seven production rapidly expand in the middle east

For over a decade now, Seven Production (also known as 7 Production) has been at the forefront of the production industry in Dubai, gaining a strong reputation in particular for filming & broadcasting of live events in the UAE. At the 2018 Digital Studio Awards in March the company won the ‘Best Live Action Capture’ award for their excellent coverage of the Saudi National Day celebrations. Seven’s core business incorporates capturing LIVE action and immediately broadcasting the live footage or recording it for future production.

Seven are increasingly notching up a list of major broadcasts of historic events in the region as well as major TV productions, something that has got their capabilities noticed across the Middle East. Given the volume of work they do, brand promotion and awards have not always been a focus for the business, says Pierre Tabet, Managing Director of 7 Production.

However, with the company celebrating its 10-year anniversary and now actively expanding operations into other countries in the Middle East, the management’s vision is now more focused on getting the word out about their capabilities. A vast new television & film production market is opening up in Saudi Arabia, and Seven is in perfect position to take advantage – with major productions in the Kingdom already under their belt.

Managing exponential growth for 10 years says a lot about a business operating in this region, and most importantly, says a lot about the team behind the scenes. Tabet says this growth has been possible thanks to regular investments in broadcasting infrastructure, and today the live coverage & production facilities the company can boast of, are certainly one of the most advanced in the region.

Investing in Infrastructure

Seven’s production capability can match up with most large broadcasters and production houses operating in the region. Comprising of a fleet of 13 Outside Broadcast Units, 5 Flight Cases, Motorbikes and even a Helicopter; as well as a diverse range of numerous special cameras & ENG’s. Seven has also procured specialized production tools like the Furio & Rail Cam, which Tabet points out makes them unique among production houses in the region.

However they have not stopped with equipment – Seven has also invested in creating state-of-the-art studio facilities based in Dubai’s Production City. Studios of all shapes and sizes are available all over Dubai today, but upon taking a closer look at the studios, we can see the specialized equipment and detail to attention is what makes Seven’s studio a cut above.

7 Production’s studio portfolio now comprises of three specialist studios, each around 700sqm, which allows them to customize production for clients so that the set design can be as small or as large as needed. The type of clients Seven’s studios cater to, can range from large TV Stations, such as an MBC or a pay TV channel, to boutique film companies. The studios have already played host to an array of TV productions, including shows with elaborate sets such as Victorious, BeinNarrein, MasterChef Arabia, Top Chef Arabia, The Doctors, and Million Dollar Minute, among others. The facilities and support equipment provided for productions, are up there with the most advanced in the region and specialize in broadcasting productions on television as well as online.

How difficult was the effort to build such a studio facility? What were the important decisions they had to make, when fitting  a studio of this scale? Tabet says “The challenges were mainly that we had to equip the studio ourselves since we only received the skeleton layout from IMPZ.”

“The studios were converted to being sound proof, and we had to build in drive-in capabilities, production offices and editing rooms, lighting grids, infinity cyclorama walls, make-up and wardrobe areas, i order to make it an ideal venue for photo-shoots, TV shows, game shows, TV commercials and music videos,” he adds.

Depending on the clients’ wishes, concept or set designs can be provided in-house by 7 Productions via their in-house design team which offers interior design and construction services, or can simply be executed by the client.

Green chroma facilities are provided along the wall of all 3 studios, all of which are completely sound proofed to achieve the best results. In addition the studios are equipped with comprehensive facilities needed for a large scale production including lighting and sound systems, multi-camera HD broadcast facilities, catering, audience parking, wireless internet and communications.

Tabet says that 7 Production started off with just 1 small van and a couple of cameras. “The plan was never to grow into a company with 13 Outside Broadcast Units and a range of the latest in HD specialty cameras and production equipment.”

How does the company decide on investments into equipment? “We had no choice but to keep investing in equipment to meet the demand of new jobs coming in,” explains Tabet.

What started off with a modest vision to launch a production house, has turned into quite a remarkable journey for the Dubai based company. What does he think were the biggest obstacles they had to overcome, to establish 7 productions as a leading production house in the UAE?

Tabet says the journey has involved taking some risks in terms of investing in expensive equipment. “Being fully booked 24/7 meant we had to constantly purchase new equipment to meet new job requests that came in. The risk was always there in terms of buying equipment vs. the market demand. Our hunch was correct and this has led to us continually expanding to be the largest Film & Broadcast service provider in the UAE and now the larger MENA region.”

Is it important to establish relationships with broadcast and production manufacturers and distributors? “100%” agrees Tabet, adding it is all about relationships and “we are very fortunate to have established numerous long-term ones.”

