Between October 2020 and April 2021, Dubai will play host to the next World Expo. Bringing together more than 180 nations and an international audience of 25 million visitors, it will be one of the greatest shows on Earth. Following in the tradition of the very first Great Exhibition of 1851, set in London’s Hyde Park under the spectacular glazing of the Crystal Palace and masterminded by His Royal Highness Prince Albert, Dubai’s World Expo 2020 will provide visitors with the chance to see spectacular architecture, merge with global cultures, examine thoughtful and thought provoking exhibitions, and taste food from every corner of the globe. Above all, visitors to the event will witness the very latest in thinking and technology.
To provide the necessary infrastructure for transporting the millions of visitors, Dubai is expanding its public transportation system and Protec were proud to provide their client Avantgarde with all the AV solutions at the immersive ground breaking ceremony that unveiled Route 2020 for the Dubai RTA. Three main event spaces were prepared for the ceremony which was attended by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his accompanying party.
Protec’s Project Manager, Simon Travis explains the brief: “To demonstrate how and where the new metro system is going to connect the Expo 2020 site with the rest of Dubai, the ceremony was set within three distinct domes built specially for the event on site. We supplied the lights, the rigging, the AV elements and the sound and comms in each of the domes. The welcome or pre-function Zendome 300 was a Geodesic dome of 10.2m in height and 20m in diameter; the Time Tunnel was a space measuring 9.5m by 8.5m with a 5.4m ceiling while the last, big 1000 dome where the LED cube took centre stage, was another Geodesic room measuring 17.7m in height and 35m in diameter. Each one provided us with separate challenges but our overriding concern was the siting of the venue in the open full heat of summer with temperatures reaching 49oC on occasions. The well-being of our crew is paramount and we took extra care to ensure everyone remained properly hydrated and took appropriate breaks out of the heat during the nine-day build, the event itself and the load out.”
The audio and comms element of the production needed to be both discrete and effective. With the event taking place in three separate rooms and control being site in separate cabins outside of the domes, reliable comms were a must. For on-site communication, Protec used a Riedel RiFace unit to integrate Motorola radios running in duplex into the Clearcom matrix and subsequently across to the main Clearcom Helix-4X show channel ring which all the technical team were using. This allowed for complete coverage across the site for both stage management and clients and they could freely communicate with the show operators who were positioned in porta cabins outside of the venue. The Clearcom system proved a winner, overcoming the interference and signal drop out from the domes’ metallic structure.
The rather tricky acoustic nature of the Geodesic domes was always going to be something of a challenge. From a presentational perspective it was paramount that the audio in the domes – and in the Time Tunnel - needed to be sympathetically and unobtrusively located while still providing the optimum playback sound to complement the presentation and yet not fall foul of the very reflective elements of the performance spaces. Travis again: “In the pre-function dome, we scattered L-Acoustics X12s and X8s behind the scrim. It was configured as a four-point system so everywhere you went in the room you received a stereo image. The capacity of the loudspeakers meant we were able to generate sufficient SPL without causing reverberation within the reflective confines of the domes.’
‘In the Time Tunnel where there was no lighting, just the AV content, we rigged a couple of L-Acoustics 5XTs above the LED screen and were able to put the subs behind the screen. As the video presentation was music driven this was ideal as both AV and audio were essentially coming from the same source.’
The large dome where the main event took place was covered by L-Acoustic 115HIQs and the new SB28 subs. The 115s were rigged about 6m above the floor so we could accurately direct the playback to where the audience would be stood. Although the curvature of the dome and the reflective properties of the structure proved a challenge, once the dense carpeting on the floor was in place we were able to manage and reverberation issues successfully.”
For this ceremony it was the AV content that played the major role with the lighting offering a support in providing atmosphere and ambience. Ben Connor was the Protec video engineer. “We were tasked with providing video solutions for all three zones. For the small dome the challenge was achieving full projection coverage of the dome; it was not particularly wide and we had to have the projectors positioned above head height to avoid lights in VIPs' eyes and shadows. We had to use wide lenses with quite small blends to achieve coverage. We used seven projectors to create a 360o projection; five Barco 20K FLEX projectors covered the walls while the other two Barcos were positioned opposite each other covered the top of the dome. We used 1.14 -1.49 lenses from our stock to help achieve the required coverage and the content came from d3 servers.’
