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AI brings cinema pioneers to life for Lyon Festival of Lights

Various technologies, including Panasonic PT-RZ21K projectors, Barco UDX-4K32s, Modulo Kinetic servers and Lightware matrix routers, were behind the huge projections of the works of the Lumière brothers

Drawing on its inventory of AV equipment, Groupe Novelty provided the technical backbone for the Lyon Festival of Lights’ celebration of the inventors of cinema, the Lumière brothers, projecting images on a huge scale onto the City Hall and 17th-century Museum of Fine Arts surrounding the Place des Terreaux. It can now be revealed that the technology used for the festival, from 5 Dec-8 Dec, 2023, came from various sources, including Panasonic PT-RZ21K projectors, Barco UDX-4K32s, Modulo Kinetic servers and Lightware matrix routers.

The installation was created by digital artist Bruno Ribeiro, with a soundtrack by French electronic music producer Rone, CELLULO/D (pronounced “Celluloid”). Ribeiro used modern AI technology to reimagine and reinterpret some of the brothers’ earliest motion pictures, such as giving a Wild Western and cartoon makeover to 1895’s Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.

To make Ribeiro’s vision a reality, Arnaud Douchet, director of Novelty AURA (a subsidiary of Groupe Novelty) and his team, worked closely with sister company Alabama Média, also based in Lyon, which supplied the projection equipment and media servers. Novelty AURA started by creating a 3D scan of the square and its buildings, to map the area precisely.

They decided to create a 48 metres long by 26.5 metres wide video mapping on the City Hall. To achieve the desired result, Alabama specified six Panasonic PT-RZ21K projectors in dual mode. Six Barco UDX-4K32s, also in dual mode and complemented by a pair of PT-RZ21Ks for the pediment, covered the entire length of the Museum of Fine Arts façade (102 x 29 metres). Three Modulo Kinetic servers and two Lightware matrix routers completed the video set-up.

Another member company of Groupe Novelty, Novelty Toulouse, created custom-made, air-conditioned housings for the projectors, AV equipment and staff. Featuring an inconspicuous, timber-clad structure, the containers were designed to blend in with their environment and not draw attention away from the show.

Away from the Place des Terreaux, Novelty AURA also brought its technical knowhow to bear on another city landmark, the Fresque des Lyonnais, with a complete audiovisual video mapping by artist collective Les Allumeurs de Rêves (‘The Dream Lighters’). The installation brought the 800 sq m painted mural, which depicts some of the most famous people from Lyon, to life, illuminating the illustrations of the Lumière brothers, “chef of the century” Paul Bocuse, prime minister Edouard Herriot, Roman emperor Claudius, and other famous people.

Julien Pavillard, events director and general coordinator of the Festival of Lights, said: “We were very happy to have CELLULO/D at the festival because it raises questions about how AI changes not only the artistic approach of creators, but how it can help our imaginations evolve – the same way cinema did in its time. When it first appeared, cinema could be frightening, but today everyone appreciates cinema and has embraced this new reality, which seems natural. It will be the same for AI in the future.”

With 32 sites and 2.3 million visitors, the 2023 Lyon Festival of Lights is one of the most sought-after canvases for international lighting designers and artists. Celebrated around the 8th of December each year, the Lyon Festival of Lights commemorates the inauguration of the golden statue of the Virgin Mary in 1852.

On that day, after a violent storm cancelled the festivities, the people of Lyon spontaneously lit candles on their window sills at nightfall to thank the Virgin – a tradition that lives on 170 years later in the form of the modern four-day Fête des Lumières, which transforms the city’s buildings, squares, bridges and rivers into a riot of lights and colours.