoy the issue. Peter Iantorno Editor
www.tpmeamagazine.com | www.tpimagazine.com | www.tpmeaawards.com
CONTENTS MIDDLE EAST 06 – FIRST LOOK: MIG CARDAMONE
Sennheiser Middle East Director of Sales & Marketing gives his prognosis for the live events industry in the region and reveals a new product series that is set to transform the wireless microphone market.
10 – REGIONAL ROUND-UP
The latest news from the Middle East, including the Arabian Gulf Cup Final, ADI’s supply at the Extreme E Desert X Prix in AlUla, and big news from the company formerly known as eclipse.
18 – DUBAI WORLD CUP
An aerial spectacular is transformed into a touching tribute to the late Sheikh Hamdan.
28 – NOOR RIYADH
Saudi Arabia’s first ever citywide festival of light and art comes to Riyadh.
38 – UAEFA PRESIDENT’S CUP FINAL A catalogue of collaborators come together to deliver this showpiece sporting fixture.
46 – IN THE FIELD: NEWTEK TRICASTER 2 ELITE
3Monkeys’ Rudi Buchner explains why he has invested in NewTek kit.
AFRICA 48 – REGIONAL ROUND-UP
The latest from Africa, including Africa Pulse, and an insight into the industry in Rwanda.
EDITOR Peter Iantorno Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7763 233637 e-mail: email@example.com
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTRIBUTING ASSISTANT EDITOR Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8352 Mobile:+44 (0)7592 679612 e-mail: email@example.com
COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Hannah Eakins Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7760 485230 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
CHIEF EXECUTIVE Justin Gawne Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7768 850767 e-mail: email@example.com
ACCOUNT MANAGER Fran Begaj Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7852 336728 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER James Robertson Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7725 475819 e-mail: email@example.com
GRAPHIC DESIGN & PRODUCTION Dan Seaton: firstname.lastname@example.org Mel Capper: email@example.com
ACCOUNTS Lynette Levi / Sarah Miller: firstname.lastname@example.org
COVER PHOTOGRAPHY Dubai World Cup by HQWS
PRINTED BY Buxton Press • www.buxpress.co.uk
MONDIALE GROUP CHAIRMAN Damian Walsh
FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST
MIG CARDAMONE, DIRECTOR OF SALES & MARKETING, SENNHEISER MIDDLE EAST SENNHEISER MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR OF SALES & MARKETING REFLECTS ON HOW THE COMPANY HAS HANDLED THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, GIVES HIS PROGNOSIS FOR THE LIVE EVENTS INDUSTRY IN THE REGION, AND REVEALS AN EXCITING NEW PRODUCT SERIES SET TO TRANSFORM THE WIRELESS MICROPHONE MARKET.
Thinking back to the end of 2019, nobody could have foreseen the truly unprecedented situation that 2020 would bring. We, along with the rest of the world, have had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had an impact on our business and way of working that is both negative and positive. From an operational point of view, our team has done a great job in adapting to new working practices and conditions as they have embraced the technology that has allowed us to remain connected even when we were working from home, both together as a team but also, of course, with our customers. The move to remote working is well established now and we continue to operate a mix of home and office working, allowing the choice depending on personal circumstances and roles. It’s no surprise that many have preferred to come back into the office more regularly as a means of remaining in physical contact with colleagues and allowing for a clearer delineation between work and home life, but it’s refreshing to see how these new ways of working are embraced in this part of the world, as it has been clear that the output of work is either maintained or enhanced given the right motivation and tools to work. The situation has also served as an accelerant to our online education programmes for our customers, where we quickly put together a host of free pro audio training webinars and product demonstrations under our #DontStopTheEducation programme, which enabled us to keep in contact with our customers and offer valuable training on our products that were very much application focused. From a commercial perspective, some areas of our business are yet to fully recover, with the live events industry clearly the hardest hit as far as our own business in professional audio is concerned. However, having such a diverse portfolio has very much helped mitigate the negative effects, with other areas of our product offering experiencing a higher demand due to the way our customers have adapted to these changed circumstances. In fact, our offering in a few key areas has allowed us to replace this loss of business. As well as greater demand for home studio setups, we have also seen a move towards ‘contained livestream’ events that has allowed users to use different products to those they would have used on a regular live stage. Consequently, our Neumann offering of studio microphones and monitors has seen astonishing growth over the past year, as the focus
FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST
“Instead of a race to the bottom in price, I think, and hope, that we will see an appreciation and commercial acknowledgement of the value that our industry provides the UAE.” Mig Cardamone, Director of Sales & Marketing, Sennheiser Middle East
has been on the best possible audio capture and playback in these applications. Similarly, mobile content creators and vloggers have increased the demand for userfriendly, value-oriented microphones. Price is important, but those customers still need good-quality audio, and Sennheiser has a comprehensive range of onboard and wireless microphones aimed squarely at these users that perfectly complements the smartphones, mirrorless and DSLR cameras commonly used. With a return to office working, the value of – and demand for – video and audio-conferencing solutions has increased enormously. The industry was already adopting ceiling microphones as a new standard in meeting rooms due to the convenience of having your audio ‘off-the-table’,
but with the new demand for touchless audio combined with the necessity of having the most intelligible audio solutions, our automatic beamforming microphone TeamConnect Ceiling 2 has been a huge success – not only in the traditional corporate meeting room setting but significantly in education, where blended and remote learning are required to enable effective and ongoing learning. Looking ahead, we are excited to be making a significant launch this year, with the worldwide introduction of Evolution Wireless Digital on 1 June heralding the next generation of our industry-standard Evolution Wireless series. This new series complements our existing G4 offering and serves as the ‘weapon of choice’ for both our professional music industry and business
communication users. We are confident that the rich feature set and app-based workflow integration will make this new modular system a unique solution at its price point. It has the widest dynamic range of any wireless system currently on the market, at any price point, as well as equidistant frequency spacing that was previously only found in our flagship Digital 6000 and Digital 9000 wireless systems that is scalable up to 90 channels. The system will be monitored and controlled using our new Smart Control App; we are putting an ‘engineer in your pocket’, allowing users to take advantage of a remarkably fast automated setup, mobile access to every system setting and the added benefit of remote monitoring. With an entry price point of $700, we are certain that
FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST
these outstanding features will be a big hit with our customer base. As the region and the wider world continues to navigate its way through the pandemic, I think it’s important to look back on how the UAE has responded to this unprecedented situation in such an impressive way, managing the welfare of its residents while balancing the needs of businesses and individuals to return to some kind of normality swifter than in many other parts of the world. This ‘open for business’ approach has allowed us to get back to work and provides a platform in 2021 to not only recover business but find opportunities for growth. This year has started well for us – especially in the UAE – with the caveat being that the situation with receivables, which was already becoming increasingly difficult before COVID-19, has now been exacerbated. That said, we work closely with our partners to support the reality of the situation and as a result, we have strengthened relationships during this time as we have again demonstrated our support and commitment to this region and I’m confident we’ll achieve the ambitious growth targets we
have set for 2021 together with those partners. Another key market for us is Saudi Arabia, and we have had a Sales Manager based in the Kingdom since 2016, which has been crucial for our growth in the country. It’s always important to have local knowledge and with Saudi being so geographically vast, as well as so economically and culturally important to the region, having a dedicated salesperson in the country has allowed us to increase our touchpoints and got us much closer to our channel partners as well as end-customers – especially in the corporate, education and government sectors. As the transformation of Saudi Arabia continues to gather pace, we are naturally focused on the hospitality, leisure and entertainment sectors that are proving to present the greatest opportunities in the region and I think we’re well placed with our network of partners, route to market and industry knowledge to capitalise on this exciting landscape over the coming years. We have started to see the nascent recovery in the live events industry here in the UAE and there is no doubt that there is a huge pent-up
demand for people to get back to doing things that they enjoy. Dubai has always led the way in hosting the sort of productions and events that have led to such a large industry servicing this sector, and the return of events will happen faster here than perhaps elsewhere, but it will need to happen with sensible restrictions and safety measures as befit the current circumstances. I think, and hope, that we will see the many reputable and professional events companies that have invested in the region rise to the top. Safety will remain paramount for some time and it is only possible by utilising the skills and knowledge of the best people in the business, so there should be clear rules and guidelines in place for events to be hosted so that those that comply are rewarded, and those that don’t aren’t. So, instead of a race to the bottom in price, we will see an appreciation and commercial acknowledgement of the value that our industry provides the UAE; perhaps optimistic, but I’m hopeful, as the world’s eyes will be on Dubai in October when Expo 2020 belatedly opens for business. Photos: Sennheiser Middle East www.sennheiser.com
Create Media Group opens Cairo Office; Venuetech partners with Panasonic; NMK agrees distribution agreement with ARHT Media; Rock-It Cargo partners with Sela; INFiLED Business Development Manager Saudi Arabia, Hasan Najim.
INDUSTRY APPOINTMENTS THE LATEST MOVERS AND SHAKERS ACROSS THE REGION. Create Media Group has opened an office in Cairo to house a 30-person team in response to growing demand over the past 12 months. “We’re committed to building diverse, multicultural teams across the region that enable us to create positive commercial and social impact for our clients,” commented Managing Partner, Tom Otton. “The incredible talent that Egypt has to offer, and the vibrant digital economy has made this an easy decision, even in uncertain times.” Hasan Najim has joined INFiLED as Business Development Manager for Saudi Arabia. The new appointment comes as the company expands its presence in the Middle East by opening a new office and showroom in Dubai. “Hasan’s expertise, skillset and broad network in the industry will be extremely valuable to increase our install base and build long-term customer relationships within Saudi Arabia,” said Marco Bruines, Sr. Vice President of INFiLED EMEA. NMK Group has been named the exclusive distributor of ARHT Media’s technology and
services in the UAE and Qatar. As part of this agreement, NMK will install ARHT’s capture and display technology at both existing and planned customer experience centres in Dubai and Doha. “Our current clients, as well as new prospects, have expressed great interest in exploring the implementation of ARHT’s tech stack for both permanent installations and events,” stated NMK Business Director, Constantinos Drimakis. Rock-It Cargo and Sela Sport Company have formed a global partnership, with Rock-it acting as Sela’s global freight forwarding and logistics provider in all countries outside of Saudi Arabia, and Sela acting as the logistics provider to Rock-it within the Kingdom. “Rock-it now has a partner that is unrivalled in its live event experience across Saudi Arabia and Sela now has a global partner with an extended network across five continents,” said Paul Martins, CEO and President, Rock-it. “Sela is going to raise the bar once more in the event management sector in Saudi with our
partnership with Rock-it,” added Loai Kamakhi, General Manager of Business Solutions, Sela. Venuetech has partnered with Panasonic to distribute its professional AV and broadcast solutions in Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. “We are pleased to partner with Venuetech and believe that this partnership will support Panasonic in expanding its reach in the region,” commented Hidetoshi Kaneko, Director of System Solutions and Communication Division, Panasonic Marketing Middle East & Africa FZE. “With Venuetech’s service excellence and industry experience, we are sure customers will receive the highest quality solutions.” “This partnership will take both Panasonic and Venuetech to new heights in the AV market in this region,” commented Abdul Assafiri, Director of Operations at Venuetech. “With the team we have now and the support from Panasonic, we are very confident we will set new industry standards in the Middle East as a whole.” www.tpmeamagazine.com
N&M BOLSTERS MIDDLE EAST TEAM THE COMPANY EXPANDS ITS MARKETING AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT TEAM AS PART OF MAJOR EXPANSION. Neumann&Muller (N&M) Middle East has appointed Michael Walker as Head of Marketing & Business Development. “We are excited to welcome Mike to the N&M family and are confident that he will be an integral part of our company and vision,” a company spokesperson commented. “His extensive experience in the industry will be instrumental in our expansion efforts and all of us are looking forward to his leadership and collaborations in accomplishment of overall results.” Walker added: “I am tremendously excited to join N&M in this time of growth and expansion to work with their talented team driving the company’s ambitious vision. I look forward to leveraging my experience as a business developer and marketer to establish planned new business units, reach new markets and grow the N&M
brand and customer base across the Middle East.” The company has also appointed James Righton as Key Account Manager for the Middle East, as well as Orkhan Salamov as Marketing Manager. “To join a company with the ambition of N&M is an unbelievable opportunity for me and one I’m very excited about,” said Righton. “With the platform the company is creating with its involvement at Expo, I can’t wait to play my part in realising the company’s long-term goals.” Salamov added: “I am delighted to have joined N&M at this exciting point in the development of the company and look forward to working with the team on innovative, open and creative marketing ideas that will help drive our future growth ambitions.” In addition to these key hires, the company is actively recruiting for numerous permanent positions in project
management and support roles, as well as a large number of six-month contract roles for freelance technicians for both live entertainment and installation projects at Expo 2020. Photo: Neumann&Muller www.neumannmueller.ae
Orkhan Salamov, Michael Walker and James Righton.
