TPMEA #037 - Aug/Sep 2022

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AUGUST / SEPTEMBER • ISSUE 037

FATBOY SLIM THE LEGENDARY DJ TURNS UP THE HEAT AT ZERO GRAVITY DUBAI

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ATATÜRK MEMORIAL DAY • JAMES CRAVEN, LIVE NATION ME • JORDAN NATIONAL DAY • CIRQUE DU SOLEIL JEDDAH


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TPMEA

WELCOME... TO TPMEA

A time for touring The Middle East has had no shortage of high-profile international acts performing over the years, but historically it has been largely restricted to one-night-only flying visits, with the stars and their crew rolling into either Dubai or Abu Dhabi and disappearing just as quickly as they had arrived. There’s long been talk of how transformational it would be to establish a genuine touring route for the Middle East and with the development of infrastructure such as the Coca-Cola Arena and Etihad Arena in the UAE, as well as the emergence of Saudi Arabia as an event-hosting nation, finally what was previously a pipedream for the region’s live events industry is now becoming a reality. Central to the development of the live music industry within the region is Live Nation Middle East. The company recently made history by putting on the first ever regionally routed run featuring an A-list band, when Maroon 5 performed in Egypt, the UAE, and Israel in May, and it already has several other large-scale regional tours in the pipeline. I had the pleasure of talking to James Craven, President, Live Nation Middle East, and suffice to say, he paints a very positive picture for the future of the industry. Read the full interview on page 6. Our cover story for this issue comes from a legendary DJ who has graced our pages on many occasions. Fatboy Slim returned to Dubai’s Zero Gravity, with his tight-knitted touring team – ably assisted by local suppliers Encore, Snap, and AES – triumphing over adversity to throw one last pre-summer blowout. Read all about how the show almost didn’t happen on page 24. Elsewhere in the issue, we hear how Istanbul-based Imagina Productions breathed fresh life into an existing stage design (page 30), we check-in with the team at ES:ME (page 48), and we learn about Huda Lighting’s new events division looking to make a big impact on the industry (page 46). Enjoy the issue. Peter Iantorno Editorial Director

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

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CONTENTS

CONTENTS 06 – FIRST LOOK: JAMES CRAVEN

The Live Nation Middle East President looks to the future of live touring in the region.

12 – MIDDLE EAST NEWS

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The latest from the Middle East, including an impressive projection for Jordan National Day.

24 – FATBOY SLIM

The legendary DJ returns to Dubai.

30 – ATATÜRK MEMORIAL DAY

An existing stage design gets a new lease of life.

38 – INTERVIEW: RUDI BUCHNER Why hybrid is here to stay.

40 – INTERVIEW: AMIN SAMMAKIEH The Plan A Founder talks Lebanese events.

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42 – INTERVIEW: SAMEER RAHMAN A busy summer season for Flair Event Services.

46 – COMPANY PROFILE: HUDA MEDIA & EVENTS

Huda Lighting launches a new events division.

48 – COMPANY PROFILE: ES:ME

CEO, Alex Wuerfel shares plans for global growth.

50 – GEAR HEADS: HOF MLT²

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The company’s latest moving light truss.

52 – AFRICA NEWS

The latest from Africa, including a full MA Lighting grandMA3 solution for The Saturday Showdown.

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

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

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

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

SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Fran Begaj Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7852 336728 e-mail: f.begaj@mondiale.co.uk

ACCOUNT MANAGER Matilda Matthews Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7413 555978 e-mail: m.matthews@mondiale.co.uk

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

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

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

COVER PHOTOGRAPHY Fatboy Slim by Nathan Gonzales

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FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST

JAMES CRAVEN, PRESIDENT, LIVE NATION MIDDLE EAST THE MAN AT THE HEAD OF LIVE NATION’S MIDDLE EAST OPERATION PROVIDES AN UPDATE ON THE LATEST GOINGS-ON AT THE COMPANY AND SHARES HIS INSIGHTS INTO THE FUTURE OF LIVE TOURING IN THE REGION.

From grass-roots club shows to large-scale international tours, Live Nation is ramping up its operation across the Middle East. The company has already made history by putting on the first ever regionally routed run from an A-list band, when Maroon 5 performed in Egypt, the UAE and Israel in May, and it seems that there’s a lot more to come. Here, Live Nation Middle East President, James Craven discusses the rapidly changing landscape of live events in the region, reveals details of the company’s groundbreaking sustainability-driven partnership with Emirates NatureWWF and shares some of his aims for the future. How has this year been so far for Live Nation ME, and how is business looking for next season? 2022 started extremely well and the second half of the year leading into 2023 looks even better. A real highlight for the first half of the year was the regional tour with Maroon 5 in May. It was the first ever regionally routed run with an A-list band, which included the Pyramids in Egypt; Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi; and Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv, Israel. This is the first of many more regional tours for Live Nation Middle East. With large international acts such as Maroon 5 and One Republic now including multiple Middle East dates on their touring calendars, how is this changing the landscape of live events in the region? Regionally routed runs have a very positive impact for fans, artists, and promoters alike. The fans get to see more artists, the artists get to play to more fans and the promoter sees an increase in artist confirmations – it’s good for everyone. We see the potential for as many as 10 or more dates on future regional tours. We are the only live event promoter to have offices and teams in almost all the primary regional markets now, which has further helped us fast-track our success in this area. We have already announced multidate tours for One Republic and Westlife and have several major regional tours to announce in the coming weeks. 2022 will certainly be our biggest year to date in the region. How has the construction of large indoor arenas such as Etihad Arena and Coca-Cola Arena improved the prospects of year-round live events in the UAE? Purpose-built venues certainly increase the opportunities for year-round shows, but also

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FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST

“Prior to 2018, the only market within the GCC regularly hosting concerts and festivals was the UAE. Jump forward to today, and the landscape has completely expanded.” James Craven, President, Live Nation Middle East

improve the overall experience for fans. From a promoter perspective, they are much more cost-effective than greenfield sites and allow us to clearly demonstrate the gross potential of the show when making offers. We are seeing new arena projects in almost all the primary markets, which can only be good for the live sector. How big of a boost is the emergence of Saudi Arabia as a live event-hosting nation? Prior to 2018, the only market within the GCC regularly hosting concerts and festivals was the UAE. Jump forward to today, and the landscape has completely expanded. Looking at the overall

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live industry across the Middle East, Saudi has cultivated the biggest promoting market. The potential for the market, with a population of almost 35 million, is clearly enormous while also bringing benefits to the wider region.

in Qatar, but across the whole region. We are getting constant requests for talent from event organisers in almost every market as they prepare to build large-scale fan zones to watch the football and enjoy live entertainment.

What kind of an effect do you envisage the FIFA World Cup in Qatar will have on live events in the country? Live Nation delivered a series of Arabic music concerts and family shows in Doha around the time of the Arab Cup in 2021, so we would certainly expect to see a significant demand for content during the World Cup period – not just

How is Hard Rock Café Dubai Live expanding Live Nation’s offering? I am particularly excited about the Hard Rock Café series. We are discovering a whole new audience of live music fans who want to attend live club shows on a regular basis. We have hired a new dedicated club promoter and he is already booking shows well into 2023. The music offering


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FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST

“Hosting a sustainable event is doing what is right, demonstrating leadership in climate action and driving change to continue lowering the environmental impact of live events.” James Craven, President, Live Nation Middle East

for the club shows will be much more diverse than has typically been seen in the UAE and allow us to cater to a much broader base of fans. Our first show with CAS (Cigarettes After Sex) was so successful, we had to immediately add a second show. As a promoter, it also allows us to create much better performance opportunities for artists at all stages of their careers, from clubs to theatres to arenas and stadiums. Tell us more about the partnership with Emirates Nature-WWF. How will this help enhance the sustainability of touring in the Middle East? As part of the Green Nation Touring programme

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launched in 2021, we are partnering with Emirates Nature-WWF and our global team to bring the programme to the Middle East in the lead up to COP28. We are developing tools and resources for artists to understand the carbon footprint of their tours, so they can take decisions that are based on science to lower the environmental impact of the shows. This is an exciting opportunity, working together with Emirates Nature-WWF to drive positive change in the music industry and beyond, providing support to artists, fans but also our supply chain to deliver sustainable live events. The Maroon 5 show was the onset of this partnership. This was the first event where we

collected data to build our baseline and assess the impact of the show; before we can make changes, we need to understand where we are and what our impact is. Besides collecting data, we also teamed up with Porsche distributor Ali & Sons, which facilitated EV transport for the band, and Etihad Airways, which provided fuel-efficient inbound flight service, lowering the overall emissions of the show. Hosting a sustainable event is beneficial for everyone; artists, fans, staff, crew – for the people and the planet. As the world’s leading entertainment company, we have the responsibility to protect the environment where our events take place. Hosting a sustainable


FIRST LOOK MIDDLE EAST

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event is doing what is right, demonstrating leadership in climate action and driving change to continue lowering the environmental impact of live events. What are the greatest challenges facing Live Nation Middle East at the moment? Keeping up with the demand for content is probably the biggest challenge – the Middle East is a very exciting place to be right now! It would also be fair to say that, like many promoters across the globe, we are also having to deal with cost inflation, but broadly we’re seeing the strong demand for shows offset increased costs. In what area of the business can you see the biggest potential for growth? I truly believe that the Middle East live entertainment scene is only at the beginning of an extremely exciting journey ahead. The live sector is growing so rapidly across the region that it creates huge opportunities across all areas of our business, including regional touring (in clubs, theatres, and arenas), festivals, venue management and sponsorship. Our goal is to continue to nurture and grow the touring market across all segments and all areas of the region. Photos: Osbert Panakal www.livenation.me

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REGIONAL ROUND-UP

Below: CTME’s Huw Godfrey, Samantha Peltret and Joshua Spencer.

