"We've all worked on launches for new cars, servers and pharmaceuticals before," says Michael T. May, Senior Account Executive at VAI, "but these were the first projects we've supported that launched the opening of an entirely new community and a one-kilometer tall skyscraper!"
What began as a basic request from FiveCurrents Executive Producer Christopher Laue, for a Vista Systems' Spyder operator grew to VAI supplying a technically-advanced video system halfway around the world. With only three weeks to pull together the required resources, Laue, who had worked with VAI on other projects, knew he could count on the company to execute the aggressive design proposed for the first event - the launch of Nakheel real estate development's skyscraper and harbor complex.
"As soon as we heard the concept, it was clear to me that I needed to phone the guys I always call in for a high-end challenge," notes Laue. "When I need people who can execute a project flawlessly, I contact VAI, and they were able to make everything look gorgeous."
The design from The Brand Experience and Obscura Digital called for unique stage and projection solutions in the ballroom of the much talked about Atlantis Resort on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah manmade island. A series of four custom borderless screens hung from traveler tracks spanned 100 feet across the back of a 40x60-foot presentation stage. At the high point of the presentation, the screens dramatically split to reveal a three-dimensional cityscape model of the Dubai waterfront that rolled to center stage on tracks built into the stage deck. VAI was tasked with projecting images onto both the back wall and stage floor giving the audience sitting in the back seats a stunning 3D view of the cityscape and panoramic background.
To achieve the immersive effect, VAI used a combination of 22 Christie S+20K and Christie HD18K projectors suspended at very specific angles from the overhead truss grid. The projectors were hung at pre-determined downward angles and unique off-axis positions in order to keep the units out of the audience's line of sight and converge all of them onto the floor and the two-story tall models once they were in position.
In addition to the stage area, a curved tunnel was constructed as the entranceway to the ballroom. The structure was covered with projection fabric, and images from servers (supplied by Obscura Digital, Inc.) were projected onto the tunnel by four Christie S+20K projectors, providing the guests with an immersive passage into the event.
During the short pre-production process, VAI identified what technology was available in Dubai and what had to be shipped to the event. VAI researched local equipment availability and formed partnerships with some of the vendors in Dubai, asking them to provide many of the basics like power distribution, some projection and labor. Equipment, such as the Encore Switching system, routing, DVI signal cable, and the bulk of the projectors, was sent from VAI's shop in California. "Working in this manner gave us local resources to pull from when needed, and allowed us to provide the client with the safest and most cost effective solution available," notes John Ackerman, SWI & VAI Project Manager.
The high-profile launch by Dubai's largest real estate developer was attended by a number of VIPs, including His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, and the star couple Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.
One day after loading out of the Atlantis ballroom, VAI got a call from Obscura Digital to do a similar event for some dignitaries who had attended the Nakheel launch and were impressed. "When the call came in our equipment was being loaded onto a flight returning to the US," recalls May. "With only minutes to go before it would be too late to retain the gear in Dubai, the decision was made to go forward with a design that would set the stage for a second stunning and immersive presentation announcing the opening of the Al Furjan Centre, a new community in Dubai."
The second event took place in three venues at the Al Furjan Sales Centre. For the first, a large outdoor area, VAI placed 14 Christie S+20K projectors on rooftops and focused them onto building fronts across the street providing the entrance to the event. The second, an indoor reception, called for four more Christie projectors directed towards the ceiling and creating one large image over the heads of the crowd. The third location was the formal presentation area under a large Arabian-style tent in front of the Sales Centre. There VAI mixed cameras, tape playback, computer graphics and media servers to create the presentation announcing the opening of the Sales Centre.
The striking visual content and proprietary image-mapping technology that allowed the projected images to match the building surfaces were provided by Obscura Digital. The Brand Experience produced the event, which was also attended by many dignitaries including His Excellency Sultan Bin Sulayem and the Executive Chairman of Nakheel.
At VAI, John Ackerman served as Project Manager for the two events while Kirk Garreans and Shan Zinke switched screens, Neal Gass and Geof Gibson acted as EIC, and Terry Nakamura and John Ridley were Lead Projectionists.
Video Applications and Scharff Weisberg, firms with extensive histories in the presentation and staging markets, recently announced a co-ownership agreement. While continuing to operate independently the two companies work together strategically to provide clients with state-of-the-art audio, video and lighting equipment and services. With a strong presence on both coasts Video Applications and Scharff Weisberg are able to deliver a large array of cost-effective services on a national level. For more information visit www.videoapps.com or www.scharffweisberg.com.