Celebrated DJs, Acrobats, dancers, pyrotechnics, lasers and fireworks synchronized with music across an unending sea of white. Organizers filled the atmosphere with stunning structures, unique elements and beautiful light-shows which illuminated the crowds in a white oasis. The acts united people from all over the world to create a great vibe, while the crowd embraced the “Celebrate Life” theme.
This was Sensation which is not just one of the most popular EDM concepts around the globe but also has a special standing in the Middle East which is known for awe inspiring shows. Sensation is the most travelled electronic music event in the world and has been to all continents, 35 countries and 43 different cities and welcomed well over 2 million site visitors worldwide over nearly two decades.
The party implemented an all-white dress code as a tribute to Miles Stutterheim, one of Sensation’s founding members who died in a car accident, and to signify the unity of the ‘dance music family’. It was this 4th edition of Sensation, held at Dubai’s Meydan Racecourse, for which Protec, the Middle East’s largest and most comprehensive technical and staging solutions company, provided a full production infrastructure.
Many world-famous artists have appeared at Sensation. Tiësto played at the very first event in the year 2000, and almost all DJs now heading the Top 100 DJ lists have played at Sensation somewhere in the world: Armin van Buuren, Martin Garrix, Hardwell, David Guetta, the former members of the Swedish House Mafia, to name only a few. This year’s Dubai event featured Mr. White, Sam Feldt, Danny Avila, Don Diablo, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano and Steve Angello.
Protec were well aware of the high production values set by producers, organisers and promoters, Envie Events, with whom they have worked closely on events in the past. Responsible for some of the most spectacular, immersive and innovative dance music events in the Middle East, they put high store in state-of-the-art lighting, pyrotechnics and sound design.
Organisers and Producers – Envie Events, is the brainchild of two Belgian entrepreneurs who moved to Dubai in 2011 with goals of transforming the electronic dance music industry of the Middle East. Barry Pavic, an ambitious promoter in mind, joined forces with long-time friend and innovative marketeer, Nicolas Vandenabeele, to come up with a brand that has transformed the nightlife and music scene in Dubai – home to people of over 187 nationalities and a melting pot of diversity.
Having hosted the first world exclusive open-air edition of Sensation in Dubai in 2015, two Mega Night Club operations in Europe and various annual partnerships with globally-renowned concepts such as Sensation, Tomorrowland, WMC Miami, and Summer Clubbing Ibiza, Envie Events is well on track to become the ultimate destination of choice for events and concerts in Dubai – attracting the entire MENA Region and beyond.
The company’s Managing Director, Barry Pavic says, “Attracting a global clientele and elevating the overall guest experience completely from Entrance to Exit”, is the ultimate goal – which translates into shows that fans want to keep returning to. “We strive to make sure that everyone has a good time.”
With such a strong reputation to preserve Protec combined their resources to provide industry standard Video, Audio, Lighting, Backline, Stage & Set elements and full rigging services.
Tasked with project managing the event for Protec was Simon Travis, interfacing with Envie Events, Backbone International and the Sensation crew from Holland.
Travis said: “Meydan is very different from the usual kind of dance music venue, particularly because it’s a race track so we had to consider the horses stabled there, in terms of noise levels. We had restricted time slots where we could carry out the work. The noise was very strictly controlled as they didn’t want to freak out the horses, though they did move them off site for the show day.”
The team from Envie Events added, “Meydan is a great venue with more than 8,000 parking spots, exceptional infrastructure facilities and perfect distance from downtown Dubai. Makes it a very attractive venue for a global series like Sensation. Working on Meydan does bring its challenges and having an experienced partner like Protec really makes the difference”.
When asked to detail Protec’s involvement, Travis continued, “The audio was fairly straightforward. We provided 32 flown L-Acoustics K2’s on the main hangs, above which were two K1 subs on each of the hangs — all powered by 11 LA-RAKs containing 18 LA8 amps. For the front fills they set four positions of 12 L-Acoustics Kara enclosures, powered by the LA8 amps. Subwoofers comprised 30 SB28s — 15 a side. L-Acoustics amps and speakers were also used for DJ monitors and wedges which comprised three Kara elements per side on top of a pair of SB18 subs.”
The company used a DiGiCo SD10 as their FOH mixing desk with all amplifiers networked so they could be close monitored, with signal transmission via Neutrik fibre optics.
Processing comprised Antelope Audio lsochrone OCX Clock, Lab Gruppen Lake LM44 processors, MAC laptops controlling playback and processing (including Smaart), and DIs for DJ equipment.
Protec fielded 16 Sennheiser G3 receivers and a transmitter as wireless monitoring for the dancers so they could work with the music and receive feeds from their choreographer. A couple of hand held radio mics meanwhile covered DJ requirements.
Ancillary coverage was required in two VIP lounges which were serviced variously by a compact Bose PA system and L-Acoustics Syva – which is equally slick and compact.
Comms were taken care of by Clear-Com HelixNet, which was used for their nine wired positions, and Freespeak II for their eight wireless.
Commented Protec senior audio engineer, Dan Dignan, who was supported by Ed Ross and William Morrison, “The Sensation guys were great to work with, particularly Niels from [Sensation’s] NoizBoyz audio production team. He took care of the desk whilst I took care of the system. The guys from Backbone were also great, Tom and Roden especially. The benefit of a good team was an amazing production.”