Seven Production is now the owner of a large fleet of OB vans, Motorbikes and even a Helicopter. How much work goes into fitting out, and the upkeep and maintainence of the field production equipment?

“Excessive amounts of work go in to the maintenance,” says Tabet. “Which is why we have our own in-house technical & maintenance department, along with our own video & sound engineers which accompany our equipment wherever they go to avoid damages. We have reached a point where we prefer to build & customize our own equipment, to our own standards based on productions we have done.”

Passion for Success

A passion for pulling off large scale productions flawlessly is clearly evident in the 7 Productions team. The team is made up of a large number of broadcast professionals, technicians and operators, who seem to be always busy making sure everything is running smoothly – constantly on the run and in action within the 7 warehouse in Dubai, and also at on-site productions.

Tabet is keen to tell us about the qualities that have kept 7 Production progressing over the years. What factors does he feel have given them an advantage over other regional production companies?

“We never refuse a job no matter how large or how small. If one camera & operator is required, and we have the availability, we will go for the project. We are also capable of customizing our services to any given budget, due to the range & scale of the equipment we own, which gives us flexibility over our competitors. However, the most important factor we believe gives us a competitive edge is our team.  Their motivation and drive to go above and beyond our customer expectations is second to none, and they have a reputation of making anything happen once on the ground!”

Another important factor was setting up in the IMPZ and support from the Dubai freezone authority. “We received immense support from IMPZ which is why we have been based in the same warehouses from the start,” says Tabet.

7 Production has now established production facilities, offices & studios in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. How did the regional expansion start to come about?

“Naturally the expansion into nearby countries was the next step for 7 Production. We have quickly established the reputation of being the best in the regional industry for what we do, and this resulted in key players in the market contacting us and establishing long-term partnerships.”

Currently, 7 Production consists of a team of 100 individuals across the region, so they can provide production teams with skills across the range of production requirements. How hard is it to ensure that the team has the skills and ability to continue providing world class production services?

“By constantly staying up to date with industry news & events & thinking 10 steps ahead,” says Tabet confidently. Tabet says they take care to make sure the employee base is up to date with regular product and technology updates.

“Due to the volume of equipment purchased from top brands such as Canon & Sony, a lot of internal trainings are arranged for our teams, so they are constantly aware of the latest the industry has to offer and experts at handling this. Our HR department also takes care of employee morale & implementing career development training and tools.”

End-to-end Services

7 Production provides a diverse range of services from set design and AV integration, to TV production and technical services like satellite delivery and streaming. How do they shift between the different requirements of live events, outside field production and studio broadcasting?

“We understand the customers’ requirements and then cater our solutions according to their budget. We are capable of customizing our approach, no matter the customer’s needs or job type. Our expert project managers communicate effectively to our coordinators on how we would approach certain job types, who in turn communicate this to our video and audio engineers on the ground. We send our technicians to provide assistant support when any of our equipment is used for a project.”

Clearly, teamwork holds the key to manage projects especially when the productions are larger in scale. How difficult is it to manage the broadcast of events where a huge audience is watching like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National Day Coverage or the Donald Trump visit?

“Nothing is difficult for us, we really have done everything and anything in relation to making a production happen. We have had our truck drive on to an oil tanker in order to film the operational details for a company at one of the oil rigs out at sea. Imagine watching millions of pounds worth of equipment float away on water!”

“The key to understanding the difficulty levels is breaking each project down well in advance of the production, continues Tabet.  “Sometimes we are not so lucky with time frames and get requested to do a job the day before a production! We still make it happen in this case!” Then we make sure the right experts within our workforce are allocated correctly and that the customer has constant access to key people in charge of the direction we decide to take.”

How do they manage to deliver a wide range of end-to-end production capabilities? “We have a number of sister companies that specialize in services separate from 7 Production, so it is easy to provide a “one-stop shop” solution to customers if needed,” says Tabet.

LIVE experts: broadcasting coverage of major events

With events like the Saudi National Day in the portfolio, Seven can claim valuable experience of providing coverage for events of national importance. 7 Production’s capability shines though when the management explain the logistics and workflows involved in ensuring a flawless broadcast of some of the largest events in the region.

Arab Fashion Week: In May 2018, Seven Productions provided its services for live broadcast of the world’s first floating fashion week – the Arab Fashion Week held on the famous Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship, which docked in Dubai from May 9-12. “We were honored when the Arab Fashion Council approached us to do the coverage for the Arab Fashion Week,” says Lara Ghanem Cunningham, Regional Director at 7 Productions.