ADI SUPPORTS EXTREME E DESERT X PRIX THE COMPANY PROVIDES A SEAMLESS BROADCAST SOLUTION IN THE EXTREME CONDITIONS OF ALULA DESERT. With a focus on the environment and highlighting the climate crisis by visiting the globe’s most remote landscapes, Extreme E’s pioneering electric off-road series kicked off on 3-4 April, with the Desert X Prix in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. The ground-breaking race marked a world first in motorsport, with both male and female drivers competing with each other. ADI supported Extreme E in creating the Command Centre, which was at the heart of the live race broadcast beamed around the world to more than 40 different channels, including BBC, ITV, ESPN, FOX Sports and Eurosport. The Command Centre’s stylish technical design was achieved through fine pitch LED screens and lighting fixtures, set around an arcshaped desk hosting team representatives such as Nico Rosberg and Chip Ganassi. In the planning stages of the project, ADI created a 3D visual design of the Command Centre in disguise, allowing the team to test and further develop the layout through VR. “This allowed us to plan the layout of all technical kit and AV hardware with precision, which was
vital given the fairly compact space available,” commented ADI’s Head of Technical Solutions, Dave Crowther. “We planned the positions and layout to the nearest millimetre, so there were no unforeseen issues when we arrived on site. The 3D visualisation was also helpful in allowing us to test content from any angle on the 2mm modular LED that sat in front of the arc-shaped desk and ensure a seamless solution for broadcast.” A dedicated ADI team was on-hand to manage and cue all audio, 4K video and lighting playout inside the Command Centre, utilising a single software platform to run the show. ADI’s platform brought flexibility to the playback, capable of supporting multiple layers of digital media across the fine pitch LED screens, and allowed changes to the studio AV and sports press to be triggered by live action that happened during the race. Having worked in outdoor locations all over the world, Crowther is used to extreme conditions – “but pitching up in the middle of the AlUla desert was something quite different!” he
exclaimed. “It brought challenges, but these were mostly accounted for in our forward planning; for example, flight cases and sand don’t go well together, so we coordinated forklifts and plant equipment to be on-site for build and derig. The desert environment also meant we had to build the Command Centre structure on a deck platform, so we could guarantee all cameras, lighting desks and LED screens were level.” Crowther was pleased with the efforts of his team. “We aligned ADI’s expertise with Extreme E’s vision, then planned and executed the project within a month, which was a great achievement given the time sensitivities around transportation of technical equipment to Saudi Arabia, and also the challenges COVID-19 brings to any international travel and live event delivery,” he concluded. “It’s fantastic to be part of this pioneering new race series that’s pushing the boundaries of motorsport, and we look forward to supporting Extreme E across the diverse X Prix that are coming up. Photo: Extreme E www.ADI.tv
Encore Group Director Middle East, Simon Ransom.
ECLIPSE REBRANDS TO ENCORE SIMON RANSOM, GROUP DIRECTOR MIDDLE EAST, DISCUSSES THE REASONING BEHIND THE REBRAND, GIVES AN UPDATE ON THE COMPANY’S PROGRESS, AND EXPLAINS WHY HE PREDICTS A STRONG END TO THE YEAR. Back in March 2020, PSAV announced that it would be rebranding, along with its family of companies, as Encore – the name of the business it acquired in early 2019. By January 2021, the majority of the PSAV family had done exactly that, with the likes of Hawthorn, AVC Live, KFP and PSAV itself uniting under the Encore brand. However, for fellow PSAV company, eclipse, the quirks of the UAE’s legal and regulatory system meant that the company has continued to operate under its original name… until now. “We are delighted to announce that from 6 June, eclipse has rebranded to Encore,” confirmed Simon Ransom, Group Director Middle East, Encore. The rebranding of eclipse means that the entire global network is now unified under the Encore brand. “We were always part of one large family, but the fact that we are now all united under the same brand means that the messaging can be consistent across the board,” Ransom said. “We wanted to help our customers understand that wherever they are in the world, with Encore, they can get that same level of service, professionalism and expertise that they have become accustomed to.” While the rebrand won’t have any material effect on the
way that the company operates, Ransom believes that the new name and company positioning is a much stronger representation of what the global business now provides. “PSAV was known primarily as a venues business and that is simply not the case anymore,” he commented. “The expansion plans of PSAV were always to expand internationally and grow the live events and production business, and with the acquisitions of Encore Event Technologies and eclipse in 2019, the company added a much broader scope. So, the rebranding decision was made with the aim of homogenising that picture across the world and is expressed by the new tagline: ‘Encore. Events that Transform’.” The COVID-19 pandemic remains a constant challenge to the entire industry. However, Ransom is confident that the work done, and significant investment made over the past yearand-a-half, stands the company in good stead whatever happens with the pandemic. “We have the capability and creativity to help customers who need to take their events from the live space and put them into the virtual or hybrid space,” he highlighted. “The benefit of the virtual and hybrid environment is that you don’t all need to be in the same room any more to hold a successful
event, which makes our global network more useful than ever.” While COVID-19 has, of course, been a blow to business, the company has worked on several socially distant live events throughout the pandemic and, according to Ransom, bookings for Q3 and Q4 are already starting to come in. “We’re seeing a lot of clients from all over the world looking to work in the Middle East and having maintained a significant level of our staffing in the UAE, we’re well placed to cater to their needs.” Looking ahead, Ransom is positive about the future of the company under the Encore brand. “The aims remain the same as when we joined what was then PSAV and is now Encore,” he stated. “We want to continue to grow the business, consolidate our position in the UAE, expand our operation in Saudi Arabia and potentially look to other markets, too. “When the industry comes back, it’s going to come back fast,” he concluded. “We plan on being agile enough to be able to employ the right people at the right time so the company can grow quickly with the demand.” Photo: Encore www.encore-emea.com
ARABIAN GULF CUP FINAL NO1 EVENTS PROVIDES A VISUAL FEAST, INCLUDING A 30M-HIGH WATER FOUNTAIN SHOW, FOR THE SHOWPIECE FIXTURE AT SHARJAH STADIUM. Creative lighting, piercing lasers and spectacular fireworks are all par for the course when it comes to showpiece football matches in the UAE. However, for this year’s Arabian Gulf Cup Final between Shabab Al Ahli and Al Nasr, technical provider No1 Events upped the ante, providing a 250,000-litre pool from which a stunning water fountain show with peak jets of over 30m was launched. Of course, the water fountain show was just part of the showcase, with a full audio, video, lighting, and special effects package deployed for the event. “The main challenge of this event came down to time,” revealed No1 Events’ Technical Director, Mirco Resta. “We first entered the stadium early in the morning on 4 April and we had to have everything installed and ready for dress rehearsals on 7 April, with the match taking place on 9 April.” No1 Events worked with a local composer and musician to create an audio track
for the event, which was attended by around 200 VIPs. An L-Acoustics system comprising 12 KUDOs and six SB28s ensured that the socially distant crowd could hear the show loud and clear. Audio Engineer, Martin Chiervo used a Midas M32 with a DL32 stage box for control, while four Shure SLD-D mics and four Audio-Technica M3 IEM systems with ATH-40 earpieces were also utilised. As well as creating an audio track, No1 Events content team of Sulaimon Olasunkanmi, Mohammed Rasin Thalathodika and Jaganath Singh also produced 10 minutes of highresolution video content, which was played on a central 7,800-pixel by 1,664-pixel LED screen as well as a 24,192-pixel by 96-pixel LED perimeter. In total, 252 sq m of Lightlink 4.8mm outdoor LED was supplied, which was divided into seven 4.5m by 8m vertical screens, in addition to 235 sq m of 10mm outdoor LED for the perimeter. Four Christie HD20K projectors were used, while
processing came in the form of 20 NovaStar MCTRL 660 LED processors and content was managed using four Dataton WATCHOUT servers. “During the match, we displayed the supporters on the big screen, connected through Zoom from their homes,” Resta explained. Lighting Designer, Lucas Rey selected a lighting package including 80 Claypaky Sharpy Beams, 12 Alpha Spot 1500s and 32 Martin by Harman MAC Aura Washes, with control coming from an MA Lighting grandMA2 full size console with MA NPU. The most eye-catching aspect of the delivery was the innovative water fountain show. The temporary pool for the show was made of Litec QD40 truss and 95m by 5m of 80cm-high PVC material. “We filled up the pool with more than 250,000 litres of water in just one day, and we drained and removed it the same night after the event,” Resta recalled. The fountain show was
programmed by Fountain International’s Pavel Pashkovskiy, with 28 high-pressure water pumps generating jets of up to 30m high. The laser show, also programmed by Pashkovskiy, used eight Kvant 10W Spectrum lasers, with control from two Syncronorm V:Servers, an Alcorn McBride Inv V4 Pro and a Pangolin laser controller. A total of 900 shots of fireworks were operated by FLASH ART’s Gideon Chiam Kok Kheng, using a PyroSure Controller V2, 24 firing wireless modules and four confetti shooters. While this year’s match was actually the 13th edition of the annual tournament, it was dubbed ‘The 50th Cup’ to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. On the pitch, with the two sides unable to break the deadlock, Shabab Al Ahli ultimately triumphed 5-4 on penalties, celebrating their victory on a 30m-wide stage that was set up in just 10 minutes, using more than 200 crew and 10 co-ordinators. The rest of the No1 Events crew for the event comprised: Show Director, Hassan Abu Hamid; Creative Content Director, Ahmed Elkady; Finance Director, Ahmed Abdelgawad Meabed; WATCHOUT Operator, Edgar Pulido; Crew Coordinator, Mohammed Navas; and Production Coordinator, Analyn Peralta Matin-ao (Arrah). Resta was pleased to report that the event was fully free of COVID-19 cases. “We had multiple tests during the days of setup and the show, and no cases were detected,” he commented. “Thanks to Jakub Michalik of FLASH ART for the great support and to the client, UAE Pro League, for trusting us with this opportunity.” Photos: FLASH ART, No1 Events www.no1events.net www.flashart.com
WHAT’S ON DUBAI AWARDS 2021 SOLAS PROVIDES AUDIO, VIDEO AND LIGHTING SOLUTION FOR A SOCIALLY DISTANCED AWARD CEREMONY AT DUBAI’S WESTIN MINA SEYAHI.
