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Dawkins shares details of multi-award-winning Passchendaele project

Kate Dawkins shared details of her studio’s first attempt at building projection – the multi-award-winning Passchendaele Centenary Event – with delegates on ISE’s main stage on Thursday.

Best known for creating digital audience pixels for Danny Boyle’s London 2012 opening and closing ceremonies, the digital live events producer won the pitch for client DCMS and the BBC through a tender put out by project’s AV partner, Creative Technology.

To mark the centenary of the Third Battle of Ypres, the client wanted to create special event in Ypres Market square using the town’s iconic Cloth Hall – an ornate building standing at 125m wide and 70m tall.

“Architecturally, it was a challenge because the building was so ornate – and then there were the windows, the clock tower and face, the spires, the horizontal lines the end columns – it was not flat!” said Dawkins.

The event comprised of an hour-long mixture of projection, live theatrical and musical performances and Dawkins was tasked with creating an experience that both a live 8,000-strong crowd and the BBC TV audience could appreciate.

Dawkins told delegates that she wanted to “get away from normal building projection style and attitude” and did not use the whole building for the event.

She added that the factors she felt were important were “perspective and scale”.

She added: “I found a passage of poetry about the battle and broke it down into the main issues and factors of the war – and I think doing this won us the pitch.”

Dawkins used animation to bring letters from the front to life, including projecting typeface on the building.

Another remembrance sequence – inspired by a Japanese Infinity room – involved projecting hundreds of red dots of light, which float up towards the sky, representing each of the soldiers who’d been killed.

Dawkins also needed tell the story of how the building itself was destroyed, something she says she attempted to do artfully, although the fire in Grenfell Tower meant that last-minute revisions needed to be carried out to ensure that the building didn’t look like it was on fire.

In total 58 projectors across seven towers projected a colossal 133,632,000 pixels seamlessly across the front, clock tower and side facades were used while VR tools were used to carry out a final review of the designs and models of the building.