DUBAI: Visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai continue to see the awe-inspiring nightly Christmas shows at Al Wasl Plaza with stunning visuals and familiar festive tunes, the projections on the dome are turning the site into a festive spectacle. From snowflakes to snowmen, Christmas trees to giant toys, the shows bring the spirit of the season to life.
But how was this magic created? Richard Lindsay, Creative Director – Artists In Motion, led the project to help design one of Expo 2020’s biggest events yet. Creating shows for the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface, proved a challenge and involved clever workarounds.
“With a 360-degree canvas the composition needs to be seamless,” Lindsay explained. “You don’t have the luxury of a frame to work within. With projection, it behaves differently from how you see on a computer screen – the source of the creation. You need to be very aware of how colour and contrast behave through a light source output.
“Al Wasl is not a typical dome projection surface. It is actually a very ornate structure that is very present. You need to create within its physical presence and not treat it like a seamless canvas. Bringing the structure to life is part of its charm. So we need to perfectly map our content to the structure in order to bring this out.
“It’s not a typical screen canvas where cuts and short edit burst work well. Composition needs to evolve from one to the other. There is a physical presence with the dome, so the magic is in the transformation. You can’t do that through simple edits.”
Lindsay said the shows were inspired by the many different people who visit Expo 2020 and were created around the concepts of ‘Magic’ and ‘Nostalgia’. “We bring to life the magical icons of Christmas for the Christmas child in all of us. From dancing toys that come to life, to snowman fights and cheeky elves – all choroegraphed to a soundtrack filled with nostalgia. It’s one giant present that keeps on giving. There may even be a sighting of Santa himself!”
The shows are also unique because Al Wasl itself is one of a kind. Lindsay says understanding how the audience interacts with the dome and its surroundings is crucial. “Al Wasl is more than just a big projection canvas, it also has an incredibly powerful 27.1 surround sound system, a super impressive lighting array, and a clever central stage. When you create for all of these components, you create an experience that only Al Wasl can deliver.
“The opportunity to capture an audience’s imagination in such an immersive space is what makes the creative journey so special. Our shows are original from the very outset. From the story, the design, the animation, the music composition, the sets, the choreography, and costume, each of which needs to [be] thoughtfully considered within the magic of Al Wasl.
“We like to base our shows around an evolving nature, where it never quite rests for too long. All of our scenes evolve into each other which creates a wonderful sense of anticipation. Each scene is a surprise – how we get there and how we move on is where the intrigue lies for our audiences.”
Lindsay said the Al Wasl project was not easy to get right, but future designers can take inspiration from what his team has accomplished. “The six months of Expo will see Al Wasl transform into many forms. From content-only experiences to full-blown multi-cast performances. It will even become a rock venue. These are all invaluable references for future creators in Al Wasl. It takes time to create for Al Wasl, so more reference and understanding at the beginning of any creative journey is critical and very welcomed. We had both the challenge and luxury of working this all out with no reference. We created a virtual Al Wasl in which we learnt our lessons ahead of Al Wasl coming to life.”
Source: Expo 2020 Website