Feature: Cranking up the energy
Feature: Cranking up the energy
Crank Dubai is as much a nightclub as fitness centre, and for that it required an audiovisual system typically found on the dancefloor, writes Simon Luckhurst
Long gone are the days of the sterile clinical fitness studio reminiscent of an old school gymnasium. Health and fitness in the 21st century has become a major consumer industry and, for those workers too busy to get out on the road during the day, the variety and quality of options available now is simply staggering. The steps gym owners have taken to differentiate themselves from the competition is equally impressive, and for many it is audiovisual equipment that is key to creating the desired atmosphere and environment, not to mention essential for injecting some much-needed energy into a gruellingly tough workout.
Crank Dubai is one of the latest and greatest to hit the Dubai scene. Opened in 2018, Crank has honed its new identity over the course of those two years through the steady addition of high-quality audio reinforcement and a selection of studio lighting fixtures. The end result, admits co-founder Sami Hakim, is anything but your typical gym experience. But that is precisely the point. “Crank is a local homegrown brand with the idea revolving around a main indoor Cycling studio, and a second Shape and Stretch studio,” he explains. “Originally when we started in 2018, people got very attracted to the brand and we quickly became a market leader in Dubai.”
As a result, Hakim enlisted Dubai-based Procom Middle East for a guiding hand in further developing and implementing the technical design. This wasn’t merely a chance encounter, however. Committed to gaining a greater appreciation of how audiovisual equipment could enhance the Crank space, he enrolled in Procom’s Madrix LED Mapping and Control Software training class.
It certainly helps make the life of a systems integrator easier if the owners of a project have, at least, a rudimentary understanding of the technology involved and what they’re hoping to achieve, but it’s rare to find a client that has as much passion and knowledge as the technicians themselves. “Three of us from Crank, knowing pretty much nothing about lighting, decided to take part in the course to learn more about operating our system and the relationship with Procom quickly developed from there,” Hakim furthers. “We were very clear about what we wanted to achieve but we needed a lighting and audio partner to help us along our journey. From that point, everything we've been doing with replacing, repurchasing and readjusting components of the sound and lighting system, has been with the help of Procom.”
While Crank already possessed some pre-existing audio and lighting equipment prior to Procom’s involvement, Hakim describes it as rudimentary at best. “We received the space in September 2018 and I think, by December, we were already in touch and working together with Procom on every sort of upgrade that you could possibly think of. We’ve changed out all of the lighting equipment within the rack to install new laser lights, reprogrammed all the fixtures and added a range of new Madrix Luna controllers.”
This enquiring mindset and ambitious design from the Crank owners have made the relationship a joy for the Dubai-based distributor, explains Procom’s Anro Schroeder. “If you look at the amount of time and the amount of attention to detail that's gone into technical aspects of Crank, it rivals some of the biggest nightclubs here. It might not be that same size but it has all of the same elements. Everything is integrated, everything looks beautiful and Sami is very much right in saying that Crank is all about the experience.”
Attention of the 43 cyclers that the studio can accommodate is immediately drawn towards the six central Cyclops Lighting RGB Razor laser bars surrounding the instructor, which work in tandem with an Antari HZ500 hazer used to create the “instructor cages”, the focal point of the room. A pair of hologram fans on either side of the stage are linked to the main control system and are used to add in a number of moving images and effects during key parts of the classes, while everything is connected and controlled via a Madrix Luna eight-port node.
As the upstairs Stretch and Shape studio requires a greater level of two-way participation, illumination here comes from 120 Cyclops Lighting LED bars distributed throughout the ceiling and is managed by a Madrix Luna 16-DMX port network node in tandem with Luna 5 software.
“The Shape space is very similar to the Cycle Studio; however, here we opted to do the lighting design in the ceiling,” shares Hakim. “In Shape, there are many more fixtures, but they are used to create a whole different experience altogether.”
Once the upgraded lighting was put to use, the existing loudspeakers were quite literally left in the dark and so attention quickly turned to upgrading the audio infrastructure. “The biggest challenge that we were trying to achieve and fix from a sound perspective has always been the quality and sharpness of the sound, and the ability to distribute it effectively within the space to ensure the instructors are well heard,” notes Hakim. “Previously, when music was playing loud, the sound of the instructors was very muffled and hard to understand.”
To remedy this, the Cycle studio has been outfitted with KP52 cabinets from Italian manufacturer K-array – two at the front, middle and rear, together with three KMT18P subwoofers. Power comes from a pair of four-channel KA84 amplifiers.
“The first thing we wanted to do was minimise the look of the sound system,” explains Schroeder. “We had all of this lighting across the roof, lasers going up and down, and there were loads of speakers and unnecessary rigging. We stripped all of that out and it’s now a super clean space adorned with almost invisible K-array cabinets. They provide both the form factor and output that we needed but, more importantly, the clarity.”
With the SPL inside the cycle studio regularly surpassing 105dB, “the system is really loud and super punchy, but we took into consideration all of the acoustical aspects as well, such as not disturbing the neighbours,” furthers Schroeder. Dedicated audio configurations have also been created for the instructors and can be activated by Symetrix Arc-2e wall controllers that connect back to a central Jupiter 8 processor.
“We worked closely with all of the instructors sitting on the bike to tune the headset mic, the music level and monitors to their liking and save it as a preset under their name which is also customised to their individual lighting preferences. When they come into the class, they just select the right instructor preset to tailor the technical elements to their preferences.”
“This was a key and very important thing for us, because we play music at such loud levels,” adds the owner. “You still want to ensure everything is very clear and crisp for the clients. The system that we have now has been great at achieving that. In the past, this was something people used to complain about a lot.”
The result is a nightclub-like fitness experience that feels perfectly in home in Dubai. “What we were trying to achieve with Crank was basically to be the bridge between the fitness and the entertainment community in the Middle East,” the co-founder explains. “There’s more to Crank than just fitness, and this is a big attraction to get people in through the doors. Through that theme we’ve managed to create a space where, pre-Covid, we were getting in around 8,000 bookings every month. That’s lowered more recently to between 6,000 and 7,000 because of the recent capacity reductions. We’re one of the most popular fitness studios in Dubai, especially in indoor cycling.”
And Hakim credits this popularity in no small part to the extensive use of audiovisual equipment throughout. “One of the biggest elements of our concept is the sound and lighting. I think here we are unmatched in Dubai. The space here has been designed in a way that the lighting elements are blended in from a design perspective, and the energy of the room revolves around the instructor. When the instructor is on the bike, the way the class structure works is all around the beat of the music.”
It’s usually the flashy nightclub, fancy restaurant and five-star hotel projects that end up serving as companies flagship reference projects. Rarely a gym. Clearly the extensive use of AV is proving to be a winning formula for the Crank owners. It’s all about maintaining energy levels throughout sessions.
And Hakim’s lighting knowledge may have now extended well beyond DIY necessities but, with Procom’s support, he can take a more hands-off mentality to sound. “I’ve done a lot more learning on the lighting side because we faced a very bad experience at the beginning and were forced to learn everything ourselves,” he concludes. “On the audio side, we were offered a solution that simply works with limited interference for our side. So far, everything is working perfectly and so I don’t feel I need to get too involved with the nitty gritty of that. I have Procom here to help.”