CT BRINGS IN FRESH FACES THE COMPANY EXPANDS BOTH THE SYSTEMS INTEGRATION AND LIVE EVENTS TEAMS. Creative Technology Middle East (CTME) is continuing to grow, with the company welcoming a new Head of System Integration, as well as a new Operations Manager and Project Co-ordinator. Huw Godfrey has joined as Head of System Integration, bringing a wealth of experience in AV across both systems integration and live events within roles that encompass the full project life cycle, including engineering, project Management, account Management and operations management. Over the years, Godfrey has led teams on numerous high-profile projects including Bloomberg Walbrook Square, FIFA World Cup in Russia and the Palm Jumeriah launch party in the UAE. “I am delighted to be returning to CT at what is an incredibly exciting time for both the SI division and the business as a whole,” he commented. “There is such fantastic growth in the region, and I am looking forward to working on many more exciting projects with the team over the coming months and years.” The company has also appointed Joshua Spencer as Crew Operations Manager. Spencer

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is responsible for the management of the crew bookings where he utilises his extensive knowledge on management of people to ensure every event has the right calibre of people assigned to it. He was recently nominated for the 2022 TPMEA Awards Stage Manager of the Year and has been instrumental in developing the growth of the division. “I feel very privileged and proud to be able to call CTME my new home,” he stated. “It’s so evident to see that everyone here shares the same vision and dedication to maintain the highest level of service. I am excited to develop this team and be part of CT’s growing vision.” The company has also welcomed Samantha Peltret, who has joined as a Projects Co-ordinator. “It is so great to be a part of such a huge family here at CT,” she said. “There’s a genuine spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and shared goals. I love being part of this incredible talented team. Each day is so different – it’s a constant adventure and such an exciting opportunity.” The new appointments come at an exciting time for the company, as it also continues to grow its product inventory, recently becoming

the first in the Middle East to stock the new DiGiCo Quantum338. “From minor conferences to the most complex of shows, DiGiCo has been the industry’s premium choice for many years now,” commented Wissam Shaheen, Head of Audio. “As a long-time user, knowing what the British manufacturer represents in modern pro-audio, deciding to go with DiGiCo was easy. The Quantum338 now sits at the forefront of our new audio mixers inventory; this desk defines the future of sound mixing with features only a Quantum can deliver.” Andy Reardon, Managing Director of CTME, added: “We are delighted to have the new equipment delivered to our region. Our audio team has the technical know-how and expertise to enhance every event and give the best experience using the latest technology. We are dedicated to offering our clients the best solutions across the region and are proud to be stocking the latest DiGiCo equipment to ensure we can meet the needs of our clients in the GCC.” Photos: CTME www.ctme.co


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SLS SUPPLIES JEDDAH SEASON THE COMPANY PROVIDES A TURNKEY SOLUTION AT PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN ABDULLAH AL FAISAL STADIUM. SLS Production transformed Jeddah’s Prince Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium from football ground to music venue, as Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello headlined a special event, which also featured Reggaeton singer J Balvin, for Jeddah Season on 3 June. Hemanth Rao, Senior Lighting Programmer and Operator at SLS, had the pleasure of operating lights for the Swedish House Mafia DJs. TPMEA caught up with him after the show to get his thoughts on what he called an “out-ofthis-world” experience. “I only found out when I arrived on site that Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello had travelled without their LD, so I was more than happy to step up and operate the show for them,” he recalled. “I’ve been listening to Swedish House Mafia for ever, so it was amazing to be able to work with them.” The lighting setup comprised 76 Robe MegaPointe, 48 Spiider and 100 Tetra2 linear bar fixtures, alongside 26 Claypaky Stormys and 37

Vari-Lite Nitro 510Cs, with atmospherics provided by six MDG foggers and 10 Le Maitre G300 smoke machines. A variety of special effects were also provided, including stage flames, stadium shots, CO2 jets and stadium blasters. Rao operated an MA Lighting grandMA3 from FOH, with networking through Luminex GigaCore 10. SLS supplied almost 350 sq m of Lightlink 8.9mm LED, which was split between a 19m by 9m central wall, two 8m by 9m IMAG screens, a 12m by 1m dance platform, a 12m by 1m LED box and 23m by 10m arch around the top and sides of the stage. A complete Meyer Sound audio package was also provided, including 24 LEO and eight LYON, as well as a further 24 LYON for out fills. A total of 28 11LFC and eight 900 LFC handled the low end, with 12 LEOPARD loudspeakers used for front fills. A selection of DiGiCo consoles were also used, including SD10 at FOH, SD12 for the opening acts and SD5 at monitors, controlling the mix on the

artists’ Shure Axient Digital and PSM 1000 IEMs. Michale Sathyadass oversaw the audio department; the Lighting team was headed up by Praveen JayaJumar; Edgar Pulido led the video team; while Kevin Shyam was in charge of the rigging department. “It was a privilege to work with the incoming artist teams,” Rao concluded. “They were equally pleased with what we delivered.” Photo: SLS Production www.slspro.net

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REGIONAL ROUND-UP

JORDAN INDEPENDENCE DAY GIORGIO DEVECCHI, FOUNDER & MANAGING PARTNER OF VITA EVENTS, TAKES TPMEA BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE COMPANY’S LATEST 3D PROJECTION-MAPPING PROJECT AT JORDAN GATE TOWERS.

Celebrated on 25 May, Jordan Independence Day is the most important date on the Jordanian calendar, marking the country’s independence from the British government. This year the Jordan Royal Court approached production agency Behind The Scenes, which in turn appointed Dubai-based VITA Events to create the largest 3D projection mapping ever delivered in the country. “The enquiry was based on the high-scale visibility of the iconic Jordan Gate Towers in Amman,” began VITA Events Founder and Managing Partner, Giorgio Devecchi. “We were asked to provide a 3D mapping projection that

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would cover all four façades of the towers, which can be seen from all over Amman.” With the projection taking place over three nights from 25-27 May, VITA Events worked with the Royal Court and Behind The Scenes to produce detailed 3D-mapped content, which displayed historical sites, institutional footage and ground-breaking infrastructure that celebrated not only the traditions of the country but also the innovative vision of Jordan’s next generation. While the show was the largest of kind ever to take place in Jordan, for Devecchi – who has been delivering 3D design and projection projects for many years, working with the

likes of MDLBEAST and Al Wasl Dome in Expo 2020 to name but a couple – it was a relatively straightforward undertaking. “Everything moved quite quickly on this one,” he recalled. “I did a few site visits and came up with a proof of concept and we started preproduction around five weeks out from the project delivery date.” In the early stages, the main factors the VITA team had to consider were identifying suitable projection locations and ensuring that the façade of the building would display the content in the desired way. “It was important to find not only a clear path between the projection surface and projection site, but also one with the right


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Right: The VITA Events team.

steepness and incidence of light,” he explained. “The reaction of the façade was also important. It was dark glass, which helped with absorbing and diffusing the light.” With the site visits and proof of concept done, it was decided that the best solution would be to light the four faces of the building using 70 Panasonic PT-RZ31K projectors, three disguise vx 4 and one 4x4pro, split across three locations. “The main challenge was finding the best solution to synchronise the content playback across all the projectors,” Devecchi revealed. “The distance between each tower and the projection locations was anywhere from 600m to 1km, with heavily populated areas in between, so running cables wasn’t an option,” he noted.

“We came up with the solution of transcoding the world clock to LTC in each location, getting the perfect sync after many commissioning tests. We used Brainstorm DX-16s in each tower, synced to a public NTP server on the internet and transcoding into LTC to synchronise the towers.” Devecchi described disguise as “a key element to guarantee that all the technical requirements could be fulfilled perfectly”. He added: “From the practical and high-quality 3D mapping projector calibration to the possibility of sharing the same project through all the distant servers and synchronising in LTC, disguise made the job a lot easier and faster for the engineering department. The pre-visualisation for client review and the multi-operator option were two

key elements that only disguise can fully offer to provide the best service as a media server.” As well as Devecchi, the key VITA Events crew comprised: Francois Monayer, Senior Production Manager; Jamil Abuwardeh, Creative Director; Arianne Belino, Admin and Logistics Manager; and Fabio Bompani, Giulio Majori, Giuseppe Marinelli and Alberto Pedrazzini, 3D Designers, Animation and Motion Graphics. “The Jordan Royal Court, as well as our client, Behind The Scenes, were a pleasure to work with,” Devecchi concluded. “Most importantly, the people in Amman were very excited to see something like this happening in their city. I would gladly return to Jordan for future projects.” Photos: VITA Events

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REGIONAL ROUND-UP

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL FUZION ROBE BMFLS SELECTED FOR A BRAND-NEW CIRQUE DU SOLEIL SHOW AT JEDDAH’S KASC STADIUM. Jeddah’s King Abdallah Sports City (KASC) stadium recently played host to FUZION – a brand-new Cirque du Soleil production that was commissioned especially for Jeddah Season. A tribute to the company’s innovative creative legacy, the show – which ran in Jeddah for 32 adrenaline-packed performances – celebrates Cirque du Soleil’s most iconic acrobatic and theatrical achievements. Directed by Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar with creative direction by Stefan Miljevic, the lighting and set was designed by Mikki Kunttu, who used 186 Robe BMFL moving lights – making up half of the lighting rig. The lighting brief included making an “elegant, theatrical, and vivid” impact, with the goal of recreating the splendour and atmosphere of a classic big-top whilst ensuring that each

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guest experienced a similar sense of intimacy as experienced in a classic big top setting. The show narrative was based on the adventures of two best friends – Antonio and Sebastian – who, with the world in need of more creativity, friendship and love, embarked on a quest to create magical universes in which these can flourish. Very strong lighting visuals were at the core of the overall concept, so Kunttu was “delighted” to work with 127 Robe BMFL Blades and 59 BMFL WashBeams as the primary lighting fixtures, supplied by lighting vendor, PRG Middle East. “The BMFL is a fantastic multipurpose fixture and I think it was a gamechanger in so many ways,” Kunttu commented. “It’s still a great workhorse, widely recognised worldwide and you know what to expect in terms of

quality and excellence.” The set and lighting design took ‘big-top shows’ as a starting point, working with a similar shaped stage as classic Cirque productions with stage and lighting rigs shaped to accommodate acts like the Wheel of Death combined with a 270° audience. Unlike a traditional big-top venue where the rigging, flying and access is restricted, the Jeddah venue provided flexibility with ideal space and production facilities. “Safety and making it look awesome are both critical elements naturally and I always try to deliver both within the same solution. The safety factor is not an add-on, but an integral part of the design from the outset,” noted Kunttu. FUZION was the first time Kunttu had used Robe BMFLs to light this style of show – although he’s used them on several other


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productions – and he was “extremely satisfied” with the results. All the BMFLs were positioned at the back of Cirque’s custom circular trusses – commonly referred to as ‘the piste’ – and rigged above their circular stage on LX bars 1 and 2. The reason for opting for the classic front lens type fixtures instead of LED faced ones is the fact that as LED faced wash lights have multiple lenses on the front, their potential blinding effect on the artists cannot be so effectively controlled and can be very difficult to predict. Lighting acrobats safely and spectacularly is one of the hardest tasks in entertainment. According to Kunttu, doing it successfully is “all about homework and meticulously watching the act to see the way they move, how they interact with each other and the technicians and what they need to grab at precise moments. It’s about studying both the technical and the artistic sides of each act and then putting those parameters together with your own creative approach”. Kunttu worked alongside two programmers – Matti Leinonen on lighting and Alex Hautamäki on video and lighting – all three using MA Lighting grandMA2 light consoles.

