TPMEA #038 - Oct/Nov 2022

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Stream of consciousness As someone who remembers the painstaking process of attempting to download my favourite tracks from Napster and LimeWire (and most likely riddling my computer with viruses in the process), it’s easy to forget those memories and take for granted the millions of songs now at my fingertips thanks to modern music streaming. Music streaming services have certainly earned their share of criticism – the miniscule royalties that the major players pay to artists being a particular bone of contention – however, one thing that can’t be denied is that they have made it a lot easier for us as consumers to listen to our favourite music and discover new artists. While the likes of Spotify and Apple Music are global market leaders, in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi-based Anghami has cornered the Arabic music streaming market. As well as building its massive subscriber base, the company recently made a move into live events, acquiring Dubai-based live events management company, Spotlight. In this issue’s First Look interview (page 6), I talk to Anghami’s CEO, Eddy Maroun, about the connection between online and offline music, and how data collected from streaming is being used to decide on which artists are chosen to perform live. Elsewhere in the issue, our cover story comes from Jerusalem as Dutch DJ Hardwell gets his brand-new world tour underway in style. After a four-year hiatus, the two-time World Number One DJ is back and pushing the boundaries of creativity further than ever, with the support of his multitalented team. Find out more on page 26. With the Middle East’s events season back in full swing, I’ll be in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia over the next couple of months, so please drop me a line if you’d like to meet up for a drink. Enjoy the issue. Peter Iantorno Editorial Director | |





Anghami’s CEO on how streaming affects live.


The latest news from the Middle East, including Lusail Super Cup and iRIG opening in KSA.



26 – HARDWELL: REBELS NEVER DIE A creative masterclass from the two-time World’s Number One DJ and his multiskilled team.


Saudi Arabia’s first-ever K-pop festival.


The legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai.


An inventive opening ceremony in Uzbekistan.




MDLBEAST’s Strategy Director discusses the challenges and opportunities for women in KSA.


Assembling the ‘dream team’ of the Middle East.


Why 3DB has expanded into Saudi Arabia.




Maestra partners with Showblock; DLC invests in Televic; and the brand-new Martin MAC Aura XIP.


The latest news from Africa, including a massive mosque install from HOLOPLOT.

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Peter Iantorno Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7763 233637 e-mail:

CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Stew Hume Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7702 054344 e-mail:

CONTRIBUTING ASSISTANT EDITOR Jacob Waite Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8352 Mobile: +44 (0)7592 679612 e-mail:

CHIEF EXECUTIVE Justin Gawne Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7768 850767 e-mail:

SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER Fran Begaj Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7852 336728 e-mail:

ACCOUNT MANAGER Matilda Matthews Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7413 555978 e-mail:

DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER James Robertson Tel: +44 (0)161 476 8360 Mobile: +44 (0)7725 475819 e-mail:


ACCOUNTS Lynette Levi / Sarah Miller:



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With more than 70 million users across MENA, Europe and USA, music-streaming platform Anghami has come a long way in the decade since it was launched in Beirut, Lebanon, by Co-Founders, Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun. Since then, the company has moved its headquarters to Abu Dhabi as part of the Abu Dhabi Global Market and it also has offices in Beirut, Dubai, Cairo and Riyadh, with more than 160 employees. While the company was built on music streaming – something which remains at its heart – Anghami is also on a mission to contribute to the wider music and entertainment ecosystem, with numerous subsidiaries, co-operations and ventures adding strings to the company’s bow. The most recent of these strings came with the acquisition of Dubai-based live events management company, Spotlight Events. The strategic partnership aims to bridge the gap between online and offline, with Spotlight becoming Anghami’s arm for live events and concerts – and it has already borne fruit, with its Beat The Heat series of summer concerts in Dubai proving incredibly popular. Here, Co-Founder and CEO Eddy Maroun talks to TPMEA about the motives behind the acquisition, delves into the possibilities for AR/VR, and speculates on the outlook for music and live events in the region. Why did Anghami acquire Spotlight Events? Anghami is now more than just a music streaming platform; we are becoming an entertainment platform. We believe that given Anghami’s infrastructure and network, and the relationships we have with all stakeholders in the music and entertainment scene, that we must play a bigger role within this ecosystem to help it grow and to grow within it. The Spotlight acquisition is part of an overall strategy to unlock the synergy between the physical and digital worlds. This connection was made obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic when we saw that as offline music stopped, online streaming was also somehow affected. We believe that we can fill that gap between offline and online by being present in the Middle East and North Africa and by bringing in our tech and data to the offline world. With this, we can accelerate growth within the industry and give more opportunities to artists, brands and, of course, fans to experience something new. What kind of live events are we likely to see as a result of the acquisition? If you look at the festivals happening in the region, you’ll see the same artists appearing time after time – the ones who have historically done well and are a safe bet for promoters




“While data helps us understand the trends, we always need to be present in the region to keep our finger on the pulse. We have boots on the ground in every major city in the region to complement the data and digital presence.” Eddy Maroun, CEO, Anghami

to sell enough tickets. However, there is a huge range of artists that do not get that chance, but according to our streaming figures, we know they are popular within certain segments. We want to be the platform for those underrepresented artists, give them a way to grow, interact with their fans more and monetise that interaction. We started our programme of events this summer with our series of Beat The Heat concerts in partnership with Dubai Tourism, which saw up-and-coming artists from across the region perform live at Dubai World Trade Centre. If you look at the line-up, most of the artists there are names who you don’t often see on stage in the UAE, and the results have been amazing. The tickets sold extremely well, and the audience reaction was incredible.


How much of an advantage does this datadriven method of hosting live events give you? All promoters and event organisers look at data, but we have a deeper access and understanding, and we can identify trends as they start to happen. We have had a presence for the past 10 years and in that time, we have gathered a tremendous amount of data. Being digital, we see what is trending and we know the artists who are popular and even what regions, countries, and cities they are the most popular in. This helps us identify who should perform where, with which support acts, at what times, and with what kind of messaging. Yet while the data helps us understand the trends, we always need to be present in the region to keep our finger on the pulse. We

have boots on the ground in every major city in the region to complement the data and digital presence. So, we understand each of the individual markets and we can cater to what is relevant. There’s a real gap in the market and we’re trying to bring something new to the table. In doing this, we’re trying to help the ecosystem grow and, in turn, we are growing with it. What other initiatives have you launched to expand your offering? Another initiative that we announced at last year’s MDLBEAST XP Music Futures conference was Vibe Music Arabia – a joint venture record label in partnership with Sony Music to support the independent Arabic artist community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, wider GCC and Levant.



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We see so many talented artists and songs emerge daily from this region and believe there is a real opportunity for a boutique label to foster these fast-growing music communities and help develop their craft. We also partnered with Addmind to launch Anghami Lab – an innovative studio, stage and lounge venue in major cities around the GCC and beyond, where artists and creators can come together and co-create music inspired by both Arabic and International cultures, and we can give that music the right reach. The first edition will take place at Riyadh Boulevard, the entertainment hub of the Saudi capital and home of the flagship Riyadh Season festivities.

How much of a focus do you place on promoting Arabic artists? Our focus as a platform has always been on local artists and local audiences. Arab culture is at our core and is part of our slogan – ‘make some noise, the world is listening’. Of course, we are also open for more than just local talent; there’s demand for international acts and we want to be the platform for them as well. However, our focus is primarily on local talent. We are also looking to help local and international talent work together. We contributed to the recent collaboration between Marshmello and Nancy Ajram, for example, which was executed by our head of international

partnerships Wassim SAL Slaibi under Universal Arabic Music which he runs. How important is the KSA market to Anghami? Saudi Arabia is a gamechanger in everything we’re doing. When we started Anghami, music was banned in Saudi, and everybody used to tell us that we were mad to start a company that we were unable to promote in the biggest market in the region. That was true at the time, but we were so driven and obsessed with the idea that we pushed forward anyway. Today, it’s a different story. Music is not just allowed; it’s a pillar of the country’s Vision 2030 plans. This represents a huge opportunity


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for us to grow into a market that is evolving at a rapid pace. As the largest platform for the region focusing on Arabic culture, we have a responsibility and role to play to contribute towards the growth of the industry in the Kingdom. We are cooperating significantly with the leadership and with the leading companies in the region to be part of the ecosystem and promote music and culture. How much do you work with MDLBEAST as part of your remit within Saudi Arabia? Anghami was the official streaming partner for MDLBEAST Soundstorm in 2021 and hopefully it will be in 2022 as well. We were also a part of the XP Music Futures Conference, where we announced Vibe Music Arabia. This shows our commitment to what’s happening there and to this ongoing transformation and evolution of the music scene. The MDLBEAST team is fantastic, and we see eye to eye on many points. They are young, dynamic, and empowered by the leadership to push their agenda. Soundstorm is probably the world’s biggest party and it’s happening in Riyadh. This is mind-blowing, amazing and we are part of this evolution that is happening in the

country. We believe in partnerships, and we think that this is the best way to complement each other’s strengths and do the best for the industry. How much of a role do you think AR and VR will play in the future of live events? We are a tech company at the core, which means we have the technical adaptability to go into new innovations, and when you speak about the industry both offline and online, AR and VR is always high up in the list of conversation topics. We want to offer immersive experiences and we believe that this technology is a viable route to achieving that. As we grow into an entertainment platform, this can represent an opportunity to give our users something more than what they have experienced before on any other platform. When it comes to the development of this technology, we usually do most of it in house, but that doesn’t stop us from partnering with the right companies who have specialist knowledge in these areas if an opportunity arises. What are your goals for the company? Our biggest goal will always be healthy growth. We’re lucky to be in a part of the world where


a lot of opportunities are opening, and we’re positioned very well to capture this growth. Our focus remains on music streaming and monetising subscriptions and adverts on the platform while accelerating growth through the various initiatives we’re launching. We believe there is a lot of depth in our core markets – the Middle East and North Africa. Take Iraq, for example, which is growing quickly and presents a huge opportunity. We always focus on Arab culture, and we believe that by focusing on Arabs, we maintain our edge over the competition in the region and remain the market leader, which has been proven over the years. What are your favourite genres to stream or see live? I have a very eclectic taste in music. I’ve seen Coldplay live twice and they were phenomenal, The Weeknd was also incredible live, and I am also a fan of dance and electronic music. On the Arabic front, I like pop music but also Oriental Deep House; this is a genre that is growing quickly in the region and globally, and we at Anghami are supporting it. Photos: Anghami


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RICHARD JOHN SCOTT 1958 - 2022 A beloved and devoted husband to Beverley, a treasured dad to Nichola and Andrew, and a loving grandad to Zayed, Richard Scott was a devoted family man – clever, hard-working, kind, and funny. Richard was also very capable; a man of many talents who was extremely smart and knowledgeable on all sorts of topics – not least the live events and technology sectors, which he served with distinction throughout his long and successful career. After working for the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Spectrum, Richard joined eclipse, now Encore, in May 2010. With extensive experience and a deep understanding of the industry, he quickly became not just the go-to PM to manage the company’s most important corporate clients, but also something of an agony uncle to many of the younger team members, always taking the time to offer his guidance and advice on matters big and small. This generosity with his time led to him gaining the affectionate nickname ‘Pop’. His passing left a void in the Encore family, and he will be sadly missed. Richard had a genuine passion for events, with his work taking him all over the Middle East, UK, Europe, and the US. However, wherever in the world he found himself, one thing that remained the same was his burning desire to return home and be with his family again. Richard and Beverley were simply never happier than when in each other’s company and were very close as a couple, recently celebrating 41 years of marriage. In Richard’s memory, those who wish to make a charitable donation in his name are welcomed to do so to Pulmonary Fibrosis.


