Pleasing the crowds at Dubai's City Walk

Dubai’s latest shopping destination is putting on a show for punters. Anna Mitchell heads to the UAE to explore an impressive multimedia performance at City Walk City Walk with executive producer Float4 and installer XYZ Cultural Technology.

City Walk is Dubai’s latest mixed used development and incorporates residential, retail, hospitality, leisure and entertainment facilities in one destination. A network of streets containing cafes, restaurants, shops and even a gaming park come together in a central plaza built around a water feature. 

Duabi-based holding company Meraas, owner of the City Walk development, wanted to use media and AV technologies to create a destination with a unique visitor journey and provide entertainment as well as provision for digital advertising. 

An ambitious vision started with the water feature but grew to encompass a dizzying range of digital media elements incorporating projection and LED displays combined to deliver more than 100 million pixels.

“We make sure the technology and content works together and is properly defined. We understand the creative and the implications of the technical.”
Multiple AV companies were engaged in the project. A total of 30 Digital Projection projectors had been specified by Dubai integrator RDK International and 30 LED installations in 21 different formats from Dubai headquartered Pixcom were delivered before Float4, a Montreal studio specialising in digital experiences, was brought into the project.

Float4 was tasked with content creation and design of the head end system. However that scope grew as the project went on to include the design of a custom built projection system for the water feature. Float4 employed a fellow Montreal company XYZ Cultural Technology, which handled much of the system design and integration required. 

“We came in at a point where a lot of decisions had been made with regards to each individual feature,” explains Alexandre Simionescu, co-founder of Float4. “Our role in these projects is really as an executive producer. We make sure the technology and content works together and is properly defined. We understand the creative as well as the implications of the technical.”

Float4 started work on creating a single headend system to feed all the digital displays. 
Digital Projection on Show Street
"A lot of work was put into creating a harmonised headend solution that provided flexibility, performance and reliability," Simionescu says. “A requirement for the project was to create a continual digital canvas so there was continuity in content. We needed the ability to transition content seamlessly over various digital media to create an immersive experience.”

The headend system is powered by 32 Christie Pandoras Box servers and two of Float4’s own RealMotion servers that offer real time content generation so the displays can handle interactive content. 

A Medialon show control system and two Crestron DM matrix switchers (a 128x128 and 64 x 64) were also deployed and everything is wired using fibre optic cabling.  
“This system is responsible for about 100 million pixels of content,” says Simionescu. “That’s about 60 HD feeds.”
Fountain with Hub Zero in background

Digital Projection in Plaza
“The biggest challenge for the water feature was the projection system had to be as discreet as possible. We’re talking about 20k lumen projectors, they’re not small.”

These pixels are divided into three sections. An entrance has what is called ‘The Gateway’, composed of two LED screens of 10mm pixel pitch. One measures about 85m in length, and the other approximately 70m. These displays’ primary purpose is revenue generation and all advertising content is managed by digital signage specialist Four Winds Interactive.

This leads into ‘Show Street’. The walkway is flanked by retail and restaurant spaces and, above, 12 Digital Projection TITAN 930, WUXGA Resolution, 14,000 lumens, projectors beam down on to the floor. The units are housed in Tempest enclosures in an effort to fend off the elements. 

Digital Projection was heavily involved in the project and has provided support throughout all stages. Tim Wood, the company’s regional manager for the Middle East and Turkey, proposed the units based on their bright light output and small, lightweight chassis.
Content on floor on Show Street
“The projectors were able to be mounted in an unobtrusive way with minimal effort and the built in ColorMax technology ensured that they could all be easily calibrated to ensure a perfect, seamless blend across multiple channels,” he notes.  “Additionally, the dual lamp system allows for redundancy ensuring the show can run uninterrupted should there be the need to change a lamp.”
Water curtain
There are also LED elements running along the street and LED strips, about 50 pixels high, are large enough to show moving images. 

‘Show Street’ leads into thecentral area: Place de Lumière, which is the entertainment hub. 

Shows at City Walk take place at regular intervals every evening. A punchy sound system fires up and one of three shows created by Float4 plays across the facades of buildings and LED displays. At this point the central water feature also comes to life and ‘Show Street’ and ‘The Gateway’ also play content based on the aesthetic of the show. 

From the water feature, mechanical arms rise to create water curtains that are used as screens for four Christie SXGA, 22k lumen projectors.

“The biggest challenge for the water feature was the projection system had to be as discreet as possible,” says Simionescu. “We’re talking about 20k lumen projectors, they’re not small.”

Projecting on water added to the challenge. 

“You have a very narrow margin of where you can place the projector,” continues Simionescu. “The projector has to be in a rear projection setting and you need it exactly behind the water curtain.” 

With such limits on projector positioning as well as desire for a quality projection and a discreet solution, more than 20 design iterations were produced before settling on lifts to raise the projectors for the show and conceal them when not in use.

Digital Projection TITAN units were again selected for the façade projections with a total of 18 units mounted around the plaza. These combine with LED screens and about 120 lighting features to create one digital canvas. 

“All those elements give us a lot of depth to create these shows,” says Simionescu. 
The powerful visuals required matching audio capabilities and Float4 insisted on upgrading the planned sound system to deliver something with more force. 
Big projection
“Our technical partners saw early on that an enhanced audio system was required to create an experience that would match the client’s vision,” says Simionescu. “Much like in VR, an important consideration is to direct viewers as to where they should look and attract their attention to the right location. Because video is played around the entire open space, an immersive experience such as this  posed similar challenges. We needed tools to orchestrate the audience’s attention and sound plays a big role in that.”

The solution was to bolster an already planned Bose sound system with four Meyer Sound CAL 64 powered column speakers around the central area. The Bose sub woofers remained to support the Meyer Sound system. The challenge was to deliver a consistent experience to anyone positioned at any point in the area. 

Biamp Tesira DSPs were also brought on board to handle AVB to Dante conversion. 
Another audio system, to deliver sound when the shows aren’t playing, was installed by integrator Elvis Technology and based on Apart loudspeakers.

Staff from XYZ Cultural Technology have remained on site to oversee operations and ensure the nightly shows go according to plan. 

Many of the retail outlets are now open and City Walk is fast becoming a destination for entertainment as much as shopping. The regular nightly shows never fail to draw a crowd and certainly don’t disappoint. 


Apart loudspeakers
Biamp Tesira
Bose subwoofers
Meyer Sound column speakers

Video and control
Digital Projection TITAN 930 projectors
Christie projectors, Pandoras Box servers
Crestron DM matrix switchers
Medialon show control system
Tempest projector enclosures