“We believe in the cause that drives their Founder & CEO, Jacob Abrian, whereby he is creating awareness for refugees in the Middle East & campaigning to create more jobs within the textile industry so people do not have to leave their homes to find work overseas. The Queen Elizabeth II really is a breathtaking sight to see,” adds Cunningham.

“The fashion show took place in one of the ballrooms on the ship, and the Award Ceremony Gala Dinner took place in another one. A team of 25 crew was allocated for this production with a Creative Director in charge of editing the footage & making it flow on our LED screens as well as in the post-production footage.

“One of our largest OB Vans was parked directly in front of the entrance of the ship’s entrance and our team of cameramen on the ground filmed interviews taking place on the red carpet as well as inside the truck, for a more Hollywood red carpet experience.”

Saudi National Day 2017: Tabet is excited about the outcome of this project saying it was: “by far one of the biggest productions Seven has ever executed in the GCC region. Being a new player in the Saudi market, Seven’s reputation was on the line and the business would settle for no less than outstanding results to justify the Saudi government using a “host broadcaster” from Dubai. As a result of the positive feedback of the incredible production which was broadcast worldwide, Seven has recently established a head office in Saudi to continue servicing the Kingdom,” says Tabet, indicating how important this event was to their expansion in Saudi Arabia.

The orchestration of equipment used to capture footage of this historical event could only be done by a talented team of creative minds, along with leadership from a management team that understands the strategic decisions needed to execute coverage of such a large scale event.

10 HD Outside Broadcast Units connected to a total of 90 HD Cable cameras & wireless cameras were sent to a combination of 25 locations within Saudi Arabia. A crew of 150 people accompanied the equipment. Cameras were creatively placed on drones, helicopters, rooftops of surrounding buildings and even hired-cranes to get the perfect LIVE footage required.

“The skill behind this production is second to none, and the combination of equipment & manpower used is why the team at Seven deserved to win the award for Best LIVE Action Capture!” exclaims the Seven MD.

Tabet mentions that 7 Production is looking forward to doing the Saudi National Day coverage this year as well.

Arab Islamic American Summit: This event was conducted to coincide with Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, another event of huge significance. “This production took place in Saudi Arabia where Seven was again selected as the “Host Broadcaster”, and required 4 days of rehearsal followed by 2 days of production. The crew of 175 individuals was on site for 24 hours straight. “They did not eat, they did not sleep, and their one goal was to make this production the best it could possibly be! Everyone delivered 110%,” says a proud Tabet.

President Trump arrived via the White House Presidential Jet, and the Seven team were on the ground, ready to capture all the LIVE action, using a combination of 85 HD cable cameras and 20 HD wireless cameras all linked to 10 of our infamous Outside Broadcast Units, powered by our own generators.

From the moment the jet landed and the president walked down the steps, through to the moment the president boarded & the jet took off back to the US, the Seven crew were in on the action, positioned in 5 different locations, using the latest in HD equipment to capture the reality on screen. This production was a worldwide Telecast, broadcasted globally via numerous TV Stations. Seven Production was recognized on a global level, this, combined with the latest HD specialty cameras, & incredibly determines crew.

Gulf Shield I Drill: Seven production was on hand to cover Joint Gulf Shield I, the region’s largest scale military drill showcasing the capabilities of the . The drill saw the participation of 24 friendly Gulf, Arab and Muslim countries. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, attended the Joint Gulf Shield I drill, in the presence of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.  Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Defence, was also present, along with a number of leaders from the Arab world.

Led by Saudi Arabia, the exercise aimed to showcase the participating countries’ capabilities of planning and executing military actions and operating modern weapon systems. The seven-day military maneuvers included live ammunition, clearing a chemical attack facility, striking air force missile pads, naval vessel operations, coastal defence, and clearing villages.

A bright future

How does he feel the production sector has changed in the Middle East, since Seven Production started operations a decade ago? “It has become extremely challenging and a lot of smaller companies have not been as successful, unfortunately,” warns Tabet. But with more and more streaming video services entering the Middle East, he thinks there will be plenty of opportunity for production companies. “This can only support the growth again,” says Seven’s Managing Director.

What advice would Tabet give to production houses in the Middle East? “If you are passionate about what you do, anything can be achieved.” The biggest lessons they have learned in this long journey? “It’s a tough industry but if you believe it is achievable, you will reach your goals.”

Looking ahead where does he see the growth coming from? “We have already seen our business expand in Saudi and we believe we will be expanding even more,” concludes Tabet.

The Digital Studio Award is a deserved recognition for the decade of regional production they have contributed to.