With a wealth of restaurants catering to just about any cuisine you could imagine, Dubai has garnered a well-earned reputation in recent years as one of the world’s top foodie destinations. While the emirate’s burgeoning restaurant sector has gone through a challenging year for obvious reasons, the What’s On Dubai Awards 2021 went ahead regardless in recognition of some of the city’s best and brightest hospitality heroes. Having worked on a number of other What’s On Awards events over the past three years – including the What’s on Dubai Nightlife Awards and What’s on Awards Abu Dhabi – SOLAS was once again tasked with providing a full audio,
video and lighting supply for the event, with All Events Services (AES) handling staging. This year’s ceremony switched from its usual location at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre to the nearby Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina. “It was absolutely key to success of the project that we did not disrupt any of the day-today running of the hotel,” commented SOLAS’ Eoin Sheridan. “The staff at the hotel were very good to work with and open to making sure that our event had ample time to set up and not disrupt their residents.” Load-in began around midday on the day before the event and the SOLAS team worked right up until dark, tweaking the designs and
putting together the finishing touches. “On the day of the event, the team were heavily focused on providing power to sponsors and also fitting in rehearsals with the MC and running through the awards show,” Sheridan noted. From an audio perspective, SOLAS provided an Adamson S10 and S119 line array system in a ground stacked format, with delays for some tables which were outside the main coverage area. “The system is perfect for these events,” Sheridan commented. “It gave really amazing coverage for every guest and delivered crisp audio throughout the night. This is important for an awards ceremony which has a lot of speech and music playback
“We are delighted to have live events back in the region – it’s a testament to Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, how they managed to progress so quickly.” SOLAS Operations Manager, Eoin Sheridan.
and, of course, you need to be able to hear the winners announced.” The video setup comprised multiple Lightlink screens placed throughout the venue, including a main 8m by 4m 3.9mm outdoor LED, as well as three 4m by 2.5m 3.9mm LEDs used for IMAG. The control system was run through a Barco S3 system, along with Dataton WATCHOUT for the main video playback. “The awards were based on over 240 slides, via Keynote, so there were lots of moving graphics and heavy video content to work with,” Sheridan noted. “The lighting design required some thought, as it was a tricky space,” Sheridan revealed. “Due to COVID-19 restrictions and related safety measures, the tables were quite spread out and the surrounding area was dotted with lots of trees and hedging, so we had to be creative to come up with a design that would cover the large area but work in the space.” To that end, a rig including over 90 moving head fixtures comprising SGM Q7, DTS Core, DTS Nick 1401, Robe 100 LED Beams and Beam 100s was specified. “We had multiple trussing structures around the space; a mixture of goal post structures and standalone totems,” Sheridan noted. “Control was done via an Avolites Tiger Touch 2, with some pre-viz work done in the office before reaching the site.”
AES provided its Bandroof Stage, which offers “an elegant and creative solution for a wide range of event applications”. The compact roof structure has been designed to provide overhead protection from the elements, reducing any sight-line obstacles between artist and audience while still offering maximum aesthetic impact. “The guys at AES are very easy to work with and provide a very efficient and professional service,” Sheridan stated. “Communication was great between both parties.” A number of health and safety measures were implemented to ensure that the event adhered to the latest COVID-19 guidance. “To make sure the What’s On Awards 2021 were as safe as possible, at the entrance, all guests needed to present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before the event or show proof of full vaccination,” stated Stuart Norbury, Events Manager, Motivate Media Group. “Meanwhile, all trophies were sanitised before being handed to winners; table numbers were reduced to adhere to the current Dubai F&B guidelines; and all guests had to wear masks when coming to collect trophies on stage, or when walking around the venue. This was continually enforced by our MC throughout the evening.” With 320 people in attendance, Norbury was pleased with the turnout during what he
described as “an exceptionally tough time for the events industry”. He added: “It is slowly getting better month by month, but it’s going to take time for the events industry as a whole to return to its former glory. In the meantime, we’re working hard to adapt to the new environment by creating niche, community-focused physical events, and upping our webinar content.” Meanwhile for Sheridan and the SOLAS team, the event was a source of great pride and hopefully a sign of things to come in the near future. “The most satisfying part of the project is when you look around at the venue just before the guests arrive and you see a space which has been transformed from an open grassy area just over 24 hours before into a glamorous awards gala dinner. We take great pride as a team in the delivery of a top-quality event and getting feedback from happy clients is also always satisfying,” he concluded. “We are delighted to have live events back in the region – it’s a testament to Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, how they managed to progress so quickly in 2021 in particular to enable groups of people to gather safely again.” Photos: SOLAS AV www.solas.ae www.whatson.ae www.aes.ae
DUBAI WORLD CUP 2021
A PLANNED AERIAL SPECTACULAR TRANSFORMS INTO A TOUCHING TRIBUTE TO THE LATE SHEIKH HAMDAN BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM.
First held in 1996, the Dubai World Cup is a UAE institution. With 2021 being the 25th anniversary of the famous horse racing event, organisers Dubai Racing Club wanted a truly remarkable show to mark the illustrious milestone. The company that was chosen to step up to the challenge was HQ Worldwide Shows (HQWS) – winning the tender with a pitch for an aerial spectacular, complete with aerobatics, pyrotechnic drones, fireworks and a Guinness World Record-breaking laser show. However, just three days before the event, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Minister of Finance and Deputy Ruler of Dubai, sadly passed away at the age of 76. As tributes and condolences poured in from all over the world, Dubai entered a 10-day mourning period, and the status of the Dubai World Cup was in doubt. “At that point, we had no idea if the event was going to go ahead or not,” recalled HQWS Director of Creative and Design Services, Daz Jamieson. Nevertheless, after careful consideration, it was decided that the Dubai World Cup would, in fact, go ahead in honour of the late Sheikh Hamdan, who was an avid
lover of horse racing, owning and breeding racehorses that celebrated many victories at the Dubai World Cup. “We then had to prove that we could transform the show into a touching tribute, instead of the planned aerial spectacular,” Jamieson revealed. For the planned show, HQWS had called upon a range of trusted suppliers, including ER Productions for lasers; Protec for lighting and audio; Geoscan for drones; pyro and fireworks specialist, FLASH ART; and Creative Technology (CT) Middle East, which delivered comms, audio transport infrastructure, video playback solutions and a complete camera package. Three days out from show day, all the lasers, lights, audio, pyrotechnics and fireworks were in position, the video content and drone show had been programmed and the aerobatics planes had arrived from the UK. “Everything was in place and we were scheduled to go into dress rehearsals, but then we got the terrible news,” Jamieson recalled. “We had to go back to the drawing board and redesign the entire show.” With just 72 hours to devise and programme the tribute, the pressure was well and truly on. “All the heads of department on the project came
together and talked about how we could work with what we had to transform the production into a beautiful tribute that everyone could be proud of,” explained HQWS’ Louay Al Qaissi, who was both a Project Director and Show Caller on the event. Thankfully, the majority of suppliers were able to alter their delivery to meet the conditions of a tribute. The only exception to this was FLASH ART, since large-scale pyrotechnics were deemed inappropriate for the sombre occasion. However, according to Al Qaissi, the FLASH ART team remained a vital part of the final production. “All the pyro was in situ on-site and even though we weren’t able to use it, FLASH ART remained with us right up until the final moment on show day. As pyro experts, they were also able to assist us with the pyro element on the drone show,” he revealed. “We’ve had many, many years of collaboration with FLASH ART. Both companies have grown together, and they are our go-to pyrotechnics company.” ‘A PROUD MOMENT’ Historically, the Dubai World Cup has had a large live performance element, with international
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artists such as Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue and Janet Jackson among the many who have performed over the years. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the HQWS team had planned to take this year’s show in a different direction. “The live performance element would naturally entice people to gravitate towards the stage – something that isn’t really conducive to social distancing,” Jamieson explained. “So, guided by the client, we went in the direction of an aerial spectacular.” With that in mind, lasers were a central element of the show design, and for HQWS, there was only one company that could supply the level of laser show required. “We’ve always wanted to do something with the ER Productions guys,” Jamieson revealed. “As soon as it was clear that we’d be going for the Guinness World Record for the most lasers assembled in any one place, they were the natural choice to bring onboard.”
