Ayrton for the AFC Asian Cup Opening Ceremony in Qatar

Photo: Katara Studios

Qatar hosted the Opening Ceremony of the AFC Asian Cup at the 88,000-capacity Lusail Stadium. The ceremony comprised a full-size stage in midfield with a set featuring sand dunes, colourful costumes, and visuals around a central motif of giant mirrored petals.

Broadcast internationally across the Middle East, Asia and Australasia, the 21-minute visual extravaganza, Mirrors, The Lost Chapter from the Book of Kelileh Wa Demneh, was a triumph of theatrical story-telling. It was struck in just 27 minutes by 700 stage hands, in choreography as coordinated as the performers who preceded them, before the first match of the tournament kicked off.

“It was like Superbowl on steroids!” commented Lighting Designer, Roland Greil who, brought in by design and production agency, Sila Sveta, used over 450 Ayrton fixtures as the majority of his design.

“Our aim from the beginning was to create a very theatrical theme and lighting design in keeping with the cinematic approach taken by producers, Katara Studios,” explained Greil. “The show was a hugely complex, spectacular, yet very theatrical piece with a detailed story line and glorious costumes. We needed a rig that could support the beautiful story on stage and create magical looks for 80% of the time, but also to have additional fire power to create some big looks for the remaining 20% for the live broadcast, and to reflect the joy and enthusiasm for the game of football within the region.”

Greil worked with technical director Shannon Gobell to develop lighting positions, the throw distances of which “bring their own physics with it!”

45 Domino Profiles and 80 Huracán Profiles were rigged around the circumference of the pitch on Level 0 at a height of at 1.6m with a throw distance of 40m-50m. “These immediately gave us traditional theatrical side lighting without interfering with audience sightlines, yet were high enough to fire above the heads of the security teams on the perimeters,” explained Greil. “Side lighting is your biggest friend for those magical looks, and the Domino Profiles and Huracán Profiles were our work horses for key lighting, side lighting and eye-candy for background imagery from here.Half way up the grandstands on Level 4 we found another perfect lighting position which we filled with 110 Domino Profiles for more key lighting from a distance of 80m-90m. Domino Profiles are basically an IP version of the Huracán Profile so I was able to use them both as if they were the same light. In the Arabic world, lighting for the live audience is of equal importance to lighting for worldwide broadcast, so getting the key lighting right is the most important aspect of the whole lighting package to achieve both.”

A further 67 Domino Profiles were rigged along two overhead catwalk trusses at a height of 90m-100m providing two high lighting positions from where they could light the audience for background shots, washing them with LED spotlights.96 laser-sourced Ayrton Cobra fixtures were rigged on top the stadium roof to create aerial beams and extend the effect of the fireworks which were filmed by overhead drones and a heli cam. “We also used the Cobras to create some nice looks that worked from the inside of the stadium, positioning them to build a kind of roof of lights over the open stadium that could be seen perfectly from within.”

On stage, Greil integrated 54 Ayrton Domino Washes into the floor which he used to light the scenic elements.

Traditional follow spots were replaced by a FollowMe system working in conjunction with the Huracán and Domino Profiles on Level 4. “In fact, we were able to calibrate each and every one of 450+ Ayrton fixtures in the overhead rig and choose any light or combination of lights we wanted to act as follow spots,” commented Greil. “This was very beneficial for broadcast as we could pick and choose multiple lights to ensure we had the exact perfect angle for both broadcast and the live performance at all times. This was the first performance of a FollowMe system on a major stadium event and it worked perfectly. We were able to follow performers over an entire football field, not just a defined stadium stage, and we replaced what would traditionally have been 12-20 follow spots offering a limited number of angles, with 450 ‘follow spots’ that could be used in an incredibly creative way. It gave us huge flexibility and saved us an immense amount of time in rehearsal too.”

“Considering scale of the show, we lit the whole ceremony with relatively few lights,” concluded Greil. “In total there were 54 Domino Washes, 224 Domino Profiles, 80 Huracán Profiles and 96 Cobra, alongside another 244 moving lights, all of which were amply able to cope with the huge throw distances. Thanks to these and a great collaboration between all the departments we were able to beat the challenges of lighting a huge profile event in a stadium.”

All lighting for the AFC Asian Cup was supplied by PRG Middle East.

Lighting Design: Roland Greil, Stage Design & Visuals Creative Director: Artur Kond/ Sila Sveta, Katara Studios Executive Creative Director: Ahmed Al Baker, General Producers: Alexey Rozov & Alexander Us, Katara Studios Executive Producer:  Mahmoud Hamaky, Producer: Magrifa Kamayeva, Show Director: Slava Kualev, Broadcast Director: Marek Mill, Technical Director: Shannon Gobell, Associate Lighting Design: Troy Eckerman, LX Programmer & Studio Associate: Michael Kuehbandner, LX Programmer: Markus Neubauer, Design Assistant & Spot Caller: Tom Levin, Audio Design: Scott Willsallen, Staging & Automation: Stage One, LX Vendor: PRG Middle East and Audio Vendor: Agora.