Protec recently produced the opening ceremony of the 14th International Defence Exhibition & Conference, which took place in Abu Dhabi.

The ceremony transported the audience to an active ‘war zone’ where a fictional story took place. It featured movie-grade special effects, pyrotechnics and working waterfalls, and took place on a 60x350m custom stage overlooked by a grandstand.

Protec delivered everything from the initial creative concept and narrative to the set design, graphics, build, complete show delivery and coordination.

The show began with a mix of local heritage performances followed by local and international military parades to welcome the crowd, before the main part of the show.

Working closely with senior representatives of the Armed Forces, Protec introduced modern and advanced military techniques augmented by VR, AI, robotics and SATCOMS. It also incorporated underground battles and other asymmetric warfare trends with futuristic counter defence systems in a live demonstration like no other in the world.

In the fictional scenario conceptualised by Protec, armed militias had seized an abandoned military base near a mine depot. The militias had been smuggling arms by sea and through a hidden underground network of tunnels connected to a long-range missile facility.

The ceremony was attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and ruler of Dubai, as well as Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

Eddie Andradé, the show’s creative director, explains: “This year, our main challenge was to introduce futuristic elements in a realistic way without going overboard. This meant I had to do some serious research before breaking away into the creative angle of the show.

“With the knowledge I managed to gain from this research, we introduced reconnaissance and attack drone swarms, underground warfare, modern robotics, futuristic counter defence systems as well as virtual reality into this ‘modern battlefield’ setting.”

Protec CEO Steve Lakin commented: “We added two large working waterfalls that were built into the set, along with artificial greenery. We used military tracked vehicles and trucks that we own for the show. I bought these vehicles to be used in theatre shows like this one and also for use in the film industry, so this show was the perfect opportunity to use them with great effect.”

Protec’s staging department built all the supporting features and props. A working replica of a ship that was seen on the video screens during the show as part of a VT was built and was used in the water feature as part of the action.

The SFX team designed and produced all the pyro ‘explosion’ effects, as well as one of the highlights of the show which staged a car exploding and flipping over to an awe-struck audience.

Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, group CEO of ADNEC, said: “When it comes to putting on an elaborate and eye-catching event, we couldn’t have been in more capable hands than those of the Protec Team.

“We at ADNEC can confirm, that for IDEX’s Silver Jubilee Opening Ceremony, we were not disappointed.  From the professionalism of the team in planning this spectacular event, to execution, they certainly delivered everything they set out to do and more.”