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LUSAIL SUPER CUP MEDIAPRO INTERNATIONAL PROVIDES AUDIO, VIDEO, LIGHTING AND RIGGING SOLUTION FOR THE GRAND OPENING OF QATAR’S BIGGEST STADIUM. With the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 just around the corner, the country’s centrepiece venue set to host the final of the tournament got its first outing on 9 September, as it played host to the Lusail Super Cup. Played out between Saudi Professional League winners Al Hilal SFC and Egyptian Premier League champions Zamalek SC, the match was the first to take place in the brand-new stadium and served as a dress rehearsal before the eyes of the world turn to Qatar in November. Ahead of the on-pitch action, Egyptian superstar, Amr Diab opened the show with a typically high-energy performance that delighted the more than 70,000-strong crowd in attendance. Live Nation Middle East appointed MediaPro International to deliver the audio,


video, lighting and rigging solutions for the concert. Senior Production Manager, Nikhil Kotian explained that the hot and humid climate combined with limited working hours provided a challenge for his team. “There was an outdoor working restriction between 10am and 3pm during the summer as it was extremely hot, so we had to stagger equipment deliveries and crew and make sure the schedule was perfect to make the most of the time we had,” he revealed. Due to the high-profile nature of the venue being the host stadium for the upcoming FIFA World Cup Final, the MediaPro team had to adhere to a strict timetable. “There were a lot of restrictions we had to follow, which was time consuming. However, our on-ground production

team did a great job of working alongside all stakeholders to ensure that everything was done with due diligence,” Kotian commented. The audio deployment comprised 60 L-Acoustics K2 speakers with 16 K1SB subs as the main PA to cover the first level of the grandstand throughout the stadium. The in-house audio system was used to cover the upper-level seating. L-Acoustics KARAs and X15s were used for monitors, as well as a Shure PSM1000 IEM system for Amr Diab. A DiGiCo SD5 was at FOH, along with two Yamaha CL5s on monitors. Due to the height of the venue, 48 CM Lodestar one-tonne hoists were rigged in the stadium using 50m-plus chains and 250 running metres of 40 by 40 Eurotruss for the lighting rig. Around 400 sq m of Absen 4.81 LED screens were


incorporated into the scenic stage elements, with content running through two Barco E2 event processors and four disguise media servers. The lighting inventory included 92 Ayrton Cobras, 66 Robe MegaPointes and 44 BMFL Blades, as well as 26 Claypaky Scenius Profiles, 56 CKC Lighting 1640s and 250 RGB LED battens. A Robe RoboSpot system featuring eight BMFL LTs was also utilised. Atmospherics were provided by 16 strategically placed Smoke Factory Fan Foggers and eight Reel EFX DF-50 haze machines, while control came from two MA Lighting grandMA3s. Kotian was especially pleased with how his team pulled together to deliver the project exactly as promised. “There’s nothing more gratifying than a client who is happy,” he reflected. “Setting up the first ever show in this brand-new venue is a great feeling; the atmosphere on show day was incredible.” The rest of the MediaPro team comprised Special Projects Director, Hugh Turner; Production Manager, Abel Rodrigues; Senior Audio FOH and System Engineer, Sudhakar Madula; Senior Audio Monitor and RF Engineer, Jebastian Joseph; Lighting Crew Chief, John


Pathrose; disguise Operator, Konstantine Laptev; Senior Video Engineer, Vinay Divakaran; and Health and Safety Environment Manager, Pradeesh P. The Lusail Super Cup is one of several recent high-profile projects for MediaPro in Qatar and, according to COO Shaam Pudaruth, there’s a lot more to come. “Qatar is very busy in anticipation of the World Cup, and we are expecting many more activations to take place between now and December,” he stated. “Our Doha branch is being supported by our Dubai headquarters and it is 100% ready to deliver any scale of event whatever the technical requirements.” And while he wouldn’t be drawn on precisely which upcoming events MediaPro is due to supply for, he revealed to TPMEA that the company “will definitely see Lusail Stadium again soon”. The COO concluded by thanking Live Nation Middle East for the opportunity, as well as the FIFA World Cup Supreme committee. “It’s always a pleasure working with a team of professionals,” he said. “I can’t wait to see Qatar come to life with this historic event coming to the region.” Photos: MediaPro International




Below: ARLD’s Aaron Russ. Facing page: HOLOPLOT’s Ryan Penny and CTME’s Andy Reardon.

ARLD LAUNCHES IN DUBAI THE NEW COMPANY WILL CATER TO THE REGION’S ENTERTAINMENT SECTOR, PROVIDING SHOW, ARCHITAINMENT AND BROADCAST LIGHTING SOLUTIONS. A new independent lighting design studio has been launched in the Middle East. The brainchild of experienced Lighting Designer, Aaron Russ, ARLD is set to cater to large ceremonies, awards shows, sports entertainment, festivals and more throughout the region. “We plan on working heavily with previsualisation systems like WYSIWIG and Unreal to cut down on onsite time and offer clients a warm studio environment to get creative,” Russ informed TPMEA. With 14 years of UAE experience under his belt – including a decade at Protec – Russ has made the bold decision to set up on his own. “Back in March 2020, I went back to my roots as a lighting designer, offering my services on a freelance basis,” he recalled, explaining the decision. “This was well received by the industry and once the word was out, the phone didn’t stop ringing.” Throughout the period of COVID-19 restrictions, Russ found that by programming


from his home studio, he was able to create a much smoother workflow. “I found that if I screen shared the WYSIWYG stage view on a Zoom meeting, I could sit with the creative directors of the shows and we could work together to fine tune the programming, giving confidence that when we turned up to site, all that was needed were a few focus updates,” he recalled. Noticing this increased efficiency, Russ identified a gap in the market. “I realised that there was no studio you could call to consult on an event and no one offering remote programming sessions,” he said. “Because I was independent, I wasn’t forced to use the stock and pricing structure of what was available in the warehouse – I could design a system based on the event requirements, using instruments best suited to the purpose. This was the catalyst to start what is now ARLD.” Based in Dubai, the new company has an office in Silicon Oasis and a studio in JVC. However, Russ is open to working throughout

the region. “We’re currently active in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” he noted. With an already-packed calendar and preproduction work taking place for events well into the middle of 2023, the first year of ARLD’s existence promises to be an extremely busy one. “It’s already a busy events season and it hasn’t really started yet,” Russ beamed. “I am currently booked solid until December. I expect it will be a crazy season and we are ready to get stuck in!” Looking further ahead, Russ hopes to expand the company within the next 12 months. “I would like to start looking at Expo Osaka 2025,” he pinpointed. “I am interested to see what they do with events and entertainment and would like to get on board with that, as well as with some key pavilions on their architainment design. Other than that, I don’t want to rush things. I strongly believe in quality over quantity. I would rather die of thirst than drink from the cup of mediocrity.” Photos: ARLD



HOLOPLOT DEMOS X1 AT CT OPEN DAY CT INVITES THE BERLIN-BASED PRO AUDIO COMPANY TO DEMONSTRATE ITS INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY IN DUBAI. Creative Technology recently invited its clients, partners and friends to its Dubai headquarters, where German pro audio manufacturer HOLOPLOT exhibited its new X1 audio solution. Demonstrated for the first time in the GCC, the HOLOPLOT X1 Matrix Array represents an entirely new category of audio technology, winning multiple prestigious international awards and delivering next-level experiences for the performing arts, immersive spaces, conference, and event venues along with arena sports and concerts; the X1 opens up new creative possibilities to connect with audiences. HOLOPLOT delivers a previously impossible level of control over audio reinforcement and sound. The immersive audio system can be used across a multitude of live events but also in immersive spaces, attractions, visitor centres and museums within the System Integrations sector. Wissam Shaheen, CTME Head of Audio, commented: “Having such control in horizontal

and vertical planes is something we audio geeks only fantasised about not too long ago. Exceptional sonic control no matter how acoustically challenging an environment is shows how advanced this technology really is. After experiencing the system sounds, they are phenomenal, even in an L/R standard setup.” Andy Reardon, Managing Director Middle East, added: “We are proud to have been the first in the GCC to have demonstrated the revolutionary capabilities of HOLOPLOT X1. After a very successful Open Day at our HQ in Dubai, the feedback we have received from our valued clients and colleagues has been overwhelming. CTME is very excited for future collaborations and working alongside HOLOPLOT.” “CT Middle East’s X1 Open Day was a milestone moment for HOLOPLOT as we debuted the powers of X1 to AV industry professionals in the GCC,” said Ryan Penny, Head of Sales at HOLOPLOT. “The CT Middle East team,

their clients, and partners showed a genuine appetite for audio innovation, matching with our ambitions to be best in class. Whether delivering unparalleled coverage and intelligibility in challenging acoustic spaces or unlocking new levels of creativity.” Photo: CTME

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VENUETECH HOLDS MEYER SOUND TRAINING COURSE THE TWO-DAY SYSTEMS DESIGN AND OPTIMISATION SESSION WELCOMES AUDIO ENGINEERS FROM THE UAE, SAUDI ARABIA AND INDIA. Dubai-based AV company Venuetech recently held a two-day Meyer Sound Systems Design and Optimisation training session at Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC). Headed by Senior Technical Support & Education Specialist, Merlijn Van Veen and Sana Romanos, Technical Services Specialist, Middle East & Africa, the event saw audio systems specialists, sound engineers, and technicians from the UAE as well as Saudi Arabia and India travel to Dubai to participate. Organised as part of a series of training sessions in collaboration with Meyer Sound, the training was Venuetech’s first-ever joint training course, which saw immense success. Addressing the attendees at the onset of the training course, Ismat Assafiri, Systems Architect and Audio Specialist at Venuetech, commented: “The release of MAPP 3D is a significant juncture in the development of sound systems design. We are excited to bring this knowledge to our fellow audio specialists in the region through our partnership with Meyer Sound.” Andrea Granata, Sales Manager, Middle East and Africa, Meyer Sound, also addressed the


attendees. “When I first attended Sound System Design and Optimisation Training, it changed my understanding of audio forever,” he stated. “With Venuetech, we decided to give the same opportunity to a new generation of technicians, hoping to have a similar positive impact. The training evolved since the old days and was bringing together fundamentals and the latest technological development. The response of the room, filled with a mix of experienced engineers and young audio enthusiasts, demonstrates that the education that Meyer Sound offers has no equal in the industry.” The training session explored the relationship between the predictive of the MAPP 3D Sound System Design Tool and actual sound system performance as measured with FFT-based transfer-function analysers. The participants gained insight into generating and comparing data using both MAPP 3D and Compass, in order to help them better understand the correlation between the two. The course’s key objective was for users to possess a clearer idea of how sound systems behave in both modelled and real space, and

gain a more informed approach to accurately designing and optimising systems using Meyer Sound solutions. The training was followed by a Q&A with Merlijn Van Veen and Sana Romanos. “We decided to offer the training with the intention of sharing pure knowledge on system design,” said Alice Macaluso – Meyer Sound Brand Manager at Venuetech. “The training gave great insight into a variety of tools that every sound engineer will now have in their pocket when designing a new system. There is a vast amount of information and knowledge out there, and we hope to lead our fellow audio specialists and systems architects to these resources and offer them support when needed.” Venuetech Chief Operating Officer, Abdul Assafiri, concluded: “We are delighted to be at the forefront of educating the professional audio specialists and systems designers in the GCC by facilitating this unique opportunity. We are already making plans for our next Meyer Sound – Venuetech training session.” Photo: Venuetech

