Hot, hot heat!

Pink's first ME performance was always going to prove a major draw card, despite it being staged outdoors.
Analysis, Content management
Analysis, Content management

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The Middle East further cemented its reputation as a stop-off for major touring artists last month with Pink arriving in Dubai for a one-off concert showcase to mark the tail-end of a gruelling 18-month world tour.

However, the early-September timing of the show was always going to pose significant challenges, given the intense heat that typically pervades Dubai at that time of year.

Having marked the beginnings of summer by managing the production requirements of the hugely successful Aerosmith show at Dubai Exiles Rugby Club, equipment supplier Production Technology (Protec) was contracted by Mirage Promotions to provide similar services in coordinating the Pink gig at Dubai Media City.

"The artist was very, very easy to work with so the most challenging issue we had to contend with was the weather," says Rick Wade, operations director of Protec.

"During the summer months, it's simply too hot to set up these productions during the day, so we chose to work at night. We took a similar approach to the Aerosmith show."

But unlike at Aerosmith, humidity posed the most serious challenge to the welfare of the production team.

"During pre-production for Aerosmith, we had to contend with dry heat, but this time around a few of our staff suffered heatstroke. However, the majority of the production equipment handled the conditions well. We were expecting one or two serious heat-related issues but ultimately we only had to contend with minor issues. On the afternoon of the show we went to turn on the amplifiers but we couldn't, it was just too hot so we had to wait for things to cool down.



"The most sensible thing to do would be to not put shows on at this time of year but unfortunately you can't control when the artists want to perform here."

Despite the challenging conditions, Wade argues that investing in cooling technology for production equipment for use in the summer months does not represent a sound option.

"Despite the fact that we've seen Aerosmith and Pink perform during the hotter months, most people leave Dubai for cooler climates during this time. More than 95% of shows are staged during the remaining nine months of the year.

"Ultimately, we'd rather invest in new kit than cooling apparatus."

Wade, who has worked on several events at the Media City amphitheatre, describes it as a better alternative than the Dubai Airport Expo, which he describes as 'a bean tin' in reference to its notoriously poor acoustics.

"Media City is not ideal but it's workable," he says. "We have to do the best with what we've got and I think Media City is actually quite good at handling reasonably large concerts."

 

Pink kit list, DMC, 5/9/07

Roof and stage

18m x 12m extra heavy duty roof with 9m x 6m wings complete with walls on three sides.
18m x 12m total fabrications arena deck stage with wings measuring 6m x 6m and 6m x 12m.

Lighting

16 Clay Paky Alpha spot HPE 1200w.
24 Clay Paky Alpha wash 1200w.
15 x 8 lite molefays.
12 ETC source fours.
15 x Diversatronics 3000 watt strobes.
3 x Strong Gladiator 3s.
1 x Wholehog console with expansion wing.

Video

4 x Christie Roadster 20k projector.
2 x 6m x 4.5m rear projection screen.
3 x Sony DXP D30P cameras (managed by a Sony camera control unit).

Audio

FOH
28 JBL Vertec 4889 line array cabinets.
16 x Nexo CD18 Sub bass cabinets.
32 x Camco Vortex 6 amplifiers.
6 x XTA 448 X-overs plus wireless systems.

For outfills

12 x Turbosound TFL 760H enclosures.
12 X Turbosound TFL 718 Sub bass enclosures.
2 x MC2 4 way amp racks.
2 x XTA LMS D6 X-overs.

In fills

4 x Turbosound TFL 760Hs.
4 x Turbosound TFL 718 sub bass.
2 x MC2 4 way amp racks.
2 x XTA LMS D6 X-overs.

Stage

4 x Turbosound TFL 760Hs.
7 x Turbosound TFL 718 sub bass.
12 x Turbosound TFM 230 monitors.
6 x Turbosound TFM 330 monitors.
5 x MC2 4 way amp racks.
10 x XTA LMS D6 X-overs.
 

 

The Pink show marked the first time the Media City amphitheatre's standing area was split into three concentric-ringed areas to accommodate the crowd.

"We weren't expecting such a large crowd given the time of year, but I thought the crowd control system worked very well and should be used again for sold-out shows," says Wade.

"We have a very good team of skilled technicians so we rarely encounter any problems with a show of this size," says Wade. "We did all the work in advance and we were in regular contact with Pink's production crew in the lead up to the show. They knew exactly what they wanted and in what configuration. They literally turned up with a small amount of kit they brought with them, set it up, soundchecked and two hours later they were back at their hotel."

