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Celebrated DJs, acrobats, dancers, pyrotechnics, lasers and fireworks synchronised with music across an unending sea of white. Organizers filled the atmosphere with stunning structures, and light shows illuminated the crowds in a white oasis. The acts united people from all over the world to create a vibe while the crowd embraced the “Celebrate Life” theme of Sensation Dubai.

Sensation is not just one of the most popular EDM concepts around the globe but also has a special standing in the Middle East which is known for awe-inspiring shows. The event is the most travelled electronic music show in the world and has been to all continents, 35 countries and 43 different cities and welcomed well over 2 million site visitors worldwide over nearly two decades.

This year’s Dubai event featured Mr. White, Sam Feldt, Danny Avila, Don Diablo, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano and Steve Angello.

Protec teamed up with Envie Events to deliver the show, which was held at Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse. Protec provided a full production infrastructure.

Dubai music scene

Protec was well aware of the high production values set by producers, organisers and promoter Envie Events with whom the company has worked closely on events in the past. Responsible for some of the most spectacular, immersive and innovative dance music events in the Middle East, they put a state-of-the-art lighting, pyrotechnics and sound design.

Envie Events is the brainchild of two Belgian entrepreneurs who moved to Dubai in 2011 with goals of transforming the electronic dance music industry of the Middle East. Barry Pavic joined forces with long-time friend and innovative marketeer, Nicolas Vandenabeele, to come up with a brand that has transformed the nightlife and music scene in Dubai – home to people of over 187 nationalities and a melting pot of diversity.

The promoter hosted the first world exclusive open-air edition of Sensation in Dubai in 2015. Envie Events is also behind two Mega Night Club operations in Europe and various annual partnerships including Sensation, Tomorrowland, WMC Miami, and Summer Clubbing Ibiza is well on track to become the ultimate destination of choice for events and concerts in Dubai – attracting the entire MENA Region and beyond.

“Attracting a global clientele and elevating the overall guest experience completely from Entrance to Exit”, is the ultimate goal – which translates into shows that fans want to keep returning to. We strive to make sure that everyone has a good time,” comments managing director, Barry Pavic.

Combined resources

Protec combined their resources to provide industry standard video, audio, lighting, backline, stage and set elements and full rigging services.

Simon Travis took on the project manager role for Protec liaising with Envie Events, Backbone International and the Sensation crew from Holland.

“Meydan is very different from the usual kind of dance music venue, particularly because it’s a race track so we had to consider the horses stabled there, in terms of noise levels. We had restricted time slots where we could carry out the work. The noise was very strictly controlled as they didn’t want to freak out the horses, though they did move them off site for the show day,” explains Travis.

The Envie Events team adds: “Meydan is a great venue with more than 8,000 parking spots, exceptional infrastructure facilities and perfect distance from downtown Dubai. Makes it a very attractive venue for a global series like Sensation. Working on Meydan does bring its challenges and having an experienced partner like Protec really makes the difference.”

Tech specs

Travis describes Protec’s involvement: “The audio was fairly straightforward. We provided 32 flown L-Acoustics K2’s on the main hangs, above which were two K1 subs on each of the hangs — all powered by 11 LA-RAKs containing 18 LA8 amps. For the front fills they set four positions of 12 L-Acoustics Kara enclosures, powered by the LA8 amps. Subwoofers comprised 30 SB28s — 15 a side. L-Acoustics amps and speakers were also used for DJ monitors and wedges which comprised three Kara elements per side on top of a pair of SB18 subs.”

The company used a DiGiCo SD10 as their FOH mixing desk with all amplifiers networked so they could be closely monitored, with signal transmission via Neutrik fibre optics.

Processing comprised Antelope Audio lsochrone OCX Clock, Lab Gruppen Lake LM44 processors, MAC laptops controlling playback and processing (including Smaart), and DIs for DJ equipment.

Protec fielded 16 Sennheiser G3 receivers and a transmitter as wireless monitoring for the dancers so they could work with the music and receive feeds from their choreographer. A couple of handheld radio mics meanwhile covered DJ requirements.

Ancillary coverage was required in two VIP lounges which were serviced variously by a compact Bose PA system and L-Acoustics Syva – which is equally slick and compact.

Comms were taken care of by Clear-Com HelixNet, which was used for their nine wired positions, and Freespeak II for their eight wireless.
Protec senior audio engineer, Dan Dignan, who was supported by Ed Ross and William Morrison, comments: “The Sensation guys were great to work with, particularly Niels from [Sensation’s] NoizBoyz audio production team. He took care of the desk whilst I took care of the system. The guys from Backbone were also great, Tom and Roden especially. The benefit of a good team was an amazing production.”

Light, camera, action

Protec Lighting department, headed up by Aaron Russ – the company’s Lighting HOD and Paul Coopes, provided a mixture of their frontline Robe, Martin and Clay Paky fixtures. This included 45 Robe Pointe fixtures mounted on the triangular backdrop set, both on stage left and stage right screens, and also on the main triangle for the main stage.

