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Solutions: projection mapping spectacle in Siena

An event telling the history of Siena used projection mapping on to a 13th century Tuscan cathedral and a commentary in four languages, reports Mike Clark.

Divina Bellezza (Divine Beauty) Dreaming Siena was the title of an impressive multimedia spectacle staged at the city’s Cathedral. It was promoted by Siena’s Opera della Metropolitana and Municipality, produced by Civita-Opera and realized by Unità C1 in collaboration with Moviement HD and with the collaboration of Orpheo, as part of the Arte per Tutti (Art for Everyone) programme.

The event, which told the story of Siena, used projection mapping on what was to have been the façade of an expansion of the original cathedral (possibly to exceed the splendour of its Florentine ‘rival’ in the 14th century), but which was only partially completed, and the towering ‘Facciatone’ (the Big Façade) alongside the current cathedral.

The spectacular project was the result of the creative and planning expertise of Unità C1, a Rome-based media workgroup specialising in visual environments for theatre, opera, performing arts and interactive events; its team was comprised of Ezio Antonelli (art director), Lorenzo Lopane (project manager), Andrea Mordenti (production designer) and Gianni Stabile (visual designer). The specialists verified the project’s feasibility with the company that installed the system (Pesaro’s Service 2 Service, which, along with IC Video Pro, also supplied the hardware). They studied the logistical problems involved and produced an installed set-up that took into consideration aspects such as the necessity of ensuring free traffic flow during daytime in an area which, as well as featuring one of the world’s most visited artistic squares, is also an access point to the city’s police headquarters and local government offices.

All weathers

Since projectors and video servers had to stand up to all types of weather for several months, it was eventually decided to install eight Barco HDX-W20 Flex 20,000-lumen projectors at the top of the bell tower and eight Barco HDF-W30 Flex 30,000-lumen units on two Lahyer towers at the sides of the square. Mordenti comments: “In my opinion, in this power class, these Barco units are unbeatable as far as flexibility and reliability are concerned.”

The video signal management set-up comprised eight Dataton Watchout PC servers, twelve Watchout 6.1, four producer notebooks and four Extron DXP 84 DVI PRO DVI matrixes.

As far as the actual video content was concerned, all scenes were shot using a green screen studio with a 20m backdrop set up in a marquee in the city’s sports arena, using professional dancers and local extras in period costumes. The scenes were then inserted into a graphic environment created digitally from photos taken in the cathedral and other city locations. Footage was also shot in the workshops of craftsmen such as goldsmiths, stained glass painters, bakers, shoemakers and icon painters. Shooting also took place in the city’s maze of tunnels and cisterns for collecting and storing water, dating back to Renaissance times; and a drone, provided by Moviement HD (of Sovicille Siena), shot aerial video and photos of Siena.

The small lighting rig in the UC1 design recreated a virtual colonnade where an actual colonnade (planned but never built) would have been. The twelve DTS Raptor Beam fixtures used for this purpose were controlled via an MA 2Port Node onPC, positioned in four points of the square and removed after each show.

Four-language commentary

The soundtrack, consisting of music by contemporary composers, was carefully edited before undergoing meticulous sound FX work by sound designer Mirko Fabbri, who used Flux IRCAM software during post production to create binaural audio, to give listeners the impression of being surrounded by the performers and instruments. The commentary was in Italian, English, French and Spanish and recorded at Virus Studio.

When the video track started playing on Watchout, a sync signal was sent to the audio guide system, triggering the four tracks, chosen by the spectators on their Orpheo Mikro Lx audio guides connected to AKG M 80 MkII headphones.

Mordenti enthuses: “Following the success of the outdoor version, an indoor project is currently being planned and designed for an area being restored in the Cathedral’s museum complex which will remain as a permanent installation!”