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Video content was designed by Olivier Goulet, and Leinonen remained in Jeddah to run lighting and video for the entire duration of Jeddah Season. Marie-Josée Adam was the Executive Producer/Head of Creation. Props were designed by Madeleine Bernatchez and included a disappearing tent, which comprised 28m by 22m fabric panels that ‘evaporated’ in seconds. John Caran and Geneviève DorionCoupal were the acrobatic choreographers, and the acrobatic performances were designed by Germain Guillemot. The musical director, composer and arranger was Hugo Montecristo, with music played live by a six-piece band. In all, more than 150 people were involved in the production, with 25 technicians running the show and 39 cast members from 13 different countries and every continent. FUZION was 10 months in development from conception to production, there was a two-week load-in and installation period at KASC, and the performance has been an overwhelming success. Photos: Mikki Kunttu www.robe.cz

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REGIONAL ROUND-UP

KAN YAMA KAN AN INNOVATIVE ZACTRACK SOLUTION HANDLES THE COMPLEX TRACKING REQUIREMENTS AT RIYADH’S MOST SPECTACULAR THEATRE AND DANCE SHOW. The global premiere of spectacular theatre and dance show Kan Yama Kan was staged in the Global Theatre at Boulevard Riyadh City, delivered by an award-winning West End and Broadway creative team, with lighting designed by Natasha Chivers, direction and choreography by Will Tuckett and auditorium, set and video design by 59 Productions, which was also technical co-ordinator for producers, Wonderjunkie and Anthology. With a large cast, a vibrant traverse stage design, fast-moving dancers, dynamic scenic

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items and aerial performers, plus multiple gauzes rolling in and out to enhance projections and other visual effects, Chivers and associate LD, Andy Purves had to track up to 15 principal actors, dancers, and aerialists all over the performance space using multiple light sources positioned everywhere on the overhead trusses, often simultaneously. The solution to handling these complicated requirements came in the form of two zactrack PRO servers, which were working with 14 anchors and 27 active trackers (with full redundancy) in

conjunction with 170 moving light fixtures – 80 Claypaky Mini-Bs and 70 Ayrton Diablos, which were rigged across in the roof trusses and supplied by local lighting vendor, SLS. Due to the stage layout, the cast had to be lit from all angles – on XY and Z axes – right across the stage and in the two entrances at each end of the traverse. To do this for the near 360° audience to get the best experience, three or four light sources had to be diligently applied, also avoiding washing out any floor areas being used as dynamic projection surfaces, so tracking was


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designed into the show from inception. The challenge was then sourcing the right tracking system for this high-profile production. “We considered several options,” explained Purves. “With the architecture and design of the show, zactrack with its Z vertical axis was the only viable way to achieve the precise results everyone wanted.” Another consideration was how straightforward the system would be to use. “Taking on a large multisource tracking system is a challenge and a substantial amount of extra technology for a production’s lighting department,” Purves noted, highlighting that additional elements such as the calibration process and programmer’s time during tech rehearsals must be factored into the equation when evaluating the tracking system options. The brand new zactrack PRO system used for the show was purchased from zactrack International by Saudi production partners, Sela. For the one-month production rehearsal and tech period at LH2 Studios in north-west London, a system was rented from Neg Earth. According to Purves, Zactrack’s UK distributor, Ambersphere, was also “incredibly helpful” in assisting the project. They had initially

arranged a demonstration so both he and Chivers, who are UK based, could thoroughly understand how it worked and ensure it would be stable, reliable and the right choice for this scenario. As part of the process, Ambersphere connected them with others, including people at Neg Earth, who had recently been using zactrack products, and hearing these first-hand experiences from industry peers provided “excellent” information and valuable feedback to help them make their final decision. It included advice on the fixtures that made the best tracking lights, which are ideally compact, lightweight, responsive, and therefore able to move swiftly and seamlessly. “Ambersphere stepped in, hosting several crucial unit trial sessions,” Purves recalled. During rehearsals, time was also dedicated to discovering the optimal positions for attaching tracker tags to costumes and artists. In London, the rehearsal zactrack system was used with Robe LEDBeam 150s, before switching to the Claypacky and Ayrton fixtures in Riyadh. The show’s zactrack movement commands were integrated into the relevant lighting cues programmed by Marc Polimeni on an ETC EOS Ti console. He worked alongside Chivers as

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she developed the lighting scenes, looks and aesthetic, while Purves focused on the follow spotting detail. The production’s head of lighting was Corey Bennett, and tracker wrangler Charlie Rayner tech’d and dealt with all aspects of the zactrack system including the 27 trackers (with some artists wearing more than one) on a dayto-day basis, in a slightly similar fashion to an audio radio mic tech. He was impressed with the battery life of the trackers as there were some long working days involved. The time at LH2 enabled the lighting team to finesse the tracking and be ready for arriving on site in Riyadh and switching to the purchased system. “It was a very collaborative and enjoyable way to work,” commented Purves. “Using this kit allowed us to achieve results that simply would not have been possible any other way.” Kan Yama Kan – the vision of producer Zeina Ashour – was a massive success. Blurring the lines between fantasy and real, the epic show reinterpreted some key tales from the 1001 Nights in a unique, fast-paced and energising narrative. The production managers were Gary Beestone and Andy Reader from GBA. Photos: Johan Persson www.zactrack.com

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AL JAZEERA MEDIA NETWORK UPGRADES STUDIO EASTERN LIGHTING DESIGN CHOOSES AYRTON DIABLOS AND LEVANTES FOR AWARD-WINNING MULTI-SET STUDIO IN DOHA. To mark the 25th anniversary rebrand of its Arabic news channel, Al Jazeera Media Network completed a full upgrade of its Doha studio, commissioning Clickspring Design for the project, which grew to encompass three different sets. The Studio 5 serves as a newsroom and acts as the primary news studio for the network. Clickspring devised a way to subdivide the space, creating two distinct newsroom areas along with three sets that fulfilled the client’s mandate of embracing technology and storytelling. Clickspring worked with Eastern Lighting Design, which employed more than 1,200 fixtures in total, including nearly 200 Ayrton Diablo luminaires and Levante wash lights. “We needed to utilise intelligent lighting fixtures to reduce the overall fixture count and have one light be able to have multiple purposes,” explained President and Principal Designer, Matt Gordon. This flexibility enabled unique looks for different programming, including shows that haven’t been developed yet. Set 1 features a spacious and organic curvilinear design with lighting fixtures that

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“embrace the natural curvature of the set,” commented Eastern’s Vice President of Design, Mick Smith. “We gravitate to the Ayrton line, whose fixtures give us the right shape and look coupled with exceptional performance and light quality. We collaborated with production and the set designers to stay true to the intended look of the studio and not litter it with fixtures that appear out of place.” Diablos with white shells are built into lighting positions integrated within the set, such as an elevated curved panel, a suspended central ring and multi-tiered perimeter positions. “Diablos are the workhorse of the design,” Smith noted. “There’s no fixed desk position so the lights act as key lights, back lights and fill. High, wide and sweeping dolly camera shots open and close the shows and some light cues are choreographed to the speed of the camera shot before it lands on the presenter. Steadicam is the predominant moving shot during shows, so viewers really see all the technology.” The Studio 5 layout permits presenters to navigate from Set 1 to Set 2, if desired. Set 2 is a

very tall set designed for the network’s Al Hassad flagship news and current affairs show. It has a permanent desk, but presenters are free to move about the space to various screens and to conduct interviews. Ayrton fixtures are mounted in a multi-tiered ceiling sculpture, above a huge LED screen and big circular screen, and in set walls and a balcony. Again, the lights form “part of the overall look of the room,” – most have white shells with a few black shells interspersed. Set 3 is a combination newsroom and AR studio equipped with a shiny black floor, three tracking curved LED screens and three flanking high-resolution video screens 4m tall. “It’s a flexible space, which allows them to create what they need without being tied to specific set elements,” noted Smith. “Blocking for multiple programmes dictated fluid movement of presenters in the AR studio and walking from that space into the newsroom. The fixtures for talent lighting are exclusively Levantes and Diablos with some lighting appearing as set décor.” Smith explained that the newsroom ceiling has brown linear wooden slats into which the


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G R E AT T HI N G S R E ALLY C AN C O M E I N

Ayrton fixtures are integrated neatly. “We took the slat colour of the wood to Ayrton and they created an entire rig of brown moving lights for us,” he revealed. “We were able to give a colour swatch to Ayrton and they’d create a shell to match.” He also noted that quiet running was a big consideration in selecting the Ayrton fixtures for Studio 5. “After the demos, we knew the light quality and appearance would work, but we had to make sure about the noise factor,” said Smith. “The Ayrtons’ dB rating and ability to be put into super-quiet mode were key. With the hard finishes of a lot of the set pieces and the floors, you can get into big trouble fast if the fixtures are not quiet.” Gordon cited the “monumental scope and size of this project – the total amount of fixtures used – and the even bigger challenge of the hard deadline of the November 1, 2021 25th anniversary of the network. Seven of us were on site with a local team for more than 50 days, and most of those were 12 to 14-hour days – some were 20 hours with rehearsals and pilots. The Ayrton fixtures were some of the first to arrive on the property while we were still pivoting and reacting to other supply chain issues.” Smith added: “The fixtures will get a lot of use – this is a 24-hour news network. I had not used these Ayrton fixtures before, but ACT Entertainment [Ayrton’s exclusive distributor in North America] was great in turning me on to these products. Aaron Hubbard set me up with demos and was instrumental in getting real-time feedback with the manufacturer and the custom colours we needed. The resources of ACT were a tremendous asset to me on this project.” Photos: Al Jazeera Media Network www.easternlightingdesign.com www.ayrton.eu

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BOULEVARD RIYADH CITY PUTS FAITH IN D&B AUDIOTECHNIK RIYADH’S CULTURAL HUB GETS STATE-OF-THE-ART V-SERIES SOUND SYSTEMS, SUPPLIED BY 7HERTZ.