Already the Guinness World Record-holder for the largest laser show ever assembled for their spectacular 822-laser show at LDi in 2017, the ER Productions team were happy to be given the opportunity to break their own record at the Dubai World Cup. “When we started looking at the numbers of lasers involved in the spec, we soon realised that we weren’t far off breaking the record,” explained ER Productions Project Manager, Mark Payne. “Once that was on the table, there was no turning back from that point. We ended up breaking our previous record, with a total of 824 lasers.” Joining Payne on the core ER Productions team were Laser Programmer, Tom Vallis; Laser Technicians, Harry Boyde and Alex Oita; and Operations Manager, Gary Cornman. “We also hired four local crew who worked directly for ER Productions, as well as 10 guys from Gulf Crewing, who were excellent,” Payne
revealed. “Between the 18 of us on-site, we had plenty of labour.” Work on the project began long before the team arrived in the UAE, with every aspect of the show meticulously designed in wsywig and visualised in Syncronorm Depence2. Once the design had been finalised, the ER Productions team spent a week prepping all the kit in the UK, ready to be freighted to Dubai. “Every laser is tested and labelled with the position on-site where it’s going to be deployed,” explained Vallis. Payne added: “The work done in the warehouse really was crucial to the success of the project. Tom did a fantastic job in overseeing that.” The time spent preparing the lasers meant that once they had arrived on-site, courtesy of EFM Global Logistics – “they were excellent, as usual” – all the team needed to do was shuttle the fixtures to the appropriate locations and connect everything up. “As soon as we
connected everything and powered it up, everything worked perfectly,” Payne commented. The PM explained how the ER team had built in some extra time to the schedule to account for any delays relating to COVID-19 protocols, so they actually managed to get the system installed a day earlier than planned. “This ended up working in our favour, as it gave us time to work on reprogramming the show to make it appropriate for the tribute.” Turning what was supposed to be a celebratory and spectacular laser show into a solemn tribute with just three days’ notice was not an easy task. “It was a huge challenge, because lasers by their very nature are not really the ideal tool for a tribute or a sombre occasion such as this,” Boyde supposed. “However, we found ways to make best use of the lasers, focusing primarily on slow, static looks instead of fast, ‘stabby’ stuff.” The Technician explained
how the music for the tribute was “quite a slow and melodic piano track” which, again, is not the typical music to accompany lasers. “It wasn’t easy, but we managed to come up with something that suited it well in the end.” With lasers, lighting, video and drones all combining to form the visual elements of the tribute, Boyde explained that close collaboration between all departments was critical. “For example, when the drones were rising, I programmed twinkling patterns to complement them, then once the drones were in formation, I muted some of the lasers to make sure the drone visibility was maximised,” he described. “It was the same with lighting and video content. Everything had to match up,” Unsurprisingly, the entire show was timecoded. “That is how we like to roll with lasers,” said Vallis. “You can, of course, do things manually, but when there’s so much going on,
and when we have set audio and video elements, it’s the perfect kind of show to utilise timecode. Once it’s all locked together, everyone knows exactly what the show is going to look like.” Reflecting on the achievement, Vallis described his satisfaction at how smoothly the final product came together. “Considering the circumstances, this could very easily have turned into a bit of a nightmare,” he noted. “However, thanks to the hard work of everyone involved, everything ended up running incredibly smoothly and coming together really well.” For Boyde, breaking the Guinness World Record is something that will live long in the memory. “It is a great achievement and something that I’ll remember forever,” he smiled. “Getting to programme and operate a show on that scale was a very proud moment for me. Even though the content of the show changed at the last minute, I still think that it looked
fantastic.” Payne concluded by praising the work of HQWS. “They were excellent. Communication was fantastic throughout; they were in control of every aspect of the show, everything was planned to perfection, and they delivered everything for the event to be a success,” he commented. “I wouldn’t hesitate to do another show with them.” ‘FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE’ While the record-breaking laser show grabbed the headlines, lighting was also central to the look of the production. With this in mind, the HQWS team specifically requested Lighting Designer, Aaron Russ to head up the lighting team. Russ explained how his aim with the lighting setup was to accentuate the laser show and provide
some low-level laser-type effects of his own. To that end, the LD specified 30 SGM Q-7s and 72 Claypaky Xtylos – a fixture with its own RGB laser source. “I chose the Xtylos as they needed to cut through all the laser heads,” he commented. “So, why not fight fire with fire?” The fixtures were arranged in three even clusters – “one on top of the main world screen and the other two either side at track level,” Russ noted. “The positioning was chosen so I could fire low into the audience to make some nice fill-in looks, as the lasers were aimed high for obvious health and safety reasons.” Control meanwhile came from two MA Lighting grandMA3 full size consoles tuning in Mode 2. While the lasers were programmed in Syncronorm Depence2, Russ programmed the
lighting in wsywig, meaning that “tying the lighting in with the lasers and making it all look coherent” was the most challenging aspect of the project. However, the LD had a solution: “I used a little two-channel vision mixer that I had lying around my studio. I took both inputs and keyed them into each other on one display. Then, by moving our viewpoints around, we could overlay both systems into one harmonious big screen and see exactly how the two elements would look from the comfort of the production village.” Of course, like all departments, lighting had to adapt quickly due to the changing nature of the show from a celebration to a tribute. “All the fixtures and positioning remained the same as they were already in place ready for dress rehearsal, but we had a manic few days of offline
“I chose the Claypaky Xtylos as they needed to cut through all the laser heads... Why not fight fire with fire?” Lighting Designer, Aaron Russ.
programming in the pre-vis suite to get it done in time,” Russ commented. “We made it work though, and in the end, we were really pleased with how well the lighting and lasers worked together. We came up with some absolutely massive looks.” ‘MASTODONS OF THE INDUSTRY’ The drone show element was provided by Geoscan. Representing the Russian company’s first collaboration with HQWS, the project was a landmark moment for CCO, Andrei Golenev. “We had never worked with HQWS before, but I constantly followed them, and I believed that sooner or later we would be able to work with these mastodons of the industry,” he said.
A total of 800 drones, including 25 specially adapted pyro models, were utilised for the project. “Pyro drones are a fairly new service. The task of the pyro drones was to raise several fountains and simultaneously ignite them at a certain time,” Golenev explained, adding that they had developed a new body and mounting system for the drones specifically to cater to this requirement. “The main difficulty was that pyrotechnics have different characteristics in different countries,” he added. “However, thanks to the help of the pyrotechnic team, we found the key to solving any issues.” The final tribute saw the drones fly in several striking formations, including a galloping horse, a horse with a pyro crown, the iconic three-finger
hand gesture coined by Sheikh Mohammed, and even a portrait of the late Sheikh Hamdan. Recalling “sleepless nights” during the lastminute reprogramming of the project, Golenev praised the staying power of all involved. “It was an endless stream of negotiations,” he said. “Each team was immersed in the process of the other and tried to find the solution for all elements of the show to come together perfectly. I think we achieved what we wanted.” The CCO puts the success of the project down to “the incredible team spirit”. He commented: “It’s only thanks to teamwork that we were able to achieve this. It really motivates and gives strength, even when you are at the limit.” For Golenev, the experience was a
universally positive one. “I have not worked in a more professional and at the same time friendly atmosphere than in collaboration with HQWS,” he concluded. Jamieson added: “The Geoscan team were a pleasure to work with. Their willingness to make it work with pyro drones was what swung it for them. We’d been aware of what they do for quite some time and we were waiting for the right opportunity to be able to work with them. We’ve found a great new partner with them.” ‘A CLEAR AND STRONG MESSAGE’ The audio department for the event was headed up by Freelance Audio and Communications Consultant, Andy Jackson. The main PA system was designed using a mixture of L-Acoustics large and medium format loudspeakers, including K2s, KARAs and X12s, as well as SB18 and SB218s. “For the main Apron Area, four 12m single mast towers were placed with a total of 32 K2s and 123 SB218s,” Jackson described. “For the VIP Grandstand, four decks with three K2s and two subs were used. Finally, in the Paddock/Parade Ring, we used eight KARAs, four SB18s and eight X12s.” The Royal box system was based on two
Syva and Syva Lows as well as four 5XTs. “The systems were zoned to ensure immediate muting if required,” Jackson added. The system backbone was based on using a combination of “in-house fibre”, with the system running on Dante through Glensound DARK88ii boxes. Control came via a DiGiCo SD5 with two SD racks and two Mini Racks, while all presenter RF was Shure Axient, with Sennheiser 2050 IEMs. Jackson revealed that he made some minor adjustments to the setup, deploying additional loudspeakers to cover the Paddock areas once it became clear that the event would be a tribute featuring a poem written by Sheikh Mohammed on the day of his brother’s death. “This was due to the fact that I wanted everyone to really embrace the voiceover element of the tribute, as this carried a very clear and strong message,” he explained. “I wanted to personalise this as much as possible.” Al Qaissi added: “The poem worked very well and was incredibly powerful. It still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. It was such an emotional way to start the show.” The number one consideration for Jackson was ensuring full coverage for the socially
distanced audience while being mindful of any possible disturbance to the horses. “The system had to cover the entire grandstand, which is around 800m long, as well as all the corporate boxes. The audience was socially distanced, so, effectively, we needed to deploy a ‘full coverage’ system for around 5% of the guests,” he said. “I used a similar design to previous years, placing all the loudspeakers on the audience side of the track. This ensured that we could zone the system efficiently, avoid disturbing the horses, and also avoid any sync delay timing issues with the screen, which was over 100m away from the grandstand. It was vital that we worked closely with HQWS and Dubai Racing Club, so as to minimise any impact outside of the show.” The project came at a busy time for Jackson, who has found his skillset and vast experience in high demand since he left PRGdeltasound at the start of the year. “Since leaving PRGdeltasound in January, I have been extremely lucky to consult on various projects, including integration and live projects,” he revealed. “I’ve also taken a step back, allowing me time to focus on other interests. “The Middle East has taken steps to ensure safe and monitored events throughout the
pandemic, and I believe the region will recover faster than many others around the world.” Clearly proud of the project, Jackson concluded: “It was fantastic to see the incredible teams of creatives and technicians back out, doing what they do best – delivering shows.” ‘HATS OFF TO CT’ Creative Technology (CT) Middle East’s supply comprised a complete camera package, video playback solutions, communications and audio transport infrastructure. Due to the size of the main grandstand and track area, CT utilised the venue’s in-house fibre, SMPTE patch for all cameras, and network connectivity. The company’s team of network professionals cleaned and proved all the lines before they were used in advance of the event. For the comms, CT used a Riedel artist 64 frame as its matrix, Bolero wireless belt packs for the event’s remote users and Clear-Com HelixNet was deployed throughout the venue through Luminex 14r and 26i switches, which also carried the data for the Riedel DSP-2312 user panels. A total of 60 Motorola handheld portable radios
were used, along with eight SLR5500 repeaters to interface into the communications system. “Our new Glensound DARK88ii units enabled us to transport the audio and timecode signals to various parts of the venue from the audio control position,” explained CT Integrated Network Technical Manager, Rob Turner. Video playback was controlled through a 5K pixel base Dataton Watchout playback system and Barco E2 graphic mixer. “We also provided a seven-camera PPU package with a combination of RF and wired cameras,” said CT Head of Engineering, Tom Stocks. “Our cameras were placed remotely across the site, ensuring full coverage of the race and closing tribute.” CT also provided infrastructure and distribution to integrate video feeds to and from local broadcast trucks and drone cameras. “Remote control panels were supplied to key members of the production team, allowing them to view individual cameras and multiviewers around the site in various control locations,” Stocks added. “The final PPU mix was processed in our E2 screen management system to apply the creative masking for the IMAG screens.”
Turner concluded: “It was an honour to be part of this fitting tribute for the late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The race day and tribute went very well, and it was great to be back on site. Our client, HQWS, and Dubai Racing Club, created a safe and COVID-19 secure environment with the greatest of professionalism, and made this DWC a joy to work on.” Al Qaissi added: “Thank you to the CT team for being phenomenal with the delivery of DWC2021 on behalf of the HQWS team. Having them on-site made our lives so much easier. Hats off to CT!” Jamieson concluded by giving his final thoughts on the project. “With everything that happened in the build-up, this really could have gone either way, but we feel that the emotion that we generated was exactly what was needed and a fitting tribute to the late Sheik Hamdan. The feedback so far has been incredible. We’re really proud to have delivered this historic project.” Photos: HQWS www.hqws.com www.er-productions.com www.geoscan.aero www.ct-group.com
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NOOR RIYADH A CATALOGUE OF CREATIVES AND TECHNICAL SUPPLIERS COME TOGETHER TO CURATE SAUDI ARABIA’S FIRST-EVER CITYWIDE ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF LIGHT AND ART.
From star-studded concerts and elite sporting events, to innovative green initiatives and even new megacities, the Saudi Vision 2030 has achieved a huge amount since it was launched five years ago. Part of this ambitious vision for the future is Riyadh Art, which was launched by King Salman in 2019. Comprising more than 1,000 public art installations and supported by 10 programmes and two annual festivals, the initiative is the first of its kind in the Kingdom, with the aim of transforming Riyadh into an open-air gallery. One of the two festivals is Noor Riyadh – a citywide celebration of light and art that unites Saudi and international artists, enriched by a programme of entertainment and educational activities. The inaugural Noor Riyadh took place from 18 March to 3 April, to the backdrop of the global pandemic, which still hampers large-scale projects all over the world. “We participated in
the tender for this first edition, while the whole world was facing the lockdown and, despite the challenges, we were appointed for this beautiful project,” commented Marco Balich, Managing Partner and Chairman of Balich Worldwide Shows (BWS), describing the pitching process. “In less than a month, we put together a 1,600-page proposal, which included more than 40 artworks selected thanks to the collaboration with two renowned art curators, under the guidance of Artistic and Creative Director, Lida Castelli and I.” Once appointed to deliver the festival, the BWS team set about developing a rich programme of daily events aiming at different targets, focusing on education, family, and musical activities. “Although we were all still in lockdown around the world, our strength was being present in Riyadh with our company branch,” Balich explained. “This allowed us to proceed with feasibility studies and in-depth
analysis of the venues selected for the artworks and the activities in order to finalise the proposal then start production.” Unsurprisingly for a project of this magnitude, BWS called upon several trusted suppliers from both the local and international markets. “Some consolidated relationships included BOTW, PRG, Creative Technology (CT), Event Management, Inox and Blocks,” Balich outlined. “Others with which we collaborated for the first time included Snap for the construction of the artworks and related technologies.” BWS also engaged a range of suppliers for the logistics, staff and operations side of the delivery, including Echo Event, Aggreko, Full Cycle and Motus. “We have involved a number of suppliers from the local market, expanding our network and building strong relationships along the way,” Balich stated. Describing the involvement of trusted suppliers as “crucial for the success of complex
Left: Colored Triangles by Myriad for Riyadh, Daniel Buren. Below: BWS Managing Partner and Chairman, Marco Balich; Corona, Leo Villareal; Daydream, Robert Wilson.
