The Italian disco scene isn't just about discos anymore. With venues opening later in the evening, clubbers have adjusted their schedules to eat out with friends and hit the bars first, and make the dance floor the last appointment. Club owners are responding by opening "disco-pubs" designed to satisfy appetites for dancing and dining, or launching venues open all day, with music in the evenings. As Rimini gears up for the SIB show late this month, Lighting Dimensions asked designers and manufacturers about their thoughts on the changing scene, in the country and beyond its borders.

For Clay Paky, it is a new Millennium. Literally. Not far from the Italian border, in Austria, is this big new club, which opened last September. "It's the biggest club in the country," says sales manager Enrico Caironi. The Millennium, at 11,840 sq. ft. (1,110 sq. m), has capacity for 2,000 revelers and includes a large live stage, a central dance floor, and above that a second dance floor that can be lowered to cover the central space entirely. It has seven bars, a VIP area, and, says Caironi, "linear, functional furnishings that further emphasize its high-tech image."

And lots of Clay Paky gear: 172 Mini Scans, 12 Golden Scan HPEs, six Stage Zooms, five Stage Light 300s, eight Stage Color 300s, and 12 Piper ICCs, many installed on a moving truss ring which can be lowered to dance floor level. Manfred Meier of Kraftwerk Licht und Tontechnik, well-known for his light, sound, and multimedia projects, says, "Every fixture specified has a precise purpose. Stage Light spots are alternated with Stage Color 300 washlights, Stage Zooms are positioned so their wide beams cover the entire dance floor, Golden Scan HPEs are exploited for their extensive graphics capabilities, and the numerous Mini Scans ensure that no corner is left unlit." Visual impact is further accentuated by eight Clay Paky Golden Fog 2000 DMXs, seven wind machines, a full color laser system, 30kW of Diversitronics Hyperblast strobes, 60kW of blinders, and a video projection system with two megascreens.

Closer to home, the firm is finding unusual applications for its club gear, reports area sales manager Renato Ferrari. At Palahotel Vallenoce (in Decollatura), the banquet suite has been equipped with 24 Mini Scan HPEs, two Golden Scan HPEs, two Atlas units, one Astroraggi Power, and two Golden Fog 2000 DMXs--all of which combine in a light show, lasting up to half an hour, when newlyweds cut the cake. "The owners report a 30% increase in clients since this initiative was launched," Ferrari says.

Osteria della Cuccagna, near Ancona, is a hybrid installation of wine cellar, restaurant, and dance floor, where Clay Paky distributor Leo Ferri recently installed four Mini Scan HPEs. Other recent installations of Clay Paky equipment include the Terzo Millennio dance venue in Catanzaro (distributor: Dee Jay Service of Cosenza), Miu Miu in Marches, the Follia in Perugia, and Histoire in Foggia.

Besides a number of clubs throughout Italy, gear from SGM has turned up in The Shopping Store in Padua, which sells high-tech sports equipment; The Medrano Circus; and a theatre at the Fasano Safari Zoo. The firm has most recently gone abroad for its largest installations, including to Australia for a massive casino project [see "Gambling on fiber optics" in LD September 1999]. But Marco Bartolini, sales manager for Italy, says, "Some interesting projects have also been handled on the domestic market by our network of installers. Regarding multifunction venues, the most prestigious one in Rome is undoubtedly Cafe Renault, where SGM Giotto Wash 1200 and Galileo IV 1200 fixtures were recently installed by a firm called Pick Up, with a Regia 12 lighting control console, eight P810 power packs, and one Pilot 1600."

Open from 7am till 2am, Cafe Renault is a two-level, 4,310-sq.-ft. (400 sq. m) combination of cafe, boutique, restaurant, and Internet suite, with guest pop stars like Zucchero, Anna Oxa, Patty Pravo, and Eugenio Finardi transmitting live from an in-house studio. Cafe Renault has been used as a set for prime-time TV broadcasts and also puts a fleet of vehicles at clients' disposal, with a shuttle service to and from various key points in the Eternal City.

Sagitter is another firm that has gone into the multifunction market. Gabriella Savoldi says Dady OD (Osteria Disco, an Italian spin on the disco pub theme) is one of its flagship venues. Its heart is a large round bar in the center of the dance floor, around which is a series of raised zones on various levels, with restaurant tables and lounge seating. In the center of the lounge, opposite the dance floor, is a stage where live music and cabaret acts perform.

