EXPO 2020 and Follow-Me with Woodroffe Bassett Design

June 30, 2022 09:00

In September 2021, Dubai saw the beautiful opening ceremony of Expo 2020 as it began to host the worlds largest Expo event. From October 2021 till March 2022, Expo 2020 welcomed and hosted 192 participating countries to be a part of the journey. The long awaited event was focused on ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ which was to be explored through the themes of Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity with each of these themes having its own District.  Adam Bassett (Woodroffe Bassett Design) and Simon Fraser (Ptarmigan Integration Ltd) from the Lighting Design Consultant company on Expo 2020, chose for Follow-Me remote follow-spot and performer tracking solutions to be installed and used in three of the venues, The Al Wasl Plaza, the Jubilee Stage and the Dubai Millennium Amphitheatre.

Al Wasl Plaza is a 67-metre-tall, 130 metre diameter structure with 252 video projectors and an immersive sound system. With a brief to transform the spectacular garden space into a venue, WBD designed a house lighting rig that is integrated into the structure with the clear direction not to detract from the beauty of the architecture. This space transformed throughout the day and night to become the most beautiful canvas for the Woodroffe Bassett Design team to be creative in. 

Placing manned follow spots into Al Wasl Plaza was not possible and so WBD researched a remote controlled solution that would be easy to operate, work in a 360° environment with numerous changing levels and be usable with pick ups of up to 130 metres. Having reviewed a number of options, WBD worked with Dutch manufacturer, Follow-Me BV to develop a custom solution that met these challenging requirements. Subsequently the system has been upgraded to also mask around 3 dimensional scenic elements. 

The Follow-Me Custom system was operated by a team of 10 for the opening ceremony. Each operator had 2 monitors with a live feed from 2 cameras, ensuring full coverage of the 360° performer area in 3D space. Aside from the design for the EXPO opening event in the AL Wasl Plaza, WBD were asked to provide the lighting design for the EXPO Daily Productions in the venue. During Expo the team executed a number of ambitious shows in the Al Wasl Plaza. By the end of March 40 daily production shows had been opened.

WBD established a separate team specifically focused on the Daily Productions in Al Wasl Plaza led by their Principal Designer, Terry Cook. Terry was supported by Fraser Walker as his dedicated programmer. Daily production were produced by Artist In Motion from Australia under their Head of Creative Richard Linsay.  Terry insured all options for follow-spot application were available to hand, patching a total of 167 fixtures from various manufactures as follows, 84x Ayrton Domino, 16x Ayrton Domino LT, 14x Ayrton Perseo and 53x Elation Proteus Maximus, into the Follow-Me show file.

Giulio Rovelii, the Project Manager from Italian rental company Agora, over saw the lighting supply for Al Wasl Plaza, also suppling product and operating crew for the Follow-Me system.

The Jubilee Stage lighting design was inspired by a contemporary large music festival main stage designed to facilitate music performances, headline talent, spoken world, dance and comedy acts. 200+ moving fixtures consisting of Robe BMFL Wash XFs, Ayrton Khamsins, Elation Proteus Maximus, Robe Magapointes and Robe Spiiders. BMFL-LTs were used as FOH follow-spots utilising the Follow-Me 3D SIX system remote follow-spot system. Fixtures and Follow-Me system were here provided by German based company

The final venue hosting a Follow-Me system was Dubai Millennium Amphitheatre. This smaller and more intimate venue was another stage designed to be multipurpose, with an emphasis on theatrical events. The DMA lighting design was inspired by a modern large scale opera theatre. It should be able to facilitate dance, music performances, spoken word and comedy acts. 180+ moving fixtures consisting of Martin Viper Performances, Martin Viper Wash DX, Martin MAC Aura XBs, Elation Proteus Maximus and Robe Megapointe were installed, 54 of which were added to the Follow-Me patch to facilitate flexibility in fixture choice for follow-spot operation and scalability to match performer numbers per performance. The Follow-Me system and fixtures were provided by Neumann&Müller.

Of their choice for Follow-Me as the remote follow-spot systems, Woodroffe Bassett Design’s Terry states “having the flexibility with Follow Me was critical in the success of the daily shows, in one show Terry recalls over 100 spots cues where the system used over 300 lights and performed perfectly.  The added feature of masking a stage prop or scenic item meaning the Follow Me system knew when an object was in its path was extremely useful”.

Photo Credit: Ptarmigan Integration