“The Middle East is a very fast-changing region, bearing incredible opportunities and with an increasing interest in expanding the entertainment, art and culture markets.” Marco Balich, Managing Partner and Chairman, BWS.
operations like this one”, Balich explained why it was so vital to have a wide network of professionals that could be trusted to live up to the company’s own high standards. “It guarantees you professionalism and competence, reliability both in terms of quality and timing,” he stated. “The consolidated relationship allows us to have certainties of understanding and the needed flexibility to face unexpected events such as last-minute changes or emergencies.” And when you’re delivering a citywide festival with artists and technical personnel being flown in from all over the world during a
global pandemic, one thing you can be sure of is the need for last-minute changes. “We faced various challenges,” Balich reflected. “Some were implicit and expected within the complexity and dimension of the project – especially considering the tight deadlines made even more challenging by the tightened restrictions due to COVID-19.” In fact, the first major challenge came right at the start of the process, when the venue’s feasibility study was hampered due to the COVID-19 testing protocols and flight ban in place in the Kingdom at the time. “The feasibility study was vital for us to define the best
allocation of the artworks,” Balich recalled. “It was fundamental that we already had a small team on the ground that could liaise with our technical directors, engineers and creative team. Thanks to our previous knowledge of the territory, the stable presence of part of our team in the country and the involvement of our network of local resources, both creative and technical, we were able to successfully carry out all the checks and make all the decisions necessary to advance with the project phases as per the timeline.” During the course of the project, travel restrictions were tightened further still and
“This was an incredibly satisfying project for me on a personal level because I made every design decision, and it was my personal artistic vision that we brought to fruition.” Koert Vermeulen, Managing Partner, ACTLD.
additional COVID-19 measures were implemented within Saudi Arabia in order to safeguard the health of the population. “This required us to adapt the project,” Balich revealed. “While we reinforced the security measures to allow the public to live the experience safely, we also converted those activities that involved gatherings into digital experiences.” Yet despite all the challenges, the BWS team, along with its extensive network of suppliers, provided a final production to be proud of. “The final output is a set of truly very diversified contents, both as artworks proposals and live and digital contents,” Balich reasoned. “The greatest satisfaction came from the large public participation, with more than 310,000 visitors, and from the recognition and appreciation of both the offering and the quality of the delivery.” While the pandemic has, of course, impacted BWS, the opportunity to bring Noor Festival to life was a huge boost, adding to the company’s growing list of landmark projects in the Middle
East. “We have been operating in the region for the past five years – in the UAE with HQ Worldwide Shows and in Saudi Arabia with BWS-KSA,” Balich explained. “The Middle East is a very fast-changing region, bearing incredible opportunities and with an increasing interest in expanding the entertainment, art and culture markets. There is a lot of attention on the creation of long-term projects that could actively improve the quality of life. This creates original ideas for new businesses and motivates a large number of new professionals that we are happy to nurture, bringing our international expertise.” STAR IN MOTION One of the headline attractions of Noor Riyadh was undoubtedly Koert Vermeulen’s Star in Motion. A five-tonne shining star suspended in the negative space of the 300m Kingdom Tower, the installation illuminated the skies above Riyadh, all while subconsciously underscoring the festival’s theme: ‘Under One Sky’. As is often
the case on creative projects such as this, the best ideas tend to be the ones that spring to mind almost immediately. “I came up with the idea within 10 minutes of speaking to the client,” revealed Vermeulen, whose company, ACTLD, was asked by BWS to come up with a concept for the project. “We had a Zoom call around May 2020 in which they told me that they were going to pitch for the project and that there were three potential locations,” he explained. “The first location they briefed me on was Kingdom Tower. I’ve worked in Riyadh a few times before, so I know the Kingdom Tower and have even visited the sky bridge there. It’s a very cool location.” Immediately, Vermeulen’s first thought was “we have to do something with the hole inside the structure”, and after exploring the festival’s theme, everything fell into place. “Of course, we all associate the sky with stars, so, plucking one of those stars out of the night sky and putting it in the middle of the opening in the tower came
as a natural idea.” BWS were so taken with the idea that they didn’t even feel the need to brief him on the other potential locations. “So, we created a visual representation of the concept and they included it in their proposal,” he recalled. Once BWS won the tender, they got back in touch with ACTLD to take the project onto the next stage. “This was around September time,” Vermeulen recalled. “It was at this point that we began to go into more detail with the specifics of the technical design.” The original design saw the star measuring in at a hefty 9m diameter. However, after consulting with an engineering firm, it became clear that something smaller would be required. “They told us that quite simply, it was too big and too heavy,” Vermeulen revealed. With this in mind, the design was scaled down slightly to 6.2m diameter. “From then, the project took a very technical nature.” ACTLD commissioned Belgian production specialist Fisheye to fabricate the structure. “They manufactured all the parts over Christmas and New Year, and by the end of January, we were ready to do a test build.” A vital stage in the process, the test build saw Fisheye construct the star in its entirety, before taking it apart to be shipped. “We always make
sure that the test build is done in exactly the same way as it’s going to happen on-site, so there can be no surprises,” Vermeulen commented. “We shipped it over to Riyadh in 317 pieces. That was always going to be the most sensible way of transporting it due to its size and weight.” Size and weight were also key factors when it came to choosing the right moving head fixtures to adorn the points of the star. “We needed something lightweight but that would give off a powerful beam effect,” Vermeulen recalled. He specified the SGM G-7 BeaST, using 16 of the fixtures to create the effect. “I felt confident in this fixture because it’s IP67-rated, which is vital to stand up to the kind of tough desert conditions that we would be putting it through. It’s a relatively small fixture, but the beam that comes out of it is beautiful. Many other moving fixtures require a lot of optical groups to be put together in order to get to a beam, but with the parabolic reflector on the G-7 BeaST, you get a lot of illumination for the energy it uses. There’s also a little strobe element on top of the fixture, which gave me a secondary beam and an opportunity to light things while the beams were shining.” The body of the star was adorned with 520m of flexible LED strip, which was controlled using a
DiGidot LED controller. “It’s a clever little box that works perfectly,” Vermeulen said of the controller. “You can push DMX or Art-Net through it, and it will figure it out. That certainly helped control all those pixels and bring it together to create the kind of mood that we were looking for.” An MA Lighting grandMA2 controlled the moving heads, while LED content was programmed using Smode. “It’s a fantastic package,” Vermeulen said of the software. “It gives many more options than the other pixel control software out there. It gives us the opportunity to work in a real 3D environment and it’s even possible to bring in interactive elements such as interfacing directly with a camera, which can be used in the programming without the need for third-party software. It’s also very reasonably priced, which always helps,” he laughed. Vermeulen and his team programmed one hour of movements for the star’s lighting – with a one-minute, high-dynamic sequence that took place on the hour every hour, toned-down sequences every 15 minutes and the remaining time filled with more organic movements. “I translated the hourly high-dynamic sequence as representing the creation and demise of a star, starting with the big bang, before
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becoming a giant white star and finally exploding to become a black hole,” he commented. “The timing of the sequences meant that the star became almost like a clock tower.” Star in Motion is the latest in a long line of ACTLD projects in Saudi Arabia and Vermeulen has witnessed a huge shift in the country since he first worked there some 12 years ago. “It’s like a completely different country now,” he expressed. “The leadership is placing a great deal of importance on the entertainment and tourism industries and I think that is a very positive factor that points to a bright future for the country.” As the Founder and Managing Partner of ACTLD, Vermeulen increasingly finds his role to be more managerial rather than design-led. However, for this project, he was happy to report that he pored over every intricacy of the design.