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SENNHEISER SUPPORTS GREG PEARSON THE SCOTTISH SINGER-SONGWRITER SELECTS A SENNHEISER XSW-IEM SYSTEM AND EVOLUTION WIRELESS DIGITAL WITH MMK-965 MICROPHONE CAPSULE. Having supported the likes of Lewis Capaldi, Louis Tomlinson, James Blunt, The Kooks, and One Republic over the past few years, Dubaibased singer-songwriter Greg Pearson is a favourite among UAE crowds. Following his performance at the TPMEA Awards 2022, the Scottish star sat down with TPMEA to discuss his ongoing association with Sennheiser ME. “I partnered with Sennheiser ME after I supported James Blunt at The Coca-Cola Arena earlier this year,” he revealed. “They have been so supportive, and they have helped me to find the perfect products for my live setup.” A Sennheiser XSW-IEM system, Evolution Wireless Digital instrument set and Evolution Wireless Digital vocal set with MMK-965 mic capsule are included in Pearson’s setup. “I was a little wary of moving over to IEMs after using onstage monitors for so long, but the XS system has been amazing – it gives me so much freedom on stage, and it’s straightforward to set up,” he stated. “I’ve recently been playing in a few arenas and larger scale venues, and working an audience at 180° can be very difficult when you’re stuck

behind a wedge. The IEM system, Evolution Wireless vocal mic paired with the MMK-965 and the Evolution wireless digital on my guitar gives me full freedom to move around and cover all parts of the stage without any problems.” Pearson described the added confidence he has gained since using the Evolution Wireless Digital system. “The guys at Sennheiser and I had a long chat about how latency might affect my live setup. Because I use a loop pedal, timing is vital. The Evolution Wireless Digital sounds as though I’m hardwired to my pedal board, but it gives me the freedom to move around and work the audience.” The artist concluded by sharing his thoughts on the TPMEA Awards. “I was delighted to be invited to perform at this year’s TPMEA Awards in Dubai,” he commented. “The awards show gave me a unique experience and an opportunity to showcase my songs and the Sennheiser products to a room full of industry experts. Thanks to Sennheiser ME and TPMEA for the opportunity.” Photo: Adrian Hurley

FLASH ENTERTAINMENT OPENS IN KSA THE FIRM BEHIND SOME OF THE UAE’S BIGGEST EVENTS OPENS A NEW STANDALONE OFFICE IN RIYADH. The UAE’s Flash Entertainment has launched a new office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia is witnessing major change in line with Saudi Vision 2030 and realising Saudisation goals,” commented John Lickrish, Flash Entertainment CEO. “The entertainment industry is evidently growing at a rapid pace and the goal in opening our KSA headquarters is for Flash Entertainment to become a key contributor to a priority trident of industry development, economy diversification and Saudisation goals.” He added: “We will bring our learnings from the past 15 years in delivering major global events to meet market needs while striving to create development opportunities for Saudi nationals to help shape the Kingdom’s entertainment industry. There is a huge appetite for a broad spectrum of entertainment concepts. It is an honour to be present in the Kingdom and


we hope we can contribute by leveraging our network of global IP partners and AAA talent.”

Photo: Flash Entertainment



IRIG LAUNCHES IN SAUDI ARABIA THE RIGGING SPECIALIST OPENS A FACILITY IN RIYADH IN RESPONSE TO RAPID GROWTH IN THE COUNTRY. iRIG has expanded into Saudi Arabia, opening a new branch in Riyadh. “It’s been a long-term ambition for us to have a permanent presence in the Kingdom,” began Managing Director, Ryan D’Cunha. “We have all seen the rapid growth of the events industry in Saudi Arabia and therefore to be best placed to serve our clients both old and new with the same quality and standards that we are known for, it was clear we needed to have boots on the ground and kit in the country.” While Riyadh is the chosen location for its new facility, D’Cunha is confident that the company will be able to successfully service the entire country. “As it’s such a huge land mass, we will have to truck equipment all over the country – albeit without any borders to cross, meaning a swifter logistics operation,” he stated. “In terms of kit, we

are replicating our UAE stock so that we can still cover our UAE operation without compromising our current clients,” D’Cunha stated, adding that the current UAE-based crew will all be given visas to enable them to enter and depart Saudi Arabia as and when required. “We’ll also still be making use of the freelance rigging contingent as usual. The end game is to have a permanent team based in Saudi, which we aim to implement swiftly.” Despite hearing some reports to the contrary, the Managing Director was pleased to report a swift and easy process in setting up the new branch. “It was nowhere near as complex as we’d been led to believe, which was a welcome surprise,” he revealed. “Looking forward, we are

happy to grow organically – much the same as iRIG Dubai, which has performed well in terms of growth, stock growth and crew expansion.” Photo: iRIG




UAE PRO LEAGUE AWARDS MEDIAPRO INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTS NO1 EVENTS FOR A HIGH-PROFILE AWARDS EVENT AT ABU DHABI’S EMIRATES PALACE AUDITORIUM. The UAE Pro League held its annual awards ceremony on 27 August, celebrating the achievements of the best players and clubs in the competition. No1 Events appointed MediaPro International as technical supplier for the event, with the company providing production and design services, as well as a complete technical production package. MediaPro Technical Director, Mirco Resta, ran through the company’s supply. “We supported No1 Events with a dedicated preproduction process that included designing a video system that would be capable of handling high-resolution creative content while providing excellent stability during this live event,” he explained. “We had to work around the auditorium’s fixed installation to deliver the concept and design provided by No1 without compromising any important features.” The main challenge of the project was the creation of a breath-taking opening


performance, which included an 18m by 6m hologram projection screen that augmented the performer’s actions on stage. Esteban Garcia, MediaPro disguise Specialist, commented: “The video system included a disguise gx 2c server as dedicated director and a vx 4 to drive the 192 sq m Gloshine 3.9 mm screen design on stage. We chose the gx 2c range for the projector outputs to drive the two Panasonic PT-RZ31K projectors that delivered the crystal-clear holographic projection,” he added. “We relied on the Mapping Matters platform to make the projection study since it integrates well with the disguise workflow.” Inframe Motion Design’s Haitham Taha was the Content Producer, delivering a mix of studio pre-recorded and edited content and spectacular 3D sequences. A Showtex PepperScrim was used for the holographic projection, while roughly 100 Robe and Claypaky wash, profile and beam fixtures

featured on the lighting rig, which was controlled by an MA Lighting grandMA3 console, running timecode through the disguise servers. Audio meanwhile was covered by No1 Events’ in-house Clair Brothers C8 line array. Alongside Resta and Garcia, the MediaPro team comprised: Production Manager, Nigel Ranasinghe; Sound Designer, Martin Chiervo and Barco E2 Operator, Sudheesh Vasudevan. “With this project, we wanted to bring together theatre, acting, cinema, and drama with hologram technology to impress the audience,” Show Director, Hassan Abdul Hamid commented. “The choice of production team was easy for me. I rely on the technical direction of Mirco Resta and his MediaPro team. They always have a solution for every problem and take care of the final result without any compromise.” Photos: No1 Events



DIVE IN BARCO AND DELTOID EXPAND PARTNERSHIP THE MOVE AIMS TO STRENGTHEN THE POSITION OF BOTH COMPANIES IN THE TURKISH ENTERTAINMENT MARKET. Barco has extended its partnership with Turkish system integrator, Deltoid Technology. Aimed at strengthening the position of both companies in the growing immersive experiences market in Turkey, the new distribution agreement covers the entire Barco projection and image processing portfolio in the Turkish market. Barco and Deltoid Technology have been partners for more than a decade, with a market share of over 90% in the Turkish control rooms industry with the Barco LED, LCD and RPC video wall solutions. The companies are aiming to expand the market share and extend the collaboration into the entertainment market such as museums, theme parks and visitor attractions. “Barco video walls are the obvious choice for all our control room installations,” said Serkan Kaya, General Manager at Deltoid Technology. “Turkey has invested significantly in the development of museums and visitor attractions. Deltoid sees the rise of these new immersive experiences as an important growth opportunity. And if we want to tap into that market, we must choose the best partner with the industry-leading solutions. Barco’s expertise with global immersive experiences and strong projection portfolio will allow us to offer a great solution package to our partners and customers.” Ta Loong Gan, Global Sales VP for Immersive Experiences at Barco, commented: “Barco is excited for this extended partnership with Deltoid. We are convinced that together we can leverage the success of our collaboration in the control rooms sector and take it into the growing entertainment and immersive markets. We are looking forward to seeing lots of new Barco-powered immersive experiences in the region.” The first orders for E2 Gen 2, S3-4Ks, G-series and F80 projectors have already been signed and delivered. Photo: Barco

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After almost four years away from the industry, DJ Hardwell returned in 2022 with a 24-date world tour in support of his brand-new REBELS NEVER DIE album, with an updated sound and all-new stage show pushing the boundaries of creativity and marking a new era in his already glittering career. A two-time World Number One DJ, the Dutch electro-house master stepped up his involvement in this latest tour, taking the lead on the creative stage and show designs. After a comeback show at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, the REBELS NEVER DIE World Tour kicked off in earnest at Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on 26 May, before taking in multiple European dates, an appearance at the UK’s Creamfields, and several US and Canadian shows. The multitalented DJ was assisted by an equally skilled cast of partners including: High Scream (stage design); This is Comix & DelMonte Media (Visual Content Creation); The Next Cue and The Art of Light (lighting design); NoizBoyz (audio design); The Next Cue and Mirage (laser design); AVM-SFX (special effects design); and Backbone International (technical development).


Describing Hardwell as “the sole inspirator behind this show and its stage and show designs”, High Scream’s Romain Pissenem was full of praise for the DJ. “The drive he brought to the table, together with an unmatched dedication to the studio productions he made to create the album, made it a pleasure to co-create his new stage show for the REBELS NEVER DIE World Tour with him,” he began. “From the first meeting, he had a clear view on what he wanted his show design and visuals to resemble.” After agreeing upon broad themes including “less is more”, “cinematic and immersive audiovisual experience”, “infinity”, “optical illusion”, “no content loops” and “Droste effects”, the High Scream team worked with Hardwell to progress the design. “We started from the perspective to implement a certain degree of abstraction with objects that we wanted to use to define and generate the potential of creating an optical illusion for the visitors of the show,” Pissenem explained. “We wanted optical illusions to come to life both within the video and lighting spectrum and searched for a way to make those

two elements work together as much as possible until finally reaching a maximum concreteness with a probability of successfully including all desired elements while staying lean and elegant.” Pissenem recalled the weekly phone calls between Hardwell and the full creative team, including design, visuals, lighting, laser, SFX and cinematics. “The decisions made during the design process determined the probability of success, because we made decisions together,” he stated, adding that in some cases, options that initially appeared very attractive to one specialism were discarded as the design process progressed in favour of solutions that would benefit the whole team. “It was refreshing to be able to think from a full-scope perspective together,” he said. “The ideas that derived from those weekly meetings enabled us to evolve the design process into a temporal one, which has led to the astonishing result.” It’s clear that no stone was left unturned when preparing this show – a case in point being the fact that Hardwell even created some of his music with the show output in mind. “Tracks