Protec Lighting department, in the shape of Aaron Russ – the company’s Lighting HOD and Paul Coopes, provided a mixture of their frontline Robe, Martin and Clay Paky fixtures. This included 45 Robe Pointe fixtures mounted on the triangular backdrop set, both on stage left and stage right screens, and also on the main triangle for the main stage. Inside the scaffold structure was a combination of 37 Clay Paky K10 B-eyes and seven Clay Paky K20’s, which were positioned in various parts of the scaffolding structure for uplighting effects, giving the scaffold a funky industrial look.
A further 28 Martin Atomic strobes were positioned on the floor, the walkways where the dancers were performing and within the set itself. Another 50 Par36 single par pinspots were mounted onto the structure as well as onto the bars above the Robe Pointe fixtures to create a tremendous blinding effect, while along the front edges of the stage 28 Clay Paky show battens lit up the dancers.
All were brought to life by a combination of Le Maître and MDG hazers with all lighting dynamics under the control of three grandMA full-size consoles at FOH, (including spare), and two grandMA NPUs.
Popular SGM low-profile LED fixtures were also involved in the shape of P5’s for the VIP decks and Q7’s to light up the bars.
For the front of the DJ riser, Protec chose 16 Jarag lights, all DMX controllable, so they could be programmed to have words flashing through. This provided an extra dimension to what was already a really well-lit set.
At FOH Protec also placed Clay Paky Scenius Unico fixtures — little spots that served as various lighting positions for the dancers.
Finally, for the entrance, Protec featured 12 x Clay Paky Super Sharpies to create a welcoming effect, controlled from a ChamSys MagicQ MQ60 desk.
Under the direction of Scott Walker Protec’s Video HOD, the company deployed three screens on stage – stage left and stage right, for which they used their 6mm Mambo LED panels (13 panels wide x 7 panels high, 10 metres x 5.5 meters high) in a triangular shape. For the main screen they used their 9mm panels (21 panels wide x 11 panels high, 16 metres x 8.5 meters high) also in triangular shape. These were controlled from NovaStar VX4S processors, fed from the media servers of the Sensation production team.
Three Panasonic remote cameras were focused on the DJs, which could be controlled from a single remote at FOH, and were vision mixed through a Roland V1200HD.
Signals were run from FOH to the LED control backstage via Protec’s Lightware 220pro fibre transmitters and receivers and three 150m Neutrik fibre cables. Lightware MX DVI-PRO matrixes were used at FOH and backstage to control the signal routing and switch between main and backup signals. The live footage was mixed to the screens and overlaid with content provided by Sensation, operated by the touring LD.
Because of the triangular shapes of the screens Protec were unable to hang the screen from truss so instead had to ground stack, which because of the size of the screen presented them with rigging challenges, all overcome easily enough though. All panels had to be safely secured to a scaffolding structure at the rear of the screens.
Rigging was managed by the tech team from Sensation. All external runs were rigged using Protec’s Total Fabrications XO truss system. The black XO truss took care of the external runs of the set to form the straight runs, so they could also attach the lighting poles and the set panels. On the larger triangle this had to be craned up because the Protec team pre-rigged the entire truss structure with all the cables which was then set in place and locked off.
For the main rig the smaller triangles were set flush against the layered scaffold but for the outer triangle it was in at the bottom but hung out at the top for which they used their Tomcat Superbeam truss which enabled it to be attached throughout the structure and provide really strong points which they used as their spreaders.
For Backline, Protec provided their industry standard Pioneer DJ equipment — including Pioneer DJM 900 Nexus, Pioneer DJM 2000 Nexus and eight CDJ 2000 Nexus; this allowed them to have two complete DJ set-ups plus spare.
Summing up the event, Simon Travis said that the unique race-track venue had presented its own challenges. “There were a lot of horses which we had to watch out for in terms of noise levels. We also had restricted time slots where we could carry out the work. The noise was very strictly controlled as they didn’t want to freak out the horses but they did move them off site for the show day.”
The event itself had been fantastic, he said. “This was due to the combined efforts of Envie Events, Backbone International who were hired by Envie Events to help coordinate the technical production, the Sensation crew and Protec. We worked together as a great team to ensure we could get everything built and the show delivered to the plan that had been designed.”
Commenting on the production and working together with Protec, Envie Events said, “Protec has extended experience in AV technology in the region and that it’s very pleasant to work with professionals of the industry on projects like Sensation and Tomorrowland – which the two companies recently worked on together as well. The Protec team always has a solution ready for every obstacle during build up and thinks along with the promotor to satisfy the needs of the customer and the overall show experience. Working together with Protec is an easy job since they have all knowledge and equipment to make them the perfect partner for the technical production for Sensation any many other shows.”
They added, “Dubai is one of the world’s greatest cities in terms of tourism traffic including entertainment, lifestyle, shopping, nightlife, fashion, music… This has not only been the main reason why we started operations here, but also why we think the future is so much more bright with this market expanding exponentially sue to its immense potential to attract the foreign and global population throughout the year. As for the venue – Meydan, it brings its challenges but having experienced partners really makes the difference. From the account manager to the stagehands on the floor and everyone in between, they all are very professional and always try to work towards the best solution.”
Travis responded on the challenges, “We thrive on these challenges and it’s always good to be able to come up with innovative and creative solutions. What resulted was a fantastic show for an audience with great energy.”
Nicolas Vandenabeele, Director of Envie Events concluded, “It’s been an absolute roller-coaster with Sensation this year. I loved the sky-rocketing energy and innovations that were in the show, and all of it would not have been possible without the support of all our partners.”