Built by local Saudi companies, Boulevard Riyadh City covers some 900,000 sq m and contains nine areas, each with its own set of events. Each area contains luxurious restaurants, cafés, upmarket boutiques, gardens, games centres and more. Special features include the largest cinema in the Kingdom, an electric car circuit, a skating rink and four theatres for concerts and shows. In keeping with the ambitious nature of this giant complex, each theatre is fully equipped with a state-of-the-art d&b audiotechnik V-Series sound system, supplied by 7Hertz. Events management company Sela designed and specified the systems destined for the new theatres and approached 7Hertz to deliver on the brief. “Our relationship with Sela goes back a long way,” commented 7Hertz Managing Partner, Chadi Masri. “We’ve known the Technical Director, Hicham Bitar, and the Head of Audio, Samer Atallah, for some time and have built a relationship of trust over the years. They know

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that we always do our best for our customers. When this project came along, they had already more or less made up their minds that it would be d&b, so naturally we were their first choice.” Technical Director, Hicham Bitar explained that having used d&b on many different events worldwide and visited the company headquarters in Germany for seminars and training, they were already very familiar with the brand. “We required a solution that covered all the bases: extremely high quality, modern, flexible enough to handle all types of performance and rider friendly. During the Season – and even beyond now that the Boulevard Riyadh City is a permanent structure – we have different artists coming in with a different show every week, so it was imperative for us to have systems that we are proud to present to any engineer and that all engineers are happy to use. d&b was a very easy choice!” Head of audio, Samer Atallah, concurred. “When considering the limitations for designing

an indoor sound system for a theatre, there are two points to keep in mind; first, directivity of sound, and second, homogenous sound across the venue. d&b leads the industry in terms of sound directivity. This is a key issue for the audience since we are mainly engaged in theatrical plays. People need to understand every word to live the experience.” Sela decided on d&b V-Series line array systems throughout due to their high performance capabilities and versatility. The two largest theatres (Bakr Al Shaddi and Mohammad Al Ali) range in capacity from 600 to 900 seats and sport L/R hangs of 10 V8 and two V12 per side supported by a pair of centrally flown large format SL-SUB cardioid subwoofers. Four T10s and two Y7Ps act as front fills and side fills respectively, and four M4 stage monitors complete the setup. The two smaller theatres (Al Andaleeb and Kawkab Al Sharq) are set up in cabaret style with guests seated at tables for an integrated dining and entertainment


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experience. Here, Sela opted for L/R arrays of three V8 and one V12 per side and a pair of centrally flown medium format KSL-SUB cardioid subwoofers. Once again, front fill and side fill duties are performed by four T10s and two Y7Ps respectively with four M4 stage monitors. d&b’s patented ArrayProcessing technology is used throughout to optimise performance across the listening zones of each theatre. “It was, and still is, very challenging for sound designers to deliver the same audio experience for every seat in the house, but d&b made it easy for us with their ArrayProcessing technology, a combination of filters and delays for each cabinet that makes great sound even better, in terms of both minimum SPL variation and frequency response,” noted Atallah. The functionality is also appreciated by Bitar. “ArrayProcessing enables us to achieve

the best possible sonic performance, even in a difficult venue,” he observed. “This turned out to be especially important as we were working to extremely tight deadlines, and specifications were changing right up until the last minute.” However, it isn’t just the ArrayProcessing functionality that attracts Atallah to d&b. “You can get amazing sound out of a d&b system in no time,” he stated. “What’s more, they are very efficient in terms of SPL output to weight ratio – other manufacturers would need to double the weight to achieve the same SPL, which is an important difference when facing rigging load limitations. Also, I love the tools provided by d&b to help us do our jobs well, from accurate software for design and control to processors that can interface with all audio protocols, allowing us to create everything from traditional systems to breath-taking immersive audio.”

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The project was taxing for a variety of reasons. “Our friends at 7Hertz and their integration partner, HiFi Service, worked incredibly hard to make sure that everything came together seamlessly,” said Bitar. “The world was still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, so supply chains were still disrupted, while onsite, changes to building design were happening quite late in the day, which naturally has an impact on requirements further down the line. Nevertheless, despite the supply challenges and the tight deadline, together we delivered a fantastic project that does justice to the ‘raison d’être’ of the Riyadh Season; namely a celebration of the Saudi people and its culture, using the best materials available to deliver the highest quality experience to our visitors.” Photos: d&b audiotechnik www.dbaudio.com

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DXBEACH PRESENTS FATBOY SLIM DUBAI’S ZERO GRAVITY HOSTS AN EPIC PRE-SUMMER BLOWOUT STARRING LEGENDARY DJ, FATBOY SLIM, WHO MAKES HIS LONG-AWAITED RETURN TO THE UAE.

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With a packed touring schedule that takes the legendary DJ all over the world, the Fatboy Slim crew is well versed at rolling into unfamiliar venues around the globe and delivering his inimitable brand of high-energy performance. As part of that adaptability, Jake Vernum, Production Manager, has become accustomed to dealing with whatever is thrown his way – something which stood him in good stead when it came to Fatboy Slim’s long-awaited Dubai return at Zero Gravity on 20 May. Like many shows over the past couple of years, Fatboy Slim’s return to Dubai for the first time since he headlined Party in the Park in 2019 had been on the cards for quite some time, only to experience numerous postponements due to COVID-19. With the performance set to place on the beach and the UAE’s blisteringly hot summer season fast approaching, everyone was keen for the event to take place as planned. However, just a week before show day, the entire country was rocked by the news that its President, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had passed away. All events in the region were immediately put on

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hold, with Vernum and the rest of the team in the dark as to whether the show could go on. “At one point, we weren’t sure if it was going to go ahead,” the PM recalled, speaking to TPMEA on a rare day off in the middle of campaigns with both Fatboy Slim and George Ezra. While an initial four days of mourning was declared, followed by a further 40-day mourning period, it was eventually decided that the show would be allowed to go ahead. Of course, the uncertainty in the week before show day meant that stage building and load-in times were pushed to the limit, which provided an extra challenge for all concerned. Creative Noise – the agency behind several popular Dubai festivals including Sandance, Party in the Park and DXBeach – engaged Encore to provide a complete technical solution for the event, including audio, lighting, and video. Snap supplied and operated lasers; AES built the stage and roof; and Prime Vision handled cameras. Riaan ‘Jozi’ Gomes, Project Manager at Encore, recalled the challenge of pulling back the lost time in the lead-up to the show. “We

held everything until the Monday before the show, when we eventually got the green light; from then onwards, it was all engines go,” he revealed. “Unfortunately, by that time we were already behind the build schedule, and with the event taking place at a beach club, we were only allowed to work at certain times to avoid disturbing the paying guests.” The team worked through the night, not only to claw back lost time but also to shelter from the searing heat, which was already cranking up ahead of summertime in Dubai. Yet, while nighttime working avoided the highest temperatures, according to Jozi, the humidity in the evenings was just as challenging. “Our humidity monitors were reading anywhere from 90% to 99% in the build-up and throughout the show,” he recalled, adding that the only solution to keep equipment dry was good old-fashioned fans and towels. “Thankfully, we were at the beach club, so there was no shortage of towels!” he laughed. “The team was incredibly professional; they knew what needed to be done and battled through the conditions to make sure that everything hit the


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“As much as I love the pre-production, design and creative phase of the project, there is nothing as exhilarating and exciting as seeing everything come together on show day.” Riaan ‘Jozi’ Gomes, Encore.

mark. For me, it was just about helping to keep them motivated to get through all the work in the reduced timeframe.” BRINGING THE RIG TO LIFE Jozi explained how he used the Fatboy Slim technical rider as a base for the stage design. “We received the artist’s technical requirements well in advance and we built on that,” he began. “As with most concerts or festivals, there was a tight budget to follow. However, I’ve always found that the best way to get over any challenge is through creativity, so I proposed a variety of stage design ideas, incorporating different lighting options and LED screen sizes.” According to Jozi, there was never any risk of the technical supply falling below expectations. “We have a great selection of equipment at our disposal from a wide range of world-class

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brands,” he stated. “We know that all the equipment we have works well in the conditions because everything is so well maintained by our excellent service team.” Vernum explained that the Fatboy Slim international touring party is very stripped back by design. “We like to roll into international shows like this with as little equipment as possible,” he shared. “We compromised on a couple of the fixtures, but that is not uncommon for us because we tour in so many different territories and it makes much more sense to work with what is available locally than to tour or freight vast amounts of equipment. Encore did a great job,” he added. The final design featured a single 11m by 6m 4.8mm Dicolor outdoor LED screen, which was used as a backdrop to the stage and displayed various graphics created by touring Video

Director, Bob Jaroc, blended with IMAG content. “We also used our Analog Way Ascender 48 4K switcher to send content to all the screens inside Zero Gravity and the venue’s existing LED,” Jozi revealed. Screen management was handled by Tom Evans and Simon Depypere, while Sydney Fernandes and Imran Akthar looked after the LED. Fatboy Slim’s long-time Lighting Designer, Stephen Abbiss used an Avolites Tiger Touch II to control the lighting rig, which comprised Claypaky Stormy, Sharpy and B-EYE K10s, Martin by Harman MAC Auras, Robe BMFL Blades, CHAUVET Professional LED Battens and Showtec Sunstrips. Supporting Abbiss was Encore’s Jonathan Shaw and Japie De Klerk. “Stephen Abbiss was phenomenal,” Jozi beamed. “My lighting team was watching what this guy was doing on a Tiger Touch II, operating the show. They had never seen a desk set up like


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that before. He really brought the rig to life, and it was a pleasure to watch and work with him.” The audio setup was made up of d&b audiotechnik J-SUBs and J-INFRAs, with Y-Series for front fill and out fills, as well as V-SUBs and M2 for stage monitors. Encore’s Vid Baleisa controlled the FOH mix with a DiGiCo SD9, while Justin ‘Ginger’ Wilson and Jay Violetta handled monitors and stage duties with a DiGiCo SD11. According to Jozi, the fact that Encore is already familiar with Zero Gravity due to its work at the venue on the install side of the business meant that he already had answers to many of the questions he would ordinarily have to ask. “Having that connection was very helpful,” he said. “It meant we already knew all about the venue – from where everything is located to the power situation – it made it a lot easier to put the show together. The show’s laser requirements were handled by Snap, which provided 30W mixed

diode lasers as well as Cobra smoke machines. According to Rupert Morse, Creative Lead and Laser Programmer, the biggest consideration was ensuring that the laser show would be approved by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority. “There was initially a suggestion to have the lasers firing upwards over the DJ’s head. However, we advised that they needed to remain flat to avoid the flight path,” he revealed, adding that due to the atmospheric state and the distribution of smoke during the show, “the lasers looked bright and made a big impact in the space”. For Jozi, the most pleasing aspect was seeing the final product come together. “As much as I love the pre-production, design and creative phase of the project, there is nothing as exhilarating and exciting as seeing everything come together on show day,” he summarised, adding that the experience of working with the Fatboy Slim touring crew was one he cherished. “It hasn’t just been a couple of years that they

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have been doing this,” he laughed. “They are incredibly experienced and talented, and you can see that when you work with them. Everything was smooth and easy; they knew exactly what they wanted and delivered an amazing show.” Vernum meanwhile – who has worked in the Middle East on many occasions, including for UAE National Day and the inaugural MDLBEAST Soundstorm – was also extremely pleased with the overall outcome. “After so many cancellations, it was great to finally get the opportunity to put the show on,” he concluded. “The venue was wicked, everything was done well, the promoter looked after us, Norman had a great gig and the crowd were in good form, too.” Photos: Nathan Gonzales – Encore, Greg Dufton – Creative Noise, Tim Derry – Think Events www.fatboyslim.net www.encore-emea.com www.snap.ae

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ATATÜRK MEMORIAL DAY IMAGINA PRODUCTIONS BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO AN EXISTING STAGE DESIGN TO CREATE A NEW AND INNOVATIVE SHOW THAT BRINGS TOGETHER THE PEOPLE OF ISTANBUL.

