Honouring the best in the Indian film industry, the 23rd International Indian Film Academy Awards saw some of Bollywood’s biggest stars descend on Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena for a weekend of glitz and glamour, featuring unforgettable performances from the likes of Salman Khan, Varun Dhawan, Kriti Sanon, Nora Fatehi, and Rakul Preet Singh.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the previous two years of the awards to be cancelled, this year the organisers were determined to deliver an audio-visual treat to the live and broadcast audience. Aiming to deliver on this brief was SLS Production, which was tasked with providing video, audio, lighting, automation, and rigging solutions for this highly anticipated award night.
“We are pleased to be associated with this year’s IIFA Awards, which made a momentous turning point in the region’s dynamic entertainment calendar,” commented Edwin Cheeran, Managing Director, SLS Production. “This spectacular event created an unforgettable gathering of Bollywood stars. As a leading event production company in the region, the association reinforces our company’s visibility and inspires us to deliver the utmost quality of services. The whole team behind the production and their sheer dedication are second to none.”
Head of Project Management, Paurasp J Waghchhipawalla led the project for SLS, alongside Anuj Naik, Senior PM; Praveen Jayakumar, HoD Lighting; Edgar Pulido, HoD Video; Kevin Shyamprasad, HoD Rigging; and Ryan D’Costa, Senior Audio Engineer.
“We had a unique design, which was achieved with ceiling LED screens and lighting fixtures between each screen,” recalled Waghchhipawalla, summarising his experience on the project. “The most challenging part was the tight schedule – that emphasised the need to have everything as prepared as possible.”
With a 18,000-capacity crowd inside Etihad Arena, SLS’ audio team fine-tuned the L-Acoustics K2 and Kara II system to achieve even levels across the audience area and minimal spill back onto the stage. Audio control came courtesy of DiGiCo SD5 and SD10s, as well as Avid S6L-32D and 24D consoles.
As well as D’Costa, the SLS audio team comprised: Crew Chief, Joswin Aranha; Monitor and RF Engineer, Niket Shinde; Audio Stage Head, Alish Ali; System Tech, Febin; and Comms Operator, Emmanuel Salvious.
Video played a vital role in the stage design, with a total of 189 sq m of Absen PL Lite 3.9mm and 650 sq m of INFiLED GXMK2 4.6mm deployed, as well as a further 20 sq m of Absen PL Lite and 240 panels of flexible module 2.5mm used in steps. This was controlled by 12 4K outputs from Dataton WATCHOUT V6 systems running in redundant pairs and Resolume Arena 7, which captured stunning graphics for the show.
Pulido’s video team was made up of: Crew Chief, Renald Blance; Senior Video Technicians, Joni Mercado, Angelo Ong and Shafeeq Bin Shareef; and Video Technicians, Velmu, Tayyab, Erick, Prince, and Majid. The video team were ahead of the curve, as they pre-programmed in the warehouse studio and had the content and screens all mapped and formatted in advance.
Crew Chief, Renald Blance expanded on the setup. “By using the power of Analog Way AQUILON RS4, we were able to take the 12 4k outputs from the media server and distribute the content to six NovaStar H2s running a total of 12 multimode fibreoptic links to corresponding 12 NovaStar CVT4Ks for the main and backup signal,” he described. “We also supplied a multi-input teleprompter system used by the presenters on stage, which we used Analog Way Pulse 350 for.”
Lighting complemented the extensive video supply, with HoD Praveen Jayakumar and Crew Chief Amal Hariharan overseeing the deployment. With a total of 718 moving head fixtures utilised, the rig was designed to emphasise and accent the rectilinear nature of the LED screen. “The entire lighting set up was pre-programmed and no timecode used for any segment or performance in this project,” commented Jayakumar.
The lighting inventory included: 140 Robe MegaPointe, 80 Spiider, 48 Martin MAC Viper Profile, 50 Cyclops Sparkly 33B, 56 Sparkly 400SBW, 100 Cyclops wash moving head, 165 Krypton Y1640 Moving Linear Bar, 72 Krypton W1940 Moving Head wash, 100 360 Pro Wash moving head, 160 Peaktech LED par, 114 Peaktech LED Battens, 80 LED 4 Lite Molefays, 350 Scenographic Bars, and 72 Peaktech 60×10 Static Wash fixtures.
Two Robert Juliat Follow Spot 4Ks and Four Robe RoboSpots with RoboSpot BaseStations provided follow spots, while control came courtesy of two MA Lighting grandMA2 light consoles with eight MA NPUs and a Jands Vista lighting controller for the special effects rig.
‘Three times what we’d expect for a normal show’
As house riggers at the Etihad Arena, Unusual Rigging & Engineering (URE) is used to handling large-scale productions at the venue. However, the IIFA presented URE with its biggest project at the venue to date.
“IIFA is a massive event – the Bollywood equivalent to the Oscars,” explained URE’s Richard Hoare. “This year we were asked to supply our venue rigging services for the event. This involved more than 316 points to suspend more than 105 tonnes of production equipment. This was three times what we’d expect for a normal show.”
One of the big challenges this year was time. The venue was booked back-to-back with events, allowing only a limited build time for production. URE was engaged to come up with a solution to reduce the load-in for production rigging.
“With the support of the venue, a pre-rig window was made available two weeks prior to event, but with two shows in before IIFA, this meant the only option was to utilise our stock of rigging equipment for the house rigging as the venue equipment would be tied up with the other events,” Hoare revealed.
Pre-rigging a show of this magnitude for a one-night-only event two-weeks before the load-in came with its own set of challenges. “On this occasion, we had just completed the 300-plus point top steel installation, when there was a last-minute design change by the client which required us to re-rig 115 points to new locations,” Hoare recalled.
With only one more dark day available before the venue was occupied, URE’s project co-ordinators and design team sprang into action, working late into that night, securing and arranging a new team of riggers for the next day and also creating all the required drawings, mark outs and calculation checks in preparation for the team’s 6am start.
“After the last-minute changes were completed, the installation two weeks later went smoothly with the URE team bringing in a small team of riggers to pull the chains and be on standby by for any final tweaks required,” Hoare concluded. “The event was a huge success. The client was happy and, all in all, it was a very satisfactory outcome.”
Photos: SLS Production, Unusual Rigging & Engineering