Protec moves mountains for IDEX opening ceremony
UAE: Protec was called in to design, develop, direct and deliver the opening ceremony for the recent IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi. The theatrical production made use of special effects, choreography with military personnel and assets and scenic staging sets deployed on a 250m x 60m performance stage that was built from the ground up and arranged into an action packed show for a live audience.
The production included a mix of local heritage performances as well as local and international military parades. The main part of the show was a battle enactment of a fictitious scenario where an elite military group representing the Land Forces, Special Forces, Navy and Air Force liberate a war torn nation in the mountains from militia control. The enactment featured air drops, low passing jet fly-bys, helicopters and naval support, firefights, fast moving pursuits involving tanks and armoured vehicles in challenging surroundings, a fully working and custom built train and submarine as well as full movie grade special effects (including high grade vehicle hits, land fireballs and debris explosions, rock falls, bullet hits and water explosions) culminating in the successful liberation of the mountain village.
‘This show involves jets and helicopter fly pasts that have to be timed to the precise second to match up with the action sequences on the staging area performed by armoured vehicles, infantry, special effects that include large pyro explosions on land and on the mountains, water explosions and vehicle explosions,’ explained Eddie Andradé, the show’s creative director. ‘This involves intense coordination between the show caller, stunt director and choreographer, special effects crew, stage managers, video, audio, cameras, the Navy, the Land Forces, the pilots, the airport, the air bases, air traffic control, road traffic control, the police and civil defence.’
Protec’s founder and CEO, Stephen Lakin, was in charge of building the entire scenic set. ‘Under the temporary venue that Protec built, were the exhibition centre's utilities and drainage systems which had to be protected by the weight of the military vehicles, some of which weighed in excess of 60 tons,’ he noted. ‘Therefore it had to be built up to 1m above the existing surface, graded up with sand, road base and tarmac/asphalt. Protec also built a temporary 65m long x 30m wide x 1m high ‘lake’ which held 2 million litres of water on which jet boats and a submarine were run. ‘We added working waterfalls that we built into the mountain set along with artificial greenery to complete the scenic visual,’ added Mr Lakin.
The mountains themselves were built out of base scaffold structures with carpet fascia that was painted to resemble rocky and moss/grass covered mountains and finished off with artificial greenery and landscaping. The mountains had to be strong enough to withstand pyro explosions at various heights, abseiling, zip lining and a lot of personnel movement. Over 400 tonnes of ballast was used to secure the structures which worked well with the high wind speeds experienced during the build-up. Two 16m x 9m LED screens were built into the upstage mountain structures with access to work behind them.
The audio package included 40 L-Acoustics K2 ground stacked in blocks of four with SB28 subs positioned between each set of two K2 stacks. ‘We ran a dual redundant fibre network using DiGiCo racks running digital outs and Optocore Sane units running analogue outputs to the LA8 amplifiers, this complemented our use of the SD10 mixing desk with SD-RE redundant engine which meant we could lose kit or connections anywhere in the network and not lose audio or control at all,’ Protec’s head of audio, Ed Ross explained. ‘For communications we used a Clear-Com matrix and a selection of control panels, HelixNet belt backs and Motorola digital radios. These were integrated with Riedel RiFace units for seamless communication across platforms.’
‘This is a very unique show,’ reflected Mr Andradé. ‘It’s not as simple as using your imagination and delivering an action movie styled show because it also has to be realistic in the sense that being a military demonstration, it needed to involve military procedures and methods. This calls for some serious research and coordination. From a creative standpoint, we had already done a desert theme and a port theme so this time it had to be in a completely different setting. So mountains it was. Once we had the setting, we had to develop the storyline that was creative yet practical and most importantly, safe for them to perform live.’
‘Thank you very much on a successful IDEX, which for ADNEC and Abu Dhabi, was the most successful ever IDEX in its history,’ concluded Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, group CEO of ADNEC. ‘This year’s show has broken all records, including reaching more visitors than previous years. Working with Protec was a pleasure for not only myself, but for all my team, who mentioned that it was a delight to work with such a professional, well organised and structured organisation. I am sure the stress behind the scenes was well worth it in the end. What a marvellous opening ceremony and each day I watched the performance, I noticed even more intricate details to the show. The opening ceremony ran as smoothly as I was hoping for and my expectations were not only met, but were exceeded.’