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As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This was very much the view of the Municipality of Istanbul when it came to planning this year’s May public holiday celebrations. Back in 2021, the city celebrated the Conquest of Istanbul with a large-scale production of projection, lighting, and drones; the event proved to be a massive success – albeit with the caveat that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only a very small VIP audience got the chance to witness it live and in person. However, with restrictions in Turkey now lifted, the Municipality was keen to repeat the show, this time throwing it open to an audience of up to 100,000 Istanbul residents at the scenic Maltepe Beach Park. Entrusted with the delivery of the project once again was Istanbul-based Imagina Productions. “Last year’s show was very well received not just by the audience and the industry, but also by the Municipality – they liked it so much, all they wanted was for the Istanbul public to be able to experience it in full,” began Imagina’s Isil Evgin, who took the role of Executive Producer on the show. As well as the Conquest of Istanbul on 29 May, the city also celebrates the Commemoration

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of Atatürk (Turkey’s first president), Youth and Sports Day on 19 May. With the two public holidays coming so close together, the Municipality identified an opportunity to maximise its return on investment, asking Imagina to build the stage 10 days earlier than originally planned and produce another show to mark Atatürk Memorial Day. “It made perfect sense for both us and the client,” Evgin continued. “We were working with the same stage, including the unique stage design of the memorable arch-shaped screen, so we had to come up with a way of creating something different to what audiences would see just 10 days later,” she added. With Imagina’s Sedat Gündüz taking the role of Production Director, and Denis Astakhov of Avocado Toast reprising his role from last year as Creative Director, the team put their heads together to come up with some innovative methods of utilising the existing infrastructure and identifying ways in which the setup could be expanded economically. “We decided to put a large catwalk in front of the stage to maximise the ground space and to add some extra layers and depth,” said Gündüz. “This allowed us to add a cast of more than 70

performers to differentiate the show from what would be taking place on 29 May.” While video, lighting and drones took centre stage on the Conquest of Istanbul show, for Atatürk Memorial Day, while all those elements were still present, they were used more as backing for the performers, who were the focus of the production. “Since we had the privilege of a large live audience this time round, we wanted the spotlight to be on the performers on stage, with video content, lighting and drones playing a supporting role,” Astakhov described. The production was split into several chapters, with each touching upon different aspects of Atatürk’s life and the ideals he instilled into the Turkish people. “We dug into the history of the day and uncovered a story that even many Turkish people don’t know about,” said Evgin. The Executive Producer went on to explain the story of how the Turkish President nominated 19 May as his official birthday due to its significance as the first day of the Turkish War of Independence in 1919. “This date is still celebrated every year as not only the birthday of Atatürk, but also the birthday of many of his ideas, which have helped Turkey become the country it is today.” These ideas were central to the storytelling of


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Above: Imagina’s Isil Evgin and Sedat Gündüz.

the show, which touched upon themes of nature, embracing people of all ethnicities, female empowerment, celebrating youth and sporting achievement – including Istanbul’s bid for the 2036 Olympic Games. “The show was all about the ideals that Atatürk instilled in the country for us to take forward and continue to build it together,” Evgin reflected. “It’s extremely pleasing to be given the chance to help the people of Istanbul come together and celebrate this very special day.” ‘IT LOOKED EPIC’ With the concept in place, a script was drawn up and Astakhov and the team worked with Milkyway Creative to produce the video content. “Isil laid out all the elements that needed to be included in the show and it was part of my job as Creative Director to visualise it and help convey those ideas during the content creation process,” he recalled. Projection came courtesy of 12 Barco 20K HDX-W18 projectors, along with Dataton WATCHOUT media servers and Resolume video

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mixing software. Two 7m by 4m 4.9mm outdoor LED screens were positioned either side of the central crescent-shaped projection surface and used as IMAGs. Solid Technical provided the video systems, while video control systems were supplied by SK Productions. Audio and lighting were supplied by Ego Technical Production, with Cetin Türkmenli and Burhan Sezer filling the roles of Lighting Designer and Lighting Operator respectively. Claypaky Mythos was once again called upon to provide the main beam looks, with 54 of the fixtures placed around the outer edge of the arch. A further 134 SGM P-5 LED Wash fixtures lined the inner and outer edges of the projection surface – a change from last year’s setup, which utilised ADJ HEX LED Bars. The rest of the lighting rig comprised 60 Robe Robin 800 LED washes, 36 Martin by Harman MAC Viper Profiles, and 32 MAC Viper Performances, with eight Martin by Harman Atomic 3000 fixtures providing strobe effects, as well as eight Desisti Leonardo 2kW Fresnels and two Robert Juliat Cyrano providing key light and follow spot

for the performers. Control meanwhile came from two MA Lighting grandMA2 consoles with three grandma NPUs. In another change from the 2021 specification, owing to the significantly larger in-person audience present at this year’s event, an extensive audio system was supplied, with 24 Meyer Sound MILOs and 24 MICAs joining 18 L-Acoustics 112P speakers. Control came courtesy of a Yamaha CL5 at FOH, which ensured complete coverage for everyone in the audience. Music composition was handled by Audofil, while Turkish actress Sezin Akbaşoğlulları was brought in for the voiceover, under the guidance of voiceover coach, Aziz Acar. “This was the first time that a female voiceover artist has been used for an event of this kind,” Evgin revealed. “With great direction from the voiceover coach, she did an amazing job and added a new dimension to the show.” Pyrotechnic effects were supplied by Efektif Production; Giga Solutions handled the stage structure; while Ugur Jenerator provided the energy infrastructure, supplying two 300KVA sync


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generators for audio and video and three 400KVA sync generators for lighting. The drone show, featuring some 350 light drones and 20 pyro drones, was provided by Dubai-based Lumasky. “I was pleased to have another chance to experiment with drones because I am fascinated by this technology,” commented Astakhov, who highlighted a scene where the drones took the shape of a threedimensional kite as his favourite effect. “From the audience perspective, it looked epic; it’s

impossible to portray even a fraction of how it looked live in the still images.” Even though the 370 drones in total pales in comparison to Lumasky’s largest delivery – a 3,200-drone spectacle for Saudi Founding Day, Astakhov believes that having more drones is far from an instant recipe for success. “We as an industry are still only dipping our toes in the water in terms of what is possible with drones,” he commented. “Even though we’ve seen some huge numbers of drones being used

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on other projects in the region, there’s a lot more that is possible with this technology. ‘THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE SHOW’ For Gündüz and Evgin, the biggest takeaway from the project was the importance of people – both in the audience and on stage. “This show was all about bringing people back together again, and it’s not always the best solution to simply throw more lights, lasers, or special effects at a production to try to make it better,” Gündüz

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“We went into minute detail with each performer, but these tiny details came together to create a strong production that can compete with much larger-budget shows elsewhere in the world.” Sedat Gündüz, Imagina Productions

reflected. “Instead, we focused our energy – and budget – on the human side of the show, bringing in performers, investing in props, costume, and make-up. We went into minute detail with each performer, but these tiny details came together to create a strong production that can compete with much larger-budget shows elsewhere in the world. It was a big challenge, but we’re pleased with what we achieved.” A wide range of performers were utilised on the show, from gymnasts and ballerinas to modern and traditional dancers, to acrobats. “The show lasted for 10 minutes and there was absolutely no downtime built into that – it hopped from one massive set piece to another,” Evgin recalled, describing the challenge of creating seamless links between scenes. “Transitions were a major challenge as some dancers needed to change costumes, so we had to come up with smart ways of diverting

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the audience’s attention for 30 seconds or so when the performers could make a quick exit. I was determined not to waste any time or lose momentum for the show by going to blackout during transitions.” As well as the extensive cast of dancers, gymnasts, and acrobats, Evgin was keen to credit the behind-the-scenes team, including: Choreographer, Ammar Adiloğlu; Assistant Choreographer, Ferhat Güneş; Costume Designer, Tugce Ozocak; Make-up Artist, Burcu Taş; Prop Producer, Kirill Golotsvan; Backstage Manager, Busra Tatar; as well as the Production Team of Eren Aydın, Aykut Aydın, Kemal Özdemir, and Mert Şahin. “Everybody really stepped up to plate and helped add those all-important human touches to the production,” she commented. Of course, the project wasn’t without its fair share of challenges – not least a massive storm the day before the show, which put the whole

production into doubt. “The storm was absolutely crazy – large parts of the stage were blown away and had to be rebuilt on the day of the show,” Astakhov recalled. Evgin added: “It wasn’t at all pleasant and it had a huge effect on the schedule that we had put into place. At one point, we were in a tent with all the dancers and the choreographer, and all we could do was play the music and ask the dancers to raise their hands when it was their cue. The first time we saw the show in full was when it was live in front of the audience.” With the eve of the show a complete washout, it was impossible to do any dress rehearsals or last-minute programming tweaks. “The lack of rehearsals due to the bad weather was incredibly frustrating,” reflected Astakhov. “While others might have to focus on individual details of a production, my job is to have an overview and keep an eye on the overall picture,


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which unfortunately was impossible to do as well as I would have liked in this instance. That said, even though we could have done even better with the help of an extra day, I’m still pleased with how all the elements came together for the show.” For the Creative Director, the project represented an interesting challenge, given the strict parameters of utilising an almost identical stage design to a previous project. “As a creative, the focus is always on creating something new and coming up with the next big idea, but utilising the same building blocks that have already been used with limited budget and creating something different forced us into a different way of thinking,” he reflected. Weather-affected schedule aside, the entire team agreed that the most important – and pleasing – aspect of the production was the reaction of the 100,000-strong audience that had waited so long to come together and see a live show of this scale in person again. “There was a huge reaction with the crowd whooping and cheering the whole way through,” Evgin concluded. “Everything hit the mark and we are very happy with the result.” Photos: Emre Dorter & Andrey Buzin www.imagina.com.tr

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INTERVIEW

Left: 3 Monkeys’ Rudi Buchner. Right: Alexander Vartzbed, Elisa Pupulin, Brace Thompson and Kazim Naim.

WHY HYBRID IS HERE TO STAY 3 MONKEYS’ RUDI BUCHNER RECOUNTS SOME STANDOUT EXAMPLES THAT COULD POINT TO A BLUEPRINT FOR THE FUTURE OF HYBRID EVENTS.