Amir Hachshenas was the d3 programmer: “The d3 requires an accurate model of what you are projecting to calibrate the projector line up correctly. As is often the case when setting up for a one-off event in a temporary structure, the projection surface specs from the CAD drawings to the actual dome projection surface was way off. However, we opted to survey the height of the dome at set intervals along the diameter to recreate a more accurate model of the dome which gave us exactly what we needed.”
The accompanying lighting in the pre-function dome was to provide a welcoming ambience for the royal party. Controlled by a grandMA2 Light were a number of ETC Source 4 Mini LEDs for the doorways and some Clay Paky Glow Up Strips to add a little wash and warmth.
The Time Tunnel was all about AV without any lighting as Connor explains, “This was another 360o experience, this time created with our Mambo 6mm LED and 6mm LED from NIT LED. The content was created so that people in the room would watch the content on the main screen in front of them and then see it pass by on both walls and ceiling eventually disappearing from view on the rear wall behind them. The rear LED wall was used as an entrance for the guests and was closed once everyone was in. The rear wall was closed manually and no automation was used here for Health &Safety reasons and so that we could comply with the Royal protocol for emergency exit in the event of a power failure. At the end of the presentation, the front wall was opened using our automated tracking system for the VIPs to exit to the next zone. We chose NIT’s screen because the arrangement of hanging brackets on the back of the panels enabled it to be hung facing down.’
‘We ran a main and back up input of 12 feeds into the room; 6 main and 6 back-ups. Main came from d3 through a matrix (connected to d3) to another matrix at the LED side via fibre optic cable. Back-ups took the same route except we used HD Base T transmission to send video over Cat6 cable. We had a crash switch configured on the matrix at the LED receive side so that we could seamlessly switch to the back-up feed in the event of the main feed failing. Each wall had one feed from d3 except the ceiling which required two.’
‘Technical specifications aside, our main priority was to ensure all walls and ceiling were AV seamless, as well as the doors when they came together to form an unbroken wall. With all walls and ceilings being a mixture of ground stacked and hung from the truss it was quite a meticulous process to build perfectly. We had to measure out and build the room very accurately so that all pixels on all surfaces lined up and content ran smoothly across all surfaces. Also, due to the metallic nature of the dome structure that we built the time tunnel within, cooling the LED panels and preventing overheating was a constant challenge. It wasn’t just the crew that were in danger of overheating! Initial AC design wasn't up to the job of cooling the LED and panels higher up were reaching temperatures pushing 60o C. We had to install extra AC cooling and also heat extractors at height.”
In the big dome it was the main reveal that was the centre of attraction; a scaled model of the new metro station located in the centre of the dome. On entry to the dome the model was hidden by a four sided LED forming a square around it, hung from truss. LED panels here were the Mambo Twist 4.8mm. At the moment of the reveal the screens tracked vertically upwards, the automation controlled with a CP Solutions system.
There was a total of ten projectors, five in use and a further five for back-up, all connected to d3. The three screens displayed content at different intervals as the party made their way around the room. The main screens were 6m x 4m with two screens rigged between. These were made up of three 2mx2m each, each one tracking vertically at different rates while the content was mapped across the three.
Lighting the main event was a primarily Clay Paky affair. Alpha Spot HPE 1200s lit the glass structure on the revolve in the centre and the metro station model. In addition, Protec supplied general lighting such as Schnick Schnick LED strips and gobo projections used as visual guiding pointers through the event, all controlled by another grandMA2, this time a full size console.
As Project Manager, Travis is well placed to comment on the success of the event. “This was an event that demanded the very best from us both technically and in terms of personnel. The venue being sited out of doors in mid-summer is a very unusual occurrence and presented us with challenges in terms of manpower as well as possible equipment malfunction. For example, the lamp hours of moving head fixtures rigged in the dome roof were kept to a minimum and left in open white whenever possible to assist in cooling. That said, cooperation and communication between all parties was very relaxed and smooth over the entire event. A nine day set up allowed us space to ensure that any unforeseen issues could be rectified and any adjustments to the rig could be made to create just the right feel. The event itself was just thirty minutes long but to put it bluntly, the client was blown away with what was achieved. It is undoubtedly one of the best parts of my job: to see a client that happy with what Protec has done for them.”