“We have a large team of 22 designers at ACTLD, which means that I am increasingly surrounded by very high-level, senior designers who have grown with me to this level. That means I often find that I am supervising rather than designing,” he explained. “However, I don’t want to forget how to design, so I make sure to take on one or two projects a year. “This was an incredibly satisfying project to me on a personal level because I made every design decision, and it was my personal artistic vision that we brought to fruition. It makes me happy because I haven’t lost my touch!” ‘A SPECTACULAR ICON FOR THE CITY’ With the star designed and constructed, all that remained was the not inconsiderable task of raising and suspending it some 257m high in the
open space of the Kingdom Tower. The main contractor appointed to the impressive feat was Unusual Rigging, which in turn engaged specialist access company, James Longrigg Rope Access; rope supplier, Marlow Ropes; as well as rope access equipment suppliers, Lyon Work & Rescue and Abaris International. “Ollie Green [BWS Technical Director] popped into our office to see if we’d be interested in the project,” explained Unusual Rigging Project Manager, Adam Sutton, when asked how the company came to be involved. “Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we were unable to do a site visit. However, Ollie had already done a recce, so we worked on the rigging design based on that.” Unusual’s design team and production rigging department worked in conjunction with Green and BWS’s independent structural
engineer, Rasti Bartek from Cundall. “We had to work quickly and efficiently in the design and fabrication process of all the heavy-duty bracketry and Dyneema, which was supplied by Marlow Ropes,” said Sutton. “Load cells were also an issue due to short notice in order to make the freight shipment dates and taking into account customs delays due to Brexit, but we eventually sourced a system from JCM Load Monitoring.” Sourcing and shipping the specialist equipment wasn’t the only challenge, as just a day before the team was set to travel, one of the crew tested positive for COVID-19. “He had to self-isolate, and it meant that I was a man down for a couple of days,” Sutton recalled. “Thankfully, we’d built in some redundancy to the schedule for any unforeseen circumstances like this, so we were able to deliver on time.” After spending two weeks of quarantine in Bahrain, Sutton and his team finally got on-site, leaving around four weeks to complete the load-
in. Weighing in at five-and-a-half tonnes, the star was lifted temporarily on six, two-tonne Liftket electric chain hoists. It was then transferred onto its permanent suspension points and held using four 80mm Dyneema ropes, each with a break strength of 290 tonnes. “The cables needed to be this large due to the wind load on the star and the wind tunnel effect of the building,” Sutton explained. “We then had to tension the star down to stop it swaying in the wind.” This was done using an additional two 80mm Dyneema ropes connected to two 16:1 rigged Tirfor assemblies. “This gave us a total of 50 tonnes in tension to stop the star from swaying in the wind.” At Unusual Rigging, health and safety is always the first consideration on any project and this one was no exception. “Even before thinking about having to work at 300m and the complications that come with that, we first needed to consider how to transport equipment
weighing several tonnes up two flights of stairs. One case alone contained two ‘I’ beams that weighed in at 750kg each,” Sutton revealed. “We had invested in a stair lifter to drive some of the beams upstairs electronically. However, some of the beams were too large and heavy, so we had to come up with some rigging solutions on the stairwells – for example, groundsupported truss, chain hoists and motors. This was one of the biggest challenges.” Once all the equipment had been transferred to the work area, the Unusual Rigging team built a custom platform for the Fisheye crew to work from safely. “We needed to ensure that all crew had a safe and stable place from which to work,” Sutton underlined. “For the health and safety of both the crew and the members of the public below, the platform was constructed with a double-height handrail and debris netting. As the star was built, the weather and wind speed were monitored
constantly, and appropriate action was taken whenever it was required.” With the star safely rigged, the Unusual Rigging team remained in Riyadh for the duration of the festival, so they were on hand to de-rig once it came to an end, which took just 10 days. “The Kingdom Tower is the focal point of Riyadh and Star in Motion was very much the focal point of the festival,” Sutton concluded. “It was a spectacular icon for the city and we’re very proud to have been part of the project.” ‘EVERYTHING RAN FAULTLESSLY’ Another standout installation of Noor Riyadh was Daniel Canogar’s Bifurcation. The artwork consisted of electric-like bolts of light that zigzagged up and down the Zebra Building of the King Abdullah Financial District. Connected to the internet, it used storm-tracking data to react in real time to thunderstorms happening around the globe. BWS engaged Snap Productions to handle the technical delivery of the project. Rupert
Morse, Creative at Snap, explained the specifics of the project. “It was quite complex,” he began. “The design studio would usually map with video, but on this occasion, they wanted to implement lasers. That’s where we came in.” According to Morse, the real-time aspect of the installation was the biggest challenge. “At any one time, there are hundreds of lightning strikes taking place all over the world. We needed to find a way of taking that data and translating it into laser mapping on the building,” he recalled. While Pangolin isn’t normally able to implement that kind of real-time data, Morse found a clever solution. “I got in touch with Pangolin and asked for the SDK, which meant that the design studio could programme directly into Pangolin itself. They wrote a programme in C++, which took two points from the top of the building and then found the shortest route down the building’s façade to the floor – much like real lightning. We built in some variables to stop it going down the same route every time.” A total of 10 lasers were deployed, with much of the
projection done from floor level. “This meant that we had a very steep angle, so it was a challenge to get the telemetry right,” Morse recalled. And that wasn’t the only challenge, as the nature of the site meant that the usual method of cabling could not be used. Instead, the Snap team utilised airFiber 24. “It’s basically a 24 GHz pointto-point radio system, which has a maximum range of up to 13km,” Morse explained. “We had two sets of those, which fed back to a central tent. This negated the need to go between sites all the time. It worked really well.” BirdDog NDI cameras were also used to capture the images in low-light conditions. “All this was made possible because airFiber runs so quickly with next to no latency,” Morse furthered. “A couple of years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to do this. It’s only during the past year that the technology has made a huge leap forward.” The show ran from 6pm to 1am every evening and while the Snap team remained on-site in case of any issues, Morse was glad to report that everything went off without a hitch.
When the Moon is Full, Zaman Jassim; Tribute to Ali Alruzaiza; Bifurcation, Daniel Canogar.
“The programme had a failsafe where if we were ever to lose internet data, then it would take the past 30 minutes of data and replay the sequence until the connection returned, but thankfully it wasn’t needed, and everything ran faultlessly.” ‘VISIONS COME TO FRUITION’ Creative Technology (CT) Middle East provided a range of audio, video and lighting solutions across the event. Among the installations the company contributed to were: The Mind Ship Exodus by Muhannad Shono; Tribute to Ali Alruzaiza at Masmak Fortress; as well as When the Moon is Full by Zaman Jassim, and Tribute to Mohammed Alsaleem, both at the King Fahad National Library. “CT provided a variety of high-brightness Panasonic projectors, disguise media servers, and signal distribution across multiple canvases ranging from 1,765 sq m projection surfaces to art sculptures varying in size and shape,”
commented Project Manager, Dan Hughes. “The audio across the installations consisted of a range of d&b audiotechnik speakers and subs, and multiple handheld radio mic kits, all controlled from Yamaha QL1 digital desks. Robe fixtures and Avolites control provided solutions for all the ambient lighting around the installations.” Tribute to Mohammed Alsaleem included a 3D-mapped projection onto the King Fahad National Library. “We supported the whole workflow along the way, scanned the building and consulted with the client in the lead-up to the client delivering the content,” explained Hughes. “We also provided an audio system to support audio playback integrated into the set, as well as area lighting for the square to allow people to see where they were walking.” CT worked directly with The Mind Ship Exodus artist, Muhannad Shono, providing an audio and projection solution for the piece. The company
also provided projection for When the Moon is Full, as well as a disguise suite with a detailed projection onto the façade of Masmak Fortress for Tribute to Ali Alruzaiza. While CT’s delivery was spread across several locations, the company handled this by sending three separate teams to the project, with Giorgio Devecchi, Tom Stocks and Quintin Posthumus joining Hughes on-site. “The whole CT team enjoyed being part of the first-ever citywide festival of light and art in Saudi Arabia,” Hughes concluded. “It was fantastic to see so many artists’ visions come to fruition.” Photos: Riyadh Art, ACTLD, BWS www.noorriyadh.sa www.actld.com www.balichws.com www.snap.ae www.unusual.co.uk www.ct-group.com
UAEFA PRESIDENT’S CUP FINAL A COMMITTED TEAM OF SUPPLIERS BATTLE THE HEAT OF AL AIN AS FANS ARE WELCOMED BACK INTO A UAE STADIUM FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE START OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
Taking place at Al Ain’s Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, The President’s Cup Final saw the long-awaited return of fans to UAE stadiums, with around 1,000 socially distant supporters being treated to a spectacular show – both on and off the pitch. While the on-field action saw Shabab Al Ahli run out 2-1 winners over rivals Al Nasr thanks to two contentious penalty decisions, the impressive pre- and post-match celebrations came thanks to a huge team of live events professionals. Event Producer Done+Dusted assembled a team of trusted suppliers, with a mixture of international and local companies coming together to deliver the event. The overseas contingent included the likes of Progressive Productions, Stadium FX, PixMob, and NEWSUBSTANCE, while the extensive lineup
of Middle East-based companies included Encore (previously known as eclipse), Creative Technology (CT) Middle East, FLASH ART, Matrix Laser, Gulf Crewing Company, Al Laith, Aggreko, Gallowglass Health & Safety and Dan Bolton Creative Management Agency. The main lighting rig was designed by Nick Collier of Stadium FX, with Encore providing equipment and technical support. “From a technical point of view, the project was straightforward,” began Encore Project Manager, Andre Du Toit. “However, on a human level, it was scarily exciting to be back in a stadium producing an event under the current conditions.” Du Toit led a “small but efficient” team to create an immersive lighting system inside the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. The main rig comprised 37 Robe Robin BMFL Blades, 31 SGM
P5s, 32 Martin by Harman Viper Profiles, 32 Claypaky Mythos, and 30 A.leda B-EYE K10s, along with two 4,000K Lycian Followspots. Control came from two MA Lighting grandMA2 full size consoles and a grandMA2 light. “We used the Robe BMFL Blades for front lighting alongside the followspots, which we had doing beams at high stadium levels to create a background light,” described Encore’s Head of Lighting – UAE, Sam Connolly. The SGM P5s meanwhile were used as a wash/strobe light around a large LED screen at pitchside. “These created a wide spectrum of colours, which we could play around with during the pre- and postmatch ceremonies,” he recalled. The screen was further enhanced by a set of Martin by Harman Viper Profiles, which were placed around it to create added depth. “This was
a challenging aspect of the build, as we had to ensure that we had enough height to clear the LED screen while also not blocking any of the existing house lights that were focused on the pitch,” Connolly added. As well as utilising some of the company’s extensive inventory of moving lights, the Encore team was also able to connect into the stadium lighting system, both internally and externally. “This allowed us to control an extra 600 LED RGB lights outside as well as an extra 300 stadium floodlights internally,” Connolly revealed, going on to describe how the use of a Luminex DMX MkII system ensured that the primary function of the floodlights – illuminating the pitch – would never be impacted. “The system allowed us to create snapshots in case we lost network or power during the show,” he recalled. “If that was to happen, the house lights would always default to being on.” Connolly explained how the team was able to monitor the network from BOH, keeping track of power consumption constantly throughout the install and on show day. “We utilised our newly purchased smart distros, which were connected to the network and allowed us to view our total load consumption and alerted us if there were