With the COVID-19 pandemic almost behind us (hopefully), everyone in the industry is eager to get back into ballrooms, tents, exhibition halls and stadiums. However, there are still virtual events happening and the number of hybrid events is increasing. So, what does the postpandemic event world look like? 3 Monkeys has supported a series of events throughout their evolution from in-person to virtual and then onwards to hybrid, serving a diverse client base in both the Middle East and the US. The transition from in-person to virtual was painful for many event professionals and dominated by attempts to apply everything that defines an in-person event into a digital format. Those giving up on this push-to-fit approach and focusing on new possibilities offered by a new production environment developed successful events; the others declared virtual events to be useless and only a temporary phenomenon.

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This transition phase is far from over. While in the past planning started by looking into a date and location, now one of the first decisions that needs to be made is whether the event will be in-person, virtual or hybrid. The virtual/hybrid events 3 Monkeys has run so far in 2022 have been mostly for clients who embraced virtual events during lockdown. They acquired the knowledge, strategies, and logistics to produce virtual and hybrid events quickly, efficiently, and successfully; they embraced virtual as a new element of the internal and external communication mix, easily extending this methodology into the hybrid world. Clients who are new to virtual events are driven primarily by cost efficiency compared to physical setups. For virtual and hybrid events alike, the simpler access to companywide or widely distributed audiences comes up a lot. Stakeholders who did not give virtual events a shot seem to have little to no appetite to

explore hybrid options, but there are a few data points that may yet prove invaluable during the decision-making process. First is feasibility; can all speakers and guests attend in person or are there restrictions or hesitations about travelling? Next is capacity; is there a larger potential audience than could fit in a venue and could this audience be activated virtually? Then there’s reach; is the event – or parts of it – suitable for a public or extended audience? Are there segments in the event’s target groups that could be reached by offering customised content out of the live event? Policies are also a key consideration; Are inclusion or environment important parts of the event’s policies, and might a hybrid or virtual event support these policies? And finally, income; is there a chance to sell virtual tickets or could a hybrid element increase sponsorship? A client who embraced virtual events early and started producing hybrid is the agency e2k –


INTERVIEW

events x entertainment. In May 2022, 3 Monkeys supported one of the company’s events out of Spring Studios in New York. The event operated with two stages, an exhibition area and a hospitality/mingling zone utilising three floors of the building. At first sight, it seemed like a typical setup for a premium conference, but a closer look revealed significant differences. Both stages were conceptualised with live and remote audiences in mind. The stage designs were equally impressive for the in-person audience as they were suitable for camera work. The design concept was extended into the lighting department, creating an event atmosphere in the room but also keeping cameras and broadcast in mind to a much higher extent than for a typical conference production. The lighting designer did a great job in finding the right balance between scenic, show, effect, and studio light. The second big difference was the back of house structure shared between CT, Maritime, Spring Studios internal AV department and 3 Monkeys. At its core, it was an extensive audio and video signal distribution network which allowed operators working for in-person and

broadcast to access all signals and produce the right mix for the different audiences. Besides the usual event-specific signals like camera program, camera iso, presentations, video playbacks, media server feeds and microphones, the hybrid character of the event added eight remote speaker channels with mix minus requirements and a total of a dozen different destinations across broadcast and the in-person event. The audiences for this event were not only defined as in-person and remote. The remote audience was split into an accredited audience seeing the full programme on the client’s virtual event platform. There was also a broadcast of selected sessions to social media, putting the event into the public space, as well as a clean broadcast feed, which was delivered to the client’s headquarters for further ad-hoc and post-event usage and documentation purposes. Each of these broadcast flavours had its own design, catering for the different target groups and distribution channels. For the main stage, a cluster of redundant Ventuz media servers operated by 3 Monkeys produced the three broadcast streams and

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the graphics for the LED screen, which was integrated into the stage. Unifying the graphics and broadcast platform proved to be highly efficient not just during content design and production but also during operation. Last-minute changes were adopted and reflected throughout all outputs working off a common database and asset library. The same database and asset library was used for digital signage screens run by Ventuz. The broadcast for the second stage came out of a Newtek Tricaster, operated by Maritime, and supported with broadcast graphics provided by 3 Monkeys. After three days of live events, the 3 Monkeys team felt that it had experienced a perfect fusion of what was achieved during the virtual-only era, updated to offer a successful and engaging experience for all audiences. There are always ways to improve workflows, always possibilities for technical improvement and, after all, each production is unique in its combination of client, venue, programme, audience, and suppliers, but the path for hybrid events in general is set. Photos: 3 Monkeys www.3monkeys.net

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INTERVIEW

AMIN SAMMAKIEH, PLAN A EXPERIENCE DESIGN STUDIO THE CEO AND VISUAL EXPERIENCE DESIGNER OF PLAN A LIFTS THE LID ON THE LEBANESE LIVE EVENTS INDUSTRY AND RECOUNTS A FEW OF HIS FAVOURITE PROJECTS FROM ELSEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

“Content creation is content creation, regardless of the medium it is displayed in.” This is the mantra of Beirut-based Amin Sammakieh, the CEO and Visual Experience Designer of Plan A Experience Design Studio. With the proliferation of VR and AR technology, the world of content creation looks very different nowadays to how it did when Plan A was launched back in 2008. However, according to Sammakieh, whether you’re projection-mapping onto a building or creating an immersive VR experience, the importance

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of strong concepts and creativity remain. “The business model hasn’t changed – we’ve just added different mediums to display the content,” he explained. With a background in television, working for the likes of Central TV in the UK, Showtime Arabia, and MBC, Sammakieh started Plan A originally to work with TV clients, before winning large projection mapping projects at iconic Beirut nightclubs SKYBAR and O1NE. “From there, we started producing content for large screen displays at shopping malls, before diversifying

into the live events sector, becoming more involved with the software and hardware part of the projects,” he recounted. It wasn’t long before Plan A began to cast its net further afield than Lebanon, working on projects in countries all over the region, from Egypt to the UAE and Saudi Arabia which, in recent years, has proved a particularly happy hunting ground for the company. “We have worked on some incredible projects in the Kingdom over the years, including the King’s Cup Final in Riyadh, where we produced a massive


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Plan A Experience Design Studio’s Amin Sammakieh.

“The KSA is going through a massive change, and everybody is welcoming it... It’s about time that the population in Saudi got to live their lives, and you can see that the young people especially are so happy to finally be able to express themselves.” Amin Sammakieh, Plan A Experience Design Studio

3D projection onto the pitch, as well as the JOY Forum, where we created an eye-catching 3D projection mapping of King Kong and T-Rex fighting onto the façade of the Ritz Carlton Riyadh,” he recalled. While Saudi Arabia is now the largest source of work for the company, the seasonal nature of the business means that each territory has its up and downtimes, with summer in Lebanon proving especially popular for weddings. “It’s a big trend in the Middle East to have large shows before the bride enters. They have been a great source of work for us in Lebanon during the summer,” he noted. In fact, wedding shows have become so popular that in 2018 Sammakieh decided to invest in his own Barco projectors. “We have preferred suppliers who have served us very well in the past for the subhire of kit, but the investment made sense and

allowed me to rent less and pass some of those savings onto our clients,” he stated. As well as the Beirut HQ, the company is also registered in Riyadh and Dubai. “The target is to set up operations in each country,” Sammakieh shared. “It’s been tough to make large commitments. I’ve always kept a base in Lebanon because I have always been able to source good talent at a reasonable price. It can be expensive to find and keep the right talent in the GCC.” As part of the expansion plans, the CEO is also developing a new business model, which he hopes to launch in Dubai in the coming year. “All I can say at this stage is that it involves working with architects and interior designers to create digital experiences or components within hospitality settings,” he stated. “I see Dubai as full of opportunities for this kind of technology. Everybody is looking for that edge

to bring customers and guests to them instead of the other options. We’re trying to offer that as a service, so we can create these unique visual experiences that will draw in guests and encourage them to share their experience across social media, further increasing the branding benefits and bringing more footfall.” Sammakieh concluded by sharing his excitement at the potential for growth within the region – especially Saudi Arabia. “The KSA is going through a massive change, and everybody is welcoming it,” he said. “Going from one extreme to the other is always going to be a challenge, but it’s about time that the population in Saudi Arabia got to live their lives, and you can see that the young people especially are so happy to finally be able to express themselves.” Photos: Plan A www.whoneedsplanb.com

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INTERVIEW

SAMEER RAHMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, FLAIR EVENT SERVICES FLAIR’S MANAGING DIRECTOR, SAMEER RAHMAN REFLECTS ON A BUSY SUMMER SEASON AND FORECASTS MUCH MORE TO COME IN THE COMING YEAR.

It’s no secret that the summer season is notoriously quiet for live events in the Middle East. However, when TPMEA caught up with Sameer Rahman of Flair Event Services, the Managing Director painted a rather different picture. “I have lived in Dubai for my whole life, and this is the busiest summer I can remember,” he commented. “A lot of the promoters and clients of ours have got the confidence back, so the events are happening, and the spending is continuing all the way through the year,” he added. “Plenty of

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people are staying in the country for the holidays and they want to be entertained.” The company has provided full-service creative and technical production for various high-profile events over the past few months, including several shows at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena as well as a huge 45-day anime-themed event in Jeddah as part of the Jeddah Season. And while Rahman still considers Dubai as the main hub for the company, as some of its long-term clients are expanding into the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that paves the way for

Flair to follow. “We’re going to take the organic route when it comes to expansion,” he explained. “Many of our Dubai-based clients are growing quickly and we’re going along with them to offer that full-service solution in new territories. They want to continue to work with us because they know that we can offer those consistent levels of service and support.” With the increase in demand, the Flair team has also scaled up and, according to Rahman, by the end of the summer, staff levels will be at three times what they were just a year ago.


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Facing page: Flair Event Services Managing Director, Sameer Rahman.

