Every year, the UAE’s National Day celebration is anticipated as one of the most important dates in the region’s live events calendar. With 2021 marking the country’s Golden Jubilee, the UAE National Projects Office pulled out all the stops, calling on most of the same team behind the hugely successful 49th National Day celebration in 2020 – which centred around a unique kinetic sculpture installed in the Abu Dhabi mangroves – to ensure that the extra-special anniversary would be celebrated in style. Reprising her role as Artistic Director and Designer, Es Devlin once again worked with LarMac PROJECTS Executive Creative Producer, Jo Mackay in leading the creative team, producing a spectacle that charted the country’s history in the lead-up to its inception in 1971 and throughout the subsequent 50 years.
The initial show on 2 December was performed in front of an invited VIP audience and broadcast to key location around the UAE, followed by 10 additional daily shows from 3-12 December – all featuring specially composed songs and poetry, drone-launched fireworks, a light show, water displays and 5.1 surround sound to convey the relationship between people and nature, and the ties between Emiratis, their homeland, and the environment.
LarMac enlisted a team of 650 creative, cast, technical and safety personnel from 100 countries to bring Devlin’s vivid designs to life, with 1.5 million hours of work necessary to build the floating stage alone.
Creative Technology was selected to provide projection technology and personnel to deliver Devlin’s creative design, with detailed hardware requirements provided by Projection Director, Anthony ‘Bez’ Bezencon of VYV. “CT were proud to have once again been a part of the Official Celebration of UAE National Day, working for LarMac PROJECTS to deliver the projection for the show,” stated CT’s Senior Project Manager, Stuart Young.
Projection was used throughout the show to create various looks, transforming Devlin’s iconic disc into everything from a sundial and a solar eclipse to a compass, cityscape, palm-filled desert, and a giant UAE flag. The projection system, designed by Bez, used 20 Panasonic RQ50, eight RZ31 and two RZ21 projectors, all fed individual feeds from VYV Photon servers. “The new RQ50 projectors are super bright and super reliable,” Young said of the Panasonic projection solution. “They have excellent depth of field in the lenses and we experienced zero failures, making the projected content look absolutely stunning.”
As well as the main rotating cast disc, images were projected onto a variety of 20m-high water jet screens. Projection control was located within the main production compound and projector feeds were all sent over fibre-optic, with a run of 1,500m required to reach the most distant positions.
“Operating the show with projectors mounted on both land-based and floating structures and maintaining multi-projector alignment across such a wide variety of areas without any immediate pre-show time to check the alignment was one of the biggest challenges,” said Young, who also praised all departments for managing to navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 situation throughout the project. “The risks of an outbreak within the department, being PCR tested every other day, and being in a bubble for more than three weeks were logistic challenges endured by all departments. Ensuring that crew wore correct PPE, including facemasks and life jackets when working near the water, was also vital.”
Photos: D&D / Nicolas Chavance