any issues.” With the event taking place in the inland city of Al Ain, away from the cooling coastal breeze that Dubai benefits from, the heat was a constant challenge. “The sun baked the scaffolding so hot that even with thick gloves, it began to become an unsafe environment to work in,” recalled Du Toit. “This meant that we had to restructure our plan to work mostly at night instead of through the hottest times of the day. The night shifts worked out very well.” Aside from the heat, Du Toit reported a “smooth and simple” delivery – something he puts down to the competence of all involved. “I don’t need to micromanage,” he stated. “We simply set the agenda in the morning and then the team is busy getting the job done. We set high standards and nothing we do ever falls below those standards. That makes it easy for me as a PM.” And this culture of trust extended throughout the wider team. “It was great to work with Done+Dusted. Largely they just left us to do our thing, because they know that we’ll do everything safely and in the proper way. “Seeing the closing ceremony, the lifting of the trophy and everything falling into place was fantastic,” Du Toit concluded. “It was so satisfying to be back to in-person events again.” Connolly
agreed: “Everyone was so happy to be back onsite doing an event. It was a pleasure to work with Done+Dusted, and we’re looking forward to working with them again in the future.” ‘A NEW WAY TO DO LIGHT’ As is now customary for showpiece football matches in the UAE, special effects were a key element of the visual spectacle. FLASH ART delivered a rooftop display of close-proximity pyrotechnic effects during the pre-match presentation, as well as the all-important cuplifting moment. “We set up a line of 60 equidistant firing positions around the stadium’s outer circumference, with each position around 9m apart,” revealed FLASH ART’s Senior Project Manager, Piotr Szablowski. In all, 2,400 pieces of Spanish single-shot close-proximity effects were fired within a window of just two minutes and 20 seconds, with the display digitally controlled from a single position just under the roof, on the VIP boxes side of the audience. Szablowski explained FLASH ART’s process when it came to designing the show. “We design our displays in a 3D environment, which includes a model of the stadium wherever possible,” he
commented. “This software almost automatically produces all the information required on the ground by our technical team, as well as firing scripts needed for the controlling panels.” While the “brutal” weather conditions made daytime working difficult, for the FLASH ART team, it wasn’t simply a case of working through the night. “The fact that a large portion of our work was performed at a height meant that darkness is very unwelcome from a health and safety point of view,” said Szablowski. “This meant that we had to keep to a very tight schedule and make sure that all of our targets were met. Luckily for us, Done+Dusted and the HBZ Stadium crew did everything they could to facilitate our efforts.” Also weighing in on the SFX front was Abu Dhabi-based Matrix Laser, which was tasked with creating a ‘hero effect’, using specialised
backlit illumination for each player’s entrance before kick-off. “The concept was to have a show-stopping moment right at the start of the event, with a special moment for each player,” explained Managing Director, Michael Hilgemann. To achieve this, six 20W RGB lasers and four haze machines were placed behind the entrance to the players’ tunnel to create the backlit effect. Since the ‘hero entrance’ was not part of the initial concept, the Matrix Laser team was brought in just three days prior to the event. “We were incredibly excited to bring this vision to life, even at such short notice,” he recalled. “There was no time for a site visit, so all decisions regarding setup were made on the day of load-in. However, with significant experience in the events industry, this didn’t cause any problems. The bonus of working with a dedicated, professional and flexible team at
Done+Dusted resulted in a smooth process all round.” According to Hilgemann, the biggest consideration was the health and safety around the placement of the lasers. “The utmost care was taken to ensure that no lasers would strike anyone in the tunnel or any of the cameras that were positioned inside the tunnel and around the stadium,” he recalled. “We worked in conjunction with the production and camera crews to ensure that the lasers were placed and programmed correctly.” The visual appeal of the stadium was accentuated yet further by PixMob’s innovative NOVA pixel, which illuminated the empty seats. “NOVA is a new way to do light. It’s as bright as 10 PixMob wristbands but has a battery life to make enough rehearsals for even the most complex of shows,” stated PixMob President, Jean-Oliver Dalphond. “Abu Dhabi was the first international
use of this innovation designed during the COVID-19 shutdown to illuminate empty venues.” ‘BRUTAL PHYSICAL LABOUR’ Creative Technology (CT) Middle East provided over 500 sq m of LED, a d&b audiotechnik J Series line array, as well as a fully redundant video and networking system for all show-critical systems, including media servers, screen management, LED processing and core networking. “We used two Riedel Artist frames, running in the same Net space. Connected to these were 36 Riedel Bolero wireless belt packs, with an antenna system covering the entire stadium and surrounding practice fields,” revealed Integrated Networks Technical Manager, Rob Turner. Eight Riedel 2312 panels were used for operators, and Clear-Com HelixNet beltpacks were used for outlying operators/technicians. “Four channels of Motorola SLR5500 repeaters were used to interface four of the channels from the DP4801e radios used onsite,” Turner added. “A stadium-wide ring of Luminex switches carried all communication and timecode data.” Timecode displays used were from Evertz. “The biggest challenge was the size
of the LED screen,” commented Senior Project Manager, Dan Hughes. “However, a collaborative effort from CT, our client and other contractors resulted in a seamless delivery onsite.” One such contractor was Al Laith, which took up the challenge of creating an appropriate structure to support the 18-tonne screen. “We were challenged to build an extremely large LED screen support within the grandstand of the stadium,” began Project Manager, Jozef Hrinko. “The final support structure we delivered was 34m by 21m.” The structure was built using Ring Lock Scaffold and 21 l-Beam Cantilevers. “We also used 64 tonnes of concrete ballast to counter the weight of the screen and to satisfy our Structural Engineers’ requirements,” Hrinko revealed. Likening the process to “passing the baton in a relay”, Hrinko described how the project was taken from concept to creation. “First, we focused on understanding the requirements of the client, followed by a design and engineering phase,” he said. Once the design was approved, the company went through a detailed scope review and developed a method statement with HSE considerations. “The operational phases required arranging equipment, logistics and
delivery and crew management,” he added. “Once the structure was built, we monitored the rigging processes of the LED screen to ensure crossover was managed safely, and once the install was complete, we monitored weather conditions and the structure in accordance with our temporary structures policy.” With just three days to complete the build, the Al Laith team had to be on top of its game. “In addition to the tight time frame, another challenge was positioning the 64 tonnes of ballast to its final location, which unfortunately had to be done through brutal physical labour,” highlighted Hrinko. “Typically, we have the luxury of a forklift or crane, but as we were building within the grandstand, access did not allow for machinery to be used.” As ever, safety was of paramount importance, and Hrinko was happy to report that the entire team conducted the project without incident. “Safety is a core value of our organisation and we spend lots of time training our teams through our in-house certified training school,” he commented. “We were truly humbled to be chosen by Done+Dusted, who managed this prestigious
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“As soon as the final whistle was blown, we had just 12 minutes to put the stage together in the middle of the pitch, which was a huge challenge.” Dan Bolton, Associate Producer
project really well and we were proud to deliver on time and within budget.” Overall HSE for the project was overseen by Gallowglass Health & Safety. “With this being the first sporting event of the year to have crowds – albeit in a limited capacity – Gallowglass worked very closely alongside Done+Dusted, the venue and UAEFA to make sure that all possible controls were implemented and adhered to,” outlined Safety Advisor, David Armstrong. “From arriving on-site for the build, to the final, then the de-rig, the safety and welfare of all staff and suppliers as well as the general public was maintained.” Describing how a rigorous COVID-19 strategy was implemented – “and tweaked, when required” – Armstrong praised the team spirit of all involved to ensure that the event went off without a hitch. “I could not have asked for more support than I was given from all stakeholders,”
he reminisced. “This event went smoothly thanks to the remarkable team unity of everyone involved, for which I am truly grateful.” EXTREME TEMPERATURES Aggreko was brought into the project to provide a fail-proof temporary power solution for the technical show power, site power, as well as air-conditioning power. “We also provided an airconditioning solution in an outdoor area for spot cooling and for cooling technical equipment,” stated Events Project Manager, John Devine. With various elements of the show all requiring power, Aggreko supplied multiple generator farms to cater to each, including four synchronised 400kVA generators for technical show power, two synchronised 125kVA generators for BOH and charging for the drone show, and a further four synchronised 125kVA
generators for air conditioning power. “Secondary power consisted of specialised event distribution units, industrial oil-resistant and flame-retardant HO7RN-F cable, and heavy-duty cable ramp protection,” Devine added. With the extreme temperatures on-site, air conditioning was vital to keep both the crew and the BOH equipment cool enough to function properly and safely. “With most of the event being outdoors, it’s impossible to cool the entire area,” Devine acknowledged. “The best option was to provide spot cooling, using 5t split units, which worked well.” The generator farm location for show power and air conditioning power also provided a challenge, requiring the use of forklifts rather than the usual method of cranes. “This was because we had to position our generators under the framework of the outer structure of
the stadium, which was very tight and had acute gaps,” Devine explained. “It meant that the loadin was a very slow process, so we didn’t damage any of the stadium structure.” Aggreko’s Site Project Supervisor, Harry Kumar managed the load-in schedule, working alongside Done+Dusted and the site management team. “Harry arranged all the equipment arrival, labour and crew times as well as the daily works,” Devine reported, also singling out Engineer, Ryan Basilan for his excellent work on the project. “I could mention lots of names as this was a team effort, from our depots in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to organising the equipment and getting it to site, along with the on-site team who delivered the event.” Describing the working relationship with Done+Dusted as “a dream”, Devine looked back on the project fondly. “This event carried huge amounts of kit, and the team pulled together really well to make it a success,” he recalled. “The client knew the effort that was needed to make this event happen with the restrictions we had to work with, but they were very understanding and supportive throughout.” In addition to the large technical equipment requirements, a huge human workforce was also called upon, with crewing provided by Gulf Crewing Company (GCC) and volunteers from
Al Ain football club also mucking in to help with various elements of the show such as the flag reveal. Dan Bolton of Dan Bolton Creative Management Agency was brought in as an Associate Producer by Done+Dusted to work with both the volunteers and the staging team at Prolab CSM, which designed and produced the stage and managed all the branding elements. “As soon as the final whistle was blown, we had just 12 minutes to put the stage together in the middle of the pitch, which was a huge challenge,” Bolton recalled. With UAE Royalty in attendance, there was no room for delay. “It was a case of liaising with the client, suppliers and all the various stakeholders to facilitate the smooth running of the project and make sure that everyone was on the same page.” With the stage being assembled in situ and nothing allowed to be wheeled onto the pitch, everything had to be carried by hand. “The GCC team were amazing,” Bolton commented. “We were rehearsing outside in the heat, which must have been exhausting, but when it came to show time, they were full of energy and they even got the stage up faster than in rehearsal. Without them, we simply could not have done the show.” “It was an immense privilege to provide the crewing to support an event of this magnitude, particularly with Royal guests in attendance,”
added GCC Managing Director, Karen Beaton. “A seamless production from start to finish, we are incredibly proud of our boys, who readily arose to meet the precise requirements and time constraints. It was an incredible achievement.” Reflecting on the project, Bolton praised Done+Dusted for the way the show was managed. “The whole team was a pleasure to work with,” he said. “The way they knitted the project together was fantastic. It was a great project to be involved with.” He reserved the last word for Staging Manager, Rebecca Bryant. “Rebecca and her team of locally based stage managers supported all aspects of the staging throughout the show and ceremonies,” he concluded. “Without their work, my role would have been impossible.” Photos: FLASH ART, Done+Dusted, Encore www.uaefa.ae www.aggreko.com www.allaith.com www.ct-group.com www.danbolton.me www.encore-emea.com www.flashart.com www.gallowglasshs.ae www.gulfcrewing.com www.matrix-laser.com www.pixmob.com
IN THE FIELD
IN THE FIELD: NEWTEK TRICASTER 2 ELITE 3MONKEYS’ RUDI BUCHNER AND NEWTEK’S STEFAN WIELAND EXTOL THE VIRTUES OF THE NEWTEK TRICASTER 2 ELITE VIDEO PRODUCTION PLATFORM.