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like Laser and Self Destruct, for example, were created while we worked on the show design, which was very inspirational to the entire team,” Pissenem revealed. “When Hardwell plays those tracks in the show, you can see how the crowd responds and brings their cameras out, which is a huge compliment to Hardwell as an inspirator and creator, as well as the entire team who have worked on visualising his ideas.” When it came to challenges, the fact that the entire show was designed and produced mostly via Zoom was the first thing that sprung to Pissenem’s mind. “I think we all saw each other in one room for the first time during the rehearsals in Breda, which was over a year after we started working on the show together,” he laughed. However, thanks to the regular communication and joined-up thinking throughout the whole


creative team, Pissenem was delighted with the result. “We were able to keep it simple, while still providing a fully immersive show experience both audibly and visually,” he concluded. ‘THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL’ Ensconced in a gargantuan open-sided box made of almost 400m of truss, the distinctive diamondshaped DJ booth was the dominant feature in Hardwell’s stage setup. As well as a custom-made solid metal DJ table in a diamond-cohesive shape, extra attention was paid to the diamond DJ booth in the form of 100 sq m of high-gloss finishing, ensuring a suitably eye-catching appearance. Backbone International’s Joris Joosen was particularly pleased with the way the diamond DJ booth was integrated within the whole setup. “From the moment we started designing, all

decisions made were based on the fact that the diamond was an essential object for this show,” he told TPMEA. Inside the DJ booth, a total of 792 LED tiles were used to form a 22m by 8m backdrop. Meanwhile, adorning the diamond and outer truss shell were an arsenal of lighting fixtures, including: three Robe BMFL Blades and 17 BMFL Spots; 44 GLP impression X4 Bar 20s; 84 Ayrton MagicBlade Rs; 24 SGM P5s; 56 Robe Pointes and 22 Spiiders; 88 Claypaky Stormys; and 110 Martin VDO Sceptron 1000s. Lasers and SFX came in the form of four MDG 300 Fog, eight 20W full colour lasers, 10 CO2 Jets, eight Stadium Shooters, and eight MagixFX Wave Flame units. Joosen described how Hardwell’s sound design was “made to improve the fans’ audio


experience”. He said: “The choice was made to go for an immersive frontal system. In cooperation with lights and video, a four-source frontal system was the perfect match for this setup.” Opting for an L-Acoustics PA, NoizBoyz deployed 32 K1s, 80 K2s, 12 KARA and 32 SB28s to make up the four-source frontal system. To provide the immersive sound experience, NoizBoyz utilised a custom-designed upmix algorithm developed by Areal, running on an in-house developed upmix server. “This algorithm receives a stereo feed and creates a four-channel upmix within six milliseconds,” Joosen explained. “For Hardwell’s personal monitoring setup, a second upmix is generated by the same upmix server.” The monitoring setup contained a stack of three L-Acoustics KARAs on Hardwell’s left and right side and one on his back side, accompanied

by two KS21 subs on each side of the stack. “The upmixed signal creates a bubble of sound for Hardwell’s own immersive experience,” Joosen noted. In terms of DJ gear, Hardwell used four Pioneer CDJ 3000 decks, along with a DJM900NX2 mixer and an RMX sampler. Joosen recalled making “slight tweaks” to the setup depending on the venue but noted that the fan experience remained consistent. “Our video team is quite flexible to scale where needed without losing any impact of the visual content. This is possible mainly because of the way we created the visual content,” he said. “The goal is, of course, to not tweak at all and deliver the perfect show, but it’s more important to bring the shows to the fans and if we need to make minor changes to suit the venues, we will.” Reflecting on the project, Joosen was happy that


despite tweaks, the diamond DJ booth always remained. “The booth is quite a complex scenic construction, which was quite a challenge to produce,” he reflected. “However, these challenges are why we at Backbone like this project so much. We get bored if things are straightforward!” Joosen concluded by sharing his pride at the fact that the tour had a strong sustainability angle. “From day one, we decided to ’travel light’ and not bring any equipment ourselves,” he revealed. “We strongly believe that this is an important detail looking at sustainability. Think global, act local.” Photos: Idan Horta, Tomer Maliach





A three-day extravaganza of Korean music and culture taking place inside Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Superdome, Saranghae KSA was the first ever K-pop festival in the Kingdom. An immersive experience featuring authentic Korean street food, retail and some of the biggest names in K-pop – including ATEEZ, Victon and the all-girl Everglow – the festival brought together fans from all backgrounds to celebrate their love of Korean culture. Like many events that have taken place over the past year since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, the roots of Saranghae KSA 2022 can be traced back to well before the pandemic. “The story started in 2018,” recalled Steven Hetzer, CEO, sweetwater MEA, which produced the festival in collaboration with SELA for Jeddah Season. “It started with my good friend and one of our business partners here in KSA – HRH Prince Sultan Bin Mohammed – who is a fan of South Korean culture and had a vision for a K-pop festival.” Hetzer explained how he listened to HRH Prince Sultan Bin Mohammed’s vision before engaging his creative team at sweetwater to develop the concept of the festival. “He is a highly creative person who is very close to Korean culture, so it was important to draw upon his vision to help us create and design an incredible K-pop experience and bring it to a Saudi Arabian audience.” While K-pop is at the heart of the festival, the concept aims to create a 360° experience that immerses fans deep into South Korean culture. “It is about so much more than just K-pop,” Hetzer confirmed. “Typically, K-pop is a very touring-based industry where the bands tour


around the world on their own – they come in, play their sets and that’s it. What we really wanted to do was to create a festival that incorporates all elements of Korean culture, from food to music to retail – we wanted to make something completely different and bring that to the people of Saudi Arabia. We used all our experience as a brand experience and activation agency to bring it to life.” Translated from Korean into English, Saranghae KSA means ‘I love you KSA’ – a fitting name due to what Hetzer describes as “a strong affiliation” between the Saudi people and Korean culture. “K-pop and Korean culture has been sweeping the globe, but Saudis in particular have a high resonance with it,” he stated when describing the festival’s target markets. “The core target market for a festival like this would usually be 12 to 25-year-old females. However, we wanted to create an experience for the whole family to come to the Jeddah Superdome, spend the whole weekend, see their favourite bands, eat Korean food, play Korean games, and have genuine cultural experiences.” Standing at 46m tall with a diameter of 210m and a massive 40,000 sq m of internal space, Jeddah Superdome is an events venue on a massive scale – a fact that posed quite a challenge when it came to designing the site. “It’s a tremendously large space, so right from the start we were thinking about how we could take this massive venue and try to make it as intimate as possible,” Hetzer explained. One tactic was to build large structures, including a massive main stage, as well as several communal gathering spaces to ensure a much wider appeal than just the main stage acts. “A core part of the festival was what we called the vibe








street,” Hetzer commented. “We cut off almost a third of the dome and created a street with Korean food and beverage as well as retail outlets to recreate a street vibe and push people to the centre of the dome.” One of the main aims of the design was to make sure that festivalgoers were encouraged to take in the whole of the site rather than being drawn directly to the main stage. “The main stage was busy whenever the shows went live, however, in those in between moments of downtime, the goal was to give people a space where they could explore what else was on offer,” Hetzer explained. “There were so many other elements going on that we wanted to encourage people to make the most of.” To that end, the sweetwater team designed a large grandstand with a 15m-high set of stairs facing away from the stage. “We wanted people to congregate there, have food and see the world go by, checking out all the other things we have going on at the festival,” Hetzer commented,


recalling the initial scepticism the team faced to the idea. “When we were setting up, a lot of people thought we had built it the wrong way round! However, as soon as the doors opened on the first day, there were loads of people hanging out there, grabbing some food, taking photos, and watching the world go by – it worked exactly as we planned.” ‘A REAL TEAM EFFORT’ As important as the auxiliary experiences around the festival were, Hetzer was under no illusions as to the biggest draw of the festival. “The fans are there primarily to see the bands,” he admitted. “So, making sure that we have the best technology and best partners in the world so those performances can live up to expectations was crucial.” PRG Middle East was appointed as the turnkey technical supplier, providing a complete solution including audio, lighting, video, and rigging. “We have worked with PRG numerous

times over the years, and they were the only choice for us,” Hetzer said. “The right technology and skilled crew are critical to delivering worldclass shows, and in an ever-changing and dynamic market such as KSA where timelines are often short, making sure that we had technical partners we can trust was paramount.” Harriet Stewart, Sales Director, PRG, explained that the original brief for the project was led by the creative and technical rider for one of the festival’s key headliners, ATEEZ. “Our colleagues in the UK had recently delivered a show for the band, so it was helpful to work with them to understand the overall show design and delivery requirements during the initial stages of the brief,” she recalled. With over five months of planning, site visits and meetings ahead of the festival, there was plenty of time built into the planning phase. However, during the later stages of preproduction, the scale of the show increased two-fold. “This was due to the scale of the venue,


and the client’s increased festival requirements,” Stewart outlined. “The additional scope of work required PRG to draw upon its inventory across Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which included 500 sq m of indoor LED in a single batch, a significant uplift to the PA system along with an additional 100 lighting fixtures, including our newly arrived Ayrton Eurus Profiles.” The additional scope was confirmed just prior to the trucks being loaded, which required the PRG team to expedite the prep of additional assets in a short timeframe. “The fact that most of these assets were already based in Riyadh certainly helped with turnaround times to load in, but there was of course a significant amount of pre-production work to complete in an extremely compressed timeframe,” Stewart recalled. “To add to the compression of timelines, the festival was loading in over the same time as another concert at the venue, so schedules needed to be reconsidered and updated to accommodate a unique set of parameters.” The final lighting rig comprised 150 Claypaky Scenius Unico and Mythos fixtures, 140 GLP JDCs and impression X4Ls, 50 Robe BMFL Blades and 60 of the aforementioned Ayrton Eurus, as well

as eight follow spots and eight hazers. The audio requirements were handled by a full L-Acoustics PA system, including 24 K1s, 12 K1-SBs, 24 K2s, and 32 SB28s. “We had to think out of the box when it came to the audio setup,” Stewart revealed. “Because of the shape of the dome and the backwards-facing stands on centre FOH, unlike traditional PA, we used K1s as outfill and K2s as main PA.” The experience of PRG FOH Engineer, James Waterson, who has mixed numerous K-pop bands, proved invaluable onsite. PRG also supplied a large video package, including a 17.28m by 7.68m central screen, four 13.44m by 7.68m screens used on the wings and for IMAG, as well as several smaller LED screens in strategic locations to support activations around the festival. “As always when working with such large screens, the impact on all departments is felt and we had to work together on a cable management system that worked for all,” commented Stewart. “As the scope evolved, PRG worked with sweetwater to ensure updated pixel maps and resolutions were shared so that the content for each band was modified.” Described by Stewart as “by far the most complex part of the project”, rigging was a


major consideration as the scope of the project grew. “By the very nature of the design of the Superdome and weight capacity, a complex system was designed to achieve the rig above the stage, so, as the AV requirements evolved, so did the design,” she continued. “After various meetings with the venue and other parties, the design was approved. “All rigging points in the venue required to be hung off nodes, and each node has a load capacity of 350kg,” Stewart continued. “This meant that most points needed to be on a twoway bridle, and some needed to be on a threeway bridle. Because the AC system in the venue is not symmetrical, PRG designed a system that had two-way bridles on one side and three-way bridles on the opposite side.” The increase in scale also drastically increased the point load in the roof for lighting, video and audio, so the decision was taken to bring in a scaffold system to handle the load of the LED, meaning that the team could rig from single point instead of having to bridle off two or even three points. In all, 430m of Prolyte H30V truss and 280m of S52V truss were deployed, along with 78 1,000kg and 500kg Lodestar motors. Looking back on the project, Stewart was proud of the team’s

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ability to move at the pace required to ensure that the job was delivered to the new specification. “The scale of the setup was very impressive, and all departments worked hard to produce the result,” she reflected. “The team rallied around one another and came together to ensure that the required workload was not double handled. This was a real team effort, and all areas of the company had some level of involvement in the successful delivery of the show.” Aside from the technology, the Sales Director also commented on the “unique” reaction from the crowd. “Listening to how they reacted to the teaser videos let alone the bands on stage was truly amazing to see,” she concluded. ‘DECIBEL LEVELS WERE THROUGH THE ROOF’ For sweetwater’s Hetzer, one of the main challenges of the project revolved around time. “Timelines are always a challenge in our industry,” he laughed. “Decision making in Saudi Arabia is very short – you’re rarely given a lot of lead time as the country and the industry is developing so


quickly and the level of the deliverables is so high that there’s no room for error.” Another consideration was sourcing and securing the right artists. “Making sure we had the right talent onboard in a post COVID-19 world where artists are in incredibly high demand and getting booked at huge rates was a major challenge,” he revealed. “Concerts are back in full swing now, so attracting the right artists was a major consideration.” The CEO was keen to praise the “fantastic” Jeddah Superdome team. “Doing an event of this nature in a new venue that not everybody is accustomed to was never going to be straightforward, but the Superdome team was incredible,” he said. “They were very accommodating and did everything to make sure that we could give fans the best possible experience and produce a great festival.” Hetzer reflected on the importance of creating shareable content – something he believes worked particularly well on this project. “Everything we do today in the live space is

designed for sharing online – from the main stage concerts, to installations, experiences, and even the cups and food bowls. It’s those details that really elevate the experience to become a festival brand,” he proffered. “We threw everything we had from the brand experience world at it, and the social media response was incredible – I’ve never seen engagement like it.” One thing that stood out for Hetzer was the significance of Everglow’s performance. “We were delighted to have the first all-female K-pop band on stage in Saudi Arabia,” he beamed. “The band understood the importance of the movement and seeing the fan reaction was amazing. The decibel levels were through the roof. People of all ages, genders and cultures were together dancing. Seeing fathers with daughters on their shoulders dancing to an all-female K-pop band was a great moment.” This thread of fan engagement ran through the festival. “I’ve been working on brands, music and events for a long time, and this was something special in terms of the fan reaction,”



