Full grandMA3 System for Dubai Union Day 2023

The 2023 UAE Union Day Ceremony is one of the highest profile annual spectacular events staged in the United Arab Emirates and saw another unique performance environment to WOW the global VIP invitees created by the event’s creative director, Es Devlin at Dubai’s Expo City. Lighting was crafted by Bruno Poet working with project co-lighting designer Max Narula, and the event reunited most of the technical and production team that had delivered the highly successful 2022 event. Bruno and Max decided to run this show, directed by Fransisco Negrin and Gavin Robins, as an all-grandMA3 control system, running mode 3, making use of several features to improve the complete production workflow, from drawing to remote updates on stage.

The system comprised 6 x grandMA3 full-size consoles (three pairs each with fully redundant backup) and three grandMA3 lights which were used for technical desks, running with 11 x grandMA3 processing units XL. The main set comprised an impressive 60-metre diameter revolving circular – ‘doughnut’ style –stage, which was divided into 17 individual rooms or compartments, each with its own stage space and artist production. Each of these performance elements had bespoke lighting and AV setups, and each was fundamental to unfolding the overall show narrative and revealing its bigger picture.

This ambitious fusion of imagination, architecture and engineering excellence challenged all the technical departments … who rose to the occasion to produce a completely outstanding audience experience. In front of the revolve and around the spherical auditorium was a 180-degree projection screen with a ring of water at the bottom which produced some beautiful natural aberrations and reflections of light. The auditorium featured space for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra who played live, and in front of the main stage area was a massive set of sliding doors facing the invited audience, which opened and shut as the revolve turned to reveal the next scene.

The lighting team lit the 17 different artist stages of varying sizes and complexities with anything from a full military choir to acrobats, dancers and solo performers. All lighting was controlled centrally from the grandMA3 consoles, comprising over 1000 moving light fixtures – a mega-mix of Ayrton, Chauvet, Elation, Martin and Robe luminaires – plus vast quantities of LED tape, all supplied by Encore Middle East. The high parameter count was what prompted the choice of a full grandMA3 control solution, a decision made by Bruno, Max and lighting programmers Chris Hirst and Dan Haggerty a few months earlier, when the design energized, and the enormity of the project was revealed. It was the first time for all of them using mode 3.

Some of the rooms were lit with up to 60 moving lights whereas others had just 10 or 12, so there was a wide range of scenarios, all of which needed their own tailored looks and aesthetic treatments. The overall story focused on the potential of renewable energy, which the UAE is intending to pioneer and become a world leader. In addition to the two pairs of grandMA3 full-size consoles on the show, a previz suite on site enabled the lighting team, which also included lighting design associate Kathy Pineo, to work in Depence 3 on the third pair of grandMA3 full-sizes. All the consoles were connected to the same network, with the grandMA3 lights used as technical desks in different areas of the site.

The lighting plots for each room were drawn up in Vectorworks and imported seamlessly into the grandMA3s via MVR in 3D, so the consoles knew exactly where all the fixtures were positioned. All the effects were run using grandMA3’s Selection Grid, which Max describes as “Brilliant, a very quick, smart and efficient way of creating some very complicated looking effects.” As a big narrative-threaded ceremonial show, it was programmed in a more theatrical style than a standard concert or event production, with lighting run as one long cue list.

Dan Haggarty appreciated the new web remote access as they had so many channels of LED, he could walk around the vast site, flash through and problem solve using an iPad, which saved hours. Max also mentions the “fantastic” support received from MA Lighting’s product specialist technical team from HQ in the run up to and during the show, adding, “The software was stable and ran like clockwork.” The project’s challenges were many – while lighting 17 rooms with static stage sets might sound simple, it was a huge and complex task that required serious attention to detail and plenty of imagination. Despite the many hours already spent in pre-viz, the final few days on site in actual reality were gruelling and intense, as you would expect to produce a show of this stature and significance. The creative producer was Chelsea Raysbrook, the video content Designer was Charli Davis for Luke Halls Studio and the sound design was completed by Auditoria. The stage was designed by Wonder Works and constructed and engineered by Stage One.



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