“We’re conscious of scaling up too quickly as it’s vital that we continue to offer the same levels of service, but there’s a lot of opportunity and we don’t want to be too slow and miss out,” he said. “It’s all about finding the right balance and maintaining those stringent requirements for any new starter who comes into the company,” he added, noting that since the end of Expo 2020, the company had been contacted by “a lot of key talent”, who reached out to express an interest in working with them. “That was a big boost, and we’re very pleased to be in a position where candidates are coming to us directly.” He added: “We’ve had a very high staff retention rate over the past 10 years, and one of the reasons for that is we invest in making it a win-win relationship for both parties. Just like

we like to invest in the right gear, it’s even more important to invest in the right people. They are the stars of the show. The Flair team includes some of the most passionate, dedicated, and hardworking people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with in the industry.” Referencing the recent run of Coca-Cola Arena shows – which included a double bill of Steve Aoki and Afrojack on 3 May, followed just three days later by Bollywood legend, Shreya Ghoshal – Rahman expressed the importance of being realistic when it comes to show designs and timelines to ensure that the company can deliver on its promises. “Over the past seven months, we’ve got into a great rhythm and homed in on how to set up a concert for 6,000 people in the space of six

hours,” he reflected. “It comes down to strong co-ordination and preproduction. We work very closely with Malcolm Giles from Coca-Cola Arena and he’s the first person to support and help us get the most out of the time as soon as we arrive on-site. The most important thing is being able to deliver on the commitments we have given to our clients. Once that commitment is given, our reputation is on the line. You’re only as good as your last show.” One of the biggest limiting factors facing the company is the industry-wide shortage of equipment brought about by global supply chain issues. “European summer has kicked off in a massive way and a lot of our colleagues in Europe are reaching out to us for gear because they’re not able to scale up quickly enough to meet their

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INTERVIEW

“This is the first time I can remember being given long lead times on confirmation of projects, with some jobs being confirmed and down payments being taken nine months to a year in advance, which is almost unheard of in the Middle East. It’s a very positive sign that there is confidence in the market, which helps us forecast better.” Sameer Rahman, Flair Event Services

demand,” Rahman said. “Lead times have gone through the roof and that means new gear has turned into a very long-term investment, which many won’t see any return on for at least a year.” Equipment shortages aside, the outlook for Flair remains extremely positive. “We’ve been fortunate to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within a fairly short time period, and we have picked up where we left off at the end of 2019 with our plans for growth,” Rahman stated, noting that the company has now outgrown its current facility and will soon

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move into a much larger space to accommodate its increased resources. “We’re also seeing different behaviour in clients, which is very helpful,” he noted. “This is the first time I can remember being given long lead times on confirmation of projects, with some jobs being confirmed and down payments being taken nine months to a year in advance, which is almost unheard of in the Middle East. It’s a very positive sign that there is confidence in the market, which helps us forecast better.” Rahman concluded by speculating on the events season

to come, which he believes will be even busier than the Expo 2020-fuelled season last year. “There are quite a few market indicators that are leading to that conclusion,” he commented. “Our colleagues elsewhere in the industry are seeing a similar trend, so it’s not exclusive to Flair. We do a lot of cross-hires with other AV companies and we’re seeing everyone get the same surges in demand. It’s extremely good news for this part of the world.” Photos: Flair Event Services www.flair.ae


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COMPANY PROFILE

COMPANY PROFILE: HUDA MEDIA & EVENTS HUDA LIGHTING PARTNERS WITH SILA SVETA TO LAUNCH A NEW DIVISION THAT OFFERS TECHNICAL, CREATIVE CONCEPTS, HIGH-END DESIGNS, AND QUALITY EVENT PRODUCTIONS.

With over 20 years of experience in the Middle East and North African markets, Huda Lighting has a well-earned reputation as a titan of the architectural lighting sector. The company employs more than 250 people across its 10 branches and two showrooms, which are spread throughout the region. For years, Huda Lighting has been striving towards its vision: ‘to be the lighting supplier of choice in the region’. However, recently the company broadened its horizons, partnering with creative studio Sila Sveta to launch a new events division, Huda Media & Events. Another industry stalwart, Sila Sveta is an interactive media, production and conceptual design company that has worked with some

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of the world’s biggest artists and brands, from The Weeknd and Billie Eilish to Mercedes and Lamborghini. Founded in Moscow in 2008 by Alexander Us and Alexey Rozov, the company has bases in New York, Cyprus and has recently moved its operations into Dubai due to the ongoing geopolitical issues. Huda Lighting Managing Director, Khaled B Alami explained that the idea of the division came about as a reaction to the rapid growth within the sector. “This is a market segment which is growing quickly, and it is a natural extension of our portfolio,” he commented. “The demand nowadays has moved on from the traditional theatrical light show and has become more futuristic and creative, and we hope to offer

something beyond what is currently available on the market.” Silvio Bartolo from Huda Lighting and Sila Sveta have worked together on several projects over the past five years and, as Bartolo explained, the partnership can work on many levels. “Huda Lighting has a very strong name in the industry all over the Middle East – we have been trusted with huge projects such as the Bulgari Hotel in Dubai and King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran – so, there is already the brand recognition there, and there is also the financial backup to match,” he began. “Of course, this is a new division for Huda Lighting, but it is in a complementary discipline” he added. “There’s a natural synergy between the


COMPANY PROFILE

two companies that presents many possibilities when our strengths are combined.” Sila Sveta’s Anastasia Filatova concurred, bringing up the strong relationship between the two companies as a big plus point for the new venture. “Sila has growing experience in the Middle East, but we understand that if we want to enter the market properly, we need to collaborate. Both companies trust in collaboration – this is how we see our common future.” While the new venture has been in the pipeline for a couple of years, with the Middle East outperforming many other regions around the world thanks in part to massive world-class events such as Expo 2020 in Dubai, Formula One in Abu Dhabi and Jeddah and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Doha, both companies are keen to make waves in this rapidly expanding entertainment market. “We can see that it is an incredibly exciting time for the region, and we understand that the MEA market is growing quickly,” said Filatova. “I’m

more than sure the region could benefit from our expertise and that there will be a high demand for the new offering from Huda Media & Events.” According to Bartolo, the new venture won’t be limited to just live events. “There will be a few areas where I anticipate demand,” he hypothesised. “For example, we’re working on a huge project in Saudi Arabia for a shopping mall, for which we will supply the LED, install it, programme it and then – alongside Sila as Huda Media & Events – we will produce all the content.” Filatova added: “It’s the logical move. We know we need to develop the business and Huda Lighting has the expertise that will help us do that together. Everything from museums to malls to art exhibitions needs good high-quality content and high-quality equipment, and Huda Media & Events can deliver both.” Bartolo added: “We come up with cuttingedge designs. Some people think that they cannot be done, but we always find ways to do them. We want to combine technologies -

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LED, lighting, lasers, holograms – and break the conventions that are so common in the region.” Will the new venture see a large investment in inventory? Not according to Bartolo. “We’re not going to pump all our money into buying masses of equipment straight away,” he commented. “There are plenty of companies in the region that we already work with and we will continue to do so. The strong creative team is our main selling point and our people are our main investment.” The operations will be based in Dubai, with several Sila personnel heading to the UAE to collaborate with the Huda Lighting team – something important to Bartolo, who also moved to Dubai at the start of the year after working in Qatar for eight years. “Sometimes we work with freelancers from all over the world, but the core team on the creative, design and technical side will be based in Dubai,” he stated. Photos: Huda Media & Events www.Instagram.com/hudamediaevents hello@hudamediaevents.com

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COMPANY PROFILE

COMPANY PROFILE: ES:ME ENTERTAINMENT SERVICES ES:ME ENTERTAINMENT SERVICES CEO ALEX WUERFEL REFLECTS ON AN EXCITING TIME FOR THE COMPANY AND SHARES HIS VISION OF REGIONAL AND GLOBAL EXPANSION.

With over 25 years in the business, working with the likes of U2, The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Phil Collins, Madonna and AC/DC, it’s fair to say that Alex Wuerfel knows a thing or two when it comes to the live events industry. Back in 2007, Wuerfel joined forces with fellow industry professional René Karnahl to found Even2 The Rigging Specialists, based in Al Jaddaf Dubai Free Zone. As the company grew, a separate division, ES:ME Entertainment Services, was formed, with branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, as well as a warehouse in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, offering turnkey events services to clients all over the Middle East. With the company providing full-service solutions for some of the largest events in

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the region – including the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup Opening Ceremony in Doha – it is now uniting under the ES:ME banner, with the Even2 brand being phased out. “We’ve stepped up our game recently in terms of marketing and brand recognition, and it was always going to be a matter of time before we merged all the areas of the business under the ES:ME brand,” explained Wuerfel. “The two companies became basically the same, so it makes perfect sense to channel all our resources into developing ES:ME Entertainment Services, rather than having two brands competing with each other.” The development comes at an exciting time for the company, with the appointment of two new General Managers, Rob Handley and Martin Lauth, who will oversee the regional operations

of the business. “Rob is full throttle on Qatar with the FIFA World Cup as well as helping me with the development of standardised processes throughout the company, while Martin is taking care of the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” Wuerfel outlined, noting his long-standing relationships with his two new GMs. “I’ve known Martin for more than 20 years from the days before PRG bought Procon. We’ve been working on bringing them in for a while, so it’s a big boost the finally get it over the line.” According to Wuerfel, the new appointments will pave the way for international development. “Having Rob and Martin in place allows me to focus more on my role as CEO and gives me the opportunity to look further afield at developing international projects outside the Middle East,” he


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Facing page: ES:ME’s Alex Wuerfel. Above: Rob Handley and Martin Lauth.

revealed. “With the hubs in Dubai and Doha, we are halfway into Asia already, so it’s much more flexible for us to operate in this region.” While expansion outside the Middle East is very much on the cards, the CEO is also keen to maximise the potential of the company’s home territories, with Saudi Arabia offering a particularly tantalising opportunity for growth. “Like most companies, Saudi is a big target for us,” he stated. “The ambitions that Saudi Arabia has, with massive projects such as NEOM and the huge festivals and concerts now taking place in the country, it’s a market with a massive potential where there’s scope for everyone to get a piece of the cake and to thrive. “Anyone could hire the equipment to do a stadium show, but it’s about having the experience and knowhow to pull it off,” the CEO said when asked if there were any more plans to expand the company’s inventory. “Our people are our strength. We have a nice setup of specialists, and no event is too big for us to take on.” In stark contrast to many other companies,

ES:ME didn’t make any redundancies during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Instead of burying our heads in the sand, we focused on developing some standardised processes and quality management throughout the business,” Wuerfel outlined. This ultimately led to the company being awarded three ISO Certifications: ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems, ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems, and ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems for preparation and organisation of concerts and public art events. “We’re now reaping the benefits for how we acted during that time,” he added. Looking to the future, Wuerfel is keen to continue to provide full-service events and build long-term relationships with clients. “The area where we can grow most is by being involved more in the consulting and engineering process behind events and being involved from the start of the idea,” he said. “If clients would involve us from the beginning, they would benefit both in terms of finance and how successful the project

is. We want to become partners with clients over many years, which means we can have better cashflow planning and forecasting, which means they can also get better rates.” ES:ME is a member of the AV Alliance and has also partnered with Major Events International (MEI) – something which Wuerfel sees as a big benefit to the company. “We have good connections now with premium suppliers around the world to have access to much more equipment when it is needed. Being a member also brings benefits from a networking perspective. Having access to such a wide network brings us to the global table where suddenly we can say, we are big enough now to put on any event internationally,” he commented. “It might be ambitious to say as a small company that we want to become a global force in a world that is already dominated by large international companies, but if you don’t have goals in life, what else is there?” Photos: ES:ME, FIFA www.es-me.net

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GEAR HEADS

HOF MLT² HOF CO-CEO, DENNIS KLOSTERMANN DETAILS THE EVOLUTION OF THE COMPANY’S LATEST MOVING LIGHT TRUSS.

lamps from rain during the show when it is pulled over the lamps. The cover can also be pulled below the lamps in order to protect the lamps during transportation. The rain cover remains on the truss during the show even when it is not needed and the sun is shining – so no extra handling is required.”