Hetzer recalled. “The emotions were so raw, the passion of the fans shone through.” Naturally, after such a successful first iteration, the sweetwater team is already looking ahead to where the festival can go from here. “We definitely want to produce another festival for Jeddah Season 2023 and we’re going in typical fashion to make it even bigger and better,” Hetzer commented. “We are keen to do more in the region. The appetite for K-pop is large and we have great partners, so we’ll see where the journey takes us.” Reflecting on the project, the CEO was proud of the whole team. “Having started the planning in 2018, it was quite something to see it come together,” he concluded. “Everybody signed off to the vision and it showed in what we achieved. It takes hundreds of people to pull off a project like this and everyone had the same mindset, which helped a lot. When people care about what they deliver, you can tell the outcome.” Photos: sweetwater MEA











The gleaming focal point of the Expo 2020 Dubai site, Al Wasl Plaza became an instantly recognisable landmark during the six short months of Expo 2020 Dubai. The iconic domed trellis structure wowed Expo 2020 visitors with its fully integrated 360° immersive projection surface providing the canvas for some of the event’s most memorable shows. Back in 2019, Bild Studios was commissioned by Creative Technology Middle East and Expo 2020 Dubai to produce the creative content pipelines to bring the structure to life, using 252 Christie 40K lumen projectors, which cover a surface of over 25,000 sq m across a 27,000 by 6,000-pixel canvas. Having designed the content workflows that allow the entire interior of Al Wasl Plaza to be picture mapped with content, Bild has now turned the venue into the world’s biggest interactive installation for the opening of Expo 2020’s legacy project, Expo City Dubai. Users of a specifically designed tablet screen can manipulate the projected content in real time with the movement of a finger. “The creative team at Expo 2020, headed up by Executive Creative Director Amna Abulhoul,


had a vision with two main objectives in mind,” explained David Bajt, Co-Founder and Director of Bild Studios. “First, they wanted to create an impressive and highly immersive VIP experience, where chosen individuals could stand and generate stunning real-time visuals within the impressive architectural Al Wasl Plaza. The second objective was driven by much more of a practical nature – to lean on real-time generated content, created in Notch, to save time on pre-rendered content ingest and reserve hard drive space within the busy disguise gx 2 media server system.” In addition to the visuals, there was an opportunity to generate interactive audio for the in-house L-Acoustics audio system, which is made up of 27 loudspeaker arrays and six subwoofer arrays. “The result not only represents the world’s largest interactive visual installation, but also uses one of the world’s biggest audio installations, which reacts to the finger movement of the app user,” continued Bajt, who was the principal consultant at Bild for Al Wasl Plaza project. “We knew it would involve creating something new and unique, and it would require a huge amount

of R&D and testing. Once we started and saw the first positive test results from our office setup, I knew that this could turn into something real – and very special.” Bajt and his team split the project into four phases, which were implemented simultaneously: technical feasibility and creative exploration; app development; creative development and audio design; and on-site installation. As background to the project, the workflow creation for the pre-rendered content was the first achievement by Bild for the original Expo 2020 Dubai project in 2019, which culminated in the company creating the broadcast Augmented Reality for the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies of Expo 2020 Dubai. Content production for any curved surface requires a seamless flow across the dome, which can’t be achieved working with 2D graphics. With this, Bild created a workflow that lets artists create graphics in 3D software that also integrates into a 2D pipeline. In fact, the workflow allows artists to jump between 2D and 3D workflows while ensuring that the final video files are always generated to the right format and naming conventions. Converting the

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huge setup for creating pre-rendered graphics into a real-time driven solution, which is then controlled with an iPad, was consequently the great challenge for this interactive installation. ‘A JAW-DROPPING SYNCHRONISED EXPERIENCE’ As the project grew to involve multiple contributors and creative teams, it was critical to develop a tool to provide content teams, clients and collaborators the ability to visualise how their creative visions would look on the dome. With this in mind, Expo Dubai 2020 engaged the Bild team to develop a photo-real Virtual Reality visualiser to take the content workflows they had already created and make them accessible to Expo’s creative teams, allowing them to view the projection content in a 1:1 virtual setup of the dome, long before testing the content in the real dome. Created in Unreal Engine as a stand-alone application, the user could navigate around the inside of the dome across different times of day, swap out projection content, adjust content settings, add various FX and even export the simulation by rendering it into a 360° movie – ready to be viewed on YouTube by all stakeholders involved. “The first phase in creation of the interactive installation centred around designing the realtime graphics pipeline, as well as creating the first set of real-time visuals, with focus on technical performance,” said Bajt. “The team also started to design and plan for the implementation of the iPad interface that the user would interact


with to generate the visuals on the dome.” The 16 disguise gx 2 servers that were already on site were originally intended to only run pre-rendered video content. The choice of picking a real-time engine that could be added to the existing setup was not a hard decision. “The obvious candidate was Notch – purely due to its long and well-established integration with disguise,” said Bajt. “It was imperative to create a Notch-disguise real-time pipeline that not only would allow artists to easily create stunning content, but also make sure that the content would integrate seamlessly with the existing disguise mapping workflows that our team had previously installed and verified onsite.” Lewis Kyle White, Creative Lead of Bild Studios, explained how this was done. “The technical challenges for this installation were vast,” said White. “As with the pre-rendered content workflows, we had to divide the canvas into 11 different sections – each section’s graphics rendered in real-time by a different disguise gx 2 server. With the 27k by 6k canvas split up, each server would therefore render approximately 7k by 2k resolutions.” Bajt added: “To render real-time graphics at these huge resolutions is one challenge, but to guarantee synchronisation between the servers is another. We therefore had to build a system that allowed us to perfectly emulate onsite conditions and guarantee there’d be no surprises onsite.” After some initial testing and working with disguise to create some bespoke functionality,

Bild’s methodology of turning the existing prerendered workflows into real-time pipelines proved highly successful. “The challenge of rendering that resolution of content in real-time was something that had never been done before on this scale,” said Jamie Sunter, Technical Director, Bild Studios. “It took a lot of hard work to create a workflow that allowed us to optimise the performance and sync of the real-time content.” With this element in progress, Bild worked in parallel to design a slick and simple app that was easy to interact with, and they settled on creating a bespoke web design interface on an iPad, using standard HTML and CSS. “This approach resulted in a simple and user-friendly UX design, with its home screen made up of a grid of thumbnails where the user can select an interactive treatment,” commented Bajt. “Once the user has selected a specific look, its specific controls open in a new window.” A full CMS editor system was developed in the back end, which allows the client to customise exactly what elements to include when creating a new look. “Most interactive treatments require a finger tracking interface, access to a texture library and a colour picker,” continued Bajt. “Other treatments may have only required a few slider and texture inputs. With the CMS system in place, a user can choose web elements to include and connect them to corresponding properties in the disguise project.” The new



Indirections feature by disguise allows for video and image content that is stored in a disguise project to be accessed and switched on the fly from the iPad. Indirections also allows images to automatically be pushed to the iPad and be represented as thumbnails, with no need to update the app. With this, users can change the texture directly from the app and choose to map it in different ways on the surface of the dome. The finger-tracking functionality of the app allows the user to track their finger on a flattened image version of the dome. These movements are then captured, in real-time as OSC coordinates, which are sent to Notch via a web server, then to disguise, and rendered as visuals directly onto the dome. For example, gigantic particle trails or massive virtual searchlights follow the movement of the finger. Adding to this visual element is the interactive audio setup, with trajectories of sound effects generated based on the finger placement of the user and mapped to the 27 loudspeaker arrays in the space. With each movement, an additional layer of audio is mapped to the closest speakers to the visuals, creating a fully immersive 360° AV experience.




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“This innovative, real-time technology is part of the exciting future of Expo City Dubai – a destination that will showcase all manner of new ideas and solutions.” Amna Abulhoul, Executive Creative Director, Expo City Dubai

“The sound isn’t generated using a procedural sound algorithm but the movement of the audio is,” stated Bajt. “A pre-created mono-channelled sound file is mapped onto the closest speaker based on tracked finger movements of the user.” With a significant amount of testing and verification during pre-production in the office, the technical installation proved to be a smooth and successful process. “The server-performance matched the performance and all servers synced well, as expected,” said Bajt. “A significant amount of time was spent on colour-correcting the graphics, as certain colours appeared a lot more vibrant than others, and


certain graphical elements simply had to be refined to appear bigger and bolder to maximise the interactive impact.” The impact of the audio was surprisingly impressive to Bajt and his team. “While the team expected the audio to enhance the interactive experience, it came as a great surprise what an extraordinary layer it added,” he commented. “When interactive visuals follow the finger movement, with accompanying audio travelling through, it truly creates a jaw-dropping synchronised experience.” For Bajt, the project became more and more thrilling as it got closer to realisation. “With each

step of the process, the project became more exciting,” he said. “Around half of the first looks we tried performed and synced well, and those early tests of our iPad app, while still running as a webpage on a laptop and with emulated finger action, were met with hugely positive reactions from all involved. “Once we added disguise’s Indirections to swap textures on the dome, we saw the full picture in more clarity. Then once it was installed onsite, we could see the excitement in people’s eyes when they used the app. It gave me, and the team, a huge sense of accomplishment. For me, it is more about the journey and gradually seeing


the pieces of the puzzle come together – and seeing creative opportunities arise during the process is also a huge thrill.” Expo City Dubai Executive Creative Director, Amna Abulhoul is delighted with the results of the project. “This innovative, real-time technology is part of the exciting future of Expo City Dubai – a destination that will showcase all manner of new ideas and solutions,” she said. “As we worked through the stages of this interactive experience, Bild and Expo City Dubai worked as one team, with one mission and one

goal. I can’t wait to see how the experience at Al Wasl grows and develops through groundbreaking innovations such as this.” Coming from an animation background, Abulhoul places great importance on being able to change and adjust the graphics until the very last minute. “I want to be able to maintain the flexibility all the way to showtime,” she stated. “What triggered me to come up with the idea of creating an interactive application for Al Wasl Plaza was the requests we got for making graphics quickly, sometimes for a show the day


after. People not experienced in the creative and technical world do not understand the need for rendering time, despite the enormous 27k by 6k resolution of the dome.” Now, with the expertise of Bild and the collaboration with the creative minds at Expo 2020 and disguise, Al Wasl Plaza sits proudly as an interactive piece of art and the most complex and largest video installation in the world. Photos: Bild Studios

