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Rocking projection mapping

Pixel Artworks awakens the Rock of Gibraltar with one of the most complex projection mapping projects ever created – a permanent immersive light and spatial audio visitor experience

Pixel Artworks has pushed the boundaries of projection mapping further than ever before with its unique immersive light and sound installation within St Michael’s Cave on the infamous Rock of Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Government awarded the project to WrightTech Media, a local digital marketing solutions company with extensive knowledge of the site. Pixel Artworks collaborated with WrightTech Media on the pitch as well as the design and delivery of the complex show, which opened to the public on June 20.

The project sought to enhance the current Gibraltar Upper Rock Nature Reserve visitor experience, with WrightTech Media and Pixel Artworks taking audiences on a journey through Gibraltar’s natural history, using projection mapping technology. A total of  9x Epson EB-L1505U and 7x EB-L1495U projectors (housed in bespoke enclosures designed by Pixel Artworks and created by VIZBOX) worked in tandem with a disguise 4x4pro media server and Medialon central show controller – alongside lighting design and immersive audio.

“The aim of the project was to reinvigorate Gibraltar’s tourist industry, and I felt we needed something very visual and technology-based to engage audiences to a new level,” says Christian Wright, director, WrightTech Media. “I had seen some of Pixel Artworks’ immersive and experiential projects and immediately called them to see how they could flex their creative muscles at this unique site. My team knows the site very well, but it was great to get the fresh eyes of Pixel Artworks’ creative team who spotted opportunities we hadn’t thought about, and also helped us to home in on the story we wanted to tell.”

The show, entitled ‘The Awakening’, sympathetically showcases the beauty of the cave while uncovering the layers of Gibraltar’s history fused within the rock, creating a stunning display that is expected to receive global acclaim.

“The intricacies of the rock formation made it a truly complex projection mapping surface, which was a huge challenge in itself,” adds Steve Richley, senior production manager, Pixel Artworks. “Alongside this, there were also the natural elements to consider, as the installation needs to deliver the same high-quality experience throughout all seasons.

“We conducted a range of tests to give us a deep understanding of the limitations and complexity of the cave environment. We needed to understand the optimum light levels, sonic content and reverberation frequencies, and we created detailed 3D scans of the cave that were fundamental to the success of this permanent light installation.”

The show was created using a disguise previs workflow, with Zelig Sound providing the sound design using TiMax for spatial audio, and Autograph installing the immersive sound system.

Installation of the equipment within the cave required special consideration, to ensure no damage was done to the ancient rock formations and to preserve their visual integrity by positioning incongruous equipment out of sight. Pixel Artworks worked with WrightTech Media to obtain specially designed casings, vinyl wrapping and armoured cables, that would also protect the equipment against the dampness and humidity within the cave, as well as preventing any damage by the famous Barbary macaques that roam freely around the site. The cave has remained open to the public throughout the installation, which began in April of this year.

The finale of the experience takes place within the main cavern, known as Cathedral Cave, and uses a 360-degree light projection spectacular to recount an awe-inspiring story of geological formation. From microscopic sediments to the emergence of colossal limestone bedding plates, the experience presents an incredible display of mighty tectonic forces and extraordinary natural events spanning millions of years. Through light, visitors will observe the life and development of the rock formations that loom over them within St Michael’s Cave.

“Our creative team have surpassed themselves once again with this incredible feat of technology and art in a supremely challenging environment,” concludes Riaz Farooq, creative director, Pixel Artworks. “Working with WrightTech Media on this project has been immensely rewarding, and we can’t wait for visitors to experience this unique and extraordinary show.”