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Flicker Show productions covered the Dubai Ramadan Forum using traditional HD cameras and smartphones.
Flicker Show productions covered the Dubai Ramadan Forum using traditional HD cameras and smartphones.

The production of the annual Dubai Ramadan Forum was carried out differently this year, using smartphones and GoPro cameras in addition to traditional gear. In an exclusive interview with Vibhuti Arora, Flicker Show Productions shares how it used different tools to create a more engaging viewing experience

The 14th annual Dubai Ramadan Forum, or Al Multaqa, hosted by Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), was covered live by state broadcaster Dubai Media Inc. (DMI) and Flicker Show Productions, a Dubai-based production house. The production house is responsible for creating promotional videos and a 30-minute documentary encapsulating the 11-day event, in addition to producing video footage for Al Multaqa’s social media platforms. At the time of going to press, 60-90-minute edits were being created for each day of the forum and posted on Al Multaqa’s website and social media platforms, including the forum’s YouTube channel.

The idea behind the production is to reach and engage audiences worldwide, says Ahmed Al Shaibani, Senior Executive at DTCM, who is incharge of the production. The forum brings together Islamic scholars from around the world to lecture on the importance of the holy month of Ramadan and is attended by audiences of all faiths.

“We ensure that every aspect of the forum is covered and made available to audiences, especially those who cannot attend the event. This year, not only was the production carried out in full HD but we also used some unconventional tools such as smartphones to record footage in addition to traditional HD cameras,” he says.

While DMI has been associated with the forum for the past few years and has been broadcasting it live annually, this year, Flicker Show Productions got involved in the project early on and covered awareness events held in Dubai’s malls, hospitals and other public places around the emirate.

Adnan Peter Al Malki, Executive Producer and Partner at Flicker Show Productions, says that when he was assigned the job of covering the forum, he began to think of creative ways to film it in order to retain the viewers’ interest. The production value had to be appealing to viewers across different age-groups, which is why the forum and its related activities were shot using a mix of traditional and new-age tools.

“The forum itself runs for 11 days, but the build-up to the event began last month with several workshops and Ramadan awareness activities in malls and other public places throughout Dubai. Alongside our professional setup, we shot with smartphones and GoPros to add value to the production with creative angles,” he points out.

Al Malki mentions that smartphones are a handy tool for filming in crowded places. To film workshops and discussions, where there is not much scope for a change in scene, the key lies in capturing footage from innovative angles. For instance, a GoPro was mounted on the head of a presenter as he went around a shopping mall in Dubai to interview visitors as part of the documentary shoot for the forum.

“We have, over the years, covered hundreds of events; the one thing that we have had to master is the turnaround time from the moment an event is scheduled to the delivery of the media to the different stakeholders that are local, regional or even, international.

“Using the right gear for the intended result is the key, whether it is a quick video interview on a Canon 5D Mark III camera (video) or an hour-long training course coverage using a Sony NX5 video camera. Productions of this nature have become extremely demanding when it comes to capturing different content. The subject that you are capturing doesn’t wait for you; in fact, you need to be two steps ahead in order to capture that moment,” comments Al Malki.

Al Malki goes so far as to call smartphones “revolutionary” tools for filming events.

“This is the future; viewing habits are changing and so is the way video is captured. Technology is becoming more user-friendly and all one needs to do is to deploy it in the right way.”

He adds that smartphone cameras these days keep challenging the users, with the concept of having a photo or video clip taken via a standard DSLR camera or camcorder, or doing it with a smartphone (iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6). He points out that the iPhone 6 has huge billboards that show what it is capable of.

“I am not saying that the days of the DSLR are gone; you still need the technology and the lens to get that perfect result, but smartphones are very handy tools when you need a quick turnaround. We used that extensively to cover the Ramadan forum activities,” he comments.

One of its advantages of shooting with smartphones is that you can virtually go unnoticed as opposed to walking in with a whole crew of 15 personnel and heavy equipment, that even malls don’t allow during working hours, points out Al Malki.

“You will still need permission to shoot in public places, irrespective of what equipment you use,” he adds.

“We need to ask ourselves where this relentless race for higher resolutions will end. As more and more videos are being produced for online viewing platforms such as YouTube, which plays 720p by default, one questions whether higher than this is actually required. Although YouTube also gives you the option of playing at 1080p, but we don’t really need 1080p when we are viewing a video on a smartphone or a tablet (which will be phablets before we know it). We could be watching movies made from smartphones in the near future. Let’s hope that’s a bit far away for our generation that has learnt to love some of the beautiful professional cameras out there,” Al Malki comments.

Al Malki’s team comprised directors, producers, dops, sound technicians and editors. The cameras deployed included the Sony NX5, Canon 5D Mk III and GoPro Hero3. Those who couldn’t attend or watch the live broadcast will find the daily footage on YouTube. The production house also produced a five-minute description of the forum for a promotional video on DMI’s channels.

The lectures were captured with two main cameras and the GoPros were used when needed. “We would alternate between the Sony NX5 cameras and the Canon 5D III, two of which were deployed at the venue to film the pre-forum activities as well as the lectures. We used Apple Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe After Effects for editing at our Al Quoz studio. The footage from various cameras was converted to H.264 codec for post production,” says Al Malki.

The media assets were created with minimal edits to ensure that the video footage preserved the essence of the lectures. Audio was a key part of this production and was recorded with great care.

“Five mics connected to each of the cameras at the venue captured the audio. Another highlight of the production is the use of Nasheed for background score for the forum’s promos and documentary. Nasheed is the traditional way of rendering vocal music instead of using stringed instruments, as the use of musical instruments is prohibited for such events. Avid Pro Tools 11 was used to add audio in the post stage, which was carried out in our studios in Al Quoz.”

Flicker Show Productions also handled still photography for the entire event and took care of the audio and voiceovers where required. The 11-day forum, which was still in progress at the time of going to press saw the production house set up a media management site at World Trade Centre, complete with a control room which established a link between the venue and the studios in Al Quoz.

The forum in previous years has succeeded in attracting a large audience, with numbers in its 13th session reaching more than 1.35m visitors to the main programme. It has hosted 162 of the most renowned sheikhs and preachers in the world. This year, the forum’s organising committee introduced a new iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android applications as well as accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.