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Famed for being a key location on the Silk Road, the historic Uzbeki city of Samarkand has launched a brand-new tourist centre that aims to attract a new generation of traveller to the ancient city. A completely purposebuilt, self-contained city, Silk Road Samarkand centres around a man-made canal and features world-class facilities including hotels, business centres, restaurants and an amphitheatre. To celebrate the opening of this landmark facility, the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, was invited to attend a grand opening


ceremony, which was produced and directed by ABV Studio Events. Taking place in the Eternal City – the centrepiece of the 260-hectare complex – the ceremony comprised a Presidential address followed by a theatrical performance featuring an extensive cast of dancers and musicians, including UK artist, Sami Yusuf. Supporting the show was an equally impressive technical team, including Mandylights and Auditoria. Mandylights’ Tom Edwards took up the story, explaining how he found himself on this unique

project. “I got introduced to the Production Manager, Tarmo Krimm, who after explaining the scope of the project, got our whole team really quite excited.” Due to the size of the project, a four-person lighting team was required, which Mandylights provided in-house. Managing Director, Richard Neville designed the show along with Edwards. Melbourne-based Liam Ashton gaffed and called followspots, while Tom Wightwick attended as Associate Lighting Designer. “We went from first round creative chats with Andrei Boltenko – the


Creative Director – to being on stage in just over four weeks, which was a mammoth undertaking,” explained Neville. Adopting a round-the-clock design process, Mandylights utilised its identical previsualisation suites in the UK and Australia simultaneously to develop the lighting design and programming. “All visual vendors were using Syncronorm Depence2, which meant we had a great workflow with other creative stakeholders from the beginning,” Edwards added. Ashton was the first of the Mandylights team onsite, touching down in Samarkand two weeks before the planned show day of 22 July. He worked with the outstanding multinational lighting crew ahead of the rest of the team’s arrival a week later. Programming continued around the clock both in a hotel suite and on site

during the very short nights, which offered only six hours of total darkness. An impressive 30m-wide revolving stage featured a four-storey structure based on the original Uzbek Ulugh Beg Observatory. The show was split into 17 episodes and highlighted traditional dance, music, history and folklore with a spectacular mix of pyrotechnics, video mapping and surrounding lighting and audio elements. Neville described the lighting requirements as “a mixup of concert and theatrical disciplines, where very intimate moments needed to be created in a very large physical space with uncompressed accuracy and consistency.” The lighting setup featured four 24m-high FOH towers adorned with Claypaky Scenius Unicos to provide reliable and versatile front key light, as well as Claypaky Stormy strobes and


Robe RoboSpot followspots. Front wash and audience wash were also provided by 20 Martin MAC Viper Performances, which were positioned on the top floor balcony of the observatory. More Clakypaky Scenius Unico and Mini-B fixtures were deployed in floor positions around the observatory, as well as Claypaky Mythos either side of the observatory stairs. “Every fixture in the rig worked hard; from the footlights to towers of front light,” noted Edwards. “Precise pickups were required to work around intricate projection effects and isolate single performers among dozens of dancers with throws of up to 60m outdoors and exposed to the elements. Almost every preset position incorporated shutters and precise focus detail – a challenge in the windy outdoor conditions.” Edwards incorporated several macros in his






“To deliver a project like this completely in-house is very satisfying... This was a perfect case study for us where our international team delivered an impressive large-scale design in limited time with a 24-hour workflow.” Tom Edwards, Mandylights

programming to update the dozens of palettes from different reference points around the set to ensure that marks were hit each night. Alongside the theatrical lighting, the design also incorporated more traditional concert lighting elements, including Light Sky AquaBeams at the rear of the site to provide “some big overhead moments and add texture into the sky above the stage”. The show used MA Lighting grandMA3 full size consoles with MA NPUs. One of the biggest considerations was making sure that the lighting levels balanced not just for the live show but also for TV. “That was paramount for the client,” Edwards stated. “Balancing with key light was delicate. Luke Chantrell was looking after the vision balance to ensure a consistent key light level and temperature was across the whole structure.” The most pleasing aspect of the delivery for


Edwards was the fact that Mandylights was able to deliver entirely in-house without the need for any additional freelancers. “I am proud of us as a company to be able to deliver the project at a time when everyone is so busy,” he reflected. “To be able to deliver a project like this completely in-house is very satisfying. We’ve invested heavily in our own offices, staff, synchronised pre-vis suites, MA3 control and Depence2 software, and this was a perfect case study for us where our international team delivered an impressive large-scale design in limited time with a 24-hour workflow.” ‘IT WAS AMAZING TO BE A PART OF’ The audio requirements for the ceremony were handled by Auditoria. Led by Scott Willsallen, the team comprised: Mix Engineer, Ethan Curry; Replay Operators, Luis Miranda and Joe Callister;

and Systems Engineer, Martin Dineley. Willsallen explained that the company’s brief was simply to “make the show sound amazing, and do so on an extremely short timeframe”. Willsallen first heard about the project from Sami Yusuf who, as well as performing on show night, was also the Composer. “Sami and I have worked on some pretty memorable shows together including his amazing concert at Al Wasl Plaza during Expo 2020,” he explained. “Sami and I had a call with Andrei Boltenko, who was the Creative Director and produced the whole show. I’d previously worked with Andrei on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Ceremonies. The original call was about a completely different show which after some time morphed into the Silk Road show.” The Auditoria team quickly got started on ideas and as soon as they had a confident idea of the show and audience area, they finalised an


immersive design for pricing by select contractors. “We had two audio contractors onboard; Agora from Dubai for the control system and part of the loudspeaker system and Live Sound Agency from Moscow for additional loudspeakers,” Willsallen outlined. “Equipment moved very quickly to site and the load in was completed in only a couple of days to be ready for rehearsals. It was a massive effort from everyone on the project to get the show ready for the start of rehearsals.” Working closely with Yusuf and Boltenko, the team travelled to Tashkent for creative meetings before heading on to Samarkand for an inspection of the site. “It was clear from Andrei’s creative intentions and Sami’s compositions that this was a very ambitious immersive experience. We broke the action down into its parts and designed loudspeaker systems to serve each part.” The main goals of the audio design were to provide localisation to the audience “so their ears can tell them where to look”, and to combine the live and playback instrumentation into a coherent and enveloping mix of music. To that end, Auditoria designed an immersive L-Acoustics sound system featuring 22 Syva, 48

KARA, six K2, eight KIVA II, 40 5XT, 24 SB28, eight X4i, four 108P and a host of LA 12X amplifiers. Two DiGiCo Quantum 338 consoles were used for control, while 16 channels of Shure Axient digital microphones, 10 channels of Shure PSM1000 transmitters and 160 PSM1000 receivers were deployed. “We had a choir around the top of the set throughout the show as well as special features such as trumpeters and sound effects. To provide localisation for the audience to the top of the set, we used a row of Syva along the top part of the set, each on a separate output from L-ISA,” Willsallen explained. “This allowed us to create a very wide and diffuse choral sound and take sound effects objects and move them to follow the projection content.” There was also a 48-piece orchestra around the front edge of the stage with a 28-piece folk ensemble onstage. “We used a combination of KARA arrays either side of the folk orchestra as the main reinforcement and a distributed system of 5XTs to lift the sound of the orchestra.” L-Acoustics L-ISA was used to impressive effect in ensuring seamless audio coverage despite the unusual challenge of a rotating


set. “The whole set rotated, which took our loudspeakers with it, so we used L-ISA to counterrotate the sound,” Willsallen explained. “This meant the sound effectively remained stationary, moving through various loudspeaker arrays distributed around the set. It would have been much easier to simply use a typical stereo loudspeaker system mounted either side of the set. However, that would have resulted in the audience hearing the sound from the nearest of the two arrays and not from the musicians or performers. The sound would have been detached from the performance, so we used L-ISA in reverse to make it work. It was very effective.” Aside from the innovative use of L-ISA, Willsallen was pleased with the mix of live and pre-recorded instrumentation. “It worked really well and locally reinforcing the orchestra retained the spatial separation of instruments and sounded great,” he recalled, praising the “superhuman efforts” of the contractors, design team, managers and cast. “It was amazing to be a part of.” Photos: Mandylights

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What sparked your interest in the industry? I have always had an unconditional love for music, and attended music festivals and events around the world for fun. Burning Man, EDC, and seasons in Ibiza made me realise the positive impact music has on people and the power it has to bring people together. Following these experiences, I obtained my certification in sound healing, and I felt a need to bring the positive energy of the music industry back to my home and favourite place, Saudi Arabia. Aside from the fact that this was my


home, there was so much untapped potential in the artists of the underground music scene, and I had to do something about that to give all these talents a platform and opportunity to shine. What does your job entail day-to-day? When you are a part of the MDLBEAST team and family, there really is no fixed schedule with regards to day-to-day duties. Every day there is a new adventure, new concepts, new faces, and new experiences. I enjoy fluctuating between meetings, checking my emails, gathering with

talents and, of course, being on-site at the events, but it’s always good to keep an open space for the unexpected. This is not the conventional nine-to-five job. Like many of the MDLBEAST family, I work around the clock to accommodate different time zones, clients, and projects, and there is nothing else that I would rather do. The amount of work that goes into all MDLBEAST projects requires extensive energy and passion. Whether it be individual projects and events, or completely transforming the music and entertainment



Facing page: MDLBEAST Strategy Director and XP Music Futures Programme Director, Nada Alhelabi.

industry here in Saudi Arabia, the drive I have to achieve this is derived from my love for music and background in sound healing. As long as I love what I do and do what I love, me and my team are willing to give 24 hours of every single day of the week for it – especially when what you do is changing the course of music history! What have been some of the biggest achievements in your career to date? Some of my biggest achievements were having the opportunity to work on amazing transformational projects in Saudi and in the region for the governmental/public sectors. Another thing I really take pride in is completing my graduate studies in San Diego, where I also got to work on major public sector projects. After investing more focus and time into my passion for music, I obtained my sound healing certification, which led to many more milestones and kick started my career in the music industry. My latest and most exciting achievement, of course, is being the Strategy Director for

MDLBEAST, which is a title with many roles that I was so honoured to take to redefine the music industry in my country. Do women face greater challenges than men to break into the industry? The MENA music industry is going through an historic transformation, and women are of course part of this monumental change. While the numbers don’t lie and the industry is shown to be led by men all over the world, I find myself surrounded by talented and hard-working women every day. The change is really happening for us. The number of women I am seeing gradually and increasingly entering the Saudi music business is growing and this is just the beginning. This is a topic that we are thrilled to be talking about at XP Music Futures, our annual conference. Women in Music will be one of our crucial topics in which we will address the value that female artists and presence will bring to the industry and the necessary next steps to be taken.

Have you ever witnessed or been subjected to any form of discrimination in the workplace? I have certainly witnessed discrimination in the workplace throughout my career in different environments, however, I have never personally been subjected to any. In an industry dominated by men, you typically must prove yourself twice, but even though music is 70% led by men (the last time I checked across all sectors), MDLBEAST really isn’t a place where anyone feels discriminated against. I certainly never had to prove myself as a woman. There are, of course, many other kinds of discrimination possible at any workplace – none of which would ever happen under my watch. How does it feel to be part of such a massive culture shift like the one taking place in KSA? I believe that music has been a part of our culture from day one. Genres like hip-hop and rap have been on the rise for the past 20 years, but most of this was underground and low-key. The love and enthusiasm towards music has been in us




“MDLBEAST should come to be known as not just an entertainment company, but for developing the region’s music economy and defining the next generation of music and entertainment.” Nada Alhelabi, MDLBEAST

for a while, but we’re now taking steps towards driving a cultural and creative change that is allowing for all the untapped potential here to come out. It truly is the best feeling to have the chance to be contributing toward such an iconic change for your homeland. During XP Music Futures, our music conference, we will be bringing together some of the biggest names in the music industry. The aim is not just to drive the cultural and creative shift, but the economic shift, too. To make the most out of local resources and talents while growing our music economy simultaneously is the most rewarding idea. What is your advice to young women looking to break into the industry? My advice to any of the young women thinking about getting into the music industry is that this is the time to take the leap of faith. The opportunities are here, and you have our full


support, especially the support of all the women in the field – we are rooting for you! Being a woman is an asset for the ever-growing music industry now. It certainly brings some obstacles, but it is a bumpy ride for everyone, and it will all be worth it in the end. Your success will not only mean a life-changing career for you, but a lifechanging milestone for the entire musical culture and history of Saudi Arabia. What are your hopes for the future of MDLBEAST and the Saudi live events industry in general? After our debut event, SOUNDSTORM, in 2019, the economic and social impact was nothing any of us had expected. It gave a platform for so many talents in the region and allowed the locals to be aware of these unexpected talents. In fact, 83% of Saudi youth believe that SOUNDSTORM 2019 increased opportunities for local musicians and creatives in the country.