All of the sound and lighting equipment, with the exception of the small load brought by Pink's production crew, was supplied by Protec.

A High End Systems (HES) Wholehog console was used to control a lighting rig that featured Clay Paky Alpha spots and washes, ETC source fours, Diversatronics 3k strobes and Strong Gladiator III follow spots, among others.

The main FOH sound reinforcement system featured 28 JBL Vertec 4889 line array cabinets with Nexo sub bass cabinets and Camco Vortex 6 amplifiers. Outfill and infill systems featured a mix of Turbosound, XTA and MC2 equipment, while monitoring duties fell to Turbosound TFM-330 and TFM-220 wedges.

"Having worked at the venue a number of times previously, we were well aware of what sound and lighting equipment would be required to put on a high-quality show," says Wade. "The main consideration is tailoring the gear to meet the artist's expectations.



"The one issue that blighted an otherwise perfect Aerosmith show was a microphone dropout during the encore, but that had nothing to do with us.

"This time around we encountered no such problems."

Protec also supplied a raft of video equipment to the Pink production crew, which was used to showcase a mixture of promotional material in the lead up to Pink's performance and live and prerecorded sequences during the set.

"The video requirements were actually stipulated by the promoter, not by the artist's production crew. However, the archive video content that was shown was provided by Pink's video director. Our primary aim was to ensure that the audience got to see what was happening on stage."

Wade believes the experience gained by production companies managing large-scale events in Dubai will ultimately benefit the entertainment production industry as a whole.

"I believe that if the touring artists perform here and come away from the experience satisfied, then they will spread the word about Dubai when they return home, which should attract other acts to the UAE," he says. "In the past there have been concerns expressed by the management of some artists about the ability of our industry to handle large-scale events, but these perceptions are slowly changing.

"One thing they must recognise is the fact that the vast majority of production staff working in the UAE are industry veterans who made their mark overseas before relocating here. Speaking for myself, I have more than 20 years industry experience working on tours by the likes of Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Elton John.

"There is a lot of pressure on us. Many artists and crews that perform in Dubai look down on us and think 'well what do you know?' However, when they see what we are capable of, they are pleasantly surprised. Hopefully the artists and crew have such a good time here they'll be keen to return."

 

Pay to play

Pink@ Dubai Media City marked the official debut of Mirage Promotion's new Concertcard F&B credit card technology.

Following a successful trial of the Concertcard smartcard payment system at Shakira's Dubai Autodrome concert earlier this year, Mirage Promotions rolled out a full scale implementation of the technology at Pink's DMC show.

The Concertcard was developed in conjunction with Dubai-based software developer Vice Versa, and is largely based on the company's tourist incentive card that is circulated in the emirate.

"At most venues in Dubai you can't use credit or debit cards and there won't even be an ATM in the arena," says Mirage general manager Thomas Ovesen. "To purchase something at the bars you have to go and buy a voucher and then exchange that. This is an awful lot of hassle for the general public and also for us from a logistical point of view."

The new system replaces paper vouchers with prepaid credit loaded onto the Concertcard which can then be used to purchase food and beverages. Cards purchased at the Pink concert can be reused at any event staged by Mirage prior to June next year.

"By that time we hope to have introduced a personalised system which will allow us to enter user details into a database so we can send them updates on a regular basis," says Ovesen.

Mirage hopes that this database of customers will allow it to communicate with the tens of thousand of people who attend its events but who deal only with third-party ticketing companies.

In theory, it should also allow the promoter to sell concert tickets to subscribers directly.

Mirage is looking to raise its annual ticket sales from 50,000 to more than 100,000 by 2010 and the Concertcard will play an important part in driving that growth, Ovesen says.

"There is a certain perception that the UAE live entertainment sector has unlimited potential in terms of its growth. It doesn't," says Ovesen. "Our figures suggest there are no more than 300,000 UAE residents who have the purchasing power or the inclination to attend a concert by a Western performer.

"So, while the city may look like a metropolis, it isn't in terms of the size of audience that we can potentially cater to. If we attract 5000 punters to a gig then it's a successful event."

Ovesen says Middle East promoters must also contend with other financial challenges.

"Less than 50% of concertgoers in the Middle East buy tickets [in advance] with credit cards. In more mature markets that figure is closer to 90%. In regards to the Pink concert, we were faced with a situation in which most punters didn't purchase tickets until the week before the show despite a pre-sale period of around two months. You have to factor that in so it doesn't adversely impact your cashflow."

Revenue models in the Middle East live events market also contrast with those typically utilised in the United States or Europe, Ovesen says.
 

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