Commemorating the 35th anniversary of a sultan's accession to the throne is no small undertaking, and the people of Oman did it in style, with an international work of light art created at Sultan Quboos bin Said's palace on the Indian Ocean in the capital city of Muscat.
Light architect Gert Hof was commissioned by Greek production company CleverBank to creatively direct the six-act Light For The Arab World show, consisting of more than 1,000 performers, including four orchestras, seven dancing ensembles, 600 supporting performers, and a torch-and-flag parade. The two-hour show, performed to a specially composed soundtrack by Christian Steinhaueser, was based on Oman's 1,000-year history. To help him achieve this seminal work, Hof's team included London-based E\T\C UK (large format projection), Procon (lighting), Laser Fabrik (lasers), and a crew of 55.
E\T\C UK supplied 16 PIGI large-format projectors with double rotating scrollers and Barco 7 long-throw lenses to shoot the 1,804' (550m) across the harbor onto a mountain. The mountain's brown rocks were a particularly difficult surface on which to project, so to optimize brightness of the image, explains E\T\C's Ross Ashton, the projectors were divided up into eight pairs, each of which was overlaid, and the picture soft-edged using PIGI's OnlyCue software, making one huge 656'×328' (200×100m) image. It was the first time E\T\C UK has used this amount of projectors in this way. The precise line up needed over such a vast distance was a meticulous task. The projection was the principal visual narrative element of the show, moving the story from one era to another. The final content contained 65 images, originated by Hof, who worked with CleverBank to source them. They then handed it over to Ashton to convert into PIGI scrolling artwork.
The E\T\C UK crew of six included programmer/operator Karen Monid, Andy Joyes, Dick Welland, Adam Masters, and Patrick Matuzek from E\T\C France, plus Ashton.
Procon provided the moving lights and coordinated the laser supply, including 47 Ireos Pro Space Cannons, arranged in three concentric circles on two barges in the bay. These were powered by a pair of synchronized 330 KVA generators supplied by Aggreko, with a third for back up. Data control was by radio DMX to the control tower in the Palace Gardens, where Hof ran the show from a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® 2 console.
Lighting for the three stages in the Palace Gardens was supplied by Talentz from Muscat, run by Domingos Colaço. This consisted of 750 PAR cans, spread around the stage area, some on stands and some on the floor.
Pyrotechnics are always central to Hof's shows. The Royal Palace is flanked on both sides by historic castles on high ground, and these were utilized as ideal locations for pyro, in addition to the massive barge out in the bay. “It was fantastic having this vast space to fill,” says Hof. “We could never have achieved these effects had we been working in an urban environment.”
The pyro reached heights of 2,625' (800m) and spread over 1,312' (400m) wide. About 40% of the pyro was customized by the German-based companies Flash Art and Sven Asamoa. A total of 25 tons of fireworks were used. Flash Art provided the aerial display elements of the pyro for a show designed by Markus Katterle.
Laserfabrik Showlaser GmbH from Cologne, Germany, supplied 11 laser heads. This included two 50W YAG Lasers and three Spectra Physics 2045 Argon lasers. Four JenLas™ Whitelight dual channel lasers and two Spectra Physics Chroma 10 Whitelight Lasers provided additional beam work and projections onto the walls of the castles and mountains surrounding the site.
Each laser was individually programmed via five wireless synchronized DSP Lasergraph controllers. According to Laserfabrik's Daniel Brune, they installed a 3.1sq.mile (5 sq.km.)-sized wireless LAN network with special software to transfer both the laser-controller data and the DMX data for the Space Cannons.
The biggest challenge was synchronizing all the laser positions via the wireless data network. The Space Cannons also needed syncing and DMX-data for control. Brune prepared special high gain antennas and wireless converters and programmed a running, full backup-capable network for both laser and lights.
“The natural architecture of the bay, the mountains, sky, and water is a very, very special and magical environment,” says Hof, “and we are all privileged to have had this opportunity to work with these elements. You can only realize such a huge adventure when you don't compromise your artistic ambitions in any way.”