86% of young Saudis said they were prouder of the creativity and culture in Saudi Arabia as a result of the first festival. There was also a 36.5% increase in demand for global artists who performed at SOUNDSTORM 2019 for 12 months after the event as reported by the IMS report. This was just the beginning. We are hoping that after these enormous achievements, the general public feels even more confident in putting their trust in us to control the continued growth of the music scene in the region. We are hoping that they believe in MDLBEAST’s goals and that they help us move towards that goal. MDLBEAST should come to be known as not just an entertainment company, but for developing the region’s music economy and defining the next generation of music and entertainment. The only way for us to succeed in that is if they were part of the journey. Photos: MDLBEAST

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N&M MIDDLE EAST BRINGS IN FRESH FACES AS NEUMANN&MÜLLER MIDDLE EAST EMBARKS ON A MAJOR RECRUITMENT DRIVE, TPMEA CATCHES UP WITH FELIX ERDMANN, SVEN SCHUSTER, AND SIMON TRAVIS TO FIND OUT HOW THEY ASSEMBLED THE ‘DREAM TEAM’ OF THE MIDDLE EAST LIVE EVENTS MARKET. In October 2021, Neumann&Müller (N&M) Middle East’s Felix Erdmann told TPMEA: “We are growing our team massively, not only for the Expo 2020 projects, but also to grow our presence generally here in the Middle East.” A year later, following a recruitment drive that has seen the company bring in new heads of department for video and lighting, as well as several other key appointments, the Co-Managing Director was understandably pleased. “We like to keep to our word!” Described by Erdmann as “the dream team”, the list of new appointments includes some of the region’s foremost talents in the industry. Simon Travis has joined as Senior PM; Shaun Donsen is the new Head of Project Management; the duo of Paul Coopes and Matthew Gordon Holmes have joined as HOD of Lighting and Video respectively; Mrinal Rananavare has been


appointed as Estimation Manager; Kevin Crossley is Head of Equipment; and Belinda Janet Loocxx has been brought in as Head of Crew. “The most important thing for us was to assemble the best team to achieve our goals. In terms of equipment, most big companies in the region are on the same level – we all play with the same moving lights, speakers, and video equipment – but the creative part and the oneto-one service that makes the client feel special is what makes us stand out from the competition,” said Erdmann. “In the end, the people make the projects and if you want to be successful, you need to have the right team on board.” One member of the team who has been onboard since 2019 is Event Technology Business Unit Manager, Sven Schuster. He expanded on the characteristics the company was looking for in its new appointments. “The best expertise,

knowledge, and experience were vital, but just as important was assembling a team that has fun delivering projects together. We have all been in this industry long enough to know that you need to enjoy what you do to make it a success,” he said. “The right mindset is just as important as the right skillset. We work so closely together that you need that sense of camaraderie.” Senior PM, Simon Travis joined N&M “to help fulfil the company’s vision and work towards what we’ve got planned for the region”. With decades of experience working on some of the largest high-profile events in the Middle East, part of Travis’ remit is to ensure that N&M Middle East can deliver complete solutions. “Our aim is to deliver turnkey solutions – not just one or two departments but the whole thing – and to keep our clients happy and coming back for more,” he commented. “If you look at


the team we have, it’s clear that we are ready to be involved very early in the planning stages of events. We have got the resources and the knowhow to be able to help clients from the word ‘go’.” This is a sentiment very much echoed by Schuster. “The team is ready to deliver on any large-scale and complex event – the bigger and more complex, the better,” he concurred. “As soon as a project becomes tricky, that is where the real fun is.” With the influx of employees comes a larger office and warehouse space and a large investment in equipment. “We have got a second office and a second warehouse that doubles our capacity,” Schuster revealed. “The old impression of N&M was that we always flew equipment in and out of the country for events. So, this is something that we have addressed, by grounding our operations locally – allowing us to cater to events of any scale.” According to Travis, the HODs have been pivotal when it comes to deciding what stock to order. “Our HODs have supported us massively in the choices of equipment across video, audio, lighting, and rigging,” he revealed. “The kit lists are based on what we are being asked for and what we know is popular.” The Senior PM also noted that rather than being tied down to

stocking a small selection of brands, the company has the benefit of being able to work with any manufacturer. “We have great relationships with many manufacturers, but that doesn’t stop us from stocking the best equipment from across the board,” he said. “We always try to provide the best solution from a technical and commercial point of view. We want to stay independent and look at what the best product is for each job.” Erdmann added: “Short notice is the norm for events in the Middle East. If you want to have a good chance to work on medium-scale projects in Saudi Arabia, for example, you need to have the equipment on the ground ready to go – and that is what we are planning.” On the subject of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is becoming an increasingly important market for N&M. “We are based in the UAE – that is our home – but KSA is becoming more and more important every day,” Erdmann admitted. “It’s becoming the focus area with the scale of projects taking place there.” While the summer has historically been very quiet in the Middle East, the influx of events happening in the KSA has provided a “huge boost” – even if it presents a challenge when it comes to finding time for training and equipment maintenance. “Traditionally, summer has always been a time to perform


maintenance on equipment and take part in training,” Travis explained. “However, we’ve been busy throughout the year, so we have had to run training and maintenance alongside projects.” “It has meant that we needed to reorganise,” added Schuster. “Belinda [Janet Loocxx] is now heading our crew unit after her role on Expo 2020, and one of her main focuses is training and development. It’s so important that all the crew is trained up and able to deliver what we’re planning in the office.” Erdmann concluded by sharing his aims for the year ahead and beyond. “We want to have a sustainable, long-term business in the Middle East. We’re not here to make a quick dollar or ride on the wave of Expo for a couple more years. We want to build something sustainable that will continue to grow for the next decade and beyond. We will continue to invest in our people and in our team. After all, people work with people – not companies,” he commented. “We will continue our path of expansion in the Middle East and grow both of our business units – event technology and system integration. Based on the demand we are seeing, I am confident that we will be able to do just that.” Photo: N&M Middle East



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After 20 years in business, 3DB has become a household name in the Middle East’s live events sector, growing from humble beginnings as an audio-visual supplier into one of the most trusted turnkey event service providers in the region. The company has been providing its tailored solutions to clients from all over the Middle East and beyond from its Dubai HQ, and now its growth is continuing with the opening of a new division in Saudi Arabia. Charged with setting up the Saudi Arabian operation is General Manager KSA, Azmi Erdemir. With decades of events experience on both the supplier and client sides of the industry, Erdemir is keen to build on 3DB’s well-earned reputation to gain a solid foothold in the Kingdom. “We’re trying to recreate what 3DB is doing in Dubai for the Saudi Arabian market,” he began. “The Dubai-based company has been going since


2003, so there is already that brand recognition there in the industry, and it’s my job to build the nuts and bolts of the new operation, putting all the infrastructure into place so we can be autonomous as quickly as possible.” 3DB KSA already has a warehouse in Riyadh, which is currently being upgraded into a fully fledged combined office space and warehouse facility. The company is also on a “spending spree”, according to Erdemir. “We are set to become one of the largest d&b audiotechnik suppliers within the region,” he revealed, talking about the company’s ambitious investment plans. “The stock in our warehouse covers lighting, audio, video, scenic, staging and more – it’s a one-stop shop, much like we have in Dubai.” The company is also on a recruitment drive. “We’ve just employed two new project managers – one who was based in Dubai and another who

was based in the UK. We will also be bringing a lot of crew from the UK once their festival season is over,” Erdemir said, adding that investing back into Saudi and unearthing local talent is also a key part of the recruitment strategy. “There’s a young population and a lot of people who see these incredible events taking place in the country will want to get involved in working on them. We have already come across some local guys who are very good, and we also want to train people up to our ways of working and help develop them. This is still such a new market comparatively, so we want to take our experience and impart the knowledge on the local talent in the country.” While he’s understandably upbeat about the future for 3DB in Saudi Arabia, the General Manager is also realistic about where the company sits in the food chain. “All the massive



3DB KSA General Manager, Azmi Erdemir.

companies are here already, and they’ll always be first in line to service the huge events due to the vast amount of kit they can offer,” he reasoned. “However, for the medium-sized shows or even for parts of the larger shows, we’ve spotted a gap in the market for a company that can offer an extremely high-end delivery, supporting clients step by step throughout the process to achieve the highest standard of events.” That ethos is reflected in the way the infrastructure of the company is being built from the ground up. “We’re going about our business in much the same way as we would in the UK, with full-time warehouse staff and all the kit being taken care of properly, prepared on the way out and maintained on the way in,” Erdemir shared. “This means we’re not the cheapest, but we can provide the best value and service. The idea is to take the headaches away from clients and provide the kind of service that our clients have come to expect.” While events will always be at the centre of 3DB’s offering, according to Erdemir, the permanent install market is also a big part of the company’s business in Saudi Arabia. “The biggest projects that we have worked on in the Kingdom so far have been permanent installations,” he said, citing Takenda, Riyadh Boulevard’s brandnew gaming theme park, as a prime example. Increasingly, the 3DB team is seeing projects that start as temporary installations for the

Saudi Seasons, then transition into permanent, semi-permanent or even travelling pop-ups that tour the country. “XReality is a perfect example of this,” Erdemir noted. “This is a virtual reality experience that we helped design with our client GAG and build in-house for Jeddah Season. Once the Season was over, the concept turned into a pop-up VR park, which is set to tour Saudi. So many projects are lasting much longer than just a night or a weekend, so a slightly different mindset and approach is required in the design process.” Another string to the 3DB bow is the company’s partnership with UK-based immersive experience design studio, Seeper. “Seeper is at the forefront of technology when it comes to AR/VR and creates world-class, immersive experiences by combining passion for innovation with creative storytelling,” Erdemir explained. “We’ve become their official partners within the Middle East, which means we can offer the latest in their technology to this region.” As is so often the case in rapidly emerging markets, “crazy timelines” are still a regular feature of working in Saudi Arabia. “Where in Europe you might get six months lead time on a project, often here it tends to be a couple of weeks, which of course impacts on the calibre of the event. If we get enough lead time, we can produce a better and more cost-effective project,” Erdemir said, adding that he is sure attitudes to timelines will change in the future.