Dady OD is owned by Trusting Group Franciacorta, which also has a restaurant on a 400-year-old farm on Lake Iseo and a wine cellar in Liguria. Franciacorta partner Bruno Bosio, its art director, explains, "The venue, which targets a 25-plus age group, has a capacity of 500, including the 80-seat restaurant." It is a refined but nevertheless high-tech venue: The light rig (designed by Sagitter with the collaboration of Manuel Sanchioni's installation firm Airone, which also programmed the system) features six Super Prince 575s, six Shop 250s, six Shop 150s, four Digiflash Powers, and two Hyperpower 575s, all controlled via ShowCAD with an Axon Digital MIDI keyboard.

Savoldi explains how a high-class but colorful environment was achieved thanks to carefully positioned fixtures dividing the venue into zones: the restaurant, the central dance area, and the lounge. "In the first, an entire wall is colored by the Shop 150 fixtures creating different atmospheres--at the start of the evening, when clients are eating and background music is played, the illumination level is high, but static. Later, it's lowered slightly, and bright but discreet colors are projected; it gets more dynamic when the DJ starts spinning."

The dance floor, with its 12 Shop 250s, six Super Princes, and four Digiflash 2500s, begins the night with bright color washes; the venue's logos are projected by the scanners. According to the music being played, the ShowCAD MIDI keyboard is used to select preprogrammed light sequences with moving light beams as the evening heats up. Although the use of strobes in this type of setting might seem out of place, some of the programs include effective dynamic (and dimmed) flashes.

The lounge area is a relaxing meeting point, and the large wall at its far end is completely colored by two Hypercolor 575s. The wall is also used as a cyc during live shows, when the four Super Prince units installed on the dance floor earn their keep, backed up by a Shop 250. Says Savoldi, "Audiences note our fixtures before they even enter the Dady OD, as the pink marble stairway is lit by two more Shop 250s running a preset program of colored sequences."

Simone Rodella, Italian sales manager with Coemar, says its high-profile installations aren't just clubs anymore either. An example is the Millaenya, in Atina, a town in the southern province of Frosinone. "Our agent Lumiere supplied an important rig for this venue, which has live music and shows, a restaurant, a piano bar, and plans to add a hotel and conference facilities in the future." Lumiere partner Alessandro Caldarera explains, "The rig installed in the main room for the dance floor and stage comprises six NAT MM DX P 1200s, 30 Versatile 650/1000s, four TAS Cf6s, six TAS KP 12s, 96 Luxor 1000 CE PAR-64s, eight Strobo DMX 1500s, 18 1kW strobes (used to create a really eye-catching spiral effect around the floor), 24 UV floods, plus four TAS Mini smoke machines and four TAS Windy wind machines. The equipment is controlled by a Compulite Spark Pro and a Coemar Manual Plus 24 DMX512 24-channel desk."

This impressive setup is installed on an enormous rig (over 360' [110m] of truss) that runs almost the entire length of the ground floor room, and supported by four truss towers, with two rings above the center of the floor. These rings have diameters of 12' and 24' (4m and 7m); the smaller is motorized and fitted with the six TAS KP 12 rotating projectors, which have nine colors and seven gobos, four of which rotate in both directions. The NATs are positioned equidistantly along the main truss sections, which also have nine Versatiles each (the other 12 are on the truss sections connecting the tops of the rig's "legs").

The lighting, audio, video projection systems, and control configurations were designed by Caldarera and partner Gabriele Gambini, who adds, "The mini-stage for dancers behind the bar has two TAS Colore Fresnel 200/250s. On the second floor of the club, the dance floor and stage (used for cabaret and other acts in the members-only room) are lit using four TAS Colore Fresnel 200/250s, eight TAS Colore AT 20-degree 200/250 MSDs, eight TAS Mini Ultra Scans, two TAS Saetta 1500 strobes, a TAS Mini smoke machine, and a TAS Windy."

An oasis of tranquility, designed by Aristodemo Ciavatti of Rimini's Studio Demo, is the Piano Bar, where performing artists are lit with 12 Luxor 300 PAR-56s and eight Coemar Wood 40 UV floods. "Demo" Ciavatti was responsible for the design of the entire venue and is the name behind some of the country's most trendsetting clubs, such as Riccione's Cocorico and Rimini's Ecu; his inimitable touch can be seen in all the zones of Millaenya, as the multifunction trend continues to pull in Italy's top designers and manufacturers.

Mike Clark is an Italy-based UK journalist specializing in lighting and entertainment technology, and can be reached at mclark@rimini.com.