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Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai opened its doors to the world on a pandemic schedule—October 1, 2021. By mid-January, attendees from 185 countries had registered ten million visits; the Expo will welcome millions more visitors from across the globe through March 31, 2022. While this Expo is unique as the first be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, it continues 170 years of Expo tradition as well, with cutting-edge architecture and technology.

Expo 2020 Dubai occupies a 4.38 sq km site adjacent to Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai South and was designed as an ongoing attraction around the themes of mobility, opportunity, and sustainability. In addition to the three themed pavilions, for the first time in Expo history, all 192 participating countries have their own pavilions, most of them drafting off the main themes.

From an AV standpoint, this Expo is a showcase of projection and could be said to usher in a fresh chapter for projection technology, in particular the RGB pure laser projectors from Christie, the official projection and display partner for the Expo 2020 Dubai. Chrstie projection and display technology is used to show content and provide experiences across the entire event site, but nowhere so dramatically as the centerpiece Al Wasl Plaza dome where Creative Technology Middle East was the AV integrator for the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface, and worked in close collaboration with Christie through the design, supply, and installation process.

For the dramatic opening ceremony, a worldwide audience of millions tuned in to witness a 90-minute immersive spectacular with a 1,000-strong cast and crew. Al Wasl Plaza’s incredible dome came to life with 252 Christie D4K40-RGB pure laser projectors—an unprecedented assembly of visual firepower. The projectors are located in pods around the inside perimeter of the dome; the projectors displayed scenes on the 130-meter wide projection surface, which could be seen from both inside and outside the dome. The projectors utilize a unique power management approach to energy-efficient operation and deliver visuals that leverage the impact of RGB lasers.

No one at Christie is closer to the evolution of projection in general and Expo 2020 Dubai in particular than Bryan Boehme, Executive Director of Enterprise Sales, Americas. Christie.

“I’ve been involved with Expo for about four years starting very early in the design phases,” Boehme recalls, and cites the technical alignment that the Expo leadership (not always a given in projects like these). “We were literally part of the design and concept, which is really what you want on a project like this.” Christie team members Doug Starr—director of the IP solutions team—and account manager Hope Mason lived on site for 18 months. Meanwhile, manufacturing was delivering the first D4K40-RGB products off the line into the highest profile test imaginable, each one certified and tuned for installation.

“It was really a partnership between our team in North America, our local team in Dubai, who continue to offer tremendous support, the Expo leadership, the many contractors from various disciplines, and the integrator CTME,” Boehme says. On the one hand there were taxes, tariffs, and customs to smooth, on the other hand, like any unique themed entertainment adventure, it came down to the people and the creative, architectural, and technical expertise on hand. “No one had ever done anything this large or with this many projectors together. We were a room full of 25 people and within 72 hours we had designed the pods that house the six projectors.” Among the challenges—how to cool the projectors when the outside air is hot and sandy. “How was the air going to flow around all six projectors?” Boehme mused. It was all part of creating the canvas from a creative standpoint, and insuring technical redundancy and reliability for an attraction that could not go down

“They also were looking at this for the longer horizon,” Boehme adds. “Forty percent of the attractions are staying in the second phase. Its 10-year mission is to be a technological city that’s supposed to be very green and energy conscious . So that also had to be kept in mind as well.”

For projection veteran Boehme, one of the most satisfying aspects was seeing projectors deliver the Rec. 2020 colors on such a grand scale—“colors in that dome that you’ve never seen before,” he recalls. For Christie—who arguably set the standard for digital cinema earlier in the century—this was a chance to bring RGB to projection mapping. “You couldn’t do that with the first round of cinema projectors because the laser units were separate from the projector head,” Boehme recalls. “Expo wanted something that nobody had seen before.” The first all-in-one 40K RGB projector—indeed 252 of them—turned out to be the right convergence of technology and opportunity, a centerpiece worthy of the massive Expo.

“The Mechanics of Wonder” is an immersive installation that uses seven Christie 3DLP projectors and Christie
Conductor software to projection map visuals onto a model of a human brain. The installation was conceptualized
and planned by Simpateka Entertainment Group, with video content produced by dreamlaser, and equipment and
technical support provided by Big Screen Show.

In addition to anchoring the Expo, the dome shows an ever-changing program of content over the six months, with pieces by over 15 commissioned artists. In 2019, Christie participated in the testing of the dome in Dubai supported with 4:4:4 10-bit servers so the artists could see the platform and palette.

“We also designed a new software for this as well to control all 252 projectors.” Boehme explains. The Christie Conductor software can monitor and control up to 256 Christie 3DLP projectors on the same network from a laptop.

When you are doing a project like this starting with serial number 0001, it says something about the way we design and manufacture and the responsiveness of that,” Boehme says. “I was proud that we saw early on that we could make the product last longer and perform better and we went back to all those units and upgraded them.”

Boehme says the innovation on the 40K RGB played out in lower lumen options, including the Griffyn 4K32-RGB, which Boehme says has “an almost three-dimensional depth of color,” and the M 4K25 RGB with it’s 7000:1 contrast ratio. It all speaks to the resurging relevance of projectors where color resolution, accuracy, and saturation are what make the experience for the viewer.


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