“Change will come – it just takes time.” Along with General Manager Dubai, Matt Dale, Erdemir is part of a growing network of experienced industry professionals at 3DB, brought together by Managing Director, Eddie Mulrainey. “It’s great to have that support from a larger organisation – whether that is in terms of kit or people for project support,” Erdemir reflected. “While we are our own distinct operation, the collaboration between 3DB Dubai and 3DB KSA is ongoing.” It’s no secret that live events and hospitality are growing at a rapid pace in Saudi Arabia, and Erdemir is seeing no signs of that growth slowing anytime soon. “The industry is thriving here, and the level of development is hugely exciting – everything from the megaprojects right through to the quickly growing music scene is growing extremely quickly,” he beamed. “There’s such an appetite for live events. The excitement is huge and that will continue to attract businesses.” The General Manager sees this astonishing growth in the Kingdom as a yardstick for the potential of the company. “Looking at the pipeline of work, the opportunities in Saudi are huge,” he confirmed. “The scope is there for us to be even bigger than we are in Dubai in a relatively short timeframe. The company is going to grow at such a pace that we will be unrecognisable by this time next year.” Photos: 3DB





What industry issue does Showblock provide a solution for? Tom Clements: Showblock is a solution for event and creative agencies looking for flexible and premium temporary structures. Based on a ‘building block concept’, Showblock offers endless potential for creatives with its minimalist look and feel and robust steel framework. These flexible and contemporary structures can be fully customised and pre-fitted in advance for extremely fast on-site installation. The structures can be easily triple stacked to create stunning event spaces, viewing platforms and retail pop-ups. Showblock offers an aesthetically pleasing alternative to typical temporary structures available in the market and can fit any type of event thanks to its modularity. It can be fully fitted out in our workshop in advance of delivery onsite meaning a very quick installation time onsite, which in turn can help clients cut costs on venue rental. What features will benefit end clients? Nick Cole: The block system allows clients to choose any configuration. It’s easy to install, very strong, and can be stacked three high with no need for additional reinforcement or ballasting. Showblock are 450mm wider and 300mm taller


than standard shipping containers, and can be entirely opened, closed, or branded. They are also extremely resistant to wind while keeping a minimalistic and premium design, making it an ideal solution for luxury events. Another benefit is the large clear-span glass that can be applied to it with no joins. We have 15mm tempered glass of 5.44m by 2.56m. It can be applied to the product in advance in the workshop and sent to the site already built into the block. Thanks to an interlocking building block concept, Showblock can fit from small pop-up projects (one structure is 16.6 sq m) to very large events by using multiple blocks next to each other, or even on top of each other. How is Showblock helping events be sustainable? Nick Cole: Based on a robust metal framework, Showblock’s innovative structures are a rental product which can be used for many years. Using Showblock considerably reduces waste compared to one-off temporary structure builds for pop-ups of exhibition standards. The structure’s steel frames, roofs, sub-floors, stud walls, glazing, doors, railings, and cantilever arms are all re-used and are the key components for our structures. Power cables, distribution units, sockets, air-conditioning units, and

lighting fixtures are also kept in stock. Universal aperture sizes mean that cut-to-size materials can be reused. Wall panels such as corrugated steel sheets, Dibond panels, and wooden slats can be stored and re-fitted for future projects. Composite decking and carpet tiles are examples of flooring finishes that can be reused. In terms of transportation, all work is completed at our warehouse unit prior to on-site delivery. This approach means fewer supplier cars, vans, and lorries travelling to the site. Two completed Blocks travel on one trailer. A minimal crew is required to set up as the structures remain assembled. For tours or multiple site events, this means no repeat material installations with minimal crew and vehicles. Why do you think it’s ideal for the Middle East? Tom Clements: Showblock is the first temporary structure that can be entirely relocated from one location or country to another, without having to be dismantled. This is a massive advantage for product roadshows or exhibitions in the Middle East. Clients are guaranteed to get the exact same event in every location, saving time and making project coordination simpler. Showblock is unique – it offers a premium structure, more modern and architecturally designed than traditional marquees. This product gives creatives flexible building blocks to configure any type of event. Photos: Maestra




other branding elements alongside a delegate’s name and their title, adding an additional level of personalisation to each event that is visible during broadcast.

Why have you decided to make such a substantial investment in Televic Plixus Confidea Microphones and E-Ink Nameplates? At DLC, we have always aimed to set the standard for conferencing technology within the region, and success in any endeavour requires a significant amount of consideration and financial commitment. Our investment in Televic advances our goal of offering our clients a comprehensive solution for events of any scale. Conferences aim for efficient debate and decision-making, and a qualitative delegate microphone solution is essential in achieving this. Technology moves quickly and as such we are keen to follow it to the frontier, offering optimal end-user experiences for our clients. How do they complement your current stock? Delegates familiar with our existing products will have no problem adapting to this new system; Televic seamlessly integrates with our

existing stock of Shure DCS6000 interpretation equipment. With over 2,500 push-to-talk microphones in stock, we are capable of providing for all the largest conferences that take place in the region, as well as supporting requirements on an international scale. What features do end users benefit from? Auto-redundancy provides additional reassurance should any circumstances occur that require it – this will limit any obstructions to deliberation and the delegate’s experience. Additionally, Dante, as the audio transporter, allows for a more precise control over the mixes we send to AV suppliers. This provides audio engineers in a room with 800 microphones with the ability to pick the composition and grouping of the mixes we provide, leading to a finer crafted audio experience for the delegates attending and operators onsite. Our digital E-ink nameplates now allow an ease of integration of logos and

Where has Televic been used before? Televic can be seen at installations in notable venues such as: NATO headquarters in Evere, Brussels; European Court of Justice, Luxembourg; and many other prestigious institutes throughout Europe, Asia, and America. We will be pioneering the use of Televic as a rental solution within the region, offering the same functionality and level of technicality provided by high-level institutions throughout Europe on a temporary basis. How does this investment assist your goal of providing the most modern and comprehensive solution for clients? We have maintained our position as market leaders and pioneers in push-to-talk and conferencing systems within the region, and continually take steps to expand and develop our services – this is not only limited to our conferencing division, as we have also expanded our stock of AV equipment, radio/ communications, and begun offering services such as autocue equipment rental and operators. Televic meets the criteria for our requirements as a rental house, and we look forward to working to provide the best experience possible to attendees in collaboration with our clients. Photo: Televic





identify how the product can be made even more robust and then test again, even if it already passed the test the first time. Our engineers aren’t happy until a product passes all the tests with a large safety margin. What was behind the decision to include pixel control with video mapping capabilities? While pixel control might not be important for some customers, it is a must for others. Some designers are looking for a damn good wash light without too many bells and whistles, and the MAC Aura XIP ticks that box. Similarly, a rental company might hire the fixtures to a designer on a TV show or tour, where the designer needs to create a variety of looks from the fixtures. And this is where pixel control, video mapping, Aura filaments and internal FX macros come into play. None of these prevent the fixture from being a good wash light, but they add more versatility. What were the biggest challenges in bringing the product to market? It’s no secret that the market is still struggling with component shortages, and these affected the development and production start-up of the MAC Aura XIP. But our teams took this into account from the earliest stages of the product development. As soon as a certain part or component within the design was finalised and tested, our factory in Pecs, Hungary, started to build up stock of that part.

What were the main goals for the MAC Aura XIP? When we launched the MAC Aura in 2011 and the MAC Aura XB in 2014, they quickly became workhorses for many rental companies all around the world, covering an extreme variety of applications. The goal at the start of the MAC Aura XIP development was clear: make the workhorse even more versatile without introducing new compromises. We wanted to keep size, weight, output and noise levels close to (or better than) the MAC Aura XB; add outdoor rating without forgetting that the product will also be used indoor; improve the wash quality; and incorporate customer feedback.


How important was versatility to the fixture? It was clear from the start that the market needed an outdoor-rated MAC Aura, but we didn’t want to make two products – we wanted to create a single product that would work equally well indoor and outdoor, with close to zero compromises on either application. The goal for our R&D team was clear: make it survive outdoor in any weather condition, but don’t build a big, ugly, heavy and loud ‘metal tank’. Several new solutions were needed to achieve this, with each needing to be tested extensively in both laboratory and real-world settings and fine-tuned. Testing at Martin is never a single iteration. After every test, our engineers

Could developments such as MAC Aura XIP see the eventual end of indoor/outdoor-specific products? Before the introduction of the MAC Aura XIP, the market seemed to accept that there are indooronly and outdoor-only products, forcing rental companies to invest in both – often resulting in half of them being stuck in the warehouse for part of the year. Martin’s goal was to challenge this status quo and allow rental companies to increase their return on investment by offering a product that can be used all year round, indoor and outdoor, with close to zero compromise in each environment. We will continue to do this with upcoming products. Photo: Martin



JOBURG HOUSE OF WORSHIP INVESTS IN ASTERA TITANS MARANATHA COMMUNITY CHURCH PURCHASES TWO SETS OF ASTERA TITAN TUBES AS PART OF ITS ONGOING COMMITMENT TO DELIVERING TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE. Johannesburg’s Maranatha Community Church has invested in two sets of Astera Titan Tubes for its busy 3,000-seater auditorium in Kempton Park. Maranatha’s Head of Media, Nereen Bradshaw, and Senior Pastor, Leonard Stone, were looking for new technology to enhance the church’s many productions when they came across the Titan Tubes being used on an album launch by resident church band, Direction. “We wanted something extra special for this event,” explained Bradshaw. The church had bought other kit including Robe moving lights from Astera’s South African distributor DWR Distribution in recent years, so when DWR’s Robert Izzett came onsite and demonstrated the Titan Tubes, both Bradshaw and Stone were suitably impressed and went on to order two sets, 16 Tubes in total. The Titans are hung above the stage area attached via carabiners to different length catenary wires and add depth and dimension to the performance area. This

setup means the Titan Tubes can be easily moved around. Currently they are programmed to run in pairs in a four-pixel configuration, from the house lighting console. “They bring a completely new dimension to the stage and give it a real modern edge, which is great for engaging younger members of the congregation and for presenting more energised and invigorated musical segments,” Bradshaw commented. “Conversely, using very slow colour or intensity effects has brought a gentle ‘raining’ kinetic experience, so they can be used for upbeat praise as well as quieter worship.” In the future, Maranatha intends to use the Tubes in other creative ways, including as hand-held illuminated props for dance items at special services such as Easter and Christmas celebrations. Within the next month they plan on using the Tubes in a hall with a wet concrete floor, for light effects while recording another music video for the band. Photos: Maranatha Youth


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HOLOPLOT COMPLETES MASSIVE EGYPTIAN MOSQUE INSTALL THE BERLIN-BASED PRO AUDIO COMPANY PROVIDES AUDIO EXPERTISE AS WELL AS AN X1 MATRIX ARRAY SOUND SYSTEM FOR AFRICA’S LARGEST MOSQUE. Occupying an area of 10,000 sq m, Egypt’s brand-new Misr Mosque is the largest in Africa and among the largest in the world. With a capacity for over 12,000 worshippers, the massive venue is central to the development of the country’s new administrative capital outside of Cairo. The cavernous space presented the unique challenge of delivering clear, intelligible speech to a large congregation without compromising the architectural integrity of the building’s mainly marble interior – a task that HOLOPLOT’s X1 technology was more than a match for. While a conventional sound system may require upwards of 30 positions to achieve sufficient coverage and intelligibility within such a space, HOLOPLOT provided audio coverage throughout the mosque, requiring only nine loudspeaker array positions. Each array is mounted as high as 23m above the floor, concealed at a significant distance from the listener behind painted cloth or metal.


The entire audio system is rendered ultimately invisible to worshipers. Central to HOLOPLOT’s unique approach is the ability to perfectly control and shape sound in both classic and more complex environments, manoeuvring highly reflective spaces with unprecedented accuracy. In this instance, X1 handled an existing reverberation time of six seconds, caused by both the marble interior and 60m-high dome, managing not to excite the reverberant field – directing energy away from reflective surfaces and preventing the need for large amounts of acoustic treatment. Speaking on the project, Emad El-Saghir, Fellow at HOLOPLOT, said: “This grand mosque is an example of X1’s technological capability. We introduced several brand-new system concepts that are not attainable with any other technology. The X1 Matrix Arrays utilise advanced optimisation algorithms to generate uniform coverage in tightly defined zones with minimal spill to dedicated quieter areas or reverberant

surfaces. This way, speech transmission and the direct-to-reverberant ratio were increased to record values. A steerable-line-array-based solution would have required the deployment of far more arrays to achieve anything comparable.” Emad Shenouda, Projects Director at integrator Audio Technology, added: “I’m pleased to say that together with HOLOPLOT, we met the client’s brief of creating a fully integrated system that satisfies all stakeholders. The project was full of challenges, starting from the size of the mosque, the room acoustics and of course project deadlines. Thanks to X1’s ability to not only control sound in the vertical but also horizontal it achieves unbelievable intelligibility, thought impossible in a space clad in marble and featuring a huge dome at its centre. HOLOPLOT exceeded our expectations in both the quality of sound, and in hiding the equipment in such a way that it blends in seamlessly with the interior.” Photo: HOLOPLOT



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