The opening of the UNESCO World Heritage site in Diriyah, Riyadh provided Procam Projects with one of the most ambitious assignments of 2019. Located to the west of the Saudi Kingdoms capital, it is considered the birthplace of the nation and the development there is part of the country’s ‘Vision 2030’ that aims to boost tourism over the coming decade.
The opening of the site was attended by His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and HRH Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud and as such, was an occasion fit for royalty. Procam Projects was chosen to facilitate the filming of the opening by its client Creative Technology Middle East, who were contracted to produce the technical implementation of the striking cinematic projection mapping on the historic site, to tell the visual story of the kingdom’s history. A technical team recced the site in advance and put together a comprehensive technical package which was designed to deliver high-quality multi-camera coverage of the spectacular display for several purposes; recording in UHD and 8K for edit, while also producing a live mix for television transmission.
Before travelling to the Kingdom, the camera and gallery system was built and tested knowing that it was to head to a new and potentially technically challenging environment. 9 ARRI Amira and 6 ARRI Alexa Mini cameras were used alongside a RED Ranger with Monstro 8K VV Sensor and Sony HDC-4300. The cameras were paired with a variety of 35mm cine lenses from Fujinon, ARRI, Sigma and Angenieux to give a high-end look to a project which required the highest quality coverage and flexibility to cover a wide range of scenarios and lighting conditions in what turned out to be both dry and wet weather.
Over 10 tonnes of equipment was shipped overseas for the project. Upon arrival the Procam crew built the gallery and cameras, installing over 5km of fibre-optic cabling. The team utilised Ereca CAM Racer systems to provide feeds to the tech hub where engineers were able to manage all technical requirements of such an ambitious task. Having the ability to adapt the line of 35mm cameras for use in multi-camera scenarios meant Procam Projects were able to offer a look that was previously beyond the scope of traditional broadcast channel systems.
Spherical lenses were used for filming the event, which was recorded at 16:9 23.98P UHD in LOG. These were monitored and distributed in a Cinescope Crop for the live broadcast which needed to be HD 50i with a LUT. A RED Ranger with Monstro 8K VV Sensor was used with a Sigma Full Frame lens to capture the vista, which was rigged to the top of an inaccessible seating structure. With the help of sister company Take 2 Films, the Procam Projects team were able to make a remote trigger, allowing the RED camera to be remotely operated for the live broadcast as well as the 8k internal record. This included remote focus, iris and record functions using Procam Projects’ bespoke Lens Control System.
Dan Studley, Procam Projects Group Technical Director explains, “Shooting in the desert of Saudi Arabia is a daunting task on its own, however producing a 17 camera fully racked shoot, filming UHD ISO, as well as an HD line cut for Saudi TV, was a mammoth undertaking and one that Procam Projects took in its stride. The whole Procam Projects team adapted to the changing conditions and requirements, delivering a flawless live broadcast.”
For the main event, a total of 45 crew members were out on location for almost three weeks rigging and rehearsing, including Camera Operators, Focus Pullers, Sound Recordists, Vision Engineers, Comms Engineers, RF Engineers, Riggers and DITs. Procam Projects were able to secure the expertise of Nick Wheeler (DoP) and the amazing team of Camera Operators and Focus Pullers from My Crew, with acclaimed live event Director James Russell at the helm of the OB. Before the main event, a camera, sound and assistant team from Procam Projects were on location for two weeks filming a behind-the-scenes piece. “Our crew members are used to travelling the globe and are able to offer support on productions of all sizes, wherever in the world” said Dan Studley, Procam Projects Group Technical Director.
During the rehearsal stages, it became clear that additional cameras would be required to achieve the vision. Ordinarily, the complications of sending equipment to another continent would be a fraught experience were it not for the experienced and capable team back at Procam Projects base, who managed all requests for additional equipment in record time. The ability to deliver high-end production support globally is something Procam Projects prides itself on, having facilitated multiple shoots overseas since its inception.
After 10 days of rehearsals and spending over two weeks in the heat and dust of the desert, the crew experienced an untimely downpour on the scheduled day of the event. The whole show was postponed by 24 hours, however, the team remained positive, and as the skies cleared the following day, one of the most elaborate and cinematic shows the region had ever seen took place. The hour-long show, produced and managed by Executive Visions, comprised of multiple seamless animated projections across the entire face of Adobe city, alongside scores of spotlights and firework displays supported by a full orchestra. This was truly an event fit for a king.
Andy Hayford, Business Development Manager at ARRI said “We are very happy that Dan and the Procam Projects team chose to use 15 ARRI cameras, more specifically 9 ARRI Amira and 6 ARRI Alexa Mini cameras, for their reliability as well as the wide dynamic range, stunning colour rendition and natural skin tones. The ARRI cameras systemised with Procam Projects’ Ereca CAM Racer fibre systems, enabling full RCP control from the production gallery.”
Procam Projects Managing Director, Vicky Holden added, “After almost three weeks in preparation on-site and months before this in planning, the filming was a success. The system implemented worked flawlessly and the crew were able to pack down and depart the site the following day. We would like to thank our client Creative Technology Middle East for trusting in our ability to deliver such a large scale, high profile event.”
Photography by Procam Camera Operator, Phil Davis