Don't Stop the Music

    Sound & Stage goes behind the scenes with eclipse Staging Services at DMW2015
    The Dubai World Trade Centre indoor venue was transformed for DMW2015.
    The Dubai World Trade Centre indoor venue was transformed for DMW2015.
    Jason Derulo does his thing on stage.
    Jason Derulo does his thing on stage.
    The eclipse crew at work.
    The eclipse crew at work.

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    DMW2015 brought with it a diverse line-up of international artists, music education opportunities, celebrity speakers and interactive entertainment. Sound & Stage went backstage with eclipse Staging Services to bring you all the details…

    Having only made its inaugural appearance back in 2014, Dubai Music Week returned to the city this September promising big events, big names and even bigger productions.

    Although expert masterclasses and industry seminars drew crowds of all ages and experience throughout the week, with three major headline acts taking the stage at Dubai World Trade Centre on three consecutive nights, the main focus of the event for most was the live concerts.

    Following the musical extravaganza, Duncan Shortt, technical production manager at eclipse staging services, recounted to Sound & Stage the experience of transforming the indoor arena. “Eclipse supplied a turnkey solution for the event. There were some limited cross hires due to other ongoing projects, but these were limited to a handful of Atomic 3000s and 4 lite moles, and a Digico SD10 from the audio side,” Shortt recalls.

    “The load-in was a three-day affair. All the truss and motors — 50 motors and approximately 150m of MD truss — went in on the Sunday afternoon, with DWTC installing the top rigging in advance. LX, audio and video came in and installed from Monday morning, and the entire flown rig across all three disciplines was trimmed and fully operational by the end of Monday afternoon.”

    He continues: “Overnight the stage was painted and risers put in place, ready for us to drop in the floor packages for the first act, while the PA was tweaked, tuned and time aligned. The Jason Derulo production party arrived on site Tuesday afternoon to look things over, and then the touring LD programmed through the night, on a completely alien rig, to put together a fantastic show.”

    The concert series opened with R&B solo star Jason Derulo, who was closely followed by British songwriting sensation Ellie Goulding on night two before American alternative rockers 30 Seconds to Mars closed the third and final night. With three very different acts on the bill, surely the preparations required in order to accommodate all riders wasn’t always a walk in the park?

    Shortt tells us: “I spent time with the Live Nation team, and then at a later stage with the various touring productions, fine tuning the AV elements of the show to make sure that everyone was happy with the festival rig they were coming into and to make sure that the various floor lighting packages kept a proper flavour for each of the acts.”

    And the close collaboration continued throughout other elements of the event production process. John Parkhouse, head of audio, reveals: “Two out of the three incoming artists’ preferred system was d&b J-Series, so we had a very large part of the audio requirements already covered. A fair number of our audio crew have a good amount of previous experience at this level of catering for world renowned international touring artists, so in this sense we were clear in the objective and what would be required of us. For eclipse it is the first time we as a department have catered for audio on this scale and I am happy to say we fully met the incoming riders with only a very minor amount of negotiated substitutions agreed in advance.”

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    While it may have been the largest concert touring audio job eclipse has catered for to date, the results spoke for themselves. Shortt explains: “This was the first real tour de force for the d&b system that we have put together over the last 12 months and I think the results took a few people by surprise.” He adds: “The quality of the sound, particularly in the hands of Ellie Goulding’s FoH engineer, Joe Harling, was something I think we can be truly proud of.”

    And Harling himself also agrees with this, commenting: “To be presented with a fully array processed J-series system, running on the new D80 amps was a joy. I often struggle with Ellie’s vocal in big nasty rooms like that, as she is such a quiet singer, but in this case I felt that the vocal was present and ‘in your face’ at all times.”

    In fact, the very nature of DWTC itself could have been expected to provide the biggest obstacle. The cavernous, indoor halls are not, after all, the ideal location in which to house live music. Parkhouse elaborates on this point further, saying: “When you are in an indoor space with many hard surfaces surrounding you, which can accommodate eight to 10 thousand people, it presents the same problems every time. Exhibition halls are reverberant, echoic and resonant in the low end. The roof of this venue also particularly affects the high end as there are lots of beams and structural chambers that create a long fizz as it bounces around up there. This is particularly evident during sound tests where the room is empty and the reflections are excessive, compared to having an audience absorbing the main reflective culprit, which is the floor and barriers.”

    Overcoming any potential acoustic issues was something that the team took very seriously throughout the entire process, using both physical and technical techniques to ensure a clear and balanced sound.

    Parkhouse explains: “The room was draped, which helps, but d&b’s new array processing feature, which I would simply describe as magical, did a lot of the work. It enabled us to provide a technologically cutting edge system, which in my opinion — and others who shared their thoughts — was fantastic.”

    Shortt adds: “The DWTC team did a great job getting all the top rigging in place for us, and everyone at the venue was incredibly helpful and responsive. The biggest logistical challenge was dealing with back-to-back touring parties, who all had limited windows of opportunity to sound check. Due to the hall next door — which housed the daytime portion of DMW — we had to get everyone in and sound checked/show ready before 3pm each day. This meant three days of very early starts with a chunky period of downtime between sound checks and doors.”

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    But even with tight turnarounds and the demands of turning an exhibition hall into a music arena, the team felt the finished product was one to be proud of.

    Parkhouse says: “All three nights were superb. I particularly enjoyed Ellie Goulding, I think Joe Harling delivered what can only be described as a stunning mix. Every person I have spoken to who was there seems to be in agreement. Rick Wright (FoH for Jason Derulo) really tested the system’s capabilities, we were always within headroom and — as expected — it was a loud show where the low end design really shone through."

    Parkhouse continues: "Steve Taylor (FoH for 30 Seconds to Mars) also delivered a fantastic mix for a thoroughly entertaining show. It’s always nice to receive a firm handshake and sincere thanks from incoming engineers following a show, which happened at both FOH and on stage. It confirms you’ve done your job, as does a noisy appreciative crowd, which we had all three nights.”

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