Festival City Arena hosts an impressive two-day digital hybrid festival, as Dubai takes its first steps out of lockdown. With Tomorrowland taking its annual festival online this year, Envie Events provided Dubai residents with a spectacular hybrid digital festival, allowing ticketholders to experience virtual performances from a star-studded bill of headliners, combined with a real-life production at Festival Arena by InterContinental Dubai Festival City. Taking place on 25 and 26 July as part of Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS), the two-day event featured sets from the likes of Katy Perry, Afrojack, Steve Aoki, David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Tiësto and many more.
Designed to bring together EDM-lovers all over the planet, Tomorrowland Around The World saw hundreds of thousands of people unite, simultaneously livestreaming the event from their homes. However, with a long history of working directly with Tomorrowland to put on sister events in the UAE – including in Dubai in 2017 and Abu Dhabi in 2018 – Envie Events spotted an opportunity. “As soon as Tomorrowland made the announcement, we came up with the idea of running a live version of the show,” commented Tessa Sprangemeijer, Director of Operations, Envie Events. “We’ve worked with Tomorrowland for the past 20 years and we have a great relationship with them.”
With the concept agreed, Envie Events called upon the expertise of Encore Staging Services to provide audio, lighting, video and rigging. At this point, Encore Project Manager, Ghanim Williams was brought onboard to iron out the technical details, consulting with Envie as well as Lighting Designer and Operator, Aaron Russ, on the package that would be required for the show.
“My previous experience with Tomorrowland meant that I had a good idea of what the general vibe was for this event,” Russ commented. “It’s fast electronic music, so I needed fixtures that would keep up!” To that end, Russ spec’d more than 220 moving lights, including a range of Claypaky fixtures such as 60 Sharpy Profiles, 20 Sharpy Washes, 34 Mythos 2s, 32 A.leda B-EYE K10s and 24 Stormys, as well as 12 Martin by Harman MAC Auras. “Fast and punchy was required here, so I called upon the usual suspects,” Russ explained.
With MDG and Smoke Factory Hazers adding scenic elements, Russ explained that he needed a “big old workhorse to push some nice aerial textures through the haze”. This was very much a job for the Robe BMFL Blade – 36 of which were deployed. Also on the rig were 20 Showtec Sunstrips.
Control came in the form of an MA Lighting grandMA2 Full Size, with a light for back up. “Encore sanitised my console for me every few hours during the set-up process, then once a day during the show,” Russ recalled. “By this point, I was the only person touching it so there was no real risk, but it was good to see that extra safety measures were being taken. I definitely felt safe throughout the event.”
While an initial iteration of the stage design had included a large LED screen, the final version saw this changed to a projection option, using three Panasonic 21K HD Laser projectors. Encore also provided 132 DC 4.8mm LED panels, which were purposed as small screens running throughout the venue. “We were initially going to have these set up as IMAG screens on either side of the main projection, but in the end, we decided to create a number of smaller screens,” Williams stated. “We ran a section of the Tomorrowland content and overlaid some equaliser effects in order to bring it towards the audience.” Content was run through Green Hippo Hippotizer Boreal+ Media Servers.
Williams was pleased with the overall visual effect, commending the team on “an amazing job”. He commented: “From an audience perspective, it was incredible to see how the look and the feel of Tomorrowland was recreated. The fact that the audience was surrounded by lights and video screens meant that everyone inside the venue was fully immersed in the experience.” Encore Audio Department “went all out” with a fully calibrated and ArrayProcessed d&b audiotechnick J-Series rig, comprising 32 J12s, six J8 lip fills, 16 J-SUBs, six J-INFRAs and 30 D80 amplifiers, with a DiGiCo SD9 for control. “Our Audio team had different calibration mics set up throughout the venue in order to make it sound as good as possible for each little pocket of the audience,” he commented. “They were looking at the levels all the time, monitoring constantly to make sure that the sound was as close to perfect as possible.”
While Williams described a “bit of a slow uptake” from the audience while the venue was filling up, once the event got into full swing, the PM reported that the atmosphere was every bit as engaging as a normal show with live DJs. “The audience were cheering, reacting to the DJs and you really got the sense that it was a proper live show,” he commented. “Everybody seemed to be having a great time.”
‘BACK TO DOING WHAT THEY DO BEST’
With the event representing Dubai’s first foray out of lockdown, health and safety considerations were more important than ever. “We worked with DTCM to draw up an extensive set of guidelines on what safety measures we could implement to make it possible to hold an event such as this,” Sprangemeijer recalled. The document covered every aspect of the event, from a detailed floor plan, to the use of sanitisation tunnels for anyone entering or exiting, and the sanitisation of the entire venue prior to the event.
While the safety of visitors and staff was undoubtedly of utmost importance, Sprangemeijer was also keen that the guidelines were relaxed enough so the audience would still be able to have an enjoyable experience. “We had to strike a balance of making sure that we put on a safe and secure event, but also ensuring that the visitors still had a worthwhile experience,” she commented.
“Envie planned the schedule really well,” Williams told TPMEA. “Everything was thought out and considered in order to keep contact to a minimum.” Within that staggered setup, Williams revealed that eclipse had its own strict measures in place. “We split our teams, so the Rigging team came in first, then Lighting, Audio and finally Video,” he explained. “It was all planned and structured so there were no overlaps.”
Taking the health and safety conversation one step further, Lubach talked to TPMEA about the in-house protocol that eclipse’s parent company, PSAV, has developed, which is now being utilised across all events. “PSAV’s MeetSAFE Guidelines are based on four key tenets: room layout, traffic flow, technology and cleaning,” he commented. “It’s a free document that is readily available on the PSAV website. It demonstrates that PSAV has put a lot of thought and energy into putting on live events in a safe environment.”
Looking back on the event, Williams praised the eclipse crew on site, which included: Wissam Shaheen, who led the Audio team; Richard Bearpark, who was in charge of Video; Sam Connolly who took care of Lighting; and Max Bagehorn, who oversaw the Rigging team. “We were all delighted to finally be back on site again and everyone involved was absolutely amazing,” Williams beamed. “Because we had a limited number of staff on site, everyone more than pulled their weight. The whole team worked really well together and that is why we got it done so quickly and efficiently.”
Lubach echoed Williams’ sentiments, reflecting on the importance of getting back to some semblance of normality. “Everyone was so happy,” he recalled. “There was such an energy in the team. The long days and hard work that might have got them down in the past were now being welcomed – there was nothing that would have got these guys down. They were just so pleased to be back doing what they do best.”
While working on this event was clearly a boost for eclipse, Lubach was under no illusions of what would be required for the industry to return to profitability. “The biggest thing our industry relies upon is putting a lot of people in a small space – whether that’s for a corporate event, an exhibition or a live show,” he said matter-of-factly. “It all comes down to managing that in a safe way. It’s not going to be an easy journey back to where we were a year ago, but we’re pleased that we’ve been able to remain operational and everyone is being very creative with ideas to get the business back on its feet.”
courtesy of TPMEA Magazine, from October 2020 issue #026.
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