Where does the MLT² fit within the live entertainment market? “The MLT² is the further development of the Moving Light Truss 1. We wanted to develop a pre rig truss that would even better respond to evolving customer needs. Therefore, we developed the MLT² closely with our key customers and implemented more than 90% of our customers’ needs and ideas. The goal of the MLT² is to offer professionals the most efficient pre rig truss possible in order to make the setup and dismantling at the venue as easy and efficient as possible.” How has MLT² been tailored to support touring professionals in the region? “Setup and dismantling times have drastically decreased compared to the pre COVID-19. Also, crews have become much smaller. The MLT² makes handling very easy as it can be done with one person only. The telescopic legs of the

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dolly make the connection to the truss fast and secure and very smooth. MLT² saves a lot of space at the venue as up to 10 dollies without truss can be stacked on top of one another. The only limiting factor here is the height of the user, not the dolly itself. Setup and dismantling times can be drastically decreased as the moving lights remain in the MLT² during transportation; shock absorbing wheels from the German manufacturer Blickle also help to protect them.” What features will end users benefit from? “We constantly develop new features for the MLT² to respond to evolving customer needs. The most recent feature is the lowering set – an extra tube that can be placed a bit lower in the MLT² to avoid interfering with smaller lamps with the main tube, and which can be placed in four different heights. Another feature is the forklift adapter to make handling as fast and easy as possible. The rain cover protects the sensitive

How crucial is the versatility of MLT²? “Every show is different and has different needs. Every venue is different, too, and has different specifications and limitations. It was important to us to develop a pre rig truss that is as versatile as possible. For example, with the MLT², curved truss systems can be created without extra components. To do this, the forks are screwed out of the trusses by up to 70mm (in total 140mm) in order to create vertical or horizontal circles with different diameters. A static calculation for these applications is also available free of charge.” Where are we likely to see MLT² on the road? “The MLT² is already on many shows. You will be able to see it at Judas Priest, 50 Cent, Michael Kiwanuka, Karpe, David Gray, Dermot Kennedy, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi, and Chemical Brothers shows as well as Boomtown Festival’s Grand Central Stage, to name a few.” www.h-of.de


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REGIONAL ROUND-UP

NBCFC INVESTS IN KLANG IMMERSIVE IN-EAR MIXING THE NEW BEGINNINGS CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP CHURCH (NBCFC) BECOMES ONE OF THE FIRST IN SOUTH AFRICA TO INSTALL THE IMMERSIVE IEM SOLUTION. Johannesburg’s New Beginnings Christian Fellowship Church (NBCFC) regularly hosts over 1,000 worshippers in its auditorium for Sunday services. To cope with the demands, the church has upgraded its audio system, becoming one of the first in South Africa to enjoy an installation comprising a KLANG:vokal immersive in-ear mixing processor, along with seven KLANG:kontroller personal monitor mixers, and two DiGiCo SD9 mixing consoles. Audio consultant, Victor Vermaak worked closely with suppliers DWR Distribution to come up with a solution that would provide reliability and excellent sound for years to come. “The existing audio equipment was outdated, not serving the needs of the church nor covering the venue properly, and was starting to break down,” he explained. Having worked with the NBCFC over the past seven years, he lent them some of his demo equipment. It was used by the church for a couple of weeks, and they soon realised that they could not go back to what they had before. “The

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church broadcast team spoke about a positive change in the audio over those two weeks,” recalled Jaco Beukes of DWR. “The only thing different was the demo DiGiCo console.” The installation commenced in 2021, with COVID-19 restrictions still preventing worshippers from physically attending church. “It was the first KLANG processor installation DWR had worked on with the recently released KLANG:kontroller,” said DWR’s Kyle Robson. “We had fantastic support from KLANG when setting the system up for the first time. It was a great learning curve for everyone and incredible to experience the power hidden inside the units. The next step was to guide both musicians and engineers to change their mindset from traditional stereo in ear (some were also on mono) mixing to KLANG’s powerful immersive mixing.” Describing the result as “incredible”, Robson commented: “Nothing beats watching people get so excited and passionate about what they do. With many of the church’s technical team working on a volunteer basis, most of the training

was held after hours or over weekends. They were so gracious, always made sure we were well looked after on site, and always welcoming. After the installation and training, everyone agreed they have the knowledge and tech to keep them going strong for many years ahead.’’ The full audio revamp includes two compact DiGiCo SD9 digital mixing consoles, one used at FOH with the KLANG system for in-house services, and the second with a Waves SoundGrid system used for their broadcast mix. “NBCFC is now also the first church in Africa to have the new L-Acoustics A15 system installed,” added Vermaak. The L-Acoustics system comprises six A15 wide, four KS21 subs with an LA12X amplified controller. The X8 delays and monitors, four of each, are powered by an LA4X Amplified controller. “The new system is more than just a hearing difference,” he concluded. “It has made an emotional difference.” Photo: NBCFC www.digico.biz


REGIONAL ROUND-UP

53

Gripelectric Worx’s Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Sitole.

GRIPELECTRIC WORX GETS FIRST ASTERA PIXELBRICKS IN SA THE JOHANNESBURG-BASED COMPANY UTILISES THE FIXTURES ON A NEW NETFLIX SERIES. Gripelectric Worx has purchased eight Astera PixelBricks from South African distributor DWR Distribution – the first investment of its kind in the country. Run by freelance gaffer Emmanuel (Manny) Sitole, Gripelectric Worx is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and owns some specialist lighting kit, which is used primarily on Manny’s own projects. He first heard about the PixelBrick via the ICLS (International Cinema Lighting Society) a global group of gaffers, rigging gaffers, and console programmers dedicated to expanding the field of cinematic lighting. Manny also already owned a set of Astera Titan and Helios Tubes, so he was already familiar with the brand. “I love the fact you can clamp them together and create different shapes,” he stated. “They are perfect for lighting action, environmental scenes like clubs and other scenarios needing some ‘live’ elements of lighting. You can pull a PixelBrick out of a case and deploy it anywhere – on a desk, in a roof, on the floor, in a fridge – and it will look like part of a set.” The PixelBrick has been designed for use on anything from concerts and events to a range of filming and broadcast applications. Its IP65 rating is rain and damp resistant and multiple PixelBricks can be joined together to create all sorts of combinations. “The price is also very reasonable,” noted Manny, adding that he hopes this purchase will also potentially be a source of new work. He frequently uses the AsteraApp for controlling the PixelBricks, but also likes the option to run the fixtures via DMX off a standard lighting console. The Gripelectric Worx PixelBricks went straight out on a Netflix series that Manny was working on for two months which involved several location shoots. He believes they will get used “all the time” just like his Titans and Helios and have been a “completely solid investment” that will work constantly and consistently. He feels that the relationship with the distributor is a vital part of the equation when making an investment in any brand, and he praises DWR and its Astera account manager, Marlene Riley, for their “excellent and efficient service and prompt deliveries.” Photos: Gripelectric Worx www.astera-led.com

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54

REGIONAL ROUND-UP

GRANDMA3 STARS ON THE SATURDAY SHOWDOWN BLOND PRODUCTIONS SUPPLIES A COMPLETE MA LIGHTING GRANDMA3 SYSTEM FOR NEW GAMESHOW SHOOT. Lighting Designer Ryan Lombard used a complete grandMA3 solution to run lighting and video content on South Africa’s newest DSTV gameshow, The Saturday Showdown. Recorded at Johannesburg Urban Brew Studio 10 and produced by Red Pepper Productions for broadcaster Mzansi Magic, the show saw Lombard specify a grandMA3 light as the main console for graphics and lighting, coupled with grandMA3 onPC running on a dedicated computer on the network accessed via a grandMA3 onPC command wing, which was used to trigger all the reactive LX and AV cues as different sections of the games were played. Two MA Network Switches and one grandMA3 processing unit were also part of the package delivered by lighting and LED vendor, Blond Productions, creating a complete grandMA3 system. The set – designed by Michael Gill Designs and built by SDS – was divided into two areas, the Arena or Field, where the action took place, and the commentator / studio setup where the

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competitors were also seated for the relevant segments. A total of 52 moving lights were on the rig and used for effects and precision lighting around and the field, with 60 Martin by Harman VDO Sceptron 10 LED pixel battens (and their own controller) utilised as set eye candy also being run from the grandMA3. Substantial quantities of LED strip were part of the set ‘practicals’ as well, and there were 62 LED fixtures for set specials, keys and arena lights with another 120 LED PARs for ‘stadium lights’, up lighters, and truss warmers – an eclectic mix which were skilfully combined to produce a slick and stylish look. Eight individual video feeds controlling digital content appearing on the multiple LED surfaces around the studio were received from a Hippotizer Boreal+ Mk 2 media server into the grandMA3 system. “I thought this was an ideal scenario to make the transition to grandMA3 and stay current by using the latest and most powerful control technology,” commented Lombard, who was

particularly impressed with the console’s Phaser engine. “I soon felt really comfortable figuring out how to set up some of the more advanced functionality and especially the cues involving the media server,” he noted. “It was an absolute blast using the desk and the grandMA3 system.” Lombard tapped into multiple systems for this show, running a multi-user session for the main lighting console and the games console, together with MA-Net3 for the lights plus Art-Net and HippoNet for the media server to access and control the graphical systems. “It was a big learning curve – especially incorporating all the video elements,” he admitted. “It’s an intricate tool that takes some figuring out, but it’s a lot of fun to use.” He also appreciated the generally much “cleaner and more streamlined” grandMA3 user interface. Naturally, the “outstanding” support from local MA distributor DWR Distribution was “brilliant as always,” confirmed Ryan. Photo: Annie Goetzsche www.malighting.com


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COBRA unique

Offering unique visual experiences is our ultimate goal. With its first phosphor laser source fixture, Ayrton inaugurates a new generation of technologically impressive luminaires. A stunning, 0.6 degree beam you’ve never seen before. Native contrast never before achieved by a digital light source. With its ultra-intensive beam, COBRA aims with precision, and very... very... very far. You won’t believe your eyes! Its light rays will not only converge; they will intersect! The only luminaire on the market capable of illuminating an object several kilometres away. As well-suited for indoor as well as outdoor use, COBRA is an IP65 fixture designed specifically to resist extreme conditions. A concept that is simply unique.

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