3Monkeys has never professed to be an AV rental company, but with the company’s recent investment in NewTek’s TriCaster 2 Elite video production platform, Managing Partner, Rudi Buchner, increasingly finds himself fielding the question, ‘is the company planning to reposition itself?’ “The answer is no!” Buchner stated simply. “With more and more jobs being produced as hybrid events, we saw that it is not efficient to recreate our control room on site for each production – it requires too much setup and integration time with a huge staff and equipment footprint on the ground.” Citing what he calls ‘the Monkey paradigm’, which includes “editorial, content, program and design”, Buchner explained that the TriCaster was the ideal solution to boost the company’s hybrid event offering. “Reliability, flexibility and an efficient toolset is the foundation,” he noted. Born in the 1980s, NewTek is best known for its TriCaster live multicamera video production
systems, NDI software, and legacy products including LightWave 3D animation software and the Video Toaster. In 2019, NewTek and NDI were acquired by Vizrt Group. “The NewTek, NDI, and Vizrt brands share a kindred spirit for softwaredefined visual storytelling and video productionover-IP,” commented NewTek META Regional Sales Manager, Stefan Wieland. “Together, they make up the most powerful and forwardthinking software company serving the broadcast and professional AV markets in the world today.” At the start of the year, NewTek introduced its new Partner System and the company identified 3Monkeys as an ideal organisation to extend an invitation to. “When I contacted 3Monkeys, they gave us the opportunity to present to them,” Wieland recalled. “Two days later, we presented them with a free training session and finally Rudi called to place an order. We are very happy and extremely proud that 3Monkeys is now part of the NDI
world and a fully trained and certified NewTek user.” Allowing video, audio, and metadata signals to be shared between devices on standard IP networks in real time, NDI is one of the most widely adopted software-defined IP video standards. “It allows anyone in the world to quickly and easily share live video and audio with anyone else over a network at high speed and high quality with low latency,” Wieland noted. “NDI is available and in use today on billions of connected devices worldwide.” Describing the software as “a driving force in the recent swing toward hybrid events”, Wieland explained why NDI-enabled products such as those offered by NewTek and Vizrt are so useful when it comes to hybrid. “They make it easier and more effective for people to connect video over IP,” he stated. “Both Vizrt and NewTek products are highly NDI-enabled, along with hundreds of other third-party products in use by millions of people today. Vizrt’s live production
IN THE FIELD
platforms are field proven in cloud environments for producing a diverse array of events. As a result, what we’re seeing can be characterised more by a blending or blurring of the lines between traditional broadcast, professional AV, and consumer-level video technologies.” When it comes to NewTek’s flagship TriCaster 2 Elite, there are few bigger fans of the technology than Buchner. “The system offers high flexibility when it comes to the configuration of video and audio inputs and outputs over multiple signal standards, including remote protocols and remote caller management,” he commented, highlighting “the integration of Adobe Cloud products, Animation Buffers, Virtual Set Editor, LiveSet, LiveText, DataLink” as among his favourite features. “The fact that there is one central unit managing the production but we’re still able to spread the operation over multiple people is also incredibly advantageous, as it means we can maintain a small footprint and a consolidated production platform while having specialists doing specialised jobs, which ensures production quality.” Another important attribute for 3Monkeys is the integration with the company’s existing Ventuz-based real-time 3D infrastructure. Buchner explained that this, combined with the fact that the company’s signal needs have
changed over the past year, was key to the purchasing decision. “There are still remote callers, we still need virtual environments to hold the production together, and we still have to produce and/or manage supporting assets like 2D and 3D computer graphics, presentations, videos, and images to fill the broadcast with life,” he revealed. “The additional factor for storytelling on the broadcast is the live cameras onsite – possibly more than you’d usually use on a physical event,” he continued. “It was also important for us to have NDI, SRT and RTMP input/output. The Tricaster 2 Elite ticked those boxes and became the product of choice to extend our service portfolio as a link of what we did in the physical space and now the virtual space.” Having taken delivery of the kit at the end of April, the first task for the 3Monkeys team was to integrate TriCaster into its existing production workflows, from 2D to 3D, to motion graphic designers, Ventuz artists and producers. “In parallel, we had to train our audio, video, playback operators, directors and show callers on the device,” Buchner commented, recalling a training exercise where the company recreated an event it had produced earlier in the year. “We found out that we can reduce our footprint from seven racks on site to just two,” he reported.
“We plan to start operating with TriCaster on live projects by the beginning of June.” Having reinvented itself to survive the effects of the pandemic, 3Monkeys is now among the region’s major players when it comes to virtual and hybrid events. “Despite this successful transition, we knew that we had to stay agile to keep us going, so we started developing a new service portfolio under the headline ‘Hybrid Solutions – Webcast Reloaded’ at the end of 2020,” Buchner explained. “We started talking about hybrid events with our friends and colleagues at AV rental companies to identify synergies and define requirements, aiming at high-quality output efficiently produced for physical and remote audiences. TriCaster is the last piece of the puzzle.” For the Vizrt Group meanwhile, the future looks bright. “The impact NDI is having on visual storytelling is only just beginning,” Wieland concluded. “The pandemic has greatly accelerated the adoption of NDI as the world pivoted to video to stay connected. Look to a future where video is easily shared from anywhere to anywhere, opening creative opportunities that previously did not exist.” Photos: 3Monkeys www.3monkeys.net www.newtek.com
AFRICA PULSE – CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR GEARHOUSE SPLITBEAM SUPPLIES A FULL TECHNICAL SETUP TO THE TOUR-READY THEATRICAL PRODUCTION. Finding international fame on America’s Got Talent in 2019, the Ndlovu Youth Choir performed its brand-new production, Africa Pulse – Celebrating the Ndlovu Youth Choir, on 1 May at Montecasino’s Teatro, Johannesburg. Conceptualised and produced by Showtime Management, the show draws upon the touching real-life story of the choir, many of whom are orphans who grew up without electricity or running water. With the full technical setup supplied by Gearhouse Splitbeam, the production is now set up to easily tour across the globe once travel restrictions are lifted and theatres reopen. “We’ve been fighting, pretty much like everybody else, to survive this pandemic mess we find ourselves in,” said Alistair Kilbee, Managing Director of Gearhouse Splitbeam and Technical Director for the production. “This was the first large-scale event Splitbeam had worked on, besides working
on the Phantom of the Opera in Asia during the pandemic, and the first time we could get back into a theatre in over a year.” The show was made possible through funding granted by the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) under the auspices of the National Arts Council, and while limited wages could be paid to each person on-site, Splitbeam pulled out all stops, generously supplying an abundance of equipment including an MA lighting grandMA2, Vari-Lite VLZ and VL3000 Spots, Robe lighting, Prolyte Trussing, Clear-Com FreeSpeak, and a DiGiCo SD7 amongst other gear. The project was initiated by Kilbee, who was stuck in quarantine in Taiwan when he heard about the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme. “I emailed Hazel Feldman, Director at Showtime Management, and suggested that we put on a show to try and get these funds to help crew and performers,” he described. With a week
to apply, Showtime’s Matthew Counihan, who also directed the production alongside Lesedi Job, and Splitbeam submitted their proposal. “The whole point of the production was to generate some income for people who hadn’t worked for a year,” said Kilbee. “They were so excited to be back. Everyone had a great vibe, and the general feeling was that of a family that had been brought back together.” With the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme funding used to pay staff, proceeds from ticket sales were allocated to Noah’s Art, a theatre food parcel charity assisting the live events industry. While the show was a success in its own right, it was part of a much bigger plan. “We wanted to design and test a show that could tour internationally and as a result, we now have the riders, the technical specs, the Watchout files, the sound files, the lighting programming files, all of which will hopefully generate income for the
choir and for technicians in the future,” said Kilbee. Creatives on the lighting side included Oliver Hauser, Robert Grobler, and Glenn Duncan, all ecstatic to be working back on site. “It was a monster of a show to put on from scratch,” he added. “There was programming through the night, on many nights, and a lot of offline programming because we wanted this to be so spectacular – it made us feel that we achieved something great.” The long-term plan is to tour with nothing except the costumes, choir and core technical team. “I designed the set out of layered scaffoldings because we can access scaff pretty much all over the world,” said Kilbee. “We designed it in a way that LED panels could attach to the structure.” Lighting and audio brands were selected that would also be readily available in most countries. “The production basically needs a few external hard drives with the Watchout content file; the lighting programming; the sound QLab plus the rider, and it can basically be staged anywhere on the planet.” The other brief agreed upon was a show that could go up on a Monday and open on a Tuesday night, allowing short turnarounds in theatres anywhere in the world. “These are all things that make the financial model work for selling a show going forward,” Kilbee explained. “The entire show is timecoded and built in such a way that if we change numbers around, we can just move in the timecode track and it will all work.” Back to the performance in South Africa, and there was a tangible excitement from the artists, audience and crew alike; the show was exceptionally well received. “That is why we do what we do. Theatre is all about long hours and hard work driven by our passion and love of the industry. We did this for the love of theatre but at the same time to feed our crews and their dependents as well as our families.” Photos: DWR distribution www.splitbeam.co.za
SATELLITE MODULAR LASER SYSTEM
SATELLITE MODULAR LASER SYSTEM
Every once in a while, something comes along that tears up the rulebook and revolutionises an industry. This is one of those moments: the Satellite Modular Laser System from the Visionaries of the display industry – Digital Projection.
3,000 lumens 60 kg
16,000 lumens 113 kg
27,000 lumens 132 kg
> 40,000 lumens < 40 kg
The Visionaries’ Choice www.digitalprojection.com TPI Magazine March 2020.indd 1
LIFE IN RWANDA WITH A LONG AND VARIED CAREER THAT’S SEEN HIM TAKE UP VARIOUS HIGH-PROFILE POSITIONS IN BOTH SOUTH AFRICA AND THE UAE, STUART ANDREWS NOW FINDS HIMSELF LENDING HIS EXPERIENCE TO RWANDA EVENTS AS WELL AS THE KIGALI ARENA.
To say that 2020 was a roller-coaster year for the live events industry would be something of an understatement. Like many others in the sector, Stuart Andrews saw his role as General Manager of Johannesburg-based technical production company Sound Stylists disappear overnight due to the catastrophic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The main difference in Andrews’ situation, however, was that he had only joined the company less than three weeks prior. “I took up that position in March 2020 and then COVID-19 hit. I was laid off after just 17 days on the job,” he recalled. “It was through no fault of the company – the entire industry was forced to a grinding halt.” While nobody could have foreseen the circumstances that led to Andrews being made redundant, thankfully the South African already had a long and varied career under his belt, starting out working as an Audio Technician for large hotel casino resorts in South Africa, before embarking on a successful stint in Dubai, spent working first for Jumeirah Hotel Group as AudioVisual Production Manager, before moving to Protec as a Project Manager. Eventually Andrews moved back to his homeland to take up a job at Gearhouse SA, working in various roles in both Durban and Johannesburg over the years, culminating in a position of Operations Manager of the Johannesburg branch. And it was this wealth of experience that opened the door to another opportunity following his untimely exit from Sound Stylists. “In my time at Gearhouse, I had established good contacts with Rwanda Events and had worked alongside and for them on a number of projects in Kigali. Similarly, during my time in the resorts, I had worked alongside a company called Q A Venue Solutions (QAVS), which had been awarded the management contract for the Kigali Arena on behalf of the government of Rwanda,” Andrews explained. With Rwanda Events looking for assistance in operations, training, and technical consultancy, and QAVS interested in hiring Andrews for some consultancy, operations and consultancy work at the Kigali Arena, the stars aligned. “These two connections dovetailed for me,” he described. “After sitting at home in lockdown for a year, I jumped at the chance to work with a great team of people who I have worked with before.”
So, with the backdrop of the pandemic still playing havoc with the industry all over the world, Andrews once again packed his bags and headed off to Rwanda. “With fantastic convention and accommodation facilities, the city of Kigali has established itself as an international conference destination of choice. However, like most countries, Rwanda has implemented a lockdown and restricted events, which has devastated the local industry,” he reported. At the time of writing the local industry is still awaiting further guidelines on the reopening of events, with the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM 2021) which was due to take place in the country in June, postponed, many are looking for a catalyst for the phased reopening of the industry. With a far-reaching remit across his two positions for both Rwanda Events and QAVS, there’s certainly plenty for Andrews to get his teeth into while the industry awaits the return of live events. “Rwanda Events has focused on supplying the complete solution to the conferencing and events market. With four
divisions, the company covers everything from event management, to rental and productions, destination management and multimedia,” he explained. “Meanwhile for QAVS, I am reviewing the AV systems that are a legacy of the installation at Kigali Arena. I’m also assisting with a range of other matters, including but not limited to building maintenance, IT, electrical issues and general operations management.” Looking ahead, Andrews describes the prognosis for the Rwandan live events industry as “good and positive”. He concluded: “Rwanda has stood out very clearly on the continent for its approach to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will stand it in good stead for being recognised as a safe and secure destination for business events. While there is a huge growth potential in Rwanda, we can also service East and West Africa from here, so I see Rwanda as very much the place to be – now and in the future.” Photo: Stewart Andrews www.rwandaevents.com www.kigaliarena.rw