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Al Wasl Dome – Projection & Audio Installation

The first-ever world expo to take place in the Middle East opened on the 1st October 2021, bringing together over 190 participating countries and welcoming millions of visitors from all over the world to Dubai.

Al Wasl Plaza, which sits at the very heart of Expo 2020, will host the opening and closing ceremonies and various special events and spectacular functions throughout the 6-month celebration. True to its name Al Wasl which means ‘connection’ in Arabic is the focal point for visitors and connects the three main zones, Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.

Creative Technology Middle East (CTME) was awarded the AV integrator contract by our client Expo 2020 to provide the immersive projection and audio installation for the Al Wasl Plaza.

The plaza designed by US-based architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill stands at 67.5m tall with a 135m diameter and is the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface. The unique architectural marvel of 550 tonnes of moulded steel and detailed trellis design offers a 3D visualisation of the Expo 2020 logo.

Projection

The 25,380 square meter projection surface is achieved through specially made translucent projection screen material stretched tightly between each trellis section. This translucent material enables the projection to be seen both inside and outside the dome.

To achieve the immersive visual experience, CT installed 252 Christie D4K40-RGB projectors housed in 42 bespoke environmentally controlled projector pods that are designed to protect against the climate, ensuring the equipment is kept cool and protected from dust.

The 42 custom-designed pods are arranged around the inside perimeter of the domed plaza. Each pod has two video channels, with each channel displayed via a triple- stack of projectors resulting in 84 channels of video delivered by 252 projectors in total.

The pods which are attached to the trellis structure 23 meters above the ground are easily accessible and have a complex automated racking system that enables the projectors to be easily serviced.

Due to the 84 video channels’ scale and pixel density, CT used 16 disguise gx2 servers for the generative content playout. The system has inbuilt redundancy in the disguise media servers with video transport via a Thinklogical 160 x 160 fibre matrix.

With the numerous shows intended to be shown throughout the Expo and long after, the system is delivered with a Petabyte of storage for content.

Audio

The audio system designed by Threshold and Auditoria works in unison with the projection system to provide a fully immersive audio-visual experience for the visitors. CT installed and commissioned the L-Acoustics audio system comprising of 27 Loudspeaker arrays, each consisting of 16 L-Acoustics KIVA II. All of these are secured with a bespoke rigging system and colour matched to the dome to blend in with the architecture. The design team took considerable care to ensure that the physical speaker size ‘’blended’’ into the dome while still delivering the performance; the Kiva IIs delivered the desired combination of aesthetics and performance.

In addition, there are 6 Sub pods spaced around the inside perimeter of the dome, each housing 4 L-Acoustics KS28 Sub woofers which have been installed in a cardioid array. The L-Acoustics L-ISA Immersive Processor handles all the spatial processing and provides a characteristic “modern” approach to audio mixing.

The 27 Arrays of KIVA II & 6 Sub Pods, combined with the L-ISA processor’s capabilities, create incredibly detailed spatial resolution over such a large audience area. This gives flexibility to the composers by giving them a great deal of creative scope for content and mix to deliver the immersive experience with the video.

Audio content playback is handled by a dual redundant Merging Ovation system which also generates timecode for triggering video and other elements.

Signal distribution is taken care via a redundant fibre ring to drive signal from the DiGiCo SD12, 4rea4 and SD Mini Racks to the L-Acoustic LA4X & LA12X Amplifiers. The equipment is distributed across the main control room and 3 remote amplifier rooms which have been strategically placed to reduce cabling to the speaker arrays.

An AVB system using Luminex and RME M32 DA Pro and M32 AD Pro is used to drive the backup analogue signal to the amplifiers.

The audio system delivers cutting edge spatial audio technology with a backbone of well-proven industry- leading technology and designed to provide full redundancy.

Installation and Integration

Andrew Nu, CTME’s Business Development Manager, comments, “One of the major goals of Expo 2020 is ‘’sustainability’’ and of course to deliver creativity and innovation. We achieved this by minimising the cable requirements with both the video and audio systems connected via a fibre network. The air-conditioned projection pods are monitored by the site-wide BMS system 24/7 to ensure that the cooling systems are operating efficiently.”

Nu goes on to say, “CT installed the systems efficiently with our well-trained team and in compliance with the Expo Worker Welfare and Safety regulations. CT’s qualified engineering team met these high standards and expectations, including achieving ‘’black hat’’ status for our site supervisors.”

Andy Reardon, CTME’s Managing Director, adds, “The successful completion of Al Wasl Plaza’s immersive experience has been achieved with the support from Expo, the designers/architects and the other contractors all working in unison with the ‘’can do’’ approach which has resulted in an amazing project. We are proud to have also won the 2020 AV Award for Events and Entertainment Project of the Year for the inauguration event and the 2020 AVard award for best public integration on this project.”

Simon Pritchard, Expo 2020’s Director – Projects, rounds up, “I have been extremely impressed with the professional approach, ‘can do’ attitude and delivery expertise demonstrated by the Creative Technology team. Al Wasl represents one of the largest AV installations in the world, and the technical challenges that the team had to address to deliver to works cannot be overstated. The end result has exceeded the client’s expectations- Thank you!”

CT provides innovation, technology, project management and operational support to the system integration market. We lead the industry by exceeding customer expectations and delivering creative technological solutions globally, engineered by the world’s leading minds.


Project Awards:

Creative Technology Middle East are proud to have won two awards for our work on the Al Wasl Dome for the Inauguration event and the audiovisual installation.

AV Award 2020: Events & Entertainment Project of the Year

AVARD Awards 2020: Best Public Integration