ETC Congo® and Paradigm® help world’s tallest building shine

Standing at 828m or 2,717 feet – more than half a mile – is Dubai’s massive Burj Khalifa, now the world’s tallest building. Lighting a structure this high is a huge challenge. ETC equipment plays a big part of the permanently installed Celebration Lighting system on the newly inaugurated edifice. Designed by Speirs and Major Associates (SaMA), the lighting consists of over 800 Dataflash strobe lights and six Fineline searchlights controlled by an ETC Congo Light Server and triggered by an ETC Unison Paradigm system featuring touchscreens and automated astronomical timeclock events. The control system was provided by Oasis Enterprises Professional Projects Division, ETC’s distributor in the UAE. The Celebration Lighting system was used during the grand opening celebration on January 4th, 2010, and is designed to run various patterns on the building nightly with special shows on holidays and festival days.

Programmed almost entirely offline using Capture visualization software – with the designers in Scotland and programmer in Germany – this project took long-distance collaboration to the limit. “We essentially programmed this show via Skype,” says ETC Controls Product Manager and Congo Programmer Sarah Clausen. “SaMA worked for weeks to create the model and get all the strobes inserted, focused and patched, and then I worked at the same time to channel and group the strobes into usable chunks to create the effects we needed. Then they sent me a video mock-up of the kinds of effects they wanted. I worked for ten days in our Germany office to build up the effects in Congo. The v5 Effects were essential to this project – some of SaMA’s ideas actually need 42 effect playbacks running simultaneously to create the right look. During the programming I had Capture, Congo and a single Dataflash AF1000 strobe. Iain Ruxton at SaMA had a setup with Capture, a Congo jr console, and another Dataflash. I could program something, send him the show file, he could load it and look at it with the team there. We could see the same thing running at the same time, discuss adjustments, and then I could go on programming on my own. It worked very well. Once we were on site in Dubai we only had to adjust a few timings and then could get on with the business of creating the specific combinations of effects for the nightly shows.”

Says Iain Ruxton, Associate at SaMA: “We've envisaged working like this on dynamic architectural lighting projects ever since we first saw DMX visualizer packages more than a decade ago. Although it's intended as performance technology, we were keen to scale it up to big buildings. We've done some smaller projects with visualization and we used Capture and Congo together on the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It was invaluable in planning the focus and the show framework there, but the Burj Khalifa is the first time we've programmed dynamic lighting of this complexity on a completely virtual building, without designer and programmer being in the same country. Quite simply, we could not have achieved this by programming on site only."

In daily use, the ETC Congo system is triggered using serial data sent by the Unison Paradigm system at specified times. The touchscreen interface makes it easy to override the system when a special event requires different treatment. This system will give the Burj Khalifa great flexibility and allow it to pick and choose from the designed effects as needed – the ideal solution for a spectacular structure that is visible as far as the eye can see.

Since it’s impossible to capture the dynamic spectacle of the Burj grand opening and the strobe lighting effects in a still photo, watch this Prisme International video.

Installation

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Product List

Notable

Standing at 828m or 2,717 feet – more than half a mile – Dubai’s massive Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building.


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