Al Laith Event Services Thinks Laterally for IDEX Opening Ceremony

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Dubai based Al Laith Event Services devised a lateral and highly inventive motion control solution for tracking two 30 metre sections of Lighthouse L7 LED screen across a distance of 140 metres for the Opening Ceremony of the 2011 IDEX (International Defence) Exhibition. The exhibition was at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), and Al Laith's client was the OC show producers, RedFilo Events from Abu Dhabi with its headquarters based in Singapore.

The big challenge was that the tracking system had to be able to withstand 104 km per hour down-currents from helicopters hovering just 40 metres above - not exactly an everyday requirement, and one that rendered most of the known entertainment automation systems inappropriate!

The 38 minute OC, staged right outside ADNEC, was an epic all-action show of spectacular proportions, conceived and directed by RedFilo's MD Pach Ang, assisted by Ronnie Lim.

As soon as Al Laith Event Services was confirmed for the project, Jo Marshall, Director of Event Services, started thinking about a cost-effective and rock solid system that would fulfil all the technical requirements for moving the screen in such an extreme environment.

The solution he came up with utilised a vertical construction site Hek Mast lifting system, more commonly used for climbing up buildings.

"A significant amount of engineering was needed to adapt the system, but we have the means to do that, and I was confident that it could be modified to work as an exceptionally strong horizontal tracking system, complete with a set of LED dollies into which the screen modules could be fixed". He adds, "Hek Masts have been tried and tested on construction sites worldwide under the most abusive conditions, and so it was just a question of how to apply the technology in a different environment."

By utilising existing industrial equipment, Al Laith was also able to offer a considerable cost reduction to its client.

Each 30 metre long dolly can easily take up to 50 tonnes in weight and was programmed in exactly the same way as if it had been used for an industrial application, so the screen tracked from side to side and opened in the middle to reveal a live maritime hostage rescue operation taking place in the area behind.

The Hek Mast system was easily robust enough for the job, and in some areas was somewhat over-spec'd, easily meeting all the health & safety requirements.

Toothed trussing is bolted to the Hek superstructure, and the motor system - complete with drive wheels, cogs and toothed bars is attached around it. Under normal circumstances this would drag the load - usually a cage - up the building.

In this case, the cage, motor and control was removed and bespoke vari-speed drive units were engineered, each with 2 motors for full redundancy, to clamp around the truss. These each worked in conjunction with an associated slave unit (without motors). The LED 'chairs/screen dollies' were bolted to the drive units - with 4 drive units to move each 30 metres of screen.

The automation system was built on top of a 3.5 metre high scaffolding structure - so it was fully self supporting from the ground up with an extremely high weight loading. This provided a completely solid fit for the screen elements when they were butted-up, dispensing with all the dynamic load issues associated with flown moving LED screens.

The fully programmable Hek Mast controller is also highly accurate and capable of both fast and very slow movement. Three fail-safes are built into the tracking mechanisms. Optical tracking sensors receive information from mini-cams mounted to each dolly that constantly monitor the travel distances, so in this case, the screens could never be driven into one another. Another optical sensor on the other end of the dollies reads the track, and the drive units will only work when track is detected.

Each of the 2 screen dollies also contained its own generator, mains distro unit, cable management and control, providing a completely self-contained space with all the necessary infrastructure for the screens and their processing units to function, eliminating any dragging of cables, etc.

The show started with Chinook helicopters hoisting up giant UAE and IDEX flags escorted by Apaches and Black Hawks, followed by the maritime 'hostage rescue sequence, located directly on the waterway across from the show's mobility track. This display involved Special Ops crack troopers fast roping in from a Chinook with another team boarding alongside the ship using RHIBS Fast Craft.

The next 35 minutes saw one adrenaline pumping action scene after another including the 'rescue' of a High Value Target; a building storming; 55 of the latest armoured vehicles clearing through a series of unique obstacles on the mobility track; 10 of the world's foremost wing suit skydivers performing a series of stunts and 23 stunt bikers. It ended with a regal finale from a combination of international and UAE brass bands.

Says Pach Ang, “When Redfilo was asked to produce the show for the second year running we immediately began sourcing partners to collaborate in making it an ‘eye-opener' among opening ceremonies. Right from our first discussions with Tony Nobbs, Jo Marshall and Neil Hobbs from Al Laith Event Services, we were impressed the minute we stepped into their office and saw their site in Dubai.

"With a massive array of equipment, supported by a team of highly competent staff, we immediately knew that Al Laith Event Services was the right partner. Throughout the planning, construction and operation stages of the event, Al Laith demonstrated superlative professionalism, often going beyond the scope of their brief to make the show such a success. We eagerly look forward to collaborating with them again.”

Al Laith Event Services' on-site project manager was Neil Hobbs. He co-ordinated their crew of 80 for the intense 4 week build period, which also included the construction of a series of giant scenic pieces for the OC, including 6 x entrance/exit tunnels, a massive sliding door and a mobile motorcycle ramp.

With the success of the event and having undertaken all the essential engineering of the automation system, Al Laith are expecting to use it more frequently for other applications.

For more press info. on Al Laith Event Services, please contact Louise Stickland on +44 (0)1865 202679/+44 (0)7831 329888 or Email ‘louise@loosplat.com'. For more general info and to contact Al Laith direct, check http://www.allaith.com or call +971 (4) 338 8882

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