Inside the scaffold structure was a combination of 37 Clay Paky K10 B-eyes and seven Clay Paky K20’s, which were positioned in various parts of the scaffolding structure for uplighting effects, giving the scaffold a funky industrial look.

A further 28 Martin Atomic strobes were positioned on the floor, the walkways where the dancers were performing and within the set itself. Another 50 Par36 single par pinspots were mounted onto the structure as well as onto the bars above the Robe Pointe fixtures to create a tremendous blinding effect, while along the front edges of the stage 28 Clay Paky show battens lit up the dancers.

All were brought to life by a combination of Le Maître and MDG hazers with all lighting dynamics under the control of three grandMA full-size consoles at FOH, (including spare), and two grandMA NPUs.

Popular SGM low-profile LED fixtures were also involved in the shape of P5’s for the VIP decks and Q7’s to light up the bars.

For the front of the DJ riser, Protec chose 16 Jarag lights, all DMX controllable, so they could be programmed to have words flashing through. This provided an extra dimension to what was already a really well-lit set.

At FOH Protec also placed Clay Paky Scenius Unico fixtures — little spots that served as various lighting positions for the dancers.
Finally, for the entrance, Protec featured 12 x Clay Paky Super Sharpies to create a welcoming effect, controlled from a ChamSys MagicQ MQ60 desk.

Under the direction of Scott Walker, Protec’s video HOD, the company deployed three screens on stage – stage left and stage right, for which they used their 6mm Mambo LED panels (13 panels wide x 7 panels high, 10 metres x 5.5 meters high) in a triangular shape. For the main screen, they used their 9mm panels (21 panels wide x 11 panels high, 16 metres x 8.5 meters high) also in triangular shape. These were controlled from NovaStar VX4S processors, fed from the media servers of the Sensation production team.

Three Panasonic remote cameras were focused on the DJs, which could be controlled from a single remote at FOH, and were vision mixed through a Roland V1200HD.

Signals were run from FOH to the LED control backstage via Protec’s Lightware 220pro fibre transmitters and receivers and three 150m Neutrik fibre cables. Lightware MX DVI-PRO matrixes were used at FOH and backstage to control the signal routing and switch between main and backup signals. The live footage was mixed to the screens and overlaid with content provided by Sensation, operated by the touring LD.

Stage challenges

Due to the triangular shapes of the screens, Protec were unable to hang them from truss so instead had to ground stack. The size of the screen presented them with rigging challenges, all overcome by Protec. All panels had to be safely secured to a scaffolding structure at the rear of the screens.

Rigging was managed by the tech team from Sensation. All external runs were rigged using Protec’s Total Fabrications XO truss system. The black XO truss took care of the external runs of the set to form the straight runs, so they could also attach the lighting poles and the set panels. On the larger triangle, this had to be craned up because the Protec team pre-rigged the entire truss structure with all the cables which were then set in place and locked off.

For the main rig the smaller triangles were set flush against the layered scaffold but for the outer triangle it was in at the bottom but hung out at the top for which they used their Tomcat Superbeam truss which enabled it to be attached throughout the structure and provide really strong points which they used as their spreaders.

For backline, Protec provided their industry standard Pioneer DJ equipment — including Pioneer DJM 900 Nexus, Pioneer DJM 2000 Nexus and eight CDJ 2000 Nexus; this allowed them to have two complete DJ set-ups plus spare.

Mission accomplished

Simon Travis says that the unique race-track venue had presented its own challenges. “There were a lot of horses which we had to watch out for in terms of noise levels. We also had restricted time slots where we could carry out the work. The noise was very strictly controlled as they didn’t want to freak out the horses but they did move them off-site for the show day.”

Travis believes the success of the event is a result of the combined efforts of Envie Events, Backbone International – who were hired by Envie Events to help coordinate the technical production – the Sensation crew and Protec. “We worked together as a great team to ensure we could get everything built and the show delivered to the plan that had been designed.”

Working together with Protec is an easy job, according to Envie Events. “They have all knowledge and equipment to make them the perfect partner for the technical production for Sensation any many other shows,” the promoter says.

Dubai is one of the world’s greatest cities in terms of tourism traffic including entertainment, lifestyle, shopping, nightlife, fashion, music. This has not only been the main reason why Envie Events started operations here, but also why the promoters think the future is so much more bright with this market expanding exponentially due to its immense potential to attract the foreign and global population throughout the year.

“As for the venue, Meydan, it brings its challenges but having experienced partners really makes the difference. From the account manager to the stagehands on the floor and everyone in between, they all are very professional and always try to work towards the best solution,” says Envie Events.

Protec’s Travis concludes: “We thrive on these challenges and it’s always good to be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions. What resulted was a fantastic show for an audience with great energy.”