As the clock strikes 12 on December 31st, it not only signals the dawn of a New Year but a moment when teams of people across the world can be found anxiously counting down for another reason altogether. While party-goers revel in spectacular celebrations, New Year’s Eve doesn’t simply just happen. As always, there are hoards of experts working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the big moment goes off without a hitch.
This year, as thousands of dance music fans swarmed to Dubai Media City to see in 2016 with DJ David Guetta, it was down to the eclipse Group to make sure the event was covered with a full AV solution, rigging, audio, lighting, video in conjunction with Creative Technology, lasers from Laser Grafix, and SFX and Pyro from StageFX.
Recounting the experience after the event, Duncan Shortt, technical production manager at eclipse Staging Services, told Sound & Stage: “All the top rigging was put in as soon as the roof was handed over by AES on 23rd December, so that everyone could spend a few days over the Christmas period with their families. This also helped with our other projects over the NYE period as it made several of the riggers available to install kit elsewhere in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi from 27th December. Lighting and video went in over 27th and 28th, with a few finishing touches being made on the 30th once the construction of the DJ booth had been completed by AES. Essentially though, we were show-ready by the end of the 28th.”
Luckily, with the load-in and set-up going to schedule over the tricky Christmas period, the site was all set to go in a quick turnaround with minimal challenges. Michael Kennedy, head of the power department at eclipse Staging Services, adds: “[There was] nothing new or notable — a pretty standard set-up for us as we have worked on this site many times. We have already faced a multitude of challenges so we are now prepared for most things that get thrown at us.”
Kennedy continues: “A pretty standard set-up [was] made easy due to eclipse taking care of all elements of the build, we had five days to build starting with the production area load in for the site cabins and ablutions. This was followed by the generator drops around the site on the 27th, from there on out it is a methodical plan as to how the site is built and following in those areas. By the morning of the 31st we were all up and running and ready to go across the entire site.”
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So while the site itself may have been a fairly standard set-up, what was really necessary to make the gig shine was the special effects. With just a DJ to keep the crowd entertained — as opposed to the multi-live band formats of previous years — surely pulling off something spectacular takes a great deal of planning?
Arran Hopkins, general manager of StageFX and Laser Grafix told Sound & Stage: “Yes of course every top touring DJ production team relies on the local SFX, lasers and pyro heavily to help make the show. Some local promoters make the mistake of thinking a DJ gig will be a simple, cheap option — not requiring band backline equipment and so on. Thanks to the Peppermint Team insisting, the Dubai NYE audience got the full European DG show experience.”
Luckily, for those wanting to see in the New Year with a bang, spectacular was certainly what they got. Hopkins explains: “As with all the top DJ/producer type artists, the David Guetta SFX rider requested all the toys as normal! Confetti blasters, X-Tream stadium streamer shots, CO2 jets, flame projectors, large high power laser package and pyrotechnics, with a specifically-designed layout and cues that were carried out perfectly by the highly experienced StageFX and Laser Grafix operators.”
He continues: “The large laser package was exactly as per the DG rider specification and design using the highest quality lasers available: six 24w RYGB OPS laser projectors and 48x single blue beam lasers, all from Laser Grafix’s office here in the UAE. With our live operators having experience working with the DG production team and many other top DJs at European summer festivals, we ensured that every cue was bang on.”
With such a large amount of SFX and pyro to contend with, plus thousands of merry dance music fans flooding into Media City for the main event, it is understandable that health and safety was also a major focus, as well as getting the desired effects.
Hopkins says: “With the high quality European and US products we use for both SFX and pyro it’s guaranteed the effects will be 100 per cent reliable with a consistently sized output. This gives our technicians the experience of knowing exactly what to expect so the necessary precautions can be taken for each element. In the early design stages we had planned to use our large flame system (the largest available in the region) however, due to the great ticket sales and the space required for them, it was just not possible. As spectacular as it would have been, safety has to come first.”
However, there is always one element that cannot be controlled when it comes to safety. Obviously, with Dubai as the location, the chances of the gig falling foul to bad weather were unlikely, but there is always the chance at this time of year that the elements may decide to throw a curveball. However, this was something the team were prepared for.
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On the power side of things, Kennedy reveals: “We always consult the local weather at any time of year as you never know when extreme conditions can arise. With the threat of rain we make sure that we are covered in case of rainfall by allowing extra preventative measures that ensure no power will fail due to water.”
And this precaution also applied to the overall set-up. Shortt tells us: “In terms of the technical install, everything that we did was under the stage roof and protected from potentially disruptive weather. The six LED screens were left at working height until the evening of the 30th, to mitigate any wind issues.”
John Parkhouse, head of audio at eclipse Staging Services, adds: “All our amplifiers and equipment were either very well protected on stage or under FOH cover so we just used waterproof tarpaulins as normal.”
Continuing to talk us through the audio side of the concert, Parkhouse, explains: “[It was a] two-day set up for audio, with no challenges to report in terms of set up or show. While we did have a number of other NYE events to cater for we planned our resource usage well in advance. This event constituted the largest d&b sound system ever deployed in Dubai. It was a pleasant way to finish out a very busy year with a nice, large system to a packed venue. I was in contact with Carlos Herreros (FOH engineer for David Guetta) well in advance of the load in so together we fine-tuned the requirements to fully meet his and our expectations. We were very satisfied with the results, running fully AES/EBU and fully Array Processed the system was simply stunning.”
To this, Carlos Herreros adds: “From the first email I shared with eclipse, I knew this was going to be a great show. The audio spec was spot on from day one, and they also sent me several weeks in advance a fantastic Array Calc file with a flawless PA design. You’ve got to see it! So I was able to relax and forget about this gig until show day.”
He continues: “Once we arrived on site my suspicions were confirmed and it was a beautifully presented system. John did a perfect job with the system design and optimisation. And any concerns I had he knew exactly how to tackle them. We get d&b many times a year all over the world, and I have to say this has been the best, by far, I have ever had. The amount of detail was superb and beautiful, and the sub array John designed was impeccable and super sweet sounding, without losing any impact, complementing the tops perfectly, and with a great coverage in a very wide arena. I’ve missed John a lot ever since. But even better was the whole of the eclipse crew and production team. They were fantastic. They made us feel very welcome and very much like home. It was a true pleasure working with them all. I can’t wait to go back to Dubai and do another great show with them.”
Spinning a good show
Sound & Stage couldn’t help wondering if there is more of a demand to put on a spectacular visual ‘show’ when it comes to headline DJ gigs. when asked this, Duncan Shortt told us: “It can be a very tricky path to navigate, balancing the AV content of the warm up DJs prior to the headline act. I have been to shows in the past where the number of restrictions both in terms of sound levels, number of lighting fixtures being used, and complete lockout from the video screens prior to the headline act have — in my opinion — basically spoilt what could have been a spectacular event in order to massage someone’s ego. When this particular Dutch DJ finally took to the stage, it was like half the PA had been turned off before he took to stage.”
He continues: “This wasn’t in the UAE I hasten to add, but in The States, and I found the whole thing quite disrespectful to the paying customers who had to wait around for four or five hours before ‘the show; really started. The balance we had with Guetta’s production team was fantastic though, and there was clearly quite a party in full swing by the time he got to the stage at midnight.”