Projecting the future

The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning council gave visitors to this year’s Cityscape exhibition a glimpse into the future when it unveiled a massive model of how it expects the city to look in 2030. Anna Mitchell explores how suspended projection adds life to the display.

The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning council (UPC), the agency responsible for the Emirate’s urban development, chose to unveil its 23 metre by 17 metre model as a focal point of the Cityscape 2010 exhibition at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Cityscape 2010 is a business-to-business real estate development and investment event and is hailed as a key gathering for the real estate industry. The model stretched from the Corniche on Abu Dhabi’s main island to Shahama, Mussafah and Al Falah on the mainland and includes the islands of Saadiyat, Yas, Lulu, Reem and Sowwah.

His Excellency Falah Al Ahbabi, general manager of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, explained: “The UPC initiative was designed in order to share our wise leaders’ grand vision with the people of Abu Dhabi and with the rest of the world. It is a visible demonstration of our commitment to deliver what we embarked on three years ago when UPC was set up by Emiree decree. It will be a living, breathing model that will be constantly updated to reflect progress on the ground and serve as a great communication and promotional platform for all of Abu Dhabi’s stakeholders.

“It is with this objective in mind that the UPC has created the showcased model structure which will act as a fantastic visualisation tool and will help people really understand how the various pieces of the Capital 2030 puzzle seamlessly interact, relate and blend with each other to provide a truly unique living experience for future residents and visitors alike,” Al Ahbadi added.

In order to fulfil this goal and make a lasting impression on visitors and potential investors, UPC turned to Pipers Group, a UK headquartered architectural model maker. Pipers, in turn, called on the services of GHA Group, a London based visual communication specialist, to handle the technology required to bring the model to life.

The resulting model was built at a scale of 1:2000 and detailed significant details of existing landmarks such as the Emirates Palace and the Grand Mosque, as well as some of the projects under development including Sowwah Square, Masdar and the tower on Lulu Island.

“We originally started working with Pipers back in 2008 when they were commissioned to build a six metre model,” explains, Roddy Gye, managing director of GHA. “We animated that for Cityscape 2009. It was much smaller and simpler than the one we’ve developed now, which was good because it allowed us to understand the issues and challenges involved on a smaller scale. After that they immediately commissioned the rest of the model, which represented about 18 months of work.” The resulting model had to be transported in 260 separate sections and stands on more than 900 legs.

A grid of 16 truss mounted Panasonic D-6000 projectors created the synchronised show to highlight areas featured in a film, created by Manha Design and played out on a custom-made, 11 metre screen at one end of the model. Three edge blended PLC-ET30 Sanyo projectors, driven from TV One edge blenders, were used for the film, which was accompanied by English and Arabic soundtracks. The projection grid also animated transport links and used moving graphics.

“The 11 metre screen is custom built because it had to fit in with the stand design and there was no screen already made that would be suitable,” notes Gye. “We also custom built all mounts. We engineered them ourselves and attached them to a flying lighting rig. The model is primarily made of painted MDF, which is a great matt surface to project onto.”

The scale that GHA was working at meant standard resolution images spread over the area would have looked pixelated. Therefore, GHA chose to create ultra high-resolution movie masters and sub-divide the footage into sixteen 1024 x 768 pixel rectangles. The solution demanded 16 separate high-definition Brightsign HD210 media players to run in sync, while three more players provided video images of the projection screen. One further Brightsign HD1010 player carried the soundtrack and acted as the master to which the others were synchronised. UK distributor, Pixels, supplied all Brightsign players.

It was essential that the projectors were aligned precisely, a challenge for GHA as the units were on a flying truss above the model. The dual lamp projectors had built in edge blending and fixed focus wide-angle lenses, necessary as zoom lenses were not possible at the distance available. Accurate scaling and mechanical alignment was nearly impossible so every projector was fed from a Kramer VP-729 scaler, which corrected the geometry of each individual image. All the components, including projectors and scalers were networked so calibration of the entire system could be carried out wirelessly on a single laptop computer.

An ipCue controller from Cue Systems managed the system, which was interfaced to the main lighting rig and electric blinds in the 900m² pavilion. A choice of presentations was run on-demand from an airCue wireless touch panel and a touchCue cabled panel.

Locally sourced touchscreens, running off Mac Minis, surrounded the model to allow visitors to gain further information on the framework plans for the Emirate and some of the more technical aspects of the UPC’s work for the future of Abu Dhabi. Gye claims future plans will interface the touchscreens to the model projection; a feat he describes as an “interesting technical challenge”.

Design and event marketing agency, Eventquest, handled the design and build of the stand and approached Eclipse to provide technical requirements. Mark Brown, chairman of the Dubai headquartered company, said: “The brief for audio was simple yet required a product that matched the high-end look of the stand as well as providing even coverage along the balcony. It also had to be discreet. The truss height was low so the speakers there would have to be hung within the truss.”

Eclipse chose L’Acoustics dV-Dosc line array and six cabinets were hung on either side of the video screen. Two dv-Subs were hung in the middle of the truss to provide low-end effects for the video playback. “This allowed us to get a very consistent smooth audio response all around the vast stand floor area, at a level that was comfortable for the visitors yet still loud enough to let people know outside the stand that something big was happening,” Brown notes.

For the balcony audio Eclipse opted for L’Acoustics powered eight inch speakers to blend in sonically with the dv-Dosc cabinets. Furthermore, they were small enough to fit inside the truss. “The decision to go with powered speakers made it a cost effective solution as we did not need lots of amplifiers to deal with the five different delay times,” explains Brown. “As we did not stock any of the smaller cabinets Eclipse decided to invest in 12 of the 108P’s from L’Acoustics.

“To control the left and right as well as five delay points in the truss, a BSS Soundweb Audio Management system was put in place, and this gave us all the EQ, delay and dynamic control that we needed to time align and tune the audio to the client’s requirements. The design and set up was handled by Eclipse’s head of audio, Malcolm Giles and was run for the duration of the exhibition by Eclipse’s audio technician, Ed Roxias.”

Gye says the stand was rebuilt at another venue for about three or four weeks and is now in storage in Abu Dhabi but he suspects we haven’t seen the last of it, adding that he expects it to be rebuilt in the next few months. “The stand was without doubt the centrepiece of the show,” he proudly concludes.


Brightsign HD1010 media player
BSS Soundweb audio management system
L’Acoustics dV-Dosc line array, dv-subs and 108P loudspeakers

Brightsign HD210 media players
Cue Systems ipCue controller, airCue and touchCue panels
Kramer VP-728 scaler
Panasonic D-6000 projectors
Sanyo PLC-ET30 projectors
TV One edge blenders

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