In January, Dubai-based Production Technology LLC (Protec) staged a sound, light, and pyrotechnics show to launch Dubai Media City (DMC) before an invited audience of 2,000 VIPs, following an inaugural speech by HH General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defense. Lighting Dimensions e-mailed Protec chairman Stephen Lakin, who set up the firm in July 1999 with James Rock; the event design, production, and management company acquired VLPS Dubai in September 1999 and says it now has the largest state-of-the-art stock of show equipment (lighting, audio, audiovisual, and staging) in the region, “if not the world.”
What is DMC and what did the show entail?
DMC is a government-established “free zone” for all media and media-related businesses, whose aim is to create a media hub for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the region. Its infrastructure offers state-of-the-art technology for all businesses leasing space on the premises. The project was launched by the crown prince, who has promised to let DMC thrive as a center for freedom of press, speech, and creativity (this is very new to this region), and there are currently new “freedom” laws being drafted.
Our 90-strong multinational crew worked around the clock to put the event together. Guests were allowed a view of the production from the grass amphitheatre in front of the three buildings (pictured), when a unique technical feature remotely lowered the 24×9m (79'×10') backdrop of the stage in front of the audience, opening up sightlines to the glass edifices which became the focus of the show.
What was the “unique technical feature” used for the stage?
The criteria was to build a stage 4m (13') deep, 23m (76') wide, at a maximum of 1.7m (6') high, with a rear wall 23m wide, 7.4m (24') high from stage level, that “folded” to become level with the stage, thus “revealing” the center building of DMC, leaving no components protruding above the stage height once the wall had folded.
To achieve this, we used six Thomas 15" ground support towers complete with sleeve blocks, lying horizontally (upstage/downstage), attached to the wall support trusses (Total Fabrications' XO) by way of arms (XO). These arms pivoted at both ends — one 2/3 of the way up the wall from the lower pivot, the other on the underside of the sleeve block.
Clearly, the highest loads on the structure would be when the lowering of the wall was nearly complete — i.e. from 30° off horizontal to lying flush with the stage. We also did not want the wall to land with a “clonk,” so some special cutting-edge shock absorbers were used.
For the actual lowering of the wall, we had a tech under the stage at the pivot where the support truss met the stage, keeping an eye on cables and slings, etc. Thanks to some careful calculations, a prototype built in the yard, and some dedicated technicians, the final “resting place” of the wall was exactly where we wanted it to be.
How did the lighting equipment come into play?
The buildings were lit up in yellow, red, and blue (virtually a replica of the DMC logo), followed by an intricate succession of dynamic colors and lighting variations, accompanied by 6,500 pyrotechnic effects, launched from behind and off the structures. The entire six-minute sequence was choreographed to a specially commissioned musical composition of Arabic and Western fusion.
Over 1,500 lights were installed inside the buildings to illuminate them; a further 180 automated luminaires were used to light the arena and landscaping, using over 260km (162 mi.) of cabling. An additional 50 high-powered searchlights were installed on the rooftops and surrounding areas to complement the show. We used Clay Paky, Coemar, Diversitronics, Space Cannon, Strong, and Vari-Lite equipment (our control consoles were Avolites Diamond IIs and IIIs), and it all performed flawlessly.
What is the market for such events in your region?
The market is considerably smaller than those in the US and Europe, but is slowly growing. Contrary to popular belief, budgets in this region allocated for them are significantly less than those of the US and Europe.
What are the challenges of working in Dubai?
This is a very new market for such events and a degree of client education in understanding the logistics and effort behind putting such shows together is necessary. Like most endeavors, there is an initial learning process to go through, which, once surpassed, makes implementing shows easier. Having put together a show of this magnitude in such a short period of time was altogether a very